This Month in Photos – August and September

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When your first day of school starts with this beautiful view out your windows, it’s hard not to feel great. I think that the library has the most beautiful view in the school – especially on these amazing late summer mornings. Don’t take my word for it – stop by and check it out for yourself.

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It has been so much fun meeting and getting to know all of my new students at St. Anne’s-Belfield. This is my first experience with a K-8 school and I love the feel that it gives the community – the younger students look up to the older students, and in turn, the older students love to help them out. The sense of character and responsibility that older students adopt when they know that little guys are watching them is amazing.

I have had a blast learning the ins and outs of all of my classes – although I still have a lot of names to learn! Working with every grade has been delightful, educational, and (I’ll admit it) exhausting. Who knew that middle schoolers could be just as much fun as kindergarten? I love the challenge of meeting new students and learning the ins and outs of new age groups.

My classes are one hour long, for the first time ever! It is such a luxury having so much extra time with my students. We have the time to share a real greeting, delve deeply into activities, and really work together. My favorite part? We leave ten minutes at the end of each class for “reading practice”. When you want to improve your basketball or violin skills, you have to practice. Reading is the same! Growing and improving takes practice. So we close each class with “reading practice” – I transform into Coach Fitz and bring out my whistle. Two whistles means practice has started, and students know they need to find a quiet spot to focus on reading. These short practices have us really working on our read-to-self skills, and reading stamina. I can’t wait to see how much our reading improves with practice.

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Another favorite new practice – FABLAB! Librarians, FABLAB is like a dream come true. Once per rotation, the entire student body grades K-4 takes a designated hour and a half to pursue their passions. Interested in honeybees? Do some research! Have you always wanted to know more about robots? Grab an iPad! Learn something interesting about the state of New Hampshire? Create an iMovie to share your findings! FABLAB is driven by student interest and curiosity, and as a research nerd, it is a joy to watch students learning research skills in such an organic and exciting context.

The research is exciting, but the real pinnacle is when students share their findings. Students are encouraged to choose a creative and personally intriguing method to share what they have learned on their FABLAB journey. Projects can be personalized in a million different ways, empowering students to learn more about their interests and strengths. I look forward to FABLAB every week, and can’t wait to see more.

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FABLAB may be the K-4 equivalent of student-driven, project based learning, but the middle school has taken things to a whole new level. Let me introduce you to QUEST, a brand new program at St. Anne’s-Belfield that puts students in the drivers’ seat in a brand new way. At the beginning of the year, students chose from a selection of BIG QUESTIONS – questions like “How much does life cost?” “Who has the power to stop poverty?” and “Who will win November 8th?” QUESTS are so exciting that NBC29 came to interview students and faculty about the innovative program.

My QUEST is answering the question – “What’s the problem?” Students were invited to consider the problems that they see around them, choose one that they find pressing, and create a PSA addressing the issue. From top to bottom, the students are in control. It has been so interesting to watch them brainstorm, storyboard, and cast their videos. Above you can see a few members of the group sketching out scenes, observing and interviewing possible cast members, scouting filming locations, and shooting test shots as they prepare for their young stars to join for official shooting. To say that I’m curious about their final product would be the understatement of the year. Just like my Summer of Making, this is an excellent lesson for me in the art of letting go and putting the students in control. I learn a little bit more every day!

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Remember before, when I said I was enjoying working with middle school? That was another understatement. When did tweens get to be so cool? Don’t get me wrong, I love my little ones and the magic wands and bubbles and excitement – but there is something so special about sharing a connection with a sixth grade student over a book. They are perhaps the only readers I know that can match my enthusiasm for a great collection of poetry, and they’ll cry right alongside me when a character’s pet passes away. I eagerly anticipate my middle school visitors and love swapping book recommendations and battle stories (“I stayed up until 2 AM reading this one because it was so good”; “I accidentally missed half of lunch to get to the end of my chapter”; “I made the mistake of reading this one right before soccer practice and cried though the twenty-minute warm up”).

Above, see a selection of books for sixth grade to peruse during their Self Discovery genre unit. And, a picture of a very happy Mr. Passmore when one of his students baked a cake from the recipes featured in A Tangle of Knots. This student loved the book so much she baked a peach cake for the class – what a special treat!

I am lucky enough to see fifth and sixth grade students once every rotation. I get to spend a full 50 minutes with them, and try to balance that time getting to know them, teaching information literacy skills, sharing read-alouds, searching for new books to read and reading independently. I also see many middle schoolers daily during open library hours before school, during breaks, during lunch , and after school. Middle schoolers have a lot on their plates, and I think it’s important for them to have a space where they feel safe to relax, unwind, and lose themselves in a book. Although I’m far from a quiet librarian, it makes my heart feel good to know that this is a safe, warm, and welcoming space for all students, and that middle schoolers choose to spend their time here.

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Bring on the robots! I am so thrilled to be helping with the MissBits Robotics Team in this year’s First Lego League Robotics Challenge. This small group of spunky gals met for the first time this week and it was a blast getting to know our tech-savvy members and learning about the challenges that await us. Although I’m no robotics expert, working with such passionate young ladies and expert coach Ms. Wilkens will have me working sensors and code like a pro in no time. I’ll be channeling my best growth mindset vibes here, as I know that I will make lots of mistakes and have quite a few setbacks along the way. I’ll be sharing more about my Robotics Team experience over the coming months, so check back for more info!

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Last Thursday, tech-guru Ms. Wilkens and I collaborated to offer a Pop-Up Makerspace in the LV Library before school. Students had their choice of awesome tech activities like building a Mars Rover robot, launching a MakeyMakey rocket, using LittleBits to build a satellite, or streaming NASA TV. We had more than 40 students attend, and the library was bustling! Find more photos and information about this event – and learn about our plans for MORE Makerspaces in the future! – here.

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You didn’t think that I would let a whole month go by without some reading photos, did you? Whether they’re curled up on the floor, snuggled in the tree house, sharing a bench with a friend, or finding a quiet spot in the story pit, these kids are readers. With so many students already feeling so passionate about reading, I get to spend my time finding them those perfect, life-changing, right-place-at-the-just-right-time titles. The titles that cause students to line up at my door in the morning, counting the seconds until I flip the lights on at 7:50. At the end of each class or break, I hear a collective groan when students realize that they have to close their books and leave – who ever thought that a groan could be a sweet sound?! The feeling is mutual, my friends. I don’t want you to leave, either.

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The students aren’t the only ones reading. I try to find time every day to put away my other obligations and sneak in a chapter or two. It’s important for my students to see me reading and know that it is a priority in my life; it’s also important for them to see that I take their recommendations seriously. Above, I start on one of the final chapters of Crenshaw, by K.A. Applegate, suggested to me by a fifth grade student. This book was so good I finished it in one night – and I plan on using it as a read-aloud with my fourth and fifth graders! (Psst… fourth and fifth grade parents, help me out and steer your kiddos away from this one so we can share the magic together!)

Don’t forget, you can follow along with what I’m reading here on the blog or over on my Instagram. If you have a comment or a suggestion, I’d love to hear it!

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Better make some room on the blog – I’m hiring some new guest writers. Starting in the next few weeks, I will be featuring student book reviews written by middle school students at St. Anne’s-Belfield. I am inviting students to follow their passions and share creative book reviews with me in any form – essays, videos, songs, artwork, you name it! Submissions are slowly rolling in, and I can’t wait to share their work with you. Above, see the title slide from a lesson I shared with fifth graders about the different types of book reviews, and ways to make them fun and exciting.

Life is good, readers. Life is very good.

With love until next time,

Ms. Fitz

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