Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Interdisciplinary Collaborations-- Hidden Figures

Interdisciplinary Hidden Figures Unit Leadership Team meets at the start of 2018 to co-plan at the Intrepid.
Ms. Chau supervises an NSD student bottle rocket launch after teaching students how to create their own rockets in February.

The books are ready to be distributed to every student at Belmont.

Ms. Ikawa leads "I Have, Who Has... in Ms. Ernyey's Advisory

At the Intrepid, students are challenged to complete simple tasks with gloves on to simulate the challenges faced by astronauts in outer space.

At MoMath in March!
Interdisciplinary Collaborations-- Hidden Figures

At the end of January we kicked off an interdisciplinary collaborative literacy initiative in advisory classes with two language learning activities to prepare students to engage with Hidden FiguresYounger Readers’ Edition.  Our school’s principal purchased a copy of this new paperback for each and every student and we had the fun job of partnering with advisors to distribute these gifts.  Students expressed satisfaction that they would be able to keep the books and were generally eager to begin reading them.

Ms. Ikawa, Speech-Language Pathologist, led students through a round of “I Have… Who Has” first, and then I introduced the terms associated with front matter and back matter.  We walked through the back matter together and concluded with a small competition to see who could utilize the index most efficiently.  Students did not want to stop looking things up at the end of the period.

Approximately one month later, the unit concluded with hands on learning experiences at the IntrepidMuseum (for placement students) and the National Museum of Mathematics (for detention students.)  We were so consumed with the work at hand--science, literacy, social studies were all involved-- we had little time left over to post, but here are a few photos of the highlights. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber, School Librarian, Belmont

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Being Human by William Wegman

Furthering the claim from neuroscientist Gregory Berns that “dogs are people too,” Being Human presents 276 portraits of Weimaraners by William Wegman, the famous photographer.  Students will find chapters like “People Like Us,” “Masquerade,” and “Disguise” more immediately appealing than those that are more abstract like “Physique,” and “Color Fields” or those that make cultural references that are likely unfamiliar like those in “Tales.”  Still, Being Human is perfect for browsers and an accessible invitation to photography and art-looking for readers new to the experience.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Programming Spotlight: Author Fred Aceves

Photo Credit: Ms. Jackson
Earlier today non-secure detention students at our Belmont site participated in a special author visit program with first-time novelist Fred Aceves.  Detention advisors and ELA teachers prepared students for the visit by leading readers through the beginning of The Closest I’ve Come.  Mr. Aceves, who was visiting NYC from Mexico this month, answered students questions about the book and his experiences as a writer.  We are grateful to Mr. Aceves for taking the time to meet with his fans, and to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens for generously sponsoring this library program.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Friday, March 23, 2018

Programming Spotlight: Author Gayle Forman Conducts Writing Workshops

Mr. Villaronga, ELA Teacher, students, and Gayle Forman 3/22/18

Gayle listens carefully while a student reads her writing aloud to the group.  Photos: JFS

Gayle Forman, writer of novels for young adults and local author with the international reputation, has been visiting with Passages Academy--Belmont’s Rose group once a month this school year.  She concluded another inspiring visit yesterday morning by giving each of the young women present a copy of her newest creative work, Pour Your Heart Out

A guided journal full of the undeniably engaging prompts she gives like gifts in her workshops, and accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, the girls were pretty excited to receive them. Honestly, they were even more excited to write with Gayle, who also read aloud from her new novel. I cannot wait to read it when it comes out later this week. Pre-ordering now. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who rocked the world by Penelope Bagieu

Students who are hungry to read more comics and curious to learn more about amazing historical figures from around the world will be eager to get their hands on this collective biography and graphic novel translated from the French.  What’s most notable about this title, beyond its gorgeous colors and fast pacing, are the women included; Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Marian Anderson make way for Nzinga, Lars Mariposas, Josephine Baker, Temple Grandin and Betty Davis.  Also included are Mae Jemison, and Sonita Alizadeh.  Each 8-panel biography is followed by a full-bleed artistic two-page spread and Bagieu’s diverse French sensibilities shine through everywhere, including a more European embrace of female sexuality.  Back matter includes an author’s bio told in two panels and a list of thirty additional names of women who “rocked the world.”  Educators may consider pressing these two items into service to engage students in inquiry projects and as a model for drafting their own bio of their future self.  It is worth mentioning that as sensitive as the writer is at handling topics of abuse and poverty, they are included and undeniably relayed from the author’s point of view. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Bagieu, Penelope.  Brazen: Rebel ladies who rocked the world.  New York: First Second Publishing, 2018. Print.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Sophomore Marcos Rivas hasn’t had a girlfriend yet and he wonders when his turn will come.  Growing up in economic poverty in Tampa, FL, he suspects that the two realities may be intertwined.  Navigating the social scene, as well as his current status as underachiever and trouble-maker is tough enough in the environment of an average American high school, but coming home each day to his mom’s racist, abusive boyfriend presents an even greater challenge.   How will Marcos deal with this man his mother has welcomed into their home?  How will he get through the school days where he is mesmerized by Amy, a bold and tenacious classmate?  Exploring themes of toxic masculinity and emotionally immature parents, Aceves’ first novel will appeal to competent teen readers who are searching for a new independent read as well as insight into the challenges typically faced by adolescents everywhere.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Aceves, Fred.  The Closest I’ve Come.  New York: Harper Collins. 2017.  Print.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Image result for the stars beneath our feet

