"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Building Lasting Relationships

 Friday was the last day of school with students. It is always an up/down day. I hate saying goodbye to the students, especially the fifth graders, who are moving onto the middle school. We have formed a different kind of a bond over our six-year learning journey. Yet it is also exciting looking forward to a summer vacation filled with adventures.

Unlike the grade level teachers who experience the intensity of 180 days in and out, as a teacher librarian, I have a more drawn out relationship that builds slowly. We have shared memories of past years. I am like the relative that has known them for a long time and can recall earlier events and experiences.  

Our teacher/student relationship changes over time as well. By the time the students get to fifth grade, I know them, I know what they are capable of, I know how much I can push them. I am scaffolding their learning experiences, but they are leading the charge. It is thrilling to stand back and watch them work through projects and rely on each other for help. My name is still called out and I am still the teacher, but I spend more and more time moving from group to group and checking in with students. It is exciting to sit down and talk through a piece of writing, a storyboard, a collection of images, and/or a draft project. 

The notes, hugs, and conversations that I had with the fifth graders on Friday let me know that they feel the same way as well. I received full on arm hugs from students as well as notes mentioning specific events or projects. I think our relationship is special partly because we can always talk about books, but I would also like to think that it is because we have formed a bond, not one like the classroom teachers, but one that is a little bit different. It is still a student/teacher bond, but because we grow together over those six years, it is more like a relative/teacher/student bond. This year was different, but so is every year, because every year both the students and I are different people, we grow, and we see each other's growth. I am going to miss this fifth grade graduating class, but thankfully, my heart will not allow this sadness to stop it from welcoming a brand new class of fifth graders in the fall. For now, I'm just going to savor the memories of this year.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate: Gardens

Discover. Play. Build.
My Saturday Celebration post has been interrupted to bring you these photographs. I'll finish my other post later, but these pictures are my true Celebration. This day was filled with such beauty. Blue skies. White clouds. Green Mountains. I spent the afternoon at my parents' house in the mountains getting it ready for their arrival next week.  Amidst the tasks and trips in and out and up and down, I continued to be called outside to look at the gardens. 
My mother does not think she is a gardener, but she is, and the gardens are a testament to that. Even in her absence this spring, the gardens have put on their best show. We've missed the lilacs, rhododendrons, and irises, but from the spent blossoms, I can tell that they were involved in the act (of blooming, that is).  The gardens need my mother to arrive soon. There is plenty of weeding and pruning ahead, but the garden is a garden after all and doing what it does best: growing.  These blossoms are such a celebration of life, how could I not go out and enjoy them?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4th Graders Create Digital Postcards for National Monuments

I recently wrote about a project where the fourth graders used Tellagami to create digital postcards for National Monuments. You can read about the project on this blog post: Hi, My Name is...and I am Visiting....

Below are the final projects from two of the fourth grade classes. As I said before, these projects are part of a scaffolded process where the students are learning, understanding, and practicing digital literacy skills. I am excited about their journey and I am happy with these expressions of their new knowledge.

McManama Monument Project from Mason-Rice School on Vimeo.

Page Monument Postcards from Mason-Rice School on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slice of Life: Does it count if we talk about books?

Jen Vincent (who blogs over at Teach Mentor Texts), was visiting over the weekend. I celebrated her visit on Saturday, but that was only the beginning, of both the visit and the celebration. We had such a great time exploring the environs of Boston together. 

As I left her at the airport last evening, I realized I didn't sit down and read all weekend. I KNOW! Can you believe it? Two book-ish people spent the weekend in each other's company and did not sit down and read books along the way?

This may sound crazy, but I don't feel badly about this. I don't feel badly because it was a thoroughly book-ish weekend.

First, we visited the grave site of poet e.e.cummings. 
We decided to go for a walk in the beautiful and huge Forest Hills Cemetery.  Once there, we realized we should look to see who was buried there. Once I found out that e.e.cummings was buried there, we had to find the grade site. I grew up on a healthy dose of cummings, as he is one of my parents' favorite poets. In a weekend that began with a conversation about passion-driven research and writing nonfiction children's books, we found ourselves living out this idea. 
We had to find a map on our phones, determine the correct north/south direction, and look for markers to locate ourselves on the map. Having located our whereabouts within a section of this 247 acre park, we headed toward the grave...and missed it. We turned back, pulled up the map, read the lane signs, and looked for geographic patterns. We missed it again.  That third time? It was a charm. Turns out the lane we were looking for was unmarked and unpaved. Knowing the family name for the grave plot, we switched to reading tombstones.  Sure enough we located the family plot and with a bit more searching, found e.e.cummings grave marker. As readers and as educators, we remarked upon the grit and perseverance the search had required. We could have easily turned back or moved along, but we didn't. We were passion-driven searchers. As we left the grave, we reflected upon how we could help create educational environments that support passion-driven learners engaged in passion-driven learning. Food for summer thought.

