Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hour of Code, 12 Days of Vacation Reading, and More


Back in August, as I prepared to start the 2014-2015 school year--in a new school, in a new district--I decided my motto for the year would be:  

I am finding PES students are just ripe for opportunities to use their imagination, skills, and desire to express themselves in order to impact the community.  Perfect example:  In our last class before the holiday break, I reviewed with a class of 5th graders a few tasks they needed to complete.  I started using Edmodo (@Edmodo) a few weeks earlier with our 5th graders since it is so easy to create a post that reiterates my verbal instructions for a lesson while including links and/or supporting documents.  This platform allows students to increase independence while supporting each learner's individual pace.  Well, one of the items on their list of tasks was to make solid choices in book selections for the holiday break.   I informed the students that our "Reading Team"  had created a song and a website called The 12 Days of Reading which would help students to recall and employ various tips and strategies during the holiday break.  I challenged the students to consider creating a 30 - 60 PSA which we could email families, tweet, and post on our website during the break.  

Caleb and David immediately paired up and grabbed an iPad. They asked for the lyrics to the song and off they went.  When I checked in on them a bit later,  they had decided they wanted to create a movie trailer on iMovie and had already completed the storyboard. When I looked at the template,  my initial reaction was ... "Oh gee, that's going to be a little difficult since you will need 20 or more video clips and you only have 30 minutes."   The concerns that ran through my head were: It's Friday,  they have 30 minutes,  what will they possibly capture in 20 clips that will be engaging and not dull, and could they realistically complete this project or would it end up as an unfinished project that was filled with good intentions.  As I started to suggest switching to creating a basic video instead of a trailer, Caleb replied, "Then we would waste all the storyboarding we already did."  That's when, I realized I needed to empower and support their drive and vision.  I needed to believe in them. I am so glad I did!  

Take a look at Caleb and David's movie trailer which will serve as our kick-off commercial for the 12 Days of Reading Challenge!   

Directed and produced within one class period by Caleb and David, 5th graders.

My new motto:


After we hosted a very successful school technology workshop for parents in November, I realized we needed to keep the positive energy and engagement moving forward.  So, I decided to offer monthly parent/child workshops with a focus on unleashing a child's creativity using the power of the iPad. This past Wednesday evening, our first workshop was held.  I cannot even begin to describe the impact of the workshop.  If you are not offering your families such opportunities, make a New Year's Resolution to do so.

My initial goals for the evening:
  •  give an overview of the creative power of the iPad 
  •  deliver brief tutorials on several apps that work great for smashing
  •  provide time for play
  • and encourage parents and children to utilize the apps during the holiday break in order to preserve memories.
However, about two hours before the workshop, as I was driving to a district meeting on "Digital Learning", I  was thinking about how our Reading Team was preparing to roll-out the 12 Days of Vacation Reading Challenge.  In an instant, I had an idea "what if I gave the workshop participants the challenge of creating a short commercial to promote the challenge."   It certainly would provide an authentic way to learn various apps AND create buy-in for the reading challenge.  Being a spontaneous person, I immediately called Mrs. Katie Gordon, our Reading Consultant who confirmed my instinct on this one!  The goal of the workshop was tweaked on a car ride and the results were more than I ever could have imagined.  

Take a look at the digital flyer I created with @smore. You will see a variety of commercials including several which were made during our workshop.  Apps utilized during our workshop: iMovie, @DoInkTweets, @tellagami, @chatterpix, and @puppetworkshop.

I believe this is another example of how ripe students are for engaging and meaningful tasks. It is also evidence of how eager parents are for opportunities for engagement with our school community and are committed to building a culture of authentic learning.


The third example of how ripe PES students are to be leading the way is what resulted from our participation in the Hour of Code (#HourofCode, @codeorg).  Earlier in the year, I ran a 6 week coding class as an after-school enrichment program.  It was a small group of 7 students of which only 2 were girls.  Around week 5, one of the girls asked, "How come there are only 2 girls in this class?"  My reply, "My thoughts exactly.  Why is this so?"  This questioning propelled Maddie on a mission.  She immediately began researching statistics and decided she wanted to start creating video clips in order to promote "Girls Who Code."   Her first greenscreen attempt was quite humorous:

Timing is everything.
Just a few weeks after our after-school enrichment class ended, the Hour of Code began.  This was the perfect opportunity to test the waters and have all students dip their toes into the power of coding.  What has resulted?

