It’s been awhile since I’ve last written. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a fall but am back and busy as ever…
El Día de los Jovenes/El Día de los Libros = Day of Youth/Day of Books will be celebrated at Pollard during the middle of April. In anticipation of this upcoming celebration, take a look at the article “Building a Culture of Literacy through Día” written by Jeanette Larson for American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association (ALA) which was posted today. Jeanette interviewed me for the School Librarian chapter in her book “El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros: Building a Culture of Literacy in your Community through Día,” which will be published in April in time for the 15th anniversary of Día.
About 3/4 of the way through the article, Jeanette talks about how I work with the students and teachers of Pollard to celebrate Día:
“School libraries may not be able to support a major event or series of events right around April 30 because of end-of-year testing. It is, however, acceptable to set your own dates for Día programming and to intersperse bilingual activities throughout the year, as does Alma Ramos-McDermott, school librarian for Pollard Middle School in Needham, Massachusetts. Although Pollard is predominantly English-speaking, Ramos-McDermott views Día activities as teachable moments. She recognizes that bilingual literacy introduces her students to literature they would not normally be exposed to and that reading books in Spanish helps them to make connections between their own language and new languages. She also views Día activities as bridges between cultures. Pointing to April as School Library Media Month, Ramos-McDermott suggests that bilingual programming and books be incorporated into already-planned activities. Because she works in a middle school, she refers to El día de los niños/El día de los libros as El día de los jóvenes/El día de los libros, reflecting young people rather than children as the audience. In fact, her school celebrates for a week (Semana de los jóvenes/Semana de los libros), and she works with different teachers and students each day.”
Read the entire article, then get ready for Día. It’s coming…
In between decorating the library for December, putting out a new display focused on Illustrators and their creations, trying to get the nonfiction books in order for the upcoming 8th grade research reports, cataloging new books that just arrived, and sorting through all the overdues for the week, I taught several of Sra. McKenna’s 7th grade Spanish classes today. I am teaching something similar to what I taught Sra. Streisfeld’s students last week, in that I introduce them to the Spanish/Bilingual/English collection which will help them improve their Spanish, offer to talk Spanish with them in the hallways or in the library to help them to improve, show them how to locate the collection, introduce them to the Pura Belpre Award, and give them a chance to look through some of the books I brought with me.
However, today’s lesson with one of the classes was burst out loud laughable, so I want to share it. I always start out with a generic “Buenos Dias.” The classes always know this greeting, and feel confident responding back to me. Afterwards, I purposely ramble on in a long Spanish sentence telling them it’s a pleasure to be here and how many of them knew I spoke Spanish. Sometimes I get a hand raised here or there, but oftentimes I’m met with silence as they try to process what I said before I translate it for them. Today, one class was the exception to the norm.
After I gave my introduction in Spanish, I was met with with the usual glazed look and silence. However, unlike other times, one student called out “hola.” That made me burst out laughing. When I translated, I told them I was laughing because the response of “hello” was made from someone who didn’t know what to say but figured he’d throw out the one word which made him confident, which was “hola.” Once I translated what I had said and the response from the student, everyone burst out laughing because, like me, they saw the humor in that response which had absolutely nothing with the question I had asked = “how many of you knew that I spoke Spanish?”
I made sure to emphasize in my discussion that they needed to practice the language outside of the classroom, because that’s where Spanish would come alive. They were very responsive to my reading of “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach,” and we had a question and answer session at the end, which also generated a few laughs based on the question and my response.
I will continue teaching more of Sra. McKenna’s 7th grade classes tomorrow. Muchas gracias clase. I had a fun time today.
This has been a short, but busy, week filled with lots of “stuff,” so I’m going to take a few moments to run by a few of the best on this day before the Thanksgiving break.
