Lower School Reads for 100 Minutes at Camp Read-A-Lot

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Students camped out at school with some good books as Allendale Columbia’s Lower School students completed their 100 minutes of reading at Camp Read-A-Lot on May 10th. (Read the preview, Wolfie Stirs Students to Read and Help for May 10 Read-A-Thon.) (more…)

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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade

Rereading the Same Books? 3rd-Graders Rock Reading Challenge

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

by Arielle Gillman and Shari Ellmaker, 3rd Grade Teachers

Do you ever find yourself or your child(ren) stuck re-reading the same few books, over and over again?

This past winter, AC third-graders were tasked with completing a challenge to expand their reading stamina and book choice. Similar to the book tasting they did early on in the year (see “Expand the Menu to Enrich Your Child’s Reading”), students were exposed to six different genres of text: poetry, nonfiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, graphic novel, and biography. From here, the third-graders had about six weeks to read at least one book from each genre and complete a short form highlighting key details and their personal reflections about each book they read. (more…)

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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Third Grade

MLK-inspired Dreams to Rhombicuboctahedrons: Celebrating Learning in Lower School

Posted on January 18th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

From Kindergarteners’ dreams inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech to rhombicuboctahedrons made by fifth-graders, students in AC’s Lower School demonstrated some of their recent work in a Celebration of Learning assembly.

After reciting the “I Have a Dream” Poem in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, each Kindergarten student read a dream they have for the future. These kind-hearted children included dreams for everyone to have a house and car, food, water, give to others, take care of children, keep the world clean, help other people, and for everyone to be loved.

First-graders recalled facts they learned about local animals, with masks they had made with Ms. Alexander. They also performed a rap song they wrote with Mrs. Grossman about recycling:

Save the Earth, Recycling Wins!
By the First-Grade Rock Band

We want to help you know,
where all the trash should go.
If you have a piece of toast,
Where to put it? The compost!

Plastic, paper, cardboard, cans
If you recycle, you protect our lands.
Put them all in the big blue bin!
Do this now, and you will win!

Dirty wrappers, broken toys,
Listen up, girls and boys!
Don’t put things in the wrong space,
it makes our earth a stinky place.

Recycling! Recycling!
Just as fun as playing!
Recycling! Recycling!
Saving our earth is thrilling!

Recycling! Recycling!
Just as fun as playing!
Recycling! Recycling!
Saving our earth is thrilling!

“Bee Kind” was the second-graders’ motto and recent project, with its bee mascot, Zinger, whose voice made everyone giggle. They presented different ways people could add kindness in their daily lives. They also performed a regal “Kings and Queens” folk dance.

What strategies can be used to multiply numbers? Third-graders performed a skit to demonstrate multiplication strategies they’ve learned, including skip counting by threes, the sevens distributive property, halving the fives, and using solvemojis to “crack the code” of symbols representing numbers in multiple operations, and having an “ice cream party” treasure hunt after solving their 1,000th math problem of the year.

AC fourth-graders presented part two of their Zero Hunger project, explaining how wasting food also wastes money, labor, fuel, water, and time, and giving tips on how to reduce food waste with waste monsters:

  1. Take smaller portions!
  2. Eat all your crusts!
  3. Plan ahead to buy food you will actually use!
  4. Use up leftovers. Make a soup or an omelette. Just use them up!
  5. Clean out your pantry. Use up food close to expiration or donate. Preserve, pickle, or can food!

They also wrote and recited a food waste reduction pledge:

As an Allendale Columbia school student, I pledge to do the following.

    • I pledge to be mindful about food during lunch.
    • I pledge to ask about portions when getting more food.
    • I pledge to waste as little food as possible by taking only what I will eat from the salad bar.
    • I pledge to try and drink all of my milk, juice, or water each day.
    • I pledge to be appreciative of the hard work our lunch staff does on a daily basis.
    • I pledge to be courteous when informing others about the importance of curbing food waste.
    • If I am out to eat and there are leftovers, I will bring it home in a box.

How many books have you read since September? Fifth-graders updated everyone on their 40 Book Challenge, where each student is challenged to read 40 books from a variety of genres. They’ve read a total of 239 books this school year, and since their last Celebration of Learning in November, they’ve read 102 books. They explained how to make polyhedrons (many-sided objects), starting with “nets,” which are flat shapes that can be folded into 3-D objects; rhombicuboctahedrons, objects made by folding paper into 6 triangles and 18 squares; and stellated (star-shaped) rhombicuboctahedrons with 18 folded pyramids. They also watched the documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” which inspired the students to write letters to the film’s creators.