Check out Maddie's flyer announcing the first ever PES Girls Who Code Club!

So, that's a glimpse inside our media center these past few weeks.  Hope you return in January to see more exciting initiatives led by students!

Mrs. Jane Martellino
PES Media Specialist

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Enthusiasm Overflowing!

From kindergarten to fifth grade, there is a palpable sense of enthusiasm when the students enter the PES Media Center.  It is rare to see a student arrive without a smile or a look of anticipation.  From the moment the students enter the learning space, I believe they sense that their presence is not only welcomed but valued.  They are thriving.  Experiencing a variety of learning opportunities is a weekly occurance.  

The success of our media center program requires a whole school commitment.  I must acknowledge our wonderful volunteers and our outstanding library paraprofessional, Mrs. Connie Yacavone.  Together, we have created a team that is student-centered.  Our success also requires teacher support and buy-in.  Our flexible schedule demands collaboration which is essential for meaningful integration of information literacy skills and technology integration.  PES teachers embrace this partnership and it is resulting in student success.  The next ingredient for a successful media center is parent support.  As you read through today's post, you will see how parents are enthusiastically participating by embracing media center-home connections.  Of course, it takes administrators at the building and district level who value information literacy skills, creativity, innovation, and desire to foster lifelong readers and learners.  It's a great time to be the media specialist at PES!

An overview of the week in review (November 17-November 21).

The following video demonstrates how families embraced a challenge to extend learning during International Picture Book Month.  K-2 students enjoyed analyzing the illustrations in Randy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen.  Like Randy, they too could create a robot out of recyclable materials.  Take a peak:

I especially appreciate my time with fifth graders--probably because this is my only year with the students since they will be moving on to middle school next year and I just arrived to PES this year.  The past few weeks, the students delved into research for their science unit by utilizing print and digital resources.  It was exciting to utilize Edmodo with the students for the first time.  This platform includes launching various apps.  For research, the InstaGrok app is incredible.  We met in the computer lab for our intro lesson to these tools.  The students continued research during their science block, utilizing both print and digital resources to gather enough information to answer essential questions created with Mr. Battaglia.  It was great to see how seamless our initial work in September with questioning strategies transferred to this inquiry project. In addition, I love meeting with the teachers and discussing how to update presentation skills and products.  Mr. Battaglia was eager to embrace change--so an essay underwent a makeover and became a greenscreen video product.  Having students demonstrate new understandings in ways that require problem solving, creativity, and speaking with authority is essential.

Take a look at a session with the students once research was completed and storyboarding finalized.  It was time for product creation.

The following video is an example of a draft of the final product.  
The last piece the students need to add is a "Works Cited" list.

What I love about using the iPads for creation is the ability to smash apps.  We used Tellagami, Doink Green Screen, and iMovie.  The power of the iPad is in creating.  Utilizing any app that saves creations in the camera roll is the key to app smashing.  Students also used web-based tools such as Discovery Education and InstaGrok.  The students are proficient in searching for images through google by filtering for usage rights.  

App smashing forces students to push their thinking and problem solve to figure out how they can merge various apps to create the product they need to deliver/transmit their message/learning.  It is teaching students to not be satisfied with using only one app, since there are often limitations in the functionality of each app.  It really provokes the "what if" kind of thinking that is a prerequisite to innovation.   

What's to come in December?  Teachers in grades 3 and 4 start their second rotation of collaboration in the media center.  Look for more examples of student learning in the next blog post!  

And... you will read more about how a grade 4 collaboration grant was approved by CSDE!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It's Been a Whirlwind of Active Learning

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I last posted!  Our new schedule continues to prove effective since it provides great flexibility in meeting the needs of our learners.  Let me provide you with another example of the impact our flexible schedule is having on student learning. 