This week, I was able to teach several more of Sra. Streisfeld’s 7th grade Spanish classes about the Spanish language and Bilingual books, which will help improve their budding language skills, as well as show them how to access the materials. I talked to them about the Pura Belpre award, and they had a chance to look through some of these award winning titles. All of them enjoyed my rendition of the Cuban folktale “Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach.”
Today a student had one of those “aha!” moments, which warms my heart and reminds me of why I love being a librarian. This student came in to return a library book, saying she only uses it to show her teacher to get credit for having a book, but she doesn’t read it. I told her I’d like her to have a book she enjoys reading, and what does she enjoy. When she said “picture books,” I showed her our middle school picture book collection, and pulled out the title “14 Cows for America” by Carmen Agra Deedy. It is the true story of a very small, very poor tribe in Africa who were so touched by the events of September 11th that they took all that they had, and sent a donation of 14 cows to America to prove their solidarity and love for those who were suffering.
Before I was done, the student was already eagerly reaching for the book – ready to read it, and took out another one. I was thrilled she felt interested in a book. I told her to feel free to get to know this middle school picture book collection quite well, and that I wanted her to always feel she could find a book to read – and not just hold for credit from a teacher. She left with a happy smile, and left me with one too.
Finally, I ended the week with a visit to Mr. Lundberg and Mr. Ciccolella’s Annual 7-2 ELA “Bagels & Books” Breakfast. In the cafeteria, students were broken up into groups and, while eating bagels and drinking orange juice, had a chance to chat about books they were reading with fellow students, parents and teachers. They had a bag of pre-arranged questions to help motivate them in case they weren’t sure what to discuss.
I walked around listening to various groups, then asked a group to tell me about their books. Emily told me about “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Piccault, Eval talked about “The Lost Hero” by Rick Riordan, Michael discussed “The Blind Side” by Michael Lewis, Karyna shared “So B. It” by Sarah Weeks, and Zach shared “Trinity” by Leon Uris. I could tell they were excited about their books, and were very knowledgeable.
Kudos to cluster 7-2 for a great time. Also, thanks to Emily, Eyal, Michael, Karyna and Zach for sharing your books with me. Keep reading!
Today began the first of my trimester visits to all of the 7th grade Spanish classes, as I spent the morning with Ms. Streisfeld’s students. I began talking to them in Spanish, and laughed at their amazed faces since they didn’t know I spoke Spanish. I proceeded to speak to them in both Spanish and English, telling them to try and figure out what I was saying before I began to translate.
After I explained why I spoke the language, I talked about how important it was for them to keep up the language. I told them that when they exited their Spanish classroom everyday, they needed to keep practicing if they expected to remember enough to have a good conversation.
I passed out some of the books in the collection that I had on a cart which can help them to better learn the language. I explained the types we have (Spanish, Bilingual, English with some Spanish phrases), and told them that almost all of the books were either considered for or had won the Pura Belpre Award. I told them that I was on this year’s Pura Belpre Committee, in charge of picking the 2011 winner. I showed them several of the 2010 winners, like Julia Alvarez’s “Return to Sender”, and told them I was sworn to secrecy so would only be able to tell them the 2011 winner after it was announced in January.
After they looked over their books, I demonstrated how to access titles using the online catalog. They could either do subject searches for specific countries (like Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.), or do a generic search for all the Spanish books in the collection. I continued to show them books from the cart, focusing on books like Gary Paulsen’s “Sisters/Hermanas” as an example of a novel written in both languages to help them prepare for high school, and the “Araña” graphic novel set. I did a quick book talk of Margarita Engle’s “Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Secrets in Cuba,” and showed them the accompanying audiobook I purchased for it as well as a few other audiobooks.
I demonstrated a few books I had grouped together by country, showing them that learning about a Spanish speaking country is more than just looking it up geographically. I showed them a group of books about Puerto Rico, such as a country book, a biography, and a folktale. I did the same for Cuba, then said I would be reading them that particular folktale “Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach” by Carmen Agra Deedy. I told them that this story was memorized by Cuban grandmothers all over the country and told to adoring grandkids, and went on to act out the parts in the story. I could tell they were getting into it by their giggles, laughter and “yukky” sounds based on the character who was trying to win Martina’s affections. The story ended with their applause, as I bowed.
