Tag Archives: reading

Abby’s Corner

October is Underway

While some may say Halloween is the most exciting event in October, I’d say that the head-to-head division race at Panther Picnic is a close second! Rachel, Luis, and I are geared up for another great race this year and we hope you all will come out and cheer on Team Tapscott. We will be racing at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday; it’s not to be missed!

Looking Ahead – Exciting New Format for Our Book Fair

As some of you are aware, in the past we have hosted a book fair in collaboration with Books Inc. during the spring on our Tapscott campus. This year, I’m excited to share that we are going to try something new! We are shifting our book fair to December, and it will be hosted at the North Berkeley Books Inc. on Shattuck Ave. on Monday, December 2 from 5-8 p.m.

For several years, we have been in conversation about ways to continue to promote a love for reading, generate additional funds to support our library program, and also balance how much we ask of our parent volunteers. We value having library volunteers help out regularly, as it connects parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to our library in important ways. In recent years it has been increasingly difficult for parents to volunteer on weekdays at our Book Fair, often due to work schedules. We thought that this would be a great opportunity to try something new, and pilot a format that does not require parent volunteers, and still brings our families together in celebration of reading.

Having our book fair in December will also allow us to remind students and families of the importance of reading during our longest break during the school year, our December winter break, and also celebrate new book releases that come out around that time of year. Because the book fair will move to Books Inc, we will be able to support all the readers in our community and librarians from Tapscott and Avis will be on hand to help readers at all grade levels find wonderful new books. Further, your child will get to enjoy “story time” with some very special guests including Diane Simoneau and our very own Head of School, Nisa Frank!

More details are coming soon, but for now please mark your calendars for Monday, December 2 from 5-8 p.m., following our Thanksgiving Break, and make a family night of it. Barney’s Burgers (down the street from Books Inc.) has agreed to donate a portion of proceeds to Prospect Sierra that day, so you can dine out, do some winter book shopping, and support our Tapscott and Avis libraries.

Dates to Remember

  • October 28 – NO SCHOOL, Parent Conference Day, Extended Program Available
  • October 31 – Halloween Parade at 8:45 a.m. on the Tapscott Terrace
  • November 1 – NO SCHOOL, Parent Conference Day, Extended Program Available
  • November 11 – NO SCHOOL, HOLIDAY, No Extended Program Available

Abby’s Corner: Summer Learning Fun

Summertime Fun

Happy summer to you all! Hopefully, you have already found some ways to relax. The heat wave that hit El Cerrito was an intense way to start our summer, and my hope is that you all were near a pool or beach on those 100 degree days.

Summer work is already underway at Tapscott and at our new Gatto/TK campus. Teachers have cleaned up and gone home, and some of our new faces are already here and getting a lay of the land, ordering materials, and thinking about how to support kids next year. It happens quickly, and I am getting excited to welcome our transitional kindergarteners to Prospect Sierra in late August.

In the meantime, if you are like me you have made a list of summer reading, eating, and relaxing that must be done! Wishing you a fabulous summer filled with joyful moments.

Worth Remembering: The “Summer Slide” is Real

While summer is super fun, it’s also a time that kids can lose some of the gains they made this past year in both reading and math, also known as the summer slide. Our approach as a school is to encourage parents to find ways that are fun and engaging for your child, and to keep them reading regularly as well as working their math brains this summer. Whatever way works for your child and your family, the goal is to promote lifelong reading and application of math skills in real life! When they buy ice cream, make them calculate the total or figure out how much change they will get back. When there is downtime for the family, have a family reading time for 20-30 minutes. There are lots of ways to “disguise the learning” so kids are still flexing those muscles!

The Tapscott Reading Challenge: We will once again attempt to read 400,000 minutes this summer! I encourage you to carve out some family reading time, and read some great books yourself or with your child this summer! Ideally, kids should be looking at books, listening to stories read aloud to them, or independently reading for 20-30 minutes every day this summer.

Practicing math skills during the summer:  This article from the Harvard School of Education highlights that, on average, kids lose 2.6 months of math learning over the summer. Below you’ll find the article’s suggestions for ways to integrate math into summer activities.