Focus: Grade 4

For this first collaborative project, the 4th grade team met with me before school on Fridays.  They chose to meet on a day when we are not contracted to report to school at 8:10AM. Yet, if you walked into Mrs. Matthew's classroom around 8:10AM on a Fridays in October, you would have found us gathered around various devices, curriculum materials, cups of tea/coffee, and heard collaborative conversations.  You would have left the room exhilarated--just like us!   It was true collaboration--we would leave each planning session with a firm grasp of "our plan" not mine or theirs--but ours.  Sharing skills, strategies, resources, our unique perspectives and talents allowed the unit to develop into something so much more than if we taught the unit in isolation.

Since the 4th grade social studies unit was Native Americans of Connecticut, we felt it lent itself perfectly to research and creation.  First, the students learned how to use Discovery Education (specifically the assignment section) to locate relevant facts related to Native Americans.  I had selected a number of video clips from Discovery and created an assignment in which the students would access just those assets.  The goal was to build background knowledge.  Therefore, locating information within a resource was the skill being developed versus locating the resource itself-that's why it made sense to create a curated list of resources for the students.  The students learned that many DE resources include a transcript of the video.  This proved to be a valuable support in taking notes and recording keywords and facts accurately.  The next session, the students accessed text resources from ICONN related to the topic.  Again, I located resources that were relevant and included a read-aloud feature (which would support the students since the text was complex in nature), and embedded the links into a Discovery Education assignment.  This way, the students had another exposure to utilizing DE.

Next steps:  Now that the students built background knowledge and were assigned to a group with a clear focus for their inquiry, we were ready to tackle print materials.  The beauty of the flex schedule is that we were able to schedule blocks of research time in the media center (consecutive days when necessary) so the students could read and extract relevant information from a variety of print books (a collection I pulled from our library and a collection I borrowed from Southbury Public Library).     The classroom teacher and I were able to guide the students through note-taking using a graphic organizer (a web with questions) and showing them how to cite their resources in a simplified way. Next, the students were taught how to locate and filter images by usage rights when utilizing Google Images.



Once the students were able to answer their inquiry questions, they were ready to create a product/presentation to share their knowledge.  This is where there was flexibility within each homeroom class as to what the final product would look like.

Again, because we have a flex media center schedule, we were able to create a 2 hour session in which the students used technology, crafts, their research notes, the space--to create without being interrupted.

iMovie is a great tool to record a brief overview of the process undertaken by the students.  It builds excitement for the community as they get a sneak peak of what is coming next. Take a peak at Mrs. Corbin's class as they take their research notes and create a storyboard for an ebook. Once the storyboard was created, the students would create an "ebook-like" product using the app Educreations.

Mrs. Corbin's Class

Mrs. Matthew's invited a group of parents to assist with each table.  Each group had decided ahead of time, what visual product they would create to represent their particular topic within this inquiry project.  Take a sneak peak at their "creation block."

 Mrs. Matthew's Class

Mr. Maunsell's class combined both aspects: the students set-the stage for a "How-to-Video" by creating an artifact to serve as a visual representation of their inquiry.  Take a sneak peak at this creative session.
Mr. Maunsell's Class

Providing time for students to dig-in, collaborate, problem-solve, think critically about new learning, and then express knowledge to others is critical, engaging, motivating, and fun.  When a student popped into the media center one morning to check-out a new book, she had this to say, "Is today our research time for Native Americans?  I LOVE researching!"

Another group was given a one minute warning to wrap up their session since it was almost recess time, and I actually heard groans of disappointment!  Now tell me FLEX SCHEDULE in the media center was not the best administrative decision made for students!  Thank you Region 15 for committing to creating effective media centers with full-time certified media specialists--not the norm in many communities throughout the state and country.

Here is a sample of the final products created by Mrs. Corbin's students:
Native American Tools
Life of a Warrior

Here is a sample of Mr. Maunsell's How-To-Videos:
The Way of The Warriors-How to Make a Bow
How-to-Basket Weave

Mrs. Matthew's class is creating a "Museum" display for parents.  More to come...

To see the rest of the projects and to learn more about the "Happenings at PES Media Center, visit:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Without a Doubt, Change is Essential!