Before I left, we shared a bit about why throwing coffee on her suitor’s shoes wound up being a good idea. I asked them to feel free to ask me any questions, which they did. I reminded them to feel free to have a conversation with me either in the hallways or in the Library, no matter how small, because it would help them to keep practicing the language and get better at it.
I had a good time with the students, and look forward to the next batch of 7th graders to teach about Latino cultures and entertain with my favorite folktale.
Today I worked with Sra. Hill’s 7th & 8th grade Spanish classes. The students were able to see me in a different role – not just as the school’s Librarian, but as the school’s Spanish speaking Librarian. Many were very surprised to learn that I spoke Spanish. After I was introduced, Sra. Hill gave all her students an incentive to speak Spanish; namely, if they spoke Spanish to me while in the Library, or whenever they saw me, they would get extra credit. They would have to say something to me in Spanish, then I would ask them their name, and send that information to Sra. Hill for their extra points. Most seemed excited at the prospect.
I had prepared a cart of books from A to Z of all the Spanish speaking countries in the world. The students used the cart to choose a specific Spanish speaking country. Working in groups of two and using books and computers, they looked for information related to their country so they could create a handmade street map which would illustrate their findings. Using that pictorial information, they created two sections of a street map and decided to either print out items of interest related to their city or draw the items. Once located and placed, these items would be translated into Spanish. The students had time to work together with their partner, as well as individually, to make sure all work was done in an equal manner. Tomorrow, the partners will get together to present their city, via the street maps, to their classmates.
In addition, using only Spanish and translating when necessary, I helped students create usernames and passwords for a Spanish language website where they will be getting extra help for their language skill development. I also had a chance to help students with conversational Spanish work in small groups.
All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to use some of my Librarian skills in a uniquely different way, while also having students see me in a different venue. At the end of the day, I was gratified to have one student come to the library and speak to me in Spanish. I will be sending Sra. Hill your name Nathan. Muchas gracias por su visita.
Gracias por la oportunidad Sra Hill!
Over my 26+ years in education I’ve heard some of the funniest things, and some of the wisest/strangest things, come out of kids’ mouths. I only wish I had listened to myself, way back in 1984 when I first started teaching, and kept a notebook of all those great/not so great listening moments that wound up with me shaking my head wondering “what were they thinking?”
Earlier this week, I had such an “aha, there’s one!” moment. During one of my 7th grade orientations, I demonstrated how the library shelves were missing backs, which necessitated careful replacement of books so they wouldn’t fall out of the other side while being placed back on the shelf. To demonstrate this discrepancy of no backs on the shelves, I placed my arm all the way through the side of one of the bookshelves so only my fingers were visible on the other side. I asked “what’s missing on this shelf?” The answer? “Your arm.”
Another great comment made by kids is when they finally find something they like and/or I can help them with something they seek. Earlier this week, a student was searching for a book on snakes. He decided to wait until his class was almost ready to leave before beginning his search. Now he was frantic, but when I showed him the nonfiction book he was seeking, he became very contented. Today he returned for more snake books. When I showed him the reptile section, he was ecstatic and came away with two more books claiming “this was the EXACT one I was looking for!” Ah! Music to my ears…
More music to my ears happened earlier today as I was walking down the 8th grade hallway. One of our former 7th graders only liked to read Manga last year and was in love with Japan. By the end of the year, I had convinced her to read “Manga Touch,” an actual book that’s not Manga, where the main character liked Manga and Japan and got to travel there on a school trip. Reading this got her started on reading regular books, along with Manga. Now she’s in 8th grade.
