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Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator

The Redeemer’s School Author Visit

Finding a wolfsnail is always a cause for celebration for me and people in my circle of teacher friends. About a week ago, Shirlene Phillips, my former neighbor and a pre-K teacher at The Redeemer’s School, got in touch with happy wolfsnail news. We agreed on a time for me to read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator to a combined group of her students and the kindergartners.

 

reading wolfsnail

Reading Woflsnail

In this photograph, I have just finished reading the closest thing to a laugh line in the book: “the snail looks like it has a mustache.” Gets them every time! These kids were eager, bright, inquisitive and full of wonder. Their imaginations and their interest in science were on full display!

My favorite quick teaching activity to pair with a reading of Wolfsnail is a lesson in using Private Eye loupes to magnify an object from nature. In this case, I picked a bunch of leaves from my front hedges. You would be amazed at some of the things they described seeing on their leaves. (hint: a slimy critter with lip extensions that look like a mustache.)

looking at leaves

As I model looking at the leaf, the students do it along with me.

Then it was time for the star of the show: the wolfsnail.

looking at the snail

It’s always hard to wait your turn when a wolfsnail is coming around, but these kids were great.

Other activities for use alongside Wolfsnail can be found here.
I didn’t get a chance to get a picture with Shirlene so I snagged this one online. She’s pictured here with a cousin (Shirlene is on the right) with her house in the background. Happy snail hunting grounds! I appreciate the invitation to The Redeemer’s School. Also, thank you to Shirlene’s assistant, Morgan Gallon, who took some of the photographs in this post.
Shirlene with cousin

Summer Reading at Tisdale Library

I read recently at the Charles Tisdale Library as part of the Summer Reading Program. One challenge of these programs is the wide-range in age of the children who come. Many in this group were two years old, but the range went all the way up to 10- and 11-year-olds. I brought an activity for the older ones to do with the librarian, using Mysterious Patterns. I stayed with the large group of little ones and read a wide range of snail-related books, including Wolfsnail. With about 15 minutes left in my program, I asked the older ones back to talk with the whole group about fractals and other geometric shapes. I appreciate the help of the librarians, Patrick McCarty and Miss Mays.

Sarah Reading at Tisdale-2

Summer Reading at Eudora Welty Library

I visited Eudora Welty Library on Monday to launch the 2015 Summer Reading Program. We read Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns and I brought along Private Eye magnifying loupes for everyone to try.

Eudora Welty summer reading

Eudora Welty Summer Reading Program-7345

Wolfsnail Classroom Visits

The lush green days of Spring are here and I’ve been talking about wolfsnails. I visited Spencer Loomis Elementary School in Hawthorne Woods, IL, very near Chicago. Alex D., the daughter of my college roommate, Sarita, goes to Spencer Loomis. We had a great time with private eyes and some garden snails and slugs. Some of the snails were reluctant to move around, but we nudged them with water. The slugs seemed more eager to move; we wondered whether that’s because they have no shells to hid under.
visit to Spencer Loomis
Also, my former neighbor, Shirlene Phillips, found a wolfsnail in her yard so I brought my book to The Redeemer’s School to talk with her students. It was pretty much the same size as the snail I photographed for the book. The 4-year-olds, kindergartners, and first graders had really good questions.

Earlier this month, I spent a few days at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival with Julie Owen. We presented a session titled Photography and Place: Engaging Projects for Libraries. We pulled together materials related to our presentation on Pinterest here.

 

Girls Prep Public Charter Visit

Last month, I visited Girls Prep Public Charter School in the Bronx, New York, to work with second grade students for a unit on writing nonfiction books. While I was there, I also spent an hour with the fourth grade writing club. With second grade, I worked with the students for three days. I was testing some ideas for a presentation I am slated to give at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

Girls Prep WS group

The first day, I presented my “Love a Critter? Make a Book” session to all three classes in one big group. It was Read Across America Day so some of the girls and teachers were dressed as characters in books.

jess in background
The reason I chose Girls Prep is that my sister, Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo (pictured in the center dressed as the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), works there as a reading specialist. Jessica will join me and Dr. Amy Broemmel, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, to present “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.”
teacher gp small group
In the second and third days at Girls Prep, I led each class in a mini-lesson and then the girls did some guided practice. On the first day, my topic was “Taking information from research and writing in my own words to suit my purpose,” and the second day, it was “Making a plan for my writing, keeping my purpose in mind.”
lady bug girl
julie
sarah w stu
During the mini-lesson on planning, I showed the students how I make a book dummy when I am deciding the order of things in my books. I led them in making an instant book.
folding
star
numbering
book
girl writing
The feedback from the second grade writing unit has been good. One teacher said she believes the girls really understand author’s purpose in a much deeper way. One student told her teacher: “This is the most fun I’ve had while learning!” That’s exactly what writing should be. Fun, while learning!
I’ll post photographs of my session with the fourth grade writing club next.