When the Association of School Librarians (a division of American Library Association) held discussions on updating its mission statement to more adequately impact the evolution of student learning, there were key components that rose to the top. First is that the role of the school librarian is evolving and changing. School librarians serve as the guiding light in transforming learning through new tools and technology. Second is that the essence of school libraries is teaching and learning. This concept places school libraries at the center of any discussion dealing with education. (From a press release issued on 07/15/2014 Jennifer Habley, Manager, Web Communications American Association of School Librarians.)
I applaud Region 15 School District Administration for having both the foresight and the courage to take a tremendous leap this school year by making the decision to revise the elementary media center schedules to provide students with increased access and to foster collaborative opportunities. By creating a more flexible schedule, meaningful integration of information literacy skills and the purposeful use of technology increase dramatically--because of the collaboration that develops between the media specialist and content area teachers. Such changes will directly impact student achievement. Countless research studies prove that flexibly scheduled media centers staffed by certified media specialists results in increased student learning.  As the new media specialist for Pomperaug ES, I am also grateful for the leadership demonstrated by the Region 15 high school and middle school media specialists, who strongly advocate and support flexible schedules in the elementary media centers. As a K-12 department, our media specialists embrace those key components that arose from discussions at the national level, as outlined in the opening paragraph of this blog post. We embrace the fact that the role of school librarian is evolving and changing. We thrive on shedding light and paving a way for our students, so they can develop to their fullest potential. We promise to transform learning through new tools and technology. We pledge our support to content area and special area teachers, because we firmly believe that together we are stronger. Our students deserve our best.
Just this week alone, because of our flexible schedule, grade 5 students participated in a backchannel discussion on the book, Wilma Unlimited written by Kathleen Krull, who will be our guest author later this month. With students utilizing the iPads, the classroom teacher was able to follow and assess the virtual chat, while I presented the text and a word cloud as the focus for the virtual and in-person discussion. Such a tool allowed all students to express their voices--and they did! This tool also served as a great quick assessment on a number of skills including digital citizenship, determining authors purpose, identifing character traits, interpreting images, and more. I would be remiss if I did not express gratitude to the PTO who generously donated the iPads a year or so ago.
Another example of the impact of collaboration within a flexible schedule is noted in the above photo. For the past 3 weeks, the third grade team and I met once a week for planning.  We selected the current science unit on Rocks and Minerals to embed information literacy and technology skills. Then, we scheduled time each week for an information literacy lesson directly connected to the unit of study.  Students has the benefit of both myself and their classroom teacher available to assist them during the lesson.  We used Discovery Education for research and "alphaboxes"
for a note-taking tool.  The unit also includes hands-on science investigations which the students will document using the iPad so they can share their investigation like a scientists! As you can see in the image, students are engaged in creative and challenging activities as they access information, build knowledge, and share it with others.

And one more example... Ten fifth grade students give up their lunch break (and rainy day recess) to create book commercials for picture books for the k-2 students. They read the book, create a short summary without giving away the ending, they grab an iPad, and using a cool app called Tellagami, they create a 30 second book commercial.   The link for their video clip is then encoded onto a qr code which is glued to the inside cover of the book. Next week, K-2 students will learn how to use the iPad app Qrafter to scan the code and listen to the commercials. Hopefully, the 5th graders were persuasive enough!  Our goal is to increase the range of books K-2 students choose from the "E" section of the library.  This project is a win-win situation for all involved. The older students are refining their skills in summarizing, fluency, appropriate use of technology, while providing a valuable service to our school community.  The images below show  what the video commercial would look like. However, to access a sampling of these commercials, either scan the QR code or click on the link!
Scan the qr code with your iPhone or iPad or click here.
Scan the qr code or click here.

So, I hope you can see that we are not taking for granted one single bit the opportunity we have been given this school year.  The benefits of collaboration between the media specialists and teachers in each of our elementary schools is worth the struggles that do come with change.

Keep on collaborating!
Mrs. "M"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Circulate Those Magazines!

We want our students to become voracious readers.  We want them to read for information and for pleasure.  We want them to engage in materials that appeal to their interests.  So, why do most school libraries choose to not circulate magazines?  Every school district I have been employed in--from Rhode Island to Florida--the school media center policy was...magazines don't circulate!!!   This was something I just couldn't accept and fortunately I always had a principal that agreed.  So, I changed that policy in every school media center including PES.

