Upper Elementary Performance

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Jambo! Hello!

This semester the Upper Elementary class is studying Africa and their upcoming annual performance will be a celebration of African culture that includes folktales and music.

After considering many folktales, we chose three from West Africa: The Talking Drum, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, and Who’s In Rabbit’s House? The students have been very busy dramatizing these stories and making the scenery for them. Under the guidance of Children’s House Assistant Mrs. Mariama O’Brien, a native of Liberia, the students are creating an African village onstage. “Villagers” will be entertained by storytellers and actors, wearing animal masks made with Art Teacher Mrs. Cecilia Beck. Musical interludes will consist of African rhythms on drums and marimbas learned with Mr. David Sherick, TMS Music Teacher and professional percussionist.

Family and friends are cordially invited to attend this performance on Wednesday, March 6 at 11:00 am or 7:00pm in the gymnasium.

Skype Author Visit

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On Wednesday, November 28, the Upper Elementary students participated in a virtual author visit with Ms. Ingrid Law, author of the Newbery Honor-winning book Savvy and its sequel Scumble. During the free 30-minute Q&A session, each student asked Ms. Law a question about one of these books or her writing process.

We learned that she wrote the first draft of Savvy in 4 months but spent 4 more months revising it. Scumble took 2 ½ years, and now she is working on a third book, tentatively titled Switch, which is about Gypsy Beaumont and will be published at the end of next year. Ms. Law, who lives in Colorado, has always loved words and language. She collects words and enjoys “word of the day” websites. She started making up stories when she was in the fifth grade as a way to reduce anxiety, but it wasn’t until she learned to type that she was able to get all her stories down on paper. Two of her writing mentors are Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Chrestomanci Chronicles, and Ann McCaffrey, author of The Dragonriders of Pern, who both use different points of view in their books. Her own reading taste includes fantasy, science fiction and fiction books with real settings.

When asked why her characters receive their “savvy” age the age of 13, she said that 13 is the first teen year and the age when most young people are worried about growing up. What kind of savvy would she like to have? “I would like to be able to fly or breathe underwater.” She also thinks it would be nice to be able to clone herself so that while she is writing, her other selves could take a walk or go to the movies.

You can learn more about Ingrid at her website:

People of Peace

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       In preparation for International Peace Day on September 21, the Upper Elementary students participated in peace book clubs.

The sixth graders all read the nonfiction book Three Cups of Tea, Young Reader’s Edition by Greg Mortenson, and discussed the idea of education as a way to world peace.

The fifth grade students read Extra Credit, a fiction book by Andrew Clements about a girl who does a pen pal project with an Afghan boy as a way to improve her grades, and through this exchange, we were able to make some comparisons of these two cultures.

Fourth graders chose biographies of people around the world who had tried to make the world a better place. One of these people was Maria Montessori, who was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. The students used these biographies as the inspiration to make a “People of Peace” Tree, which now stands in the lobby of the school to inspire each of us to continue their example.

Avi Visits TMS Library on Skype

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The award-winning children’s author Avi visited with the Upper Elementary students via Skype on May 17. What a thrill to meet him and talk with him! Avi is the author of 73 books, including the Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead, and Newbery Honor winner The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Prior to the visit, the students participated in an Avi book club and researched Avi and his books on his website, where they learned that his twin sister gave him the name when they were little and he has used it ever since.
During the interview, the Upper El students took turns introducing themselves and asking Avi their prepared questions. We learned that history is a passion of his, so it’s no surprise that he has written several historical fiction novels for children. He admitted that writing has always been difficult for him and when he was in high school he needed tutoring. However, good writing comes about through rewriting and he says he is a very good re-writer. He has rewritten some of his books more than 70 times.
Avi’s advice to aspiring writers is “Read, read, read, and then read, read, read some more. Reading teaches you more about writing than anything else.” He recommended reading a book a week, especially in the summer.
Our first Skype experience was very positive and we hope to do it again next year.

Upper Elementary Performance

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This year, the Upper Elementary performance on March 8 & 9 was based on the book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, which was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2008 for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is a book of miniature plays, 19 monologues and two dialogues, written by school librarian Laura Amy Schlitz.   Students at her school were immersed in the Middle Ages, like our Upper El students, and she wanted them to have something to perform. Since no one wanted a small part, she decided to write these mini-plays so every child could be a star.

The children in these miniature plays are between the ages of ten and fifteen years old. Some are the sons and daughters of the nobility; others are paupers. They all live in or near the same manor in England in the year 1255.

After listening to the audio book, our Upper El students were eager to learn their lines and become their character. They walked in their characters’ shoes for several weeks and developed a real appreciation of their struggles and hardships. They also learned about dramatization from Mr. E. who taught them to project their voice, articulate, and color their words and sentences.