Moore, David Barclay. The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

Everyone has noticed that Wallace "Lolly" Rachpaul feels angry all of the time, ever since his older brother Junior was shot and killed a few months before. It doesn't help that Junior leaves Lolly to deal with an unresolved argument between the two brothers. But when his mother's girlfriend starts bringing bags and bags of Legos home from her job at a toy store, Lolly, along with a strange and quiet girl named Rose, escapes into the construction of his own alternate world. Just when Lolly starts to feel that stone of anger disappear from his chest, his values are tested and he is forced to choose between following Junior's path or seeking out another. this novel would be a good independent reading selection for middle-grade students that appreciate reads dealing with internal struggle. --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hidden Figures Younger Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

In this younger readers’ edition of her popular adult non-fiction title, researcher and writer Shetterly makes the fruits of her seven-years research available to anyone who has not yet developed the vocabulary and stamina to consume her original text. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race is rendered accessible in this version to anyone able to read and understand English text on a fourth-grade reading level. Wider margins, double-spaced text, and simplified language make the 198-page book a natural pick for students who are able to comprehend non-fiction narrative but not yet ready to tackle the original title intended for sophisticate readers. Many readers will already be familiar with the story of several African-American omen who bravely contributed their talents to NASA and eventually send the US into space for the first time while confronting horrendous racism and sexism at work. Back matter includes an index, a glossary, suggested further reading, and source notes as well as a timeline, lending itself well to instruction on previewing texts as well as providing a wealth of support for less-experienced readers. Highly recommended for book clubs, interdisciplinary reading initiatives, and independent readers reading at upper-elementary levels and beyond. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber
Shetterly, Margot Lee.  Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.  New York: Harper, 2016. Print.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Programming Spotlight: Pre-theater and Post-Theater Visits from the New Victory Theater

Stepping during a pre-theater visit on 11/6/17.

A gallery walk during a post-theater visit on 11/13/17.

On November 8th we teachers and our administrators took all of our students at Passages Academy--Belmont to the New Victory Theater to see Step Afrika’s The Migration: Reflections On Jacob Lawrence.  The performance blended step, jazz, and African choreography with jazz, African, and gospel music to bring panels from Jacob Lawrence’s essential Migration Series to life for a young audience.  When I asked students what they thought of the show one student, D., responded by telling me the next time I take her to a dance performance, it needs to be longer.  Presumably so that she may enjoy it all the more.

We weren’t able to take pictures inside the theater, but here are a couple of moments we captured of the New Victory’s excellent pre-theater and post-theater workshops provided by teaching artists Chad Beckim and Janet Onyenucheya.  Pre-theater workshops  included step dancing exercises which helped students identify what they would see and appreciate the depth of performers skill and preparation.  Post-theater workshops invited students to engage with Lawrence’s artwork and recreate poses from selected panels, and think about how it feels to experience the poses of the figures from the paintings.  Click here for more photos and more about the interdisciplinary collaboration--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Billie: A Memoir by Billie King

Growing up is always hard, but for Billie it was especially difficult. At the age of 10, she already has to protect her mother from her abusive father and learn the ugly truth about her always distant sister, Nia. One day Billie, her mom, and sister finally decide to leave it all behind and move to a new neighborhood, but that's when the real problems begin. Their new neighborhood is slowly changing from a decent place to live to a crack-infested ghetto and Billie's mom starts to spiral out of control. She's barely home and the days that she is home, she spends in her room sleeping, caring very little for Billie and Nia. This is Billie King’s story as she tries to find her way through life and grow up in the middle of a dysfunctional family, riddled with both physical and sexual abuse, drugs and poverty. Billie: A Memoir is a rough read; there are some detailed graphic scenes which make this book more suitable for mature high school readers. Students who enjoyed reading Random Family and Tweak should pick this one up. --Claudio Leon

King, Billie. Billie: A Memoir. Beverly Hills: PRK Publishing, 2014. Print.