Just take one look at these happy faces and 
you will agree with this policy change which was effective immediately!

Fifth graders showing off their first magazine checkout!

Why borrow magazines?

In the pages of children's magazines, readers will find:
short stories
informational text
biographical sketches
crossword puzzles
jokes and riddles
diagrams, charts, maps
art and poetry contests
sports highlights
science experiments
and even more!


Here's your big chance... Cricket Magazine is offering the opportunity for students to help create a fantasy story.   Fred Durbin and Emily Fiegenschuh, author and illustrator need your help inventing a hero or heroine, a sidekick, a villain, and an imaginative fantasy world.  Students can visit: and add their ideas while reading what other kids from around the world are suggesting.  Participate in Cricket's first-of-a-kind crowd-sourced fantasy!  One challenge is to help invent magical words for the "Fantasy Dictionary."  Check it out!

FOR MAKERS: Come check-out the September issue of Appleseeds and read all about skyscrapers. Then you will be ready to create your own magnificent structure.  Here's your chance!  Design and build a model of a skyscraper.  Use any materials you want and make it as big or small as you desire.  But... it has to be able to stand up on its own.  Take a picture of your amazing creation and submit it to the Appleseed contest.  All submission details are found in the September issue- available in our PES Media Center!

FOR SCIENTISTS:  ASK (Arts and Sciences for Kids) focused on the "Drop It!" theme for the September issue.  Did you know that all around the world, scientists are busy dropping things? Sometimes even on purpose.  This issue is chock full of interesting tidbits and concludes with an opportunity to enter the "Drop the Art" contest.  Check-out the magazine in our school library!


ONLINE VERSIONS:  Today's students and their families are so fortunate to have the vast amount of free resources available at their fingertips through the internet.  Here are links to several online magazines which are perfect for the PES students.

Time For Kids

Highlights for Kids

Cricket - publisher of several magazines provides free access to samples of each publication.

National Geographic Kids


Kids Discover

Sports Illustrated for Kids

Amazing Kids!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Visual Literacy

Visual Literacy = Reading Pictures 
We are a visually illiterate society. … Three R’s are no longer enough. 
Our world is changing fast—faster than we can keep up with our historical modes 
of thinking and communicating. Visual literacy—the ability to both read and write 
visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain—will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life.
            —Dave Gray, founder of visual thinking company XPLANE

Visual Literacy was the focus of my summer professional development.

What is Visual Literacy?
Visual literacy has been defined as the “ability to understand, interpret and evaluate visual messages” (Bristor & Drake, 1994). According to Wikipedia (2011), “Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading."

Library of Congress

In July, I spent a week in Washington, DC at the historic
Library of Congress, learning how to teach with primary source documents. The resources available through are extraordinary. As a school media specialist, pointing teachers and students to this resource is essential. Integrating primary source documents into my instruction and locating resources to support content areas will be a priority this school year. Sharing with my colleagues the teaching strategies I gained from this experience will be critical to impacting students' engagement with primary source documents.
Primary Source Document
Fantastic experience

In August, I attended a weekend workshop by the Eric Carle Museum which was hosted by the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA.  It was a delightful, retreat-like experience which beautifully complimented my studies at the Library of Congress. The essence of my learning at this workshop was using visual literacy strategies with picture books in order to deepen students understanding of a text.  Not only did we learn many strategies from the Eric Carle Museum staff, we were also treated to workshops led by award-winning authors/illustrators Vera B. Williams and Floyd Cooper.
Vera B. Williams
Our accommodations

And there were even more surprises... To satisfy our appetites...a gourmet chef who prepared delicious meals.  And...we were gifted with six exemplary picture books to take back to our libraries/classrooms.  One of these books was just perfect for my first class with this year's first graders.