  • Highlight the math in everyday activities. When shopping, help kids calculate change or discounts. When watching a baseball game, talk about what players’ statistics mean. When cooking, try halving or doubling a recipe, and assist kids in figuring out the new proportions.
  • Read short math stories together. Studies have shown that reading math-focused stories to children, such as Bedtime Math books or the Family Math series, can help boost math scores in school.
  • Play math games. Games like Yahtzee, Racko, Blokus, Monopoly, and Set all rely on skills necessary for math, such as counting, categorizing, and building. Even playing with blocks and assembling jigsaw puzzles can help kids learn spatial skills and recognize patterns.
  • Find small ways to practice math at home. While worksheets alone won’t solve the summer math slump, small amounts of practice with basic formulas can help. Problem-of-the-day math calendars are a great way to practice basic math problems on a small scale. Parents can also find resources on Investigations about what types of mathematical procedures they should be practicing with their children.

Additional resources for math at home:

  • The founder of Bedtime Math, Laura Overdeck, describes how and why this series of daily math problems works as a family engagement tool in mathematics.
  • YouCubed resources for parents and apps/games/problems for students
  • YouCubed online course for students. This self-paced course is designed for any learner of math and anyone who wants to improve their relationship with math. The ideas should be understandable by students of all levels of mathematics. Parents who have children under age 13 and who think their children would benefit from some of the course materials should register themselves (i.e., parent’s name, email, username) for the course. The parent may then choose to share course materials with their child at their own discretion.

Worth Reading

Celebrate Pride this month with two great books. I love both of these! Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag is great for upper elementary students and provides some understanding of the flag as well as the local changemaker Harvey Milk. This Day in June is a great picture book, appropriate for all ages, and provides some background information on different aspects of this month’s SF Pride Parade.

Books, Books, Books! Elementary Edition

The weather is cooler and the days are shorter – what better time to cuddle up on the couch with books recommended by our amazing Tapscott teachers (and even our principal)! I recently spent some time in the faculty lounge basking in the brainpower of our K-4 teachers and asked them about their favorite kids’ books. The books they shared represent a range of reading levels, story worlds, and moments of change and inspiration. They offer windows into new worlds and mirrors that reflect back some of our own experiences. I know that I’m looking forward to diving into many of these stories this winter. Happy reading!

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman


Helen and the Great Quiet by Rick Fitzgerald

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Sara Jane Boyers (the picture book version)

The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat by Catherine Ann Cullen

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

One by Kathryn Otoshi

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl by Eloise Greenfield

Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Abby’s Corner: How We Do Community

Building Community

We are officially entering the second month of school! The first weeks of school for teachers are always about building the classroom community, as this is an essential building block for the learning students will engage in all year long.

Recently I saw Vivian, our Kindergarten Assistant Teacher, looking at one of her class books (she’s in year two of the BATTI program) in the faculty room, Tribes: A New Way of Learning and Being Together by Jeanne Gibbs. The book isn’t new; in fact it’s quite old as Tribes has been around since the 70s. My parents were Tribes trainers and eventually started their own school based on the Tribes group norms. So I had to smile when I saw that this was a book still being used in teacher ed programs, as I know it well and practically lived it at my dining room table with my four siblings! Seeing that book was a good reminder for me that while there is always new research that must be incorporated into the process of teaching and learning, there are also those things which are not new at all but so very important when it comes to building the foundation of a school community. Things like creating safety, building a trusting and inclusive environment, and sharing ideas in such a way that individuals feel they have influence within the group are critical. These things come about in all kinds of ways at Tapscott – partner projects, group shares, class meetings, buddies, presentations to the school, school families, morning meeting sharing, and more!

I thought you’d all appreciate some peeks around campus as kids engage in building community together. It is a beautiful, joyful thing to see!

This year’s school-wide theme is community – something I can say with certainty that we have as a school, and something that we do not take for granted. Community must be nurtured, supported, and developed every year. This is true not just for the kids in their individual classrooms, but for the faculty and the parents as well. For those of you who made it out to Panther Picnic, you know what I mean! It isn’t just about attending, but also working together, that develops community. In these moments, you get to know others more deeply, and more authentically. Whether you were flipping burgers, teeing up music for performances together, helping others with incredible artistic creations, or helping kids build cars for Nerdy Derby track racing, you were most likely getting to know the community more deeply. I hope that your day was filled with moments where you engaged in something joyful and also got to know someone you didn’t previously know. Many thanks to the team parent effort it takes to put on Panther Picnic – it is a true display of our strong and joyful school community!

