Friday, January 29, 2016

Getting Ready for Seymour Simon's Visit

On Tuesday, March 1st, 2016, a literary celebrity is visiting Pioneer Middle School!  Seymour Simon, a former middle school science teacher and author of over 250 books for children, will be speaking to grades five through seven at Pioneer Middle.
I met Seymour Simon at a conference in 2014!
Mr. Simon's books are an easy sell for our middle school readers.  His books are about different topics (mainly concerning science).  The narrative nonfiction style of the books is highly engaging and feels almost conversational.  Instead of reading dry facts, Seymour Simon's books draw you right into the topic.  It is almost as if you are having a personal conversation with the author instead of reading a book.  Another amazing feature of these books is the beautiful, high quality photographs that accompany and enhance the text.  I'll be interested to hear how Mr. Simon acquires the photographs for his books.

In order to best prepare for the visit, we are spending time in the library introducing students to the many, MANY books written by Seymour Simon.  Different classes have stopped down to preview his materials, and many more classes are signed up for visits in February.

Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Mangino are right in the middle of studying nonfiction in fifth grade ELA.  Our yearly speedbooking activity gives students time to see the many nonfiction offerings we have at Pioneer Middle School.  During speedbooking, students have a short amount of time to visit with each book and decide if the book is one they are interested in reading.  At the end of the activity, students will have a listing of books in the library that they are hoping to read at some point.  We were sure to include books by Seymour Simon in our speedbooking activity.  These books flew off the shelves!
Fifth graders preview Seymour Simon books during speedbooking.
Ms. Farrell also brought her seventh grade science students in to hear about Seymour Simon.  I first showed Seymour Simon's website to the class.  They loved the science blog on the website and the ability to search the blog by the tags listed.  We then moved into a book browse activity.  I brought over all of the Seymour Simon books we had in the library.  Students leafed through the books and recorded some cool facts they were able to glean from the text and photographs.  The graphic organizer for this activity also contained a section for recording any questions students would like to ask Seymour Simon during his visit.
Students in Ms. Farrell's class loved previewing Seymour Simon's books.

A seventh grade student browsing through Seymour Simon's books.
At the end of Ms. Farrell's visit, I offered the students juice boxes and fruit snacks to munch on when we shared out some of the great facts we found in the books.  This is perhaps the only time in my career as a librarian where the students were more interested in the books than the snacks!  The students were content to continue to leaf through the books, so that is what we did.

Mrs. B. Smith's science classes took an in-depth look at the works of Seymour Simon.  During January, this class was immersed in an inquiry project about planets.  The students were divided into small groups and generated their own questions that they would like to answer about the planet they were researching.  After selecting their top questions and organizing them into topics, students used library resources (including Seymour Simon's print books and the materials located online via Starwalk Kids) to find answers to their research.  The groups then crafted detailed lesson plans and delivered their lessons to their classmates.  These students really knew their stuff!  Mrs. B. Smith's students are especially excited about the author visit, since they used his books extensively.
Mrs. B. Smith's students organizing their questions for the planet inquiry project.
Mrs. Proudman's students also heard about Seymour Simon during their weekly visit.  I had planned a detailed activity using the book Horses, but Mrs. Proudman's students were really enjoying browsing through Seymour Simon's books on their own!  We took a bit of time to visit with the books, then the students shared some facts that they thought were interesting.  Mrs. Proudman's students especially liked the books about animals.  Sharks was the favorite book from today's lesson.
A student in Mrs. Proudman's class previews Horses by Seymour Simon.
I think it is pretty clear that students (and teachers!) are anxiously awaiting Seymour Simon's visit to our school.  I'm looking forward to sharing his books with more groups of students prior to the March first visit.

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