Marybeth's Lower Elementary Blog
Thank you for visiting our website! We have recently incorporated a number of changes to reflect our new logo as well as feedback from our constituencies regarding the layout and features. I hope that you find it to be a helpful resource and I'm so glad you made your way to this blog. In my capacity as Director of Lower Elementary Programs here at The Center, I have the good fortune of working with an outstanding faculty and staff, a dedicated board and administrative team, and 240 of the most amazing children you will ever meet. I hope to use this space to highlight their good work, to reflect on teaching and learning, and to pose questions aimed at helping me to improve the experience of all of our students.
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The Center for Early Education is committed to providing professional development experiences for its teachers, staff, and administrators, and one reason for this is rooted in the school’s history. In 1947, when CEE was known as The School for Nursery Years, it included a teacher training program for nursery school teachers and administrators called The College for Developmental Studies. While the College closed in 1991 after 44 years in operation due to an increase in teacher training programs at colleges and universities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, one of the legacies left behind by its existence is an extensive professional collection in our school library. To this day, the collection is an outstanding resource for parents and teachers alike, and includes the latest books about child psychology, parenting, and educating young children.
As a teacher, administrator, and now parent, I have come to rely on this collection for my own education. It is also immensely helpful when parents are seeking guidance or have a question about a particular issue or concern. That said, it is, as I mentioned, extensive, and so I have created a short list of my go-to books that I provide for parents at grade level meetings throughout the school year. Below please find a link to this bibliography. I hope that you will find it helpful and I would love to hear if you have a suggestion for a book I simply must add – especially any favorites about raising boys, as my daughter will be joined by a new baby brother in January!
on Friday November 15, 2013 at 04:23PM
Thanks to Facing History and Ourselves, we had the good fortune of welcoming children's author and illustrator Kathryn Otoshi to CEE during the second week of school. Her books One and Zero tell stories using simple (but very intentional, as we learned!) illustrations to tackle such complex issues as bullying and self-worth. Although One and Zero are picture books, their messages are profound and as teachers read these two titles to their classes during the days leading up to Kathryn's visit, fascinating conversations and questions arose.
During her day-long visit, Kathryn met with all of our elementary school students in small groups of one to two grade levels rather than conducting an all-school assembly. The impact of this more intimate setting was powerful, and the way she tailored each presentation to suit the ages of the children in mind spoke to her deep understanding of the way kids think. With our younger students, she shared the "secrets" behind the books and reinforced their messages in authentic and meaningful ways. Upper elementary students learned about the creative process behind her writing and illustrating, and also heard about the incidents from her childhood that had inspired her to write these books. Children opened up to her about their own feelings and experiences, and left feeling empowered and hopeful about being "ones" in the face of adversity.
My takeaway from meeting Kathryn is reflected in the question I pose at the beginning of this entry. "Can't red be hot AND blue be cool?" is a question posed by the characters in One when they realize that AND is an inclusive word, while BUT is an exclusive word. Changing this one word made an enormous difference for Kathryn as she completed her book, and her vulnerability in sharing how much help she had in crafting this important message made a lasting impression on me and, I'm sure, on our students as well.
This was an amazing opportunity for us to begin the school year in shared reflection while in the presence of a truly gifted author and illustrator. We are grateful to Kathryn Otoshi and we look forward to reading her next book....Two!
on Thursday September 26, 2013
Happy new school year everyone - it was so great to start the school year yesterday and to see so many familiar faces...attached to bodies that grew at least 2 inches over the summer!
I began a new chapter of my life yesterday, as the parent of an elementary school student. My daughter started kindergarten at The Center and I couldn't be more excited for her. Of course, by the end of a long day, she and I were both beat and we sort of silently agreed to spend the ride home listening to music rather than reviewing the events of the day, which we did later over dinner with my husband and my mom who is visiting from out of town. As we peppered Lucy with questions, I was reminded of how many times as a teacher I heard from parents, "When we ask our son/daughter what they did at school that day, they always say, 'Nothing!'" and tried to be creative with my phrasing without revealing how much I actually know about her schedule, curriculum and teachers.