A Peek into Program

Sometimes being a school administrator means remembering that while I have hundreds of conversations about curriculum, project ideas, and new lessons with teachers, and therefore have a robust understanding what what we do and why we do it, parents understandably only know what we tell them in the short amounts of time at Back to School night, Open House, and through our written communications.

With new programs, this is particularly important to remember, and I was reminded of this as I read feedback this summer from last year’s parent survey. I want to thank everyone who participated, as this feedback was a good reminder for me that especially with newer programs at Tapscott such as colab and Spanish, parents need to hear a lot about these programs so that they really understand both purpose and philosophy well. This year I will highlight these relatively new programs, sharing about our approach to language acquisition and integration of STEM in ways that most likely aren’t the way you and I learned! Both of these programs are solidly based in research about how kids learn and what is important for 21st century skill development.

Below are just a few “peeks” into our Spanish classroom in room 8. One thing I’d like to highlight is that our Spanish program most likely looks different from how you learned a second language. This is because we use a program that is guided by the idea that kids acquire language over time and through a variety of interactions with the most commonly used vocabulary structures. This means that in Spanish class our students interact with vocabulary in a variety of ways – they hear it, sing in, hear it again in story, write it, and even read it. The goal of our K-4 Spanish program is not to create fluid Spanish speakers by the end of fourth grade, as this would be an unrealistic goal given the fact that we have two touch points (lessons) a week in Spanish! It just isn’t enough time. However, what we do want is for students to have real comfort and familiarity with the most commonly used and needed vocabulary structures in the Spanish language.

Our current third graders are the first group that has moved entirely through our program with Spanish, and we are keeping a close eye on how they will do as they transition over to Avis, where some of the grammar and mechanics, as well as more speaking, is expected of them. So far, the feedback from the Avis Spanish teachers has been impressive in that each year our students can do more speaking and certainly understand quite a bit more in the target language than they did the year prior. This is good news for us, as it means our approach is really having an impact. It also means that as parents there is a degree of patience needed as you hear your child say they can’t really say anything in Spanish – it is the same patience you needed as your one or two year old acquired language. For some kids, they might listen for long periods of time and then all of a sudden burst out entire sentences. Other students might practice single vocabulary words right away and then utter phrases and finally build to full sentences. It is a process of acquiring language through multiple modalities that we are working on. I have been so impressed with the amount of reading and writing in Spanish our fourth graders are capable of, and I’ll try over the course of the year to share tidbits of this learning with you as well!

If your child is interested in revisiting some of the songs and stories from class, you can click here (username and password is tparentspanish – prospect2017).

And here’s a short video from Spanish class as well!

Helpful Parent Reminders

Parents often ask how they can support their child’s learning at home. There are lots of ways, really, from creating a family charter to talking about how you want to feel as a family to taking time to read books together! Another important but often overlooked moment is dinner time. Families sitting down to eat is a wonderful way to connect authentically with one another. Often, dinner time can be a moment to really listen to what might be on your child’s mind. Recently, my daughter and I went in search of new ideas for family dinner conversation starters. We do “Roses and Thorns” regularly as a way to share about our day, and we wanted to change it up a bit and do something different. We found this resource, the Family Dinner Project. It includes Roses and Thorns, as well as things like “Would you rather…” and other fun ways to make dinner time an opportunity to share with one another and practice both listening and contributing to a group conversation. These skills are worked on daily at school, and the dinner table is just another moment in the day when these skills can be practiced in a way that also builds a sense of inclusion for children and adults alike. Check it out if you have time!

https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/conversation/conversation-starters/

Worth Reading

Our students are readers, and they love to share their reading with friends, buddies, and teachers. In the spirit of sharing, I have two book recommendations. First, my book club read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is very appropriate for upper elementary readers through adults. I loved it and highly recommend it! I also recently read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is beautifully written and I can honestly say one of the more powerful books I’ve read in a long time.

I hope you have a great October, full of reading, community, deepened learning, and interesting dinner conversations!