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Grade 1 Students Build Community Through Books
adawson

As part of their interdisciplinary unit on building community, each year, Grade 1 students are invited to share their favorite picture book from home and explain to their classmates what they like most about it. To extend the lesson further, they write letters inviting Lower School faculty and staff members to share their favorite book, too. "Our classrooms become electric when a member of our community enters the classroom and reads their book with the children," says Grade 1 Teacher Donna Deutsch.

As she explains, often the students will interview the guest reader as to what their job is at Pingry. Questions include: What inspired you to become a teacher? When did you begin to paint? Why did you choose to come to Pingry to teach and how many years have you been at Pingry? What do you like best about your job?

"The children in Grade 1 understand that community can be built around many interests and one of them can be the sharing of a good book," she says. "Perhaps it will be a book they want to read in the future."

This year, to extend the fun even longer—and because virtual experiences of all kinds are the norm during COVID-19—Ms. Deutsch, Grade 1 Teacher Heather Steinman '93, Lower School Associate Teacher Ms. Darlyn Smith, and their students decided to create an interactive bulletin board, of sorts. They invited faculty and staff to read their favorite picture book aloud, either by visiting their classroom and reading it in-person (their reading is recorded), or recording it themselves. Throughout the school year, students can click on different members of the school community on the "bulletin board" (a Google doc, above) and listen to them share their favorite book aloud.

The idea was an outgrowth of work the Grade 1 teachers engaged in last summer with Global Online Academy. So far, nearly 20 Lower School faculty and staff have been recorded and added to the board! Even Head of School Matt Levinson joined in the fun, reading them Violet's Music, by Angela Johnson.

Visit "Our School Community's Favorite Picture Books" to learn what tales Short Hills faculty and staff most enjoy!


Photos: The clickable "bulletin board," created as a Google doc; Drama Teacher Keara Gordon reading The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, adawson@pingry.org