There’s a whole lot of learning going on in Lower School!


John Palomaki

John Palomaki

John is a current parent at AC, an active volunteer, and occasional contributor of stories and photos. John spent a stimulating 10 years at Microsoft through the 90s as a systems engineer and managing executive relations programs. Since then, John has worked with non-profit organizations and has held leadership roles in independent schools in New Jersey and Connecticut in development, communications, and technology. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences (Biology) from Colgate University.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Kindergarten, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade

Building Connections with Grandparents and Special Friends

Posted on November 30th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Hearts filled fast at Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day. Allendale Columbia’s Lower School children welcomed their special guests for a glimpse of their school day, collaborative activities, a family-style lunch, and a special story from AC’s mascot, Wolfie.

Click on the collage to see the entire Google Photos album of Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day!

Click on the collage to see the entire Google Photos album of Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day!


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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade

Expand the Menu to Enrich Your Child’s Reading

Posted on September 21st, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

By Shari Ellmaker and Arielle Gillman

Young readers often get stuck in a particular book genre, especially if they’ve become fond of a series. To expand their palates, Allendale Columbia School’s third grade teachers held a “Book Tasting”, something you can also try at home.

To prepare, we spent some time learning all about a few different genres of texts: biography, fantasy, nonfiction, graphic novel, realistic fiction, and poetry. We also practiced “interviewing” a book to see whether it is a good match for the reader by reading level, interest, etc.

Next, our “Book Taste Testers” entered our classroom restaurant. Their servers, Ms. Gillman and Mrs. Ellmaker, took their requests for an appetizer, an entree, and dessert, and delivered them one at a time. Students sampled the texts and wrote a brief review of each course. By the end of the meal, everyone was full from great books!

Why is reading different genres important for young readers?

Young children love to hear stories read to them over and over again. Many parents encourage their young ones to listen to a different story, but to no avail. Your little one is “feeling like a reader” when they hear predictable text each night. You may notice them “reading” along with you and finishing sentences. They love books with patterns, sound words, and repetitive phrases.

As the children get older, they are more open to different genres. Parents should take this opportunity to explore a new genre. Why?

Students are learning that a genre is a form of text that follows a particular format and structure. Using the word “genre” provides a way for the students to organize and talk about their observations of texts. When a student can identify a genre, they can recognize what they are reading and quickly adjust their reading style. So for example, if they read an article about how to make something, they can read the text at a slower pace in order to follow specific directions. Students will learn information quickly and efficiently when using headings, for example, while reading informational texts.

So, the more children are exposed to different genres, the quicker they will be able to take information and synthesize it for understanding and application. Parents should model reading a variety of genres and spend time reading with and to their children.

How and why should a child “interview” a book?

A reader interviews a book by asking a lot of questions:

  • Does the title sound interesting?
  • Do I know anything about the author?
  • Does the blurb on the back of the book sound interesting?
  • Is the book a genre I like to read? (Hint: some books have words like “Mystery”, “Memoir”, or “Fiction” in the corner of the back cover.)
  • Did the book win any awards?
  • Is the book too hard? Try the beginning and read a page from the middle to decide. Use the “Five Finger Rule” to decide if the book is too hard. Read a random page, put a finger up for each unknown word you encounter. If you reach four or five fingers before the page is finished, it may be too hard. Three may be right and one or two would be too easy.

Setting up a Book Tasting at home is a fun way to get your child interested in different genres and extend your child’s reading range. Have your child help you set up a restaurant-like environment in your kitchen or dining room. Find your favorite apron, table setting, flowers, and notepad to “take the guest’s order.” Use books from your child’s collection and sort them by genre. Begin by serving the child choices from the menu of genres. You can then try swapping roles so the child is the server asking you for different genres you’d like to read. Take some time to interview the book and talk together about your review. By the end of the experience, both you and your young reader will have an appetite for books of all different genres!


Reading Rockets. The Importance of Reading Widely (2010). Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/importance-reading-widely.

Kissner, Emily. Using Genre to Help Students Learn from What They Read. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/511-kissner.aspx.

Inquiry By Design, Inc. Setting Up the Literacy Studio (2013).


