Thursday, April 28, 2016

Research skills + geography + programming = lots of library fun!

Learning research skills is critical to success in middle school - and life in general! We have no shortage of easy access to information, but being able to evaluate and critically select the information that is most relevant and appropriate for your purpose takes practice.
In library classes, 4th graders created Scratch games after using the CultureGrams database and Capstone's One Nation book series to locate information about a US state. They selected 12 "just right" (not too obvious, not too obscure) facts about their state, wrote them down in their own words, selected their best clues, and put them into Scratch games they programmed themselves. 
This project honed many important skills: research, critical thinking, nonfiction comprehension, and paraphrasing! Our culminating activity was playing one another's games (and leaving complimentary feedback). It was great to have our Head of School and other staff members show up to join in the fun! Follow the link above to try them out yourself!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The power of storytelling: our visit from Donald Davis

Storytelling is an ancient and powerful art, one that long predates our relatively recent experimentation with the written word. Satisfying the universal human need for connection with others, it continues to flourish today. Storytelling is not an exact recitation of memorized lines; the storyteller observes and responds to each audience. No two tellings of the same story are exactly alike.

Donald Davis is legendary in the international storytelling circuit as a master of the craft; someone who vividly shares the particulars of his upbringing in rural North Carolina in a way that has his listeners laughing, crying, and nodding along in recognition, recalling their own family stories. In addition to his many recordings and books, he also runs workshops at many of the festivals where he performs. If you missed him at Open Window this week, or if you'd like to see him again, mark July 22-23 on your calendar for the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival in Federal Way, WA where there will be a great line-up of tellers!
Watching gifted tellers at work (our school has hosted Carmen Agra Deedy, Alton ChungJohn McCutcheon and Antonio Sacre) and engaging in storytelling games is joyful and educational. I've heard professionals - people working in law and business - say that what matters is being able to tell the most persuasive and memorable story. Teachers, politicians, and historians know this to be true as well.

We were incredibly fortunate to be able to host Donald Davis at our school this year. Check out the photos below: the students' faces really say it all!