Our non-reading but book-ish weekend continued with a visit to the Glass Flowers at Harvard Museum of Natural History. Where this quote inspired us to continue our passion-driven research conversation 
and think about how we model our passion for reading and writing for our students. What do I love and and how do I show my students?

The next day, a visit to SoWa, South of Washington open art and food market and Paddle Boarding on the Charles were filled with conversations about books.  

I don't need to say how much fun it is to spend time with someone who doesn't get tired of talking books. Our conversation was not relegated to books written and published by others, we spent quite a bit of time conversing about books we are writing (or thinking of writing in my case).  I so enjoyed hearing Jen work through the ideas for her novel. I may just be brave enough to sit down and write this summer! My head is full of characters, settings, and plots. 
So, yes, I did not actually sit down and read a book this weekend, but I feel like I did, now that's a book-ish celebration.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Celebrate: Time, Talent, Treasure

Discover. Play. Build.

Yesterday was the last official day of library classes for this school year, but not my last day working with students, thankfully in the remaining five days of school I will be working in classrooms on projects. It is so hard to say goodbye. This was a hard week, but a good week. I always feel pressure to make the last library classes of the year memorable, so that can put too much pressure on me and the students. Saying goodbye to the fifth graders is the absolute worst, our six-year journey together comes to an end too abruptly. I was forced to change my last lesson with them because I forgot to give them a district-wide assessment (oops), so I thought "no memorable lesson could they have," but I was mistaken!  I've said it before, time is a crazy thing.  How is it that thirty minutes can be so different depending upon one's goals for that time? In thirty minutes, the students took the assessment, reflected on their library experience and then created six word memoirs. I am celebrating the power of these intense amounts of time where the students are so willing to through themselves mind, body, and soul into our work. Check out their six word memoirs.

I am celebrating the visit of Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts. She is here in Boston for the weekend and staying with me. We have big plans that mainly involving spending time together. Jen is an inspiration, but even better she is an inspirational leader. Jen is one of the forces behind Teachers Write! a summer-long writing experience that encourages writing from prompts as well as working on projects. Participants receive feedback and advice from established authors.  I signed up two years ago and made it through the first few weeks, but couldn't carve out the time. Last year, Jen worked tirelessly to encourage me, but my father's health and well being took precedence. So here I sit, on the cusp of a third summer hoping this will be "the one." Without knowing it, Jen provided the reassurance I needed, the sense that I could accomplish finding the time to write in a busy life. Lat night, she carved out twenty-five minutes, turned away from the distractions in the room, and wrote. I think I can do that. I hope I can do that. I am going to try to do that. The same pulls and pushes on my time will still exist this summer, but I am going to find twenty-five minutes to write, every day, and see where it goes from there. Thanks, Jen!

The world is full of treasures and I love reminding myself of those that are right in my backyard. This morning, Jen and I are going to The Forest Hills Cemetery to walk around. This might sound morbid, but it is not, it is a beautiful garden as much as a cemetery.  This afternoon, we are heading to Harvard to go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see the Glass Flowers. Sure, we'll walk around Harvard Square, which is always fun, but the Glass Flowers are rare treasures that are hard to comprehend until you actually see them.

Here's to hoping you found time, talent, and treasure in your own lives. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Six Word Memoirs created by 5th grade students

I saw the 5th graders for the last official library class today. Along with taking a 5th grade assessment (don't ask) and reflecting on their six years of experiences in the library, I challenged them to write Six Word Memoirs about Mason-Rice or the Mason-Rice Library Program. Here they are:


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Teach them a tool and they will create for a lifetime

My lunch bunch met for the last time yesterday. After lunch and various impromptu performances (with a marker as microphone), the students went off to create an Animoto on the topic of their choice. The students worked independently and this after only one project that integrated Animoto. I was impressed. 

There is a mix of silly and serious here, but all are well produced.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's a ninja invasion inspired by The Three Ninja Pigs

My first graders and I read The Three Ninja Pigs, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, as a culminating book in an exploration of fairy tales and fractured fairy tales (and those in between).  This was the perfect book on which to end both the unit and our library classes (for the year). The students loved the book. The book is just plain fun to read, and the students showed their appreciation for the puns by making "ba-dum-tsh" drum sounds at the appropriate moments.  I am always impressed at how sharp their visual literacy skills are and how quickly they pick up on small details in the illustrations. They laughed, they cheered, they wanted more. I had no more ninja books to read (alas Ninja Red Riding Hood is not yet available), so I sent them off to create their own ninja characters. I encouraged them to think of a character from another fairy tale or book and turn that person into a ninja.

I found a ninja Ivy from Ivy and Bean:

I found a ninja Creepy Carrot from Creepy Carrots:

I found a ninja crayon from The Day the Crayons Quit:

I found the beginnings of a ninja Piggie from Elephant and Piggie:

I found a ninja Bot from Bot + Bot:

And I found plenty of just-your-average-everyday ninjas:

Thank you for inspiring my students, Corey and Dan! Ki-ya!