Mysterious Patterns Big Splash at NSTA

Richard and I had a great time at the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in Boston. We signed at least 80 books for teachers, professors, and science specialists. Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature got lots of love!

session

On Saturday, I was part of a session called “A Real-Life Page Turner: Award-winning Trade Book Authors Share Their Research Strategies.” As always I began by talking about Wolfsnail. We had about 40 participants who rotated through three tables for 15-minute mini sessions. A group of professors of literacy and science education put the session together.

dr. saul

Dr. Wendy Saul opened the session with a discussion of why books remain important, especially in nonfiction.

mp in session
Here I am talking about the page in Mysterious Patterns where the first explanation of fractals comes.
other groups
A look at the other groups’ tables.
amy broemmel
Here I am conferring with Dr. Amy Broemmel, an early literacy expert at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was my table partner for this session, and will be a co-presenter with me and Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

In addition to presenting and signing books, I attended a number of great sessions, including:

Asking, Imagining, Arguing: Using Books to Provide Examples of Science Practices in Action (Broemmel, Rearden)

NSTA Press® Session: The Authors’ Picks! Teaching Science Through Trade Books (Royce, Morgan, Ansberry)

Sense-of-Place Writing Templates: Connect Your Students’ Past Experiences with Science AND Literacy! (Clary)

Using Writing to Motivate Students to Learn Science (Caukin)

Connecting Science, Engineering, and Literacy in an Elementary Classroom (Laurier, Denisova)

family
While I was attending sessions, Richard was hanging out with Graeme at MIT. We shared three suppers in a row. It was nice!

Visit to The Dalton School

Last week, I visited first graders at The Dalton School in New York City. I began by speaking to all 5 classes (or houses, as they call them) in a kind of foyer that the school uses for such presentations. I knew the first graders were familiar with Growing Patterns from discussions with Dalton staff, but I brought them new material by starting with Wolfsnail.

presenting wolfsnail

I can’t say enough “thank you’s” to Melissa Haile-Mariam, librarian, and Karen Bass, communications/technology adviser, for their help in coordinating the visit, taking photographs, guiding me through the school, and making an amazing video about my visit.

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sarah showing snail

Dalton audience

more audience

groupThe most amazing part for me was visiting House 34, where I found Fibonacci Folding Books on display!

in the hallway outside house 34

description

Fib Book

I have more images of student books, and I’ll be adding them to my collection of student art on my main website. Thank you, Dalton!

Visit to New York

Next week Sarah will be traveling to New York to make a few school visits.  The first visit she’ll be making will be to The Dalton School, where she will be speaking to first graders about Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.  The First Graders at The Dalton School are actually familiar with Sarah’s work already because Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is a part of their curriculum! Last year, some first graders did the Fibonacci Folding Book project.

Sarah will then be at the Girls Prep Charter School in the Bronx. She’ll be spending a few days there working with second graders on writing non-fiction books.  They will be exploring the work of an author, specifically tying in how authors and illustrators choose their topics, how to write with a purpose in mind, and how to put one’s research into their own words. For this presentation Sarah will be highlighting Wolfsnail. Also at Girls Prep, Sarah will also be working with the fourth grade writing club, doing the fractal pop-up book project we taught at St. Luke’s in Baton Rouge.

We’ll certainly miss Sarah here down South, but it will be exciting to hear about her time in New York!

School Visits to Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County High School

Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County-

This past Thursday Sarah visited Prentiss Christian School and Lawrence County High School to promote teen writing contest, the theme for which is “Animals and/or Nature.”  Students are encouraged to write either a short story about nature or a nonfiction essay about the theme. This contest is a partnership between The New Walden Writers Retreat and Environmental Arts Center and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality with support from the Jefferson Davis and Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Central MS RC&D Council.  While at Prentiss Christian School Sarah gave a brief presentation on her books to introduce the students to the process of writing nature-focused non-fiction.  She shared both Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, both of which are non-fiction books.  Although her work is non-fiction, I noticed that while we were at St. Luke’s in Baton Rouge that her work seemed to unanimously inspire fiction work from the students. I wonder what it is about these scientific and mathematical concepts in nature that inspires us to write creatively?

Prentiss Christian and Lawrence County--5

 

Special thanks to Hope Daley of the Jefferson Davis County Soil & Water Conservation District and Mandy Callaway of the Lawrence County SWCD for organizing these visits, and another thanks to Chuck Jepsen and Laura Beiser of the Central MS Resource Conservation and Development Council for facilitating them! Hopefully the wonderful weather (and Sarah’s wonderful presentations) will inspire the students to get out and start writing about nature!

Young Readers Center

I visited the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress this week, and look what I found. Wolfsnail! Actually, I wasn’t surprised. I met the founding director of the Young Readers Center at a conference a few years back and heard her pitch for books. She had no budget, but wanted to build a collection of books in the Library of Congress that kids could actually take off the shelves and read when they visited. So, I sent her a copy.

wolfsnail at LOC

I learned that they don’t have a copy of Growing Patterns, so that’s one of my jobs for this week. While I was at the LOC, I spent some time in the Science Reading Room. It is a lovely space, and reminded me of the many great libraries I’ve had the privilege of studying in — especially Northwestern University’s Charles Deering Library, the New Bodlein Library at Oxford University, and the Corpus Christi College Library.

I was only in Washington, D.C., for a few hours, tagging along with Richard on a business trip. We flew to DC, where he met with members of Congress and I visited the LOC, and then took the train to Baltimore, where I did some site-seeing, reading, and R&R. It reminded me of the summer I graduated from college (25 years ago) when I spent a term in DC covering the Capitol for a Mississippi newspaper. Several of my classmates and I spent a day up in Baltimore. Lovely times.

Though it rained much of the time we were in Baltimore, Richard and I managed two nice meals out — one Italian and one Thai. I read a few New Yorkers, Big Brother by Lionel Shriver, and started Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

We’re working hard to finish the images for the fractal manuscript. This one is proving hard to put to bed, but I think it’ll be all the better for it.