Meet Yasmin! Sparks Discussion

Saadia Faruqi has done an amazing job creating Yamin, a Pakistani-American 2nd grader who has already won the hearts of OQS’s students.

Spirited, smart, and spunky, Yamin tackles everyday problems that my students relate to, like getting lost at the park or feeling insecure to create art for the art show, and Hatem Aly’s illustrations draw the reader right in!

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What I love about Yasmin is the way that her story seamlessly introduces Pakinstani and Muslim culture in a way that my students have pretty much never seen before.  There is even a glossary in the back of unfamiliar Urdu words like hijab, fun facts about Pakistan, and a craft project.

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Introducing characters like Yasmin and her family offers readers new things to think and talk about, which pairs perfectly with my students’ genuine curiosity and interest to learn more about the world and the diverse people in it.  I love the significant roles Yamin’s nana (her grandfather) and nani (grandmother) play in the story as well.  With the world facing more divisiveness than inclusion lately, it’s more important than ever to provide students windows into other cultures, especially when they show how much alike we all are!

After reading only two chapters, my students were asking if I had any more books about Yasmin!  Although my book budget has already been used for this year, undoubtedly we will see more of Yasmin in the fall!

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We can’t wait!


Book Creator!

3rd, 4th, and 5th grade are learning to use Book Creator in library to demonstrate their learning in an engaging, dynamic way!  Using Book Creator, students can create traditional and comic books, include audio or video, and have a blast while showing off what they know.  My own children beg to use Book Creator at home, and after you talk to your kids about what’s so cool about it, you’ll understand why! Ask your students why Book Creator is so great, and then ask them what Mrs. Whitney is asking them to do with it to wrap up many months of reading and reflecting!  We’re having a lot of fun in here!

Enjoy this video of 3B as they learn to navigate Book Creator and use this tool to its full potential!

Wonderful Wordless Books!


This week kindergarten and first grade are exploring wordless books, such as the outstanding works of David Weisner, and discussing why wordless books often win the Caldecott Award. Big ideas for little readers!


Some of my favorite answers to the question What is so great about these wordless books? have been:

  • It has tons of designs.
  • It has lots of details.
  • Nonsense words.
  • It’s cool and colorful.
  • The pictures tell the story.
  • Great illustrations inside the books!
  • You can make up your own story.
  • They won the golden awards (Caldecott Award).



Wordless books are my favorite way to talk about the Caldecott Award and all these amazing, fascinating picture books and their fantastic authors and illustrators!

We Support Global Goal #14: Life Below Water

This week we unveiled our newest STEAM unit, in which we are partnering with Students Rebuild and the Bezos Foundation to help support ocean conservation efforts all around the world! Check out this inspiring video to learn more about what it entails.

Our students will be learning about ocean conservation, identifying what one thing they can start doing right now to help preserve our oceans and save the precious habitat that is being polluted every day, while creating awareness and art using recycled materials that could otherwise have ended up in the ocean.  It’s going to be amazing, inspiring, and fast! Their creations will be on display at the OQS Art Show on March 20th!  So to help foster their genuine interest and passion for the world, its ecosystems and its animals, I created a new display today with ocean-friendly books that can help inspire future ocean conservationists and activists!

Talk to your students about what your family could to do support Global Goal #14, Life Below Water, and what they’ve learned in STEAM and library this March!

Minecraft Communication Presentation

I cannot express how incredibly proud I am of all our OQS students who did an unbelievable job before break presenting their Minecraft worlds!


The afternoon was videotaped, and once I get it I will share all the amazing learning that was shared and communicated so clearly and intelligently!  From the assistant superintendent to members of the community to staff members, I was so proud of their skills.  More amazing details to come, but the students deserved a shout out!

Beep! Beep! and More

After reading 3 awesome transportation picture books, kindergarten and first grade used some of my old book shelves and some Matchbox cars to create a small library roadway!

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck was a huge hit.  The kids were laughing like crazy!  They also enjoyed the cocky voice of the tugboat in I’m MightyOtis is a lovely story about friendship, and many students were happy to read it even when they own it at home!  Then we let the wild rumpus start!

They all had an excellent time!

Second and third grade are continuing to be introduced to new series and authors in an effort to help them find beginning chapter books and actual fiction books they will enjoy. The Infamous Ratsos and Clementine have been a hit!  The Princess In Black is up next for second grade, with Geronimo Stilton coming up after that!


Fourth and fifth grade are coming close to finishing their DCF book, Ban This Book, and the suspense is killing them!!  They are so passionate about students having a say in what they read and about standing up for what you believe in.  I’m so proud of this group, and I’m glad they are loving this book as much as I do!

Class spelling bees are next week! Don’t forget to help your students study!

We Love To Read Month

spelling bee

I hope your 2nd-5th grade students have mentioned that we have been preparing for the class spelling bees for a few weeks in the library.  I also hope that they have been finding a few moments at home to study!  Classroom spelling bees will happen the week of February 11th here in the library.

You might wonder why I’m so involved in the OQS Spelling Bee.  Well, before I worked at Ottauquechee, I was involved in the first annual OQS Spelling Bee with a former teacher as a member of the PTO.  As a staff member, I am able to take the responsibility of preparing the students for the bee (word study, tips, understanding the protocol and expectations for the actual bee) off the teachers and work it into the library curriculum.  After all, libraries are nothing if not a place to appreciate wonderful words!

I think it is important that students have the opportunity to not only hone their spelling skills, but to also learn to take risks and for 99% of the competitors, fail!  Failing isn’t something that comes easy to students, but the idea that every student in grades 2 through 5 will spell a word wrong at some point in the proceedings (except for the winner, and he or she might even luck out if the other spellers make the same mistake!) helps them realize that it’s okay to take this risk and give it their best!  We celebrate each student as they exit the bee with applause, to acknowledge their bravery and perseverance as they prepared for the bee!

In addition, I believe it’s important to give the students who excel academically an opportunity to shine, just as those who have talent athletically or artistically are given a chance to highlight their successes.  Additional rigor in the curriculum can be very exciting!

In addition to preparing for the Spelling Bee, February has a bookmark contest open to all OQS students, which began this week.  Students can get a blank form in the library and will create a bookmark about the theme, Reading Is Cool!  They must submit their bookmark back to me by Feb 14th.  Finalists will be chosen by a group of staff that afternoon and will be announced Feb 15th.

The Scholastic Book Fair will be open on Feb 25th for the entire week before, during, and after school! Students will be able to make purchases at some point during the day of February 28th with their classes.  The book fair will also be open during the Grand Spelling Bee that evening!  Don’t forget that there will be We Love To Read Spirit Week that week, as well!

That’s all that is on my mind right now as we transition into February!  What a wonderful, wordy winter we have in store for us!