Knowing that the first grade teachers kick-off their readers' workshop with wordless books, I had the perfect title from this workshop to teach visual literacy strategies with my first class in the media center.   The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett is simply perfect for visual literacy as students must "read" the illustrations in order to extract the meaning of the story.  It's a great tale of persistence and generosity.  It carries a message of selflessness and a sweet surprise ending.  Seeing the students engaged in the illustrations and observing how they dissected the illustrations, which were projected on a large screen using a document camera, was exhilarating.  Hearing the students gasp and then squeal with delight when certain illustrations were revealed was more than satisfying as a teacher.  This lesson builds the skills necessary so students can eventually meet the Connecticut Core Standard: RL.1.7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events. In addition, providing the students with an interactive read aloud experience builds speaking and listening skills particularly SL.1.4: Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.

Utilizing the "Whole Book Approach," another strategy I learned through this workshop, allowed the students to integrate the book jacket, board cover, and end papers into the main body of work and then synthesize their observations into deeper meaning. This was a terrific way to start the school year in the media center!

Mark Pett also created another touching wordless book titled: The Boy and the Airplane. 

Also in August, the last professional development opportunity of the summer was held right here in Connecticut at Mystic Seaport. I spent time with a group of 15 CT teachers over three days engaged in a variety of hands-on workshops, and for two nights we slept aboard the Joseph Conrad. 
Sleeping quarters

Just like the other two professional development programs I attended this summer, this one also focused on primary source documents. Mystic Seaport has a wealth of historical artifacts related to maritime history.
Meeting characters
The vault


RESOURCES:  Here are links to various resources that will be of value when integrating visual literacy strategies into content areas.

Discovery Education-search for images

FREE TECH TOOLS: A sampling of technology tools which would enable students to share their thinking as they analyze images. Keep in mind, any digital storytelling app would work well.

Here are a few suggestions:

Fotobabble: Turn an image into a talking photo/image.  Students would upload an image into Fotobabble, and then record their thinking. Share their "babble" via a web link, email, twitter, embed in blog or website.  Also app version available.

Educreations: Students could sequence several images and create a video of their discussion as they scroll through and construct knowledge about the images on each slide.  Since we want students to be able to connect ideas/concepts, this would be a great way to synthesize information from a variety of images. Educreations includes tools to annotate as the students discuss the details within the image. Share easily through email, link, embed on website or blog.  App version also available.

PicCollage: Available through Itunes and Google Play. Teachers could use this as an initiating or hook activity in which the teacher creates a collage of images related to an upcoming topic or unit. The students would closely observe the collage.  Then generate questions/wonderings which would foster ownership of the learning, since the inquiry questions would be student generated.  Or students could create a PicCollage on a device, and then upload the image into one of the other tools mentioned above.

Tellagami: One of my favorite tools that all ages can utilize with ease. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. There is a new paid EDU version which would be worth exploring.  Students could create and share a 30 second video.  Students would upload the image they have been analyzing into the app, choose an avatar, and then in 30 second record new understandings.  The video saves to the camera roll and since the clips are only 30 seconds, you can email them or merge them into another app like iMovie.

  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, ideas, and feelings clearly.
  • Ask and answer questions.
  • Write opinion pieces, supporting point of view with reasons.
  • Explain how illustrations contribute to the story.
  • Acquire and use accurately, grade-appropriate conversational, general, academic, and domain specific words.
  • Write informative and explanatory texts.
  • Write narratives.
  • Use information presented visually to demonstrate understanding of character, plot, and setting.
  • Engage effectively in collaborative discussion, building on the ideas of others, and expressing ones own ideas clearly.
  • Determine the main idea and supporting details of information presented in divers media, including visually.
  • Explain how information presented visually contributes to the understanding of text.
  • Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nutmeg Award Nominees for Elementary...
       So Far, so Good!

This week's focus books are both nominated titles for the inaugural Nutmeg for elementary students. This is the first year in which students in grades 2 -3 can participate in the Nutmeg statewide book award program. However, this new award is offered to students in grades 2-4. Therefore, 4th graders have the opportunity to participate in two levels this year (Nutmeg Elementary (grades 2-4) and Nutmeg Intermediate (grades 4-6).  

I love state book award programs because when a school embraces the program, you actually create a community of readers who experience a common body of literature. Conversations about books and authors naturally occurs across grade levels.  Parents, teachers, and students discuss books and share their impressions or the impact these books made on their lives results in a powerful experience.

