Sunday, January 26, 2014

The ALA Awards are tomorrow! Here are our 7 Caldecott finalists!

image credit ala.org
We started with 30 contenders in our school's first Mock Caldecott, and we've narrowed down to our 7 favorites. Who do you think will win? The cover illustrations are below as well as book trailers for a few!

Here are our finalists:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

School’s a Hoot! By guest blogger Andra Goodwin

Andra Goodwin is a first grade parent and our first guest parent blogger! We're thrilled to kick off Family Blogging Month with Andra's thoughtful post! Thank you for sharing your story!

Recently, I was asked to provide a parent's perspective on how Star Academy fosters creativity in its students. This gave me an opportunity to think over the first half of the school year and provide some examples of creativity at work in my daughter's classroom. As I started to put my thoughts down on paper, I was delighted at how this simple approach has created a love of learning in my first-grader, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from 2013.

The first thing that sprang to my mind was the Wonder Wall in Mrs. Luhrsen’s class. Students come up with a weekly question that they post on the wall and brainstorm answers to as a group. I love the Wonder Wall because: 1) I believe that fostering “creative thinking” is a process where students are encouraged to find multiple solutions to a problem rather than being told that there is one correct answer, and if you don’t get that answer, then it’s considered to be wrong or a mistake. And, 2) If my daughter comes home from school and asks a question that stumps me, I can casually look at her and say “That’s an excellent question sweetheart. Why don’t you write that down for the Wonder Wall this week?” Yes, darling, Mommy is just trying to encourage your creativity here. A big thanks to Mrs. Luhrsen for helping her solve some of worlds biggest mysteries!

Another highlight would be the signal words the kids have been learning in class. I’m not sure if all grades have signal words but first-grade parents, you know what I’m talking about here. It’s pretty amazing to have your child be able to use words like proboscis, oviparous, crevice, strata, woodland, nocturnal, diurnal and aestivate in a sentence and know what they mean. Now, not many of these words come up in easy everyday conversation, but recently, my daughter overheard me talking about going to Costco in Woodland, California and immediately said “Woodland. Areas with trees, shrubs, sunlight and shadows.” If you ever find yourself in the midst of a rowdy group of Star Academy first graders, just say the word “ungulate” and they will instantaneously stop whatever they are doing to give you the definition while doing American sign language. It’s magical.

Finally, in thinking about something specific that my child has learned and loved, I would have to say the owl pellet dissection. She completely absorbed the entire unit of woodland creatures, specifically the tawny owl. She would come home and tell me facts about the tawny owl being nocturnal and hunting rodents, birds and frogs at night. When she found out that she would get to dissect an owl pellet, she was thrilled. She gave me a lesson in owl regurgitation that I won’t soon forget, and was excited to come home and report that her owl pellet had mouse bones and the skulls of not one, but two voles in it! Any chance she had during that unit was spent diagramming the tawny owl. In fact, Mrs. Luhrsen emailed me a picture of a sketch that she brought into class one day. She did it at home. Unbeknownst to me. On a paper towel.

Obviously, the creativity overtook her and she had to get it out of her brain while she ate her morning breakfast. Don’t bother asking why I don’t have regular paper or markers that aren’t of the extra dull tip variety. Like the tawny owl, I work in strange and mysterious ways.

I can’t wait to see the creativity that abounds in 2014!

Would you like to be a guest blogger on this blog? What do you love about our school? Is your child excited about learning? Email jkloczko@natomascharter.org to share your story!

January is Family Blogging Month!

Dear Star Academy Families,
January is Family Blogging month at Star Academy! As you may know, many of our teachers have started blogging about their classrooms and the exciting things that are happening each day with students! Blogging is a great way for teachers to model and practice authentic and meaningful reading and writing for a real audience. Teachers and students are excited about their classroom blogs and we are hoping to get as many people as possible to visit our blogs and see what's happening at our school.

I learned about Family Blogging Month from my wonderful friend and colleague Linda Yollis, a third grade teacher from Southern California. Without her inspiration, I would never have begun to blog. She is also a friend of Mr. Wood-- they met at the Google Teacher Academy in New York! She has graciously given me permission to use her idea and her letter idea to kick off our very first Family Blogging Month! Please check out her fabulous class blog at http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/ and leave a comment for her class! Mrs. Yollis and her students are amazing!

(The letter below is Mrs. Yollis' letter with just a few changes and our blog addresses have been added. Thank you for the use of your idea, Mrs. Yollis!)

1. What is Family Blogging Month?

  • Family Blogging Month is a way to bring moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family, and friends into our online learning community.
  • Family members are encouraged to get involved and make their own contributions to our classroom learning by leaving comments.
  • Students beam with pride when they read comments from their family members. :-)
  • It is a wonderful way to stay connected with the learning happening within our classroom walls.
  • The THREE students with the most comments in January will win a free post as a guest blogger on the Star Academy Blog. 
  • One student will win the opportunity to be Principal for a day-- randomly selected from all student comments posted during the month of January on any Star Academy blog!

2. What are the guidelines for parent comments?

  • It is important to remember that our blog is aimed at our elementary grade students. Although we are encouraging adults to take part, your stories and connections should be geared toward five to nine year-olds.
  • The blog is a place to practice and improve the language arts skills. Please model quality writing. Text-type writing like LOL or OMG is not allowed.
  • I talk daily with the class about limiting personal information on the blog. Last names should be left out of comments.
  • We use the friendly letter format to frame the comments. When signing your name, again, please do not use your last name. Example:

Lucy (Carol's mom)

3. How do I comment?

4. What do I say when I comment?

  • Here is a video tutorial made by Mrs. Yollis' students: How to Compose a Quality Comment!

5. Where should I leave my comments? There are several places!

  • Star Academy News ~ Comments are welcome on any post. Check the archive in the sidebar that runs down the right side of the blog. The posts are listed by month. Feel free to strike up a conversation with someone in the comment section!


We look forward to hearing from you and are excited about our global learning community!

Mrs. Kloczko