Thanks to our amazing friends at Wondermore, last Friday our second and third graders had a special visit from author Paul Reynolds. Paul is the author of Going Places and the Sydney & Simon series. He is also the co-founder of FableVision Studios, a media company he started alongside his twin brother, Peter.
Paul started by talking to students about what it means to “create bravely.” He talked about his childhood and how he has been creating alongside his brother his entire life. When Paul was in the second grade he began writing stories while his brother Peter illustrated them. Students started thinking about creating with a best friend and the importance of kindness.
Paul read The Dot and shared the inspiration for the story. He told students that you don’t have to be good at everything, but it’s worth trying different things to see what you like. He talked about not giving up and doing what you love. He also spoke to students about the work FableVision does creating storytelling technology. Students asked Paul questions, including:
“What inspired you to be an author?”
“When you and your brother work together do you argue sometimes?”
“Did anything in your childhood inspire you?”
“What motivates you to keep writing?”
Paul was truly inspirational. You know it was a fabulous author visit when students were crowding around Paul asking to share their writing and coding projects with him. Teachers stopped by the library to tell me how meaningful the visit was and many students stopped by the library to borrow his books. Students learn best when they’re having fun, and Paul’s visit was definitely fun!
We know that field trips are memorable, influential experiences in a child’s life. With the help of our amazing Vertex volunteers we were able to leave the classroom and take our learning on the road. Volunteers met some of our first and second graders at the Boston Children’s Museum for a fabulous field trip.
First graders participated in a Laser Cutting workshop. Students started off by using pencil and paper to draw their own designs, and then tried copying their designs on an iPad. They were able to use laser cutting technology to engrave their original artwork on wood and take it home!
Second graders participated in “Explore-A-Saurus”, a program complementing the Museum’s dinosaur exhibit. Students examined real fossil evidence and learned what it takes to be a paleontologist. They worked together to determine what is considered a fossil and what is not. They also created their own fossil trackways!
We had a wonderful time exploring the Museum and exploring exhibits focused on science. We were all able to benefit from the resources and first-hand experiences the Children’s Museum had to offer. Place-based learning like this allowed for curiosity, a chance to answer real-world problems and essential questions, an opportunity to revise and reflect, and for collaboration and comprehension. Thank you Vertex!
We were incredibly lucky to have award winning author and illustrator Jef Czekaj visit the Shaw. Jef visited a few years ago and it was wonderful to have him come back for another fun and informative author visit. Jef’s humorous and musical writing has found many fans in the Shaw library. His book Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop! is always one of the first books to be grabbed off the shelves.
Our K1, K2, and 1st grade students spent the past few weeks preparing for the author visit by reading some of Jef’s books including Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop!, Cat Secrets, Yes, Yes, Yaul! and Oink-A-Doodle-Moo. All of that reading prompted some wonderful discussion. Students also came up with questions to ask Jef during his visit. Questions ranged from what inspires Jef to asking about how he comes up with his raps. During the visit Jef talked about how even as a kid he always enjoyed drawing and writing stories. He went into detail about his writing process and how he practices drawing on a daily basis. Jef read one of his stories aloud to the students; he played music and rapped Yes, Yes, Yaul! Teachers and students alike were out of their chairs dancing and shouting along.
Jef also showed students how he goes about illustrating characters. Students shouted out character traits and Jef combined their ideas to make a brand new character on the fly. It was fast-paced, interactive, and fun. At the end of the visit every single student was given their very own copy of Hip & Hop in the House!
Everyone is still sharing accolades with me after the visit. Jef definitely made a lasting impression on the students. It was a fabulous time and we are so grateful to Wondermore for making the visit possible.
The fabulous Vertex volunteers were back again to lead our students in an exciting science experiment - extracting DNA from strawberries! During the strawberry DNA experiment students were able to extract, isolate, and observe the DNA of a strawberry using household products and materials. Students started off by reading over the instructions and gathering materials for the experiment. Every student had their own scientist kit equipped with gloves and safety goggles!
Students poured an extraction mixture into a bag with strawberries. They used their hands to mash and smoosh the strawberries inside the bag so that no large pieces were remaining.
Students then poured their strawberry pulp and extraction mixture through a strainer. They isolated the DNA on the surface of their mixture and pulled out the DNA! Many students thought the DNA looked like snot or slime.
Students learned that DNA is present in all plants and animals and determines all genetic traits. We had a great time thinking like scientists and showing persistence.
I started a new club in the library this year for third grade students. One Friday a month I hosted a “Farm Friends Club” where students were introduced to farms and animal care. We read stories about different kinds of farm animals and learned about their personalities, what each animal is used for, and what each animal produces or contributes.
With the help of a farm owner and animal expert, students had a chance to get some hands-on experiences. They learned about equestrian gear and apparel, then got to practice siting on a real saddle and using stirrups. They got to taste goat cheese and they even got to feel different kinds of manure!
Some of the animals we learned about were:
Donkeys – their personalities and their use as guard animals.
Horses & Ponies – the different breeds, their jobs and how to take care of them.
Goats – their personalities and how they contribute to us with cheese and fiber for clothing.
Pigs – their intelligence and how they contribute to us with meat.
The students and I had a great time learning about the importance of farm animals and how we can support animal welfare.
Over the past few months I have been on a mission to build capable readers. I have been working to create a school wide reading culture that promotes reading as a lifestyle. Creating lifelong readers doesn’t just happen, but takes everyone in the community to reach that objective. Check out some of the things the Shaw library is doing to create a reading culture for independent literacy!
African American Read-In
In February, everyone participated in the Shaw’s first African American Read-In. The National African American Read-In is the nation’s oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature. It was established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month. It was started specifically to create a bigger audience for African American authors. With the help of ReadBoston, teachers and students selected books, poems, and speeches by African American authors and illustrators. We encouraged students to read outside of their preferred genres and pick a book outside of their comfort zone. Some teachers read stories aloud while other classes had students reading independently. It was also a great way for our students to see teachers as readers. Vertex donated bookmarks and small gifts to everyone at the Shaw in recognition of the rich history and profound legacy African Americans have made.
In March we hosted our annual Scholastic Book Fair. With the help of our art teacher Ms. Farmer, K1 students created their favorite book characters to use as decorations for the big event.
Students and their families had the opportunity to pick out books and read them together. It was a great way to link our students with new literature and bring the community together in honor of that mission.
There was even a visit from Clifford the Big Red Dog. The Book Fair raised $2,759.96. With these funds we will be able to purchase lots of new and exciting books for the Shaw library!
March was also Women’s History Month, and students celebrated by reading stories about strong influential women making a difference. Vertex volunteers came in to read stories aloud about women and science. They talked to students about their experiences working in a science-focused career and had some wonderful discussions. Students loved asking questions and learning more about the impact female scientists have had on the world.
Through these events, our Shaw students are becoming strong and capable readers who read widely and diversely. We will continue to build a community of readers for the rest of the year!
Because learning happens 24/7 and not just during the school week, I attended the Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) Conference in Framingham the last weekend in March. There were some incredible speakers, including Andrea Davis Pinkney and Jack Gantos. There were also some amazing presenters, talking about everything from creating a student-centered library to making the library accessible with technology.
I presented on two different topics at the conference. The first was titled Virtual Learning Commons (VLC): The digital heart of a school community and district. The panel presentation focused on cultivating a school library web presence to reinforce the role of the library as the “heart of the school community."
The second presentation was titled “Making Readers”: How Makerspaces Can Impact Literacy. The presentation explored the learning opportunities that emerge when bringing student imagination to life and demonstrated the unique affordances of maker activities to ensure meaningful student engagement and transform teaching and learning. We showed how students can use hands-on materials to take control over their own learning and become an active part of the learning process when reading stories. We looked at some real project examples, showing attendees resources they can use in their own space.
I had a wonderful time meeting librarians from across the state, sharing tips on how school libraries are for everyone. It was an exciting night for the Shaw as Ms. Osei-Bobie won the Administrator Advocate Award. This award honors administrators who have made significant contributions to the promotion of effective school library programs and services. It recognized the significant impact Ms. Osei-Bobie has had on the Shaw’s library.
With the first graders currently studying birds and endangered species, we wanted to give the students a chance to highlight all they have learned. We thought getting to see live birds face to face would be much more engaging than just looking at a picture of a bird in a book. With the help of Marcia and Mark Wilson, our students learning literally grew wings!
Marcia and Mark Wilson introduced the students to live owls through their program, “Who’s Watching You? Owls of the World”. Students learned about the signs and skills naturalists use to find wild owls without disturbing them in their natural habitat. They were able to see different types of owls up close. The students also practiced hooting and learned about how to protect owls.
This program was a memorable way for students to make meaningful connections to their learning and bring their study of birds to life.
The Shaw was lucky enough to be chosen as one of Vertex Pharmaceuticals partner schools for the 2018-2019 school year. Volunteers had their first visit at the Shaw last week and helped integrate technology into the classrooms. First and second graders were introduced firsthand to 3D printing technology and how it can be used to create all sorts of objects.
The pens allowed students to illustrate in 3D. Students were able to draw a variety of shapes and recognizable items, including movie characters and New England sports logos. They worked on problem solving and critical thinking exercises. Once students became comfortable using the pens, they were given the challenge of building a tower or a 3D cube. Many of the students jumped at the opportunity to take on this difficult task. It required everyone to be patient, concentrate, and persevere.
The 3D pens blended math, science, and art in a creative and user-friendly way. Everyone had so much fun with the volunteers and we can't wait to learn something new next month!
I wanted to take a moment to recognize the importance of collaboration and its ability to give deeper meaning to learning. Through the collaborative efforts of Boston Latin School and the P.A. Shaw, an engaging and interactive partnership took place! Seniors from Boston Latin School visited with our K1 and K2 classes. The visit was the culmination of Blake Barich's existentialism unit for her 12th grade English classes. Her students spent weeks analyzing works by existential thinkers and then compared those with a children's picture book. The 12 graders ultimately wrote an essay arguing whether or not their picture book of choice was existential. The visit to the Shaw was an opportunity to read to a young child and see how the book was interpreted. It was also a chance to simply enjoy a book together. Over 160 students from both schools participated.
For our own students at the Shaw, the visit was an opportunity to practice our hosting skills, show off our school and get to know older students. Everyone got to hone their critical thinking and writing skills while completing book reviews. It was amazing to see such camaraderie develop. Many of our students have asked when their “reading buddy” is coming back to visit! All of the students were engaged.
The visit was mutually beneficial for both schools and highlighted on Boston Public Schools social media. This visit goes to show that when schools work together to support learning, everyone benefits!
Ms. VanClief is the Library Media Specialist at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)