They did an amazing job, and learned a lot about the Middle Ages too.

Visit from Upper Dublin Librarians

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Loaded down with several big bags of books, two children’s librarians from the Upper Dublin Public Library in Fort Washington visited our school’s library recently.

Barbara McNutt (“Miss Barbara”), Head of Children’s Services, talked to the Ks through 4th graders, and Lauren Kurz, Young Adult Librarian, talked to the 5th and 6th graders. They both did booktalks about their recommendations for the latest books and series and listened to the students tell about their favorite reads. Using their library’s website, Lauren also instructed the students about how to download eBooks for free onto a Nook, Kindle or other device.

The students always enjoy these  semiannual visits and we all look forward to the next one in May.

All Hallow’s Read

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Neil Gaiman, author of the 2009 Newbery Medal winner The Graveyard Book, has a website called All Hallow’s Read where he proposes that we start a new tradition: “Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en.” He gives lists of suggested scary books for preschoolers to adults, and there are links to more lists. For younger children who like to be just-a-little-bit-scared, he recommends “books they’ll like and can handle.” There’s even a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” that you can print and fold into a mini-book to give out.

I’d like to suggest a variation:  “Read a scary book with someone at Halloween”  and I’m adding a few of my own favorites to Gaiman’s list. Unless specified otherwise, these are all appropriate for elementary students.

  • The Teeny Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone (preschool)
  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams (preschool)
  • Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting (preschool)
  • In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting (preschool)
  • EEK! Stories To Make You Shriek  (K-3)
  • Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by James Howe
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, audiobook version by Robert Van Nutt, read by Glenn Close
  • The Half-A-Moon Inn by Paul Fleischman
  • Wait Til Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
  • The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn
  • The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Trailer for The Graveyard Book (grades 5+), narrated by Neil Gaiman

How about you? Do you like scary stories? What are some of your favorites?


Readers Theater

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Readers TheaterReaders Theater is an activity in which students read dialog directly from a script, using intonation, facial expressions, and gestures to make characters come alive for the audience. Readers Theater has all the fun of performing a play, but without props, costumes, sets, or lines to memorize.  Parts can be rotated, making practice an adventure instead of a chore. As students read and listen to the same lines over and over, they gain mastery over the text. Studies show that this results in improvements in fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

In the Library this year, many of the elementary students have had experiences with Readers Theater. The 3rd year, working in groups of 3 or 4, performed a variety of fables, some by Aesop and some by contemporary authors like Arnold Lobel.

The Upper Elementary students have been doing a variation of Readers Theater using Greek myths. After the students had read and discussed selected myths, Mr. Entwisle showed them how to act out the story without dialog, using only their body and facial expressions, while the myth was read aloud by a narrator.

In January the Upper El will be integrating reading, writing, speaking and listening when they work in groups to write a script for a short piece of literature, which they will then perform for an audience.

Special Person Readers in the Library

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MarjoryD_editEvery Friday afternoon is story time for the Kindergarten students in the Library. First, Mrs. Kneidinger, the Librarian, reads a picture book to the whole group on the story rug. Then Upper Elementary students read stories to their Kindergarten “Reading Buddy”.

In January, story time took on a new dimension with the addition of Special Person guest readers.  Since then, five special persons have come in to read, one father and four grandmothers. The children responded very warmly and positively to these guests, listening attentively and engaging with the stories. The special guest was happy to visit our school and share a favorite book with the students. It’s a win-win for everyone and we hope to continue this program in the upcoming school year.

Alumna is Visiting Author

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DianaS_editDiana Sandmeyer, a 2005 graduate of New Horizons and an 11th grade student at Abington Friends School, was recently named a Gold Key winner in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her short story “Summer of Fire” was selected by a panel of teachers, writers and literary professionals as the most exceptional in the Philadelphia Region. Gold Key winners advance to the national judging in New York City. A copy of the story is on display in the library. Come check it out!

On April 28, Diana visited NHMS to talk to the Upper Elementary students about her winning story and about writing in general. She told them that she loves creative writing and although analytical writing is emphasized at AFS, Diana keeps a journal and works on her fiction writing whenever she can, with help from an Upper School English teacher. Ideas for stories are everywhere, she said, and characters come from her life, including her dad and a close friend who were the basis for two of the characters in the story.

She spoke honestly about her earlier struggles and how she has worked hard to achieve goals in spite of them. Her love for this school and the importance of the friendships she made here were evident. In addition to writing, Diana enjoys sports and theater. She hopes to attend a small college somewhere on the East Coast and ultimately, to become a physician.

We are all very proud of Diana, and we were inspired by her personal journey as well as her current success.

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