Anticipating Spring In First Grade

Anticipating Spring In First Grade

One of the best parts of being a guest teaching artist in schools is the relationships that I have with the teachers that I work with. Most of the work that I do is with teachers that I have worked with before.  This means that year after year, as we get to know each other better, we can develop bookmaking projects that can dynamically align to the mandates of the curriculum.  Each year  the projects that I present generally are either repeat projects that are continually refined to serve the classroom needs better, or they are projects that are designed anew, to fit shifting interests of the teachers.

Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book

Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book

This past week I started a completely new project with Margo’ s second grade class. I have worked with Margo for years, but this is the first time that she is the primary teacher in the second grade. She said that she wanted to do some research with her students and that she wanted there to be a “global” feel to the project. After brainstorming a bit, we decided that we would reach for the global connection through the children’s snack bags.  Each day for a week the class logged their snacks and noted where they came from. Pineapple from Thailand, bananas from South America, celery from California, Mandarin oranges from Florida, via Chinese origins. We had the concept, then I had to come up with a design that would work in her classroom. What I came up with is illustrated in the drawing above: it includes a pop-up (the snack popping out of the lunch bag), a window to peek through at the habitat of the snack, and two pages for writing. We started the bookmaking yesterday. I look forward to posting images when the books are done!



Last year I worked with Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class, making a  Dinosaur  Diorama. I loved this project and was looking forward to repeating it. This year, however, Mrs. Kavney wanted the book to be more of this world. She worked up a spectacular unit on following the Iditarod in Alaska, incorporating geography, math, and science. She wanted to have our bookmaking project put another spin on this unit, and she had her eye on studying animals and habitat in Alaska.  She liked the Diorama book that we did last year, so I so I reworked the basic design. The animal is now central, a pocket is included that can  hold standard size paper, which will contain the sentences that the first graders will write about their animals, and there is an area to showcase a haiku that students will write. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to somehow incorporate the Northern Lights…which, when I mentioned this to the students, they responded by telling me that these lights are also known as the aurora borealis. I am learning not to talk down to these students…This project was also started this week.  My next post will likely be on the aurora borealis part of the project, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.

Now, back to prepping.

What I Do

March 4, 2013

Announcing a new page on my sidebar: Gallery of Student Work .

Now, here’s the back story.


A Page from my files

A Page from my files

Last week,  at my daughter’s school. when I was bemoaning that my work schedule precluded my attendance at the next parent meeting,  a parent that I have known for years, and who l very much like, asked me what I do. It is hard to explain to people what it is that I do, which is one reason that I keep a blog.  But I realized that if I sent Lauri a link to my blog she would have to do a good bit of sifting through posts and more posts to see what I do.

Part of Pinterest Page for Bookzoompa

Part of Pinterest Page for Bookzoompa

It occurred to me to direct her to Pinterest, to look at pins from Bookzoompa, but I this didn’t seem like the best solution, either.  It made me sad to realize that this blog hadn’t made it easy to answer the “What do you do?” question. But I had an idea. This is my idea:  It’s a new page on the sidebar of my blog, which simply is photo after photo of work done by students that I have worked with.  Soon I hope to add more pages: one which puts all my tutorials in one place;  and another that shows the work that I do when I am not working with students.

Please take a peek at this new page and let me know what you think. Thanks.

A Shape With Many Wives…

January 5, 2013

          …or talking to teenagers about Geometry


I’ve been having conversations with some high school students about things having to do with math. I thoroughly enjoy these conversations, as I am intrigued by the way students make sense of the sometimes elusive concepts of algebra, geometry and trig. While looking over some problems I asked a young man  Andrew if he knew the definition of a polygon. After letting him flail a bit I resorted to Latin. I know that sounds bizarre, but it seems to me that kids  have a knack for making and retaining connections if can connect to the root of a word. So I put forth the question ‘do you know what poly means” The answer was no. Hmmm…”Well, do you know what polygamy is?”  It turns out that nearly all teenager do have a general (though not precise) understanding of polygamy as having many wives. Great…poly, therefore, means many.  A polygon, therefore, must be a shape with many wives…well, not exactly, but I suspect that this is a close enough definition to help a teenager remember that a polygon is a shape with more than two angles and more than two sides.


