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Picture Books, Virtual Book Clubs and Morning Meetings

March 31, 2020 | Melissa McCallihan

On our first day of distance learning, Brave cohort students expressed that they just wanted to see everyone. So a student hit the video chat button on the Google Hangouts tab and suddenly we saw all of our friends and community. Smiles lit up everyone’s faces. Thirty minutes later they still didn’t want to hang up. They weren’t talking to each other, they were just working with each other in the room. It felt like their classroom. That first video chat birthed our morning meeting which is now on Zoom. Even still the students hate to hang up and say goodbye.

One of the assignments they started in the classroom but completed at home is their historical fiction picture book. The assignment was to compose a story about an event that happened from the Civil War to the 1930’s, and to create illustrations to go along with the story. Gabriel wrote about the Great Depression, Victoria about Harriet Tubman, Antonio about the Underground Railroad, and Caden composed a story about the Battle of Gettysburg. The plan was to have a class read aloud. So instead the students recorded themselves doing the reading.

Distance learning has grown incredible independence and motivation among the students. This independence coupled with the desire to connect brings about students who initiate partner work and group work on school assignments including those posted by the specialists. Recently a student put on the Brave cohort chat that she couldn’t remember how to do a certain note on the recorder. Several students jumped online to help her. And one was struggling with a Spanish assignment, he connected with a student from another cohort to see successful completion of the assignment. Still another student was so excited about his Mildred D. Taylor book that he began a  virtual book chat that soon included students from other cohorts.

Brave cohort has discovered that even a pandemic can’t destroy our community!

Melissa McCallihan

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 29 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her fourth and fifth grade classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.”

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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