Sharon Ellmaker

Sharon Ellmaker

Shari has been an educator for more than 30 years. During the academic school year, she teaches Lower School art and in the summer, she is a valued member of our AC Summer LEAP faculty. Shari brings with her experience teaching second, third, and fourth grade, in both the public school system and independent schools. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Bluffton University.
Arielle Gillman

Arielle Gillman

As the Lower School Learning Support Specialist, Arielle relishes the chance to work with each of AC's Nursery through Fifth grade students. Arielle's responsibilities include: providing coverage for teachers and collaboration during lessons, facilitating supplemental small group instruction, administering assessments, reflecting with colleagues about best practices, and assisting in the library. Besides teaching at AC as a Third Grade teacher for two years, Arielle brings experience from Mary Cariola Center, which serves students with disabilities, and several long-term substitute teaching roles in the Webster, Penfield, and Newark school districts. Arielle received her B.S.Ed in Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia, and her M.S.Ed in Literacy Education from SUNY Geneseo.
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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Third Grade

The Top 10 Books for Youth from 2013

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by jvanalstyne

‘Tis the season for book lists, and for me, they are truly the gifts that keep on giving. I love book lists for both affirmation (That book is awesome; so glad it’s getting some love!) and exploration (Woah! I’ve never even heard of that book; I better check it out!) and I take a lot of pleasure in creating my own list for the AC community. Although many AC children are under the impression that I’ve read all the books in the library, I must confess that I haven’t even read all the books from 2013. However, I have read a lot of book reviews and best-of-the-year lists and as many books as I possibly can, which culminates with my interpretation of The Best Books of 2013. Enjoy!

-Ms. Van Alstyne, Librarian

The complete list can be accessed at the library website. But for starters, here are the cream of the crop.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
by Peter Brown

Celebrating both individual expression and companionship, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is a joy to read aloud and expertly illustrated. Ages 3 – 8.


Little Santa
by Jon Agee

Every year, the slew of new holiday books rarely fails to disappoint… until 2013 with Little Santa! Silly and charming, this tale of Santa’s childhood feels like it has always been true. Ages 4 – 9.

Journey by Aaron Becker

Breathtaking watercolors depict the travels of a girl with a magical red crayon, where adventure awaits anyone with a little creativity. Ages 4 – 10.

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Why did they quit? They are sick and tired of always being used in predictable ways: blue for sky, green for grass, gray for elephants. A little creativity goes a long way to soothe these irascible crayons. Ages 5 -9.

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest – And Most Surprising – Animals on Earth
by Steve Jenkins

Not surprising: Jenkins’ outstanding paper collage depictions of animals. Surprisingly awesome: the thematic arrangement; graphs, timelines, and other infographics; a whole section on making books the Jenkins way. A tour de force! Ages 5 – 11

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
by Lucy Knisley

Have you ever wondered why graphic novels (or graphic memoirs, in this case) are taken so seriously these days? When done well, they are a beautiful marriage of art and story, such as in Relish: a warm, funny coming-of-age tale of an artist raised in a foodie family. Ages 12+

Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Perhaps you’ve read books about orphans, or children on the spectrum, or misfits trying to find a place in the world to fit in. But none of those books had Willow Chance in it. Counting by 7s has Willow Chance in it! She is utterly charming, disarmingly precocious, and apparently a magnet for other lovable misfits. Delightful! Ages 10 – 14

Far Far Away
by Tom McNeal

The timeless feel of the small-town setting, elegant writing, very real danger, and the ghost of Jacob Grimm all combine to create an engaging and disturbing contemporary fairy tale. Transporting. Ages 11+

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Are you still not sure about graphic novels? If anyone can convince you of their merit, award-winning Gene Luen Yang must be the one. Boxers and Saints are two books telling opposing views of the Boxer Rebellion in China. Brilliantly conceived and expertly realized, this is how history should treat every war: with multiple perspectives, through the lenses of individuals’ perceptions, and showing beauty, honor, and the inevitable costs. Ages 12+

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I don’t think it’s possible not to love this book, even if you think you can’t appreciate Young Adult literature. Eleanor and Park are both immensely relatable, quirky and sweet. From their first prickly exchange on the school bus through their tentative romance, you will be cheering them on with a fervent compassion that may surprise you. Not to be missed. Ages 12+

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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School

“I accidentally finished my book…” | BookGerms

Posted on February 16th, 2013 by Tony Tepedino

Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 9.14.55 AMCheck out the new blog post by Allendale Columbia School librarian, Judy VanAlstyne and Upper School English teacher Dr. Vince Bissonette. Thanks Judy and Vince!

“I accidentally finished my book…” | BookGerms.

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Posted in: Upper School