Julia Hobbs posted a great article on Twitter that deals with this very issue, and I thought it would be helpful to share it. I hope it makes your dinnertime conversations this week and throughout the year a little more insightful!
on Thursday September 5, 2013 at 01:53PM
Lower Elementary Faculty got their creative (and collaborative) juices flowing during our first meeting of the new school year. Teachers were challenged with creating a poem using only the letters in their titles (ie "Second Grade Teachers") and came up with some inspiring, funny, and poignant poetry. Check it out:
create kind, caring kids
reach the stars,
and engender change
First Grade Teachers (aka First Grade from the perspective of a First Grader)
create, share, read
dare, teach, fair
each eager artist
I see great feats
Second Grade Teachers
dear hearts care
roast each other
shoot to the stars
dead at the end
Third Grade Teachers
great hearts share headaches
add tech art
hear the sea
a hard rest
on Wednesday August 28, 2013 at 05:02PM
The end of August is always bittersweet. While it's hard to see the sun setting a little earlier in the evening, I wake up every morning knowing we are that much closer to one of my favorite days of the year - the first day of school. My daughter is starting Kindergarten at The Center this fall, and I don't know who's more excited - Lucy or me!
One of my goals for the summer was to extend my virtual professional learning network using Twitter. While I don't have as many followers as some of our "Twitter celebrity" teachers (check out @dubioseducator!), I have found some great ideas and have been inspired by educators all over the world. This quote that I found via Twitter is a good reminder of how important the first day of school is for kids, and of how important it is for us as a school to make it a great one.
“Teachers experience many ‘first days,’ but out of the 2,340 total school days in a student’s academic career, students and parents experience only 13 ‘first days.’ Some of those are monumental—the first day of kindergarten, the first day of middle school, and the last ‘first day’ when a student enters school as a senior. Regardless of our role within a school, it is crucial that we make the first day the very best possible.”
Our advancement department has worked hard during these summer months to refresh and reconfigure the look, feel, and functionality of our website - and hopefully you are finding it to be more user-friendly. We are always happy to incorporate feedback, so if you have any, please share it with us.
The Center has been a busy place this summer, with a major renovation of the Innovation Center in Building C and our wonderful Summer Institute and Summer Transition programs taking place all over campus. During the month of August, our maintenance crew and other staff work tirelessly to prepare for the students' reentry in September - everything from painting and cleaning to making sure technology tools and programs for students and teachers are updated and ready to go.
While August can feel hectic here at school, I hope that for you and your families it has been a time to relax and recharge. I always think a little August boredom is good for kids, mainly because it gets them excited about returning to school! But knowing that it can be a challenge for working parents, creative individuals like Courtney Watkins (http://courtneywatkins.com/) have set up short camps to fill up those in between weeks. No matter what your kids are up to, I hope they've had a chance to read some great books this summer. I can't wait to hear about them when they return.
Enjoy these last few weeks of summer vacation. They're sure to fly by, and after they do, we'll be waiting with open arms to welcome your fabulous kids back to school for an exciting year of learning, growing, and fun.
on Wednesday August 21, 2013
As you can see, they do so in a number of ways, from celebrating to offering advice, from going through rites of passage to making wise choices. Upon reflection, one of my favorite moments of the year is pictured above, right in the middle. I ran into this second grader on his way to the all-day Olympic competition at the park and had to laugh when he showed me that he had brought the book he was reading along with him, just in case he had to wait between events. Classic!
We believe in the power of reflection at CEE, and we provide multiple meaningful opportunities for our students to partake in metacognitive moments throughout the year but especially as summer vacation looms in the not-too-distant future!
on Tuesday June 18, 2013 at 02:37PM
BIG SUNDAY is coming up - and there are 2 ways you can get involved.
Click here for SOVA's list of non-perishable food and toiletries that are needed this year. We will be collecting items on campus from Monday, April 29th through Monday, May 6th. CEE is the largest single-day donor to SOVA and our help is needed more than ever.