A discussion of Isosceles Triangles delighted me beyond measure. When I asked my young friend Lucy about an isosceles triangle, she defined it to me as the one with the two lines.  I knew exactly what she was talking about: each time students see an isosceles triangle in their math books, there are lines on the two equal sides (like on the orange triangle in the drawing above), which is math nomenclature for “hey, look, these two sides are equal.” It turns out that some kids don’t really know that these little lines are code that math people use to show that line segments are equal, or that you can have an isosceles triangle without having those two lines drawn.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t have to resort to Latin to explain isosceles, as the word isosceles comes to us from Greek, and can roughly be translated as “equal legs.’ I mentioned this to my daughter and she declared,


“I’m an Isosccles!”  I suppose it might be more correct to say, “I have isosceles”…?


Thankfully, Equilateral Triangles are Latin-friendly, translating into something like “equal sides.” But this makes me pause and consider some other thoughts about math. Think about this: math is supposedly elegant and logical, however, the name for a triangle with three equal sides comes from Latin, the name for a triangle with two equal sides comes from Greek, and to meaure their lengths the we use Arabic numerals (our 1,2,3,4, 5, etc.), which actually originated in India. No wonder math can be such a challenge! Not only does it seem like a foreign language, fact is, it is many foreign languages!

That said, an understanding of bookbinding (much of which has its roots in Chinese and Japanese cultures) is supported by having a good understanding of geometry.

A bit late, but all the same, I wish you peace in the New Year and may you make connections that support and enrich your life.


June 6, 2012

Lady Wearing a Pink Pillbox Hat

Lady Wearing a Pink Pillbox Hat

Each season that I am involved with classroom bookmaking students nudge me into making discoveries about how to think about bookmaking.  This year one of the  lessons that I walk away with is how satisfying it can be to bond with the bookmaking process through a personalized book-figure. Okay, that’s not a real term, but I don’t know what else to call it.

Brianna's Flower

Brianna’s Flower

What I noticed was that once a child created an image for their book that they could sort of anthropomorphize they seemed to connect and care more about their subject matter and their book. For instance Brianna’s Flower (above) became a personal extension of herself, so her project became very much her very own, rather than just another assignment.

Charlie's Dinosaurs

Charlie’s Dinosaurs

This connection seemed to be made if it was a fantasy flower, an extinct animal….

Endangered Animals

Endangered Animals…black and white drawings downloaded from the Enchanted Learning website. To give the animals more personality the students enhanced the eyes by making them bigger and defining the area around the eyeball.

…or endangered animals. When I started to noticing how students made connections to their books through these figures I began to encourage them to feel free rein while enhancing them through color….which led to some extravagant and lovely results.

two women

Two women

I can’t remember who the ladies are in the photo above, but I like their taste in clothing.

Here’s the president and his wife, as created by the hands of second graders who were researching famous people.



By the time I worked with first graders on their chick project I had figured out that the first thing we should do is cut out a chick (everyone had the same chick pattern to cut out).  I knew enough to encourage each child to give their own chick a personality by making an expressive eye,  giving the beak some color and shape and considering the shape of the wing.  If a chick became temporarily misplaced before we attached it into the book, the student would look for it as if she were looking for a personal friend, and it was a sweet reunion once the chick was found. 

 When I worked with second graders on their flower and plant book I told them not to worry about making a particular flower, but , instead to create a flower according to their own ideas about what would attract the kind of bee they want to be visited upon.  I loved the flowers that these students came up with! The most interesting thing that happened, though, was that as these book-figures developed I realized that, through these book figures, even I was connecting to the students books in a more personalized way.  One day I had to make a stop at a school sometime after my residency ended.  The completed projects were on display, and I had time to take a look at them.  One of the books housed the lady in the pink pillbox hat,  shown in the first photo of this post. She was such a character that I had to go back again with my camera to make sure I had a record of her. Fortunately, by the time I caught up with the teacher, Mr. Terri -who also happened to be the teacher who came up the concept of this project- the pink hatted lady was still in the classroom.  I would have been truly despondent had she gone home without  my photographing her.  Just a couple of days ago I showed her image to my friend, Ed. I was absolutely delighted that he immediately and correctly guessed her identity.Jackie Kennedy in her Pink Pillbox Hat

Here she is again, my book-figure friend Jackie Kennedy saying good-bye for  me as I am about to sign off on classroom bookmaking for the 2011-2012 school year.

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