Earlier in the week, she stopped by and was thrilled when I presented her with an English/Japanese dictionary I had purchased over the summer at one of my conferences. I purchased it for the library, but I had her in mind when I saw it. She was thrilled at the prospect of learning to speak Japanese, and borrowed it. That same student came with her 8th grade class yesterday, and anxiously sought out a book she had begun over the summer but hadn’t finished. When I helped her find “Graceling,” she exclaimed “YES! I LOVE this book!” She also looked at a graphic novel and asked me if it was good. When I told her I had read it and that it was a good story, she borrowed it.
Fast forward to today. I saw her in the 8th grade hallway, and she stopped to tell me she’d finished the graphic novel and really liked it. I told her when she was done with “Graceling,” there was a sequel to it that I had in the library. She gave a hop of joy and said “YES! That’s just what I like to hear!”
To these experiences of successfully leading students to books, all I can say is ‘YES! That’s just what I like to hear too!”
Today, after my time teaching and helping Mr. Kraus’ 8-4 Social Studies classes with their research papers, I worked with the last of Ms. McKenna’s 8th grade Spanish classes for our celebration of Dia de los Jovenes/Dia de los Libros. Made up almost entirely of boys, the class was eager to get started reading in their groups. It took them a few minutes to decide what book they’d read, as they seemed to like all of them. Finally, their choices were made and they settled down to read.
As I walked around listening in to their readings, helping with definitions and pronunciations, and taking candid photographs, one group of boys called me over to them. The two of them seemed quite advanced in their knowledge of Spanish, filling me in on what the book was about and telling me how they were working.
They told me that they were taking turns reading the Spanish portion of the story aloud to each other. Whatever one person read in Spanish, the other would translate into English. I thought that was a very ingenious way of learning the language and asked the person checking the translation how close did his partner get to the true meanings of the words. He answered “pretty close!” Good job guys!
Our celebration of Semana de los Jovenes/Semana de los Libros (Week of Youth/Week of Books) celebrated another successful day with this group of 8th graders. Tomorrow (April 30th) is the actual Dia de los Jovenes, and will be a chance for me to see the last of the students have an opportunity to read the cultural literature I have collected for their enjoyment.
Keep on celebrating everyone!
Today was the second of the Dia de los Jovenes/Dia de los Libros (Day of Youth/Day of Books) week long celebration. I began the day with seeing the rest of Ms. Streisfeld’s 8th grade Spanish classes celebrate the literacy which Dia encourages by reading from the designated book selection in groups or individually. Again, they had the opportunity to read and learn about the Latino culture through English, Spanish, and Bilingual country books, biographies, picture books, fiction, poetry, art, graphic novels, fairy tales, folktales and much, much more. When her two classes left, I had a combined group of about 45+ students from both Ms. Hill’s and Ms. McNamara’s Spanish classes have a chance to learn about Dia and participate in reading activities with each other.
It was great to see students engaged in reading to each other or to themselves, laughing about what they read, and discussing it amongst themselves. A teacher who was passing through the library yesterday stopped me to say “Wow! The students look great reading to each other.” I couldn’t agree with her more, especially as they continued to look great today.
Great job everyone, as we continue to celebrate Pat Mora’s (Dia Founder) Semana de los Jovenes/Semana de los Libros (Week of Youth/Week of Books). Below are a few more photos of our Dia celebrators. Just click on a photo to see a larger version. At the end of the week, I’ll have a slideshow of all of our 8th grade participants.
Stay tuned for more Dia updates!
I returned from Spring Break with a bang! This week will be a very busy week teaching both Social Studies and Spanish classes all week. Let me explain…
I began by teaching Mr. Kraus’ 8-4 Social Studies classes all morning. I taught them the skills they’ll need to create a great research report, which included keyword searching, evaluating websites and advanced Google searching, as well as introductions to World Book Online and ABC CLIO: Issues. For the rest of the week, Mr. Kraus and I will oversee them as they work, and help them focus their research.