In addition to the food drive,we also wanted to offer our families a different opportunity to give their time, so we've partnered with Kelso Elementary in Inglewood, a K-6 school of 720 students located across the street from the Forum. Comprised entirely of Title 1 families, Kelso faces the challenges of so many older schools in lower-income neighborhoods--many projects and no budget.
Our general plan:
* We'll be there from 10 am-3 pm on SUNDAY, MAY 5, in 2 hour shifts. Here's an easy link to sign up for a shift: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090A4DADAF29A64-bigsunday/9022798
* Our projects: rejuvenating their garden, painting designs on the vast asphalt and possibly a mural, reorganizing their lost and found area.
How you can help:
* Come dressed and ready to paint and garden on May 5! Feel free to include non-CEE friends and family.
BIG SUNDAY is a great way to get together with friends and family for a day of serving others!
on Friday April 26, 2013 at 02:36PM
I have been hosting student book clubs this year and it has been such a joyful experience. Students at a particular grade level have the chance to read between one and six picture books by a given author (so far, Allen Say and Patricia Polacco for 3rd grade, Angela Johnson with 2nd graders and Mem Fox with 1st graders) over the course of several weeks. They are then invited to join me with classmates from both rooms in the storybook room for a lunchtime discussion. I start by reading another selection by that month's author aloud (mainly so kids can eat in peace and frankly, not talk with their mouths full!) and then we chat - about things they notice, connections they make, and questions they have about the author. It's a wonderful way for me to get to know them as readers and to share my love for books and stories with them. This picture is from yesterday's meeting with third graders, who were in the midst of exploring the huge collection of Patricia Polacco books we have at the CEE library.
Oh, and the shoe question? Right in the midst of the magical moment you see above, my shoe completely broke. So much for blog entries about shoes fitting...I guess it should have been about them not falling apart!
on Friday April 5, 2013 at 02:30PM
We spend a great deal of time talking about "Good Fit" books in grades K-3. Students learn about how to choose books themselves, thinking about purpose, interest, and understanding. Teachers talk about how we read some books for specific reasons, and how we read others just for the sheer pleasure of escaping into a story. Kids who learn to recognize what a "Good Fit" book feels like can also tell what it feels like when a story isn't quite right for them, and are empowered to choose another book in its place.
When we first introduce this topic, especially with our younger students, we use the concrete example of a shoe fitting vs. being too loose or too tight; this visual works well because there are also certainly different shoes for different occasions, and kids love thinking about playing a football game wearing ballet slippers, or wearing ice skates to bed.
Little did I know this analogy would carry over into real life for me...
I bought 2 pairs of springy shoes over the break, identical in style, one bright pink pair and one black with white polka dots. According to the price tags ($12.95, I love a bargain!) they were both size 10, and although I usually wear a 10 1/2 I was so excited about the colors (and the price!) that I quickly tried one pair on and decided they'd be fine.
Yesterday I wore the pink ones, and before long, I was in agony. They were way too small and my feet were aching by the end of the day to the point that I drove home barefoot. I was disappointed but I knew that I couldn't possibly spend another minute in them. That's why this morning, when I slipped on the other pair with ease, I was confused. I snuck a glance at the bottom of the shoe and saw the European size 42, which is the same as an American 10. Curious, I picked up the (rejected) pink shoe from my closet, flipped it over, and laughed out loud when I saw the 41 on the bottom. I had spent the day yesterday wearing shoes that were a full size too small for me. No wonder I had been in pain! And yet I believed what the (incorrect) price tag had indicated - that they should have been the right size for me.
I share this not as a cautionary tale about checking both the price tag as well as the item itself to confirm that you have the right size, but as a reminder about the perils of relying on labels. I should have done what CEE students do when they know something is not a good fit - they make a change and seek something that is right for them. If I had done the same I would have had a much better day yesterday. When our students do so with the texts they're choosing, they have much better reading experiences - the kind that keep them coming back for more.
on Tuesday April 2, 2013 at 02:28PM
on Wednesday February 27, 2013 at 03:45PM
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