Slice of Life: On the urge to leave them laughing

I am Slicing a day late, but not a dollar short. Yesterday was one of those full days that did allow for the mental space for writing. Luckily today affords me this pleasure!

As each academic year approaches it's end and I say goodbye to the students for the summer, I feel this pull to make the last lesson memorable in some way, usually leaning toward humor. This phrase from my childhood filters through from the recesses of thought: "Leave 'em laughing."  (I think it is from a Laurel and hardy skit.) Even more persistent is this idea from Singing in the Rain: 
I find myself crooning this song in an Ethel Merman-esque voice, well crooning and Ethel Merman-esque voice might not go hand-in-hand, but you get the idea: I am being tugged in this mental direction. 

Why do I feel this need for the last library class to be memorably funny?

I hope this last library experience of the school year gives each student a safe emotional place to start the next year. I want them to remember the joy of a shared reading experience. I want them to remember that books hold treasures waiting to be discovered. I want them to begin their summer reading journeys with this in mind. I want them to come back next year eager to see where our adventures bring us.  Who knows, maybe I'll croon the song above with my own lyrics....

"There's no reading like summer reading, 
like no reading I know, 
everything about it is appealing, 
it's something only stories will allow,
nowhere you could get that happy feeling
when you are stealing away to read."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Reading is Thinking"

These wise words were spoken by a first grader during a discussion about why students (and all people) should read over the summer.

Other first grade ideas as to why they should keep reading over the summer:

"It will help our imaginations grow."

"It will help us keep learning."

"Good practice"

"It is fun."

"You can forget things over the summer, like the sound letters make, so if you keep reading you won't forget."

"...become better readers"

Jean, one of our local public librarians, is visiting with students in my school to talk about the summer reading program at the public library and to book talk and read some of the titles from the summer reading lists. 

Here are some titles for students moving into 2nd grade:

Here are some titles for students moving into 3rd grade:

Here are some titles for students moving into 6th grade:

The complete lists can be found here.

Jean is an excellent book talker and reader and students always leave the library eager to head to the public library to begin reading. Just look at these engaged readers:

For the past few years, these visits have coincided with the week when I need to stop loaning out books, which is perfect because the students disappointment is quelled by excitement about the summer reading program and the knowledge that there are great books waiting for them at the public library.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

They keep on creating

...and I couldn't be happier.

The following projects 
were created by 4th and 5th grade students 
during their free time.


Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Mango Shaped Space

Duck and Goose


A Snicker of Magic

Jackie Robinson

These Candlewick Press books will never be on the shelves

...because they will always be in students' hands.

As with any Candlewick Press catalogue, there are many books in the latest offerings that I know my students will love and that will never actually sit on a shelf in the library because they will always be checked out.  What also makes these books great, is that I can see connections to our Lucy Calkins units and the ELA curriculum. These are the books I am especially looking forward to:
Shh! We Have a Plan

I was brought up on a healthy does of Tomi Ungerer. This book reminds me of all that I loved about those books. Humor abounds in both text and art. I cannot wait to read this aloud with students.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

 Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen team up again and readers will be glad that they have. Klassen is a master of looks and he proves himself brilliant once again. Klassen's (deadpan) illustrations bring the reader in on the real story: it's all about the journey and not what you find when you get there.

I'm My Own Dog

I love a book that gives the reader a different perspective and manages to do it with humor and charm. This is endearing. 

Have Your Seen My Dragon?

I have a soft spot for books that capture and celebrate the mind of a child, hearing Steve Light talk about his experiences visiting the city with his father and how those experiences lead to this book made me love it even more. There is so much to explore here, it is a book readers will return to again and again.

Matt Phelan gives us a father/daughter duo that readers will cheer for. This playful and caring father celebrates his daughter's imagination, and no passive princess is she - be prepared for adventure! If you had your druthers, what would you be?

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Mercy Watson's world expands and readers can grow with her. I am hoping Kate DiCamillo can take a break from her National Ambassador duties to write a few more of these...we're going to need more! 

The Princess in Black

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale create a princess who vexes monsters? This one is going to be great.

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates

I don't usually think gender, but there are some 5th grade boys who will love this book! 


The Journey continues, need I say more?

Miss Emily
A novel in verse that captures Emily Dickinson's playful nature and connection to children. I will not soon forget the night the circus visited town.

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

A beautifully-illustrated biography that celebrates Johnny Cash's music.

Tap Tap Boom Boom
The sights and sounds of a summer storm in the city, with fun words to roll around on one's tongue and  many things to notice.

Cast Away on the Letter A

Visually intricate Toon book.

Theseus and the Minotaur

We need more mythology books and this one comes with trading-card-style stats!

Visiting the Candlewick offices 
is a treat for the eyes as well!

I'm sure there will be more scenes like this for Candlewick.