Following these sessions with Mr. Kraus’ students, I began a week long Dia de los Jovenes/Dia de los Libros: Day of Youth/Day of Books celebration with one of Ms. McKenna’s and two of Ms. Streisfeld’s 8th grade Spanish classes. Last year, I had visited all the 7th grade Spanish classes, reading students a bilingual story, showing them how to access the books they’d need to complete their projects as well as to learn the language, and showcased a portion of the books for them.This year, I will work with all the 8th grade Spanish classes to take that lesson one step further with Dia activities.
El Dia de los Jovenes is celebrated in schools and public libraries across the country. Known as Dia de los Ninos (Day of the Child) in elementary schools, Dia is called Dia de los Jovenes (Day of Youth) when celebrated in middle and high schools and is a celebration of Literacy linking children to books, culture and languages.
In the library, I set out about 150 books about Hispanic countries, as well as biographies of important Latinos, Spanish and English fiction books, graphic novels, Bilingual poems, and Bilingual picture books. Speaking in Spanish and English, I explained what Dia meant and why we were celebrating literacy. I explained that they would be able to sit anywhere they wanted and read alone, with a partner, or in a group of three. I also gave out a tri-fold brochure with reading tips, as well as website and book suggestions for celebrating Dia at home.
The students scattered throughout the room with their books and partners, and began to read aloud to each other or silently. It was wonderful to see so many of them engaged in exploring the literature that was available to them, as well as challenging themselves to read books written entirely in Spanish. At the end of the time, I gathered them back as a group to have them share something they learned or liked about one of the books they had read. I was very proud of how they worked.
During the rest of the week, I will see the rest of Ms. McKenna’s and Ms. Streisfeld’s classes, as well as those from Ms. Hill and Ms. McNamara. It will be a very busy week filled with research and literature, which is a good thing. Dia de los Jovenes (Day of Youth) is officially celebrated on April 30th, but Pollard students get to have a Semana de los Jovenes (Week of Youth). Keep up the good work 8th graders!
In honor of Foreign Language Week, I visited all of Sra. McKenna’s and Sra. Hill’s 7th graders, and Sra. McNamara’s 8th graders between Wednesday and today. In the classrooms, I used a projected map of Cuba and spoke about the island nation. We discussed its proximity to Miami, Florida, which explains why they have a large population of Cubans. I also shared a bit of its history under Fidel Castro, and the difficulties faced by those trying to leave the country, either illegally by sea or legally by waiting for a visa under the lottery system. Next, I showed them some of the materials from the library I had brought along, which would allow them to learn more on their own about Cuba. Included were the following books:
“The Surrender Tree” by Margarita Engle: Poems about Cuba’s struggle for Independence.
“Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro” by Eduardo Calcines: The true story of one family’s struggle to live under the Castro regime as they waited 10 years for a visa to leave the country, as told by their son Eduardo.
“Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba” by Margarita Engle: Based on true events which took place during World War II of Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler and the Holocaust, striving for freedom in Cuba, then being forced to leave and wander the ocean seeking a country which would let them stay.
“Cuba” by Richard A. Crooker: A historical and geographical resource for Cuba country reports.
“Cooking the Cuban Way: Culturally Authentic Foods” by Alison Behnke: An introduction to Cuban cooking.
The students had interesting questions, including “why didn’t they try to escape to Jamaica?, why didn’t the U.S. let them land?, why can’t they stay in the U.S.?” and others. They were engaged, and interested as they learned about the problems faced by the people of this island nation.
I ended by reading and acting out “Martina: The Beautiful Cockroach,” a Cuban folktale by Carmen Agra Deedy. Each “performance” of this lively and humorous story contained laughter at the word play and character’s actions, (especially Don Cerdo, the Pig) and ended with applause.
Gracias a Sra. McKenna, Sra. Hill y a Sra. McNamara. Era un placer visitar a sus clases. Espero que todos aprendieron mucho sobre Cuba y Martina.