In an interview regarding fiction books, Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) award-winning author, had this to say:

Fiction has two uses. First, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
Neil Gaiman stated so eloquently my sentiments and passion for being a school librarian.  It is a pleasure and an obligation to provide access to books that hook students into reading while providing them with opportunities to read.  Encouraging both school and family participation in the Nutmeg Award program is one effective strategy to lead children to the discovery that reading is pleasurable.
FOCUS TITLES: Why did I especially enjoy these two titles? 
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay is actually the second title in this early chapter book series. It has characters that are truly likable and  a plot filled with action, heart, friendship and a stray dog.   This book is a quick read (under 100 pages), and I like the fact that the family vacation has plenty of bumps along the way which is the typical experience for most families.
Sidney and Sydney: Third Grade Mixup by Michele Jakubowski (@mjakubowski) is also a fast read, with short chapters,  color illustrations, boy and girl main characters as friends, realistic peer teasing, a child character explaining living with diabetes, and it's told from alternating perspectives. 
Both of these books will work as read alouds or independent reading and will spark a desire to read other books in their respective series. 
From a teaching standpoint, I think language arts teachers will find ample examples of "small moments"  in each text.  Each chapter is brief and could be used as a mentor text during a narrative writing lesson on exploding a small moment. 
Bottom line:   I give both books a thumbs up!  
Students in grades 2-3 will build confidence and stamina as readers since both books are early chapter books.  In addition, the books show realistic characters dealing with age appropriate "drama", while learning how to compromise-- necessary quality in a healthy relationship.  Both characters discover the joy found in placing another person's needs before their own. 

That's just two of the fifteen nominated titles for the 2015 Nutmeg Elementary Award.  To view the complete list of nominees for grades 2-4, take a look at a video slideshow I created to promote the titles.

This is not a new tool, however it is often overlooked.  Consider creating a VoiceThread for either of these titles.  The beauty of VoiceThread--it allows everyone to join in on a conversation.  VoiceThread is a cloud application, so there is no software to install.  You can upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos.  Invite others to comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.  Keep a VoiceThread private, share it with specific people, or share it with the world.
VoiceThread is a great tool to use for discussing the Nutmeg Nominees!
Simply create one and encourage students and families to respond to a discussion prompt such as: 
For Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, the prompt could be...the two main characters were quite different in their interests and personalities.  Who are you most like, Lulu or Mellie? How are you similar?  Or Lulu and Mellie certainly had a vacation filled with challenges and surprises. Describe a vacation in which you had a challenge and a pleasant surprise. 
For Sidney & Sydney: Third Grade Mix-Up, the prompt could be... The last couple of pages provides additional information on each character based on specific topics.   Re-read pages 126-127 and write a profile about yourself using those same topics and share it on the VoiceThread.  Or, both Sidney and Sydney sacrificed collecting candy on Halloween for the sake of their friends who could not eat sugar.  In the end, they still had a great holiday.   Share a time when you sacrificed doing something you really enjoy and instead chose to do something special for your friend or family member.
VoiceThread (@voicethread) offers educators paid accounts for classrooms, schools, and districts. 

Here is a sample VoiceThread for Lulu and the Dog from the Sea.  Make a comment on the VoiceThread and get the conversation started!

Keep on reading and chatting about books,
Mrs. Martellino

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fiction Reading that will lead to treasures!

This past week's reads!

As promised, here is my second week of treasures and gems! With the summer rapidly advancing, I knew I needed to bump it up a notch in my chapter book reading so that I will be able to advise my upcoming 3rd -5th graders with authentic booktalks.  The books depicted in the photograph above were my reading selections over the past 4-5 days.  My husband rarely saw my face this past week, since I had a book cover in front of it most of the time.

I must admit, my favorite from the bunch was KING OF THE MOUND.  I actually stayed up way too late last night (past 1AM) just so I could finish this delightful book by Wes Tooke.  This is one of those books, you simply can't put down.  And when you do, you can't wait to dig into some nonfiction reading to learn more about Satchel Paige, Neil Churchill, barnstorming, segregation, semi-professional baseball in the 1930's, polio, and more.


