Friday, February 26, 2016

What We're Reading

Here are the read-alouds we've tackled this semester, or are about to begin.

  • Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman. The author, a professor of physics and writing at MIT, imagines that, when Einstein realized he was reconceiving time, he had a series of dreams in which time took on all manner of bizarre characteristics.
  • Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley. Vastly underrated novel in the Romantic tradition. Some consider it the first science fiction novel.
  • Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut. Stories of love, loss, and merry strangeness.

Here are the books I've assigned to the kids in small groups.

  • Faster, James Gleick. The book's subtitle is The Acceleration of Just About Everything. 
  • Esperanza Rising, Pamela Muñoz Ryan. A young girl emigrates with her family from Mexico to California during the Great Depression.
  • Shebeen Tales, Chenjerai HoveLife in the First, Third, and Fourth Worlds of Zimbabwe.
  • Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck. The Arthurian legends retold in a small port in postwar California.
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez. A Dominican immigrant family becomes American.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Race and coming of age in the Deep South.
  • The White, Deborah Larsen. A young European immigrant lives amongst Native Americans in colonial times.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Calvinball is the most quintessentially Summers-Knoll physical education activity in the world.

(Here are the 'rules'.)

We have a PE bin in the coatroom upstairs, loaded with conventional equipment like basketballs, frisbees, air pumps, and soccer balls, as well as an unconventional collection of broomsticks, snowshoes, stomp rockets and the like.

When we play Calvinball, each student takes a few items from the bin. Then I put them in groups on the playground or in the park and tell them to invent a game. Then I stop those games and tell them to change all the rules. After that iteration has gone on for awhile, we rejigger the groups and they make a new game. Then they combine into larger groups and invent something new.

Here is the game that Ada, Lindsay, Matthew and Marcellin invented. It's called 'Calvinball'.