Where to begin... As I was absorbed in reading King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige written by Wes Tooke, I could not help but think how easily this historical fiction book captivates and effortlessly prompts the reader into research.  As parents and educators, isn't that exactly what we want to happen for our children/students?  We want children to develop and pursue inquiry questions just because something sparked a seed of wonder. 

When a book hooks me, my first tendency is to research a bit about the author.  I want to know more about the personal side of an author because in a way, reading is such an intimate activity.  It's just you and the magic of the words composed by an individual you will probably never meet.  When you get pulled into the story, you somehow have this unique connection to the writer.  So, let me begin with Wes Took.  According to his website, Wes was born in New York but raised in Boston, and was an avid Red Sox fan.  However, his birthplace certainly drew him back in, since his first book, Lucky, is about a bat boy for the Yankees during the summer of 1961, one of the most memorable seasons in sports history. His second book for middle graders is King of the Mound.

Having three brothers, I cannot even begin to compute how many hours I spent in the bleachers (or during one lucky season, in the dugout since my father was the coach) watching baseball games.  Since I grew up in Massachusetts, we were raised Red Sox fans.  However, years later I would marry a man who was an avid Yankees fan, and he steered both of our children to the Yankees side. Oh well.

Regardless, whether you are a baseball fan or not, this book will impact you. While written for middle grade students (4th-6th), readers of all ages will enjoy this book.  King of the Mound has something for everyone.   Wes Tooke tells a good tale, weaving history and fact into a fictional story of a boy who takes first steps on the road to physical and emotional recovery from a bout with polio, thanks to help from a solid new friend and a baseball hero.  A nice touch to the layout of the text is that the 18 chapters all have baseball innings as titles --- the first chapter is titled “Top of the First” and the last “Bottom of the Ninth.”

So, there you have it... my gem of a book for the week.

Now, to treasures in technology tools.  Since, King of Mound provokes the reader to research details from the text, you must explore WONDEROPLIS.  Winner of countless awards, Wonderoplis is a place where "natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages."  After reading about the power of Satchel Paige's fastball, I searched Wonderopolis for "fastball" and of course, there is a "wonder" for me to explore and discover.

My next treasure trove is the Library of Congress.  I had the incredible opportunity to spend one week this summer in DC at the Library of Congress.  There were 28 educators from all over the USA in my session, and we learned how to search for and analyze rich primary source documents.  After reading King of the Mound, I wanted to explore more about Satchel Paige and was curious to see what types of primary source documents were available.  By going to the Library of Congress website and searching for documents on "Satchel Paige," I found not only photographs, but also a Congressional resolution commending Paige on his contributions to baseball.

Another great site is EXPLORATORIUM.  Searching for "baseball' led me to additional resources and activities such as "How to throw a curveball" and "Finding the sweet spot."   How easy this book makes it to connect PE to language arts!


Next, I explored DISCOVERY EDUCATION (which our students have access to) and I located ample resources on polio and Satchel Paige which will further expand my understanding of King of the Mound.


Locating resources and information is one thing.  Sharing new learning is the next step we want to challenge our students to undertake.  Using technology tools makes sharing new learning fun!  Using the information I located on the various sites,  I could use an iPad and take a free app like Educreations and provide a historical glimpse into the life of Satchel Paige.  If I am more of a science buff, I might want to create a narrated slideshow on the history of polio by also using Educreations.  Perhaps I want to share how my baseball skills have improved by experimenting with the activities from Exploratorium.  I could document my experiences by taking photos with the iPad and use Educreations to share my experiences.

To share out these creations, students with support from teachers or parents can tweet, email, post the URL created through the Educreations app.  Or students can easily create a qr code and attach the code to the inside cover of King of the Mound.  Then, each student who checks out this book from our school library, would now have access to additional background information with a quick scan of the qr code.  Students teaching other students!

That's how you get students engaged in reading, writing, researching, creating, and sharing!  Let's provide students with engaging books like King of the Mound and encourage them to question, explore, discover, create, and share.

King of the Mound is a nominee for the 2015 Intermediate Nutmeg Award. 

Happy exploring,
Mrs. M.

a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at: