Sunday, June 4, 2023

Spotlight on Walnut Grove Book Club

In an age where sports, outside activities and video games seem to win the day, students at Walnut Grove Elementary School are taking an active interest in reading. Throughout the school year, Carroll ISD faculty and students have embraced the district’s “Once Upon a Dragon” theme focusing on literacy and a life long love of learning.

Just before winter break, Donna Clarrissimeaux organized a book club for her fourth grade students.

“This is a great opportunity for students to experience new kinds of genres and discuss their thoughts with their fellow peers,” Clarrissimeaux said.

Each Thursday, students get together with their respective group to talk about what they’ve read. The ‘Question King’ or ‘Queen’ asks questions to begin the discussion. The students read approximately 50 pages per week. They also are required to journal during the week. The entries should discuss their thoughts about the book, but they are also encouraged to ask questions, study the characters, and predict what’s going to happen in the book.

“Journaling has helped me understand what’s going on in the book,” Kiera DiCesare said. “It makes me think more about what’s taking place with the characters.”

While the critical thinking is a bonus, for many of the students, the club is simply about their love of reading and having fun.

“I’m a big fan of reading, it’s one of my favorite things to do,” Regi Capati said. “I like studying the characters and figuring them out.”

Capati said he also enjoys discussing the books because he gets to find out about why the other students liked or didn’t like the book.

Imaad Virani and Emma Schoof said they also like the back and forth discussions, but have their own favorite parts of the club.

“I like trying to figure out what certain passages mean and if I could put more deep thought into it,” Schoof said.

“I really like the questions,” Virani said. “I like to make up my questions first and then I wait until I get with the group to discuss them.”

The students may not all infer the same ideas from what they’ve read, but one thing the students all agree on is that Mrs. Clarrissimeaux makes reading exciting.

 “Mrs. Clarrissimeaux makes reading so much fun” Matthew Murday said. “She even did a headstand one day to get us thinking!”

For more stories about CISD’s “Once Upon a Dragon” theme, visit the Library Services webpage, or click here.

CISD Classmates Support Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness Month and Mrs. Coopers second grade class at Walnut Grove Elementary School celebrated friends and classmates in a special way. On Tuesday, April 2 students dressed in blue in support of their friend and fellow classmate Carson Stone. Blue is the signature color of Autism Speaks “Light It Up Blue” campaign. April 2, 2013 is the sixth annual United Nations World Autism Day. 

WGES students wore blue headbands and blue beaded necklaces along with stickers that read, “I’m so proud to be… Carson’s friend and classmate”. The stickers also featured the widely recognized Autism ribbon in the middle.  

Classmates cheered for Carson when he came in the room for morning announcements. Carson’s mother, Andi Stone said students and staff are supportive and loving with Carson and do whatever they can to include him in everything they do.

For more information about the Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue campaign, click here. Carroll ISD also has a newly formed PTO for Special Programs. Click here to visit the PTO website.

Mother Nature Inspires Creative Writing

Even though the weather in Texas is unpredictable, students in Donna Clarrissimeaux’s class at Walnut Grove Elementary can count on an outdoor lesson. The veteran teacher knows Mother Nature delivers when it comes to inspiration. Clarrissimeaux has been a teacher for 40 years and spent the last 20 years focusing on reading and writing in her elementary students.

“It’s good to take kids out and have them see, feel and hear,” Clarissimeaux said.

For the past few years, Clarrissimeaux has made a regular lesson out of irregular weather events. Several years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she took her students to a safe place outside to experience the remnants of the storm as they passed over Southlake.

“I had one student write how she could hear the cries for help in the wind…” Clarrissimeaux added. “Weather provides a great opportunity because its always changing.”

On the morning of Thursday, February 21 a storm moved through the North Texas area. Students in Clarrissimeaux’s fourth grade class were quick to notice and asked to go outside. The class quickly grabbed their notebooks and pencils and found a sheltered area to sit and write. She said each student spent 8-10 minutes writing about what they heard and saw.

“All you could hear was the sound of the rain and wind. The sensory description students experience is great for personal narrative,” Clarrissimeaux said.

Here are some samples of what two students wrote:

Fourth graders in Donna Clarrissimeaux's class get sensory description lesson

        Imaad Virani, student: “The clouds turn darker and darker as the pitter-patter of rain hitting cement reaches my ears.  The gutter is shooting out water like it’s a water slide for ants.  The hammer-like rain looks like it’s dimming all the lights around the playground. Right in front of me is a small river made by the rain.  It deposits itself into a gutter, and the rain has still created more.  I’m sure the plants are getting the perfect amount of water because they aren’t bending over, nor are they missing out on water.  Now the clouds are starting to part and behind them peeks the light we all love.  The clouds are moving faster and farther apart, and that tells me just maybe we will have our regular 2:00 recess today!”

     Emily Backoo, student: “The rain is coming down hard now.  It’s coming in sheets of pure white. Roaring sounds fill my ears and a faint chill crawls up my spine. Gushing water is streaming out of the gutters and the sun is just coming out from behind the grove of trees that are far, far, far away. The plants next to the science lab are swaying back and forth with smiles on their faces, or so it seems.  They play structure has dribbles of freezing cold water dripping off of it.  The ground of soil is soaking wet, and it looks like candy, with sugar on top.”

Clarrissimeaux says the outdoor lessons are just one way to get students to organize their thoughts and become strong writers. She says its important- no matter what career a student may choose- that they are able to accurately communicate and stay focused on the point. The outdoor writing exercises will also help students prepare for the STAAR writing test later this spring.

“It is amazing what kids can do when you open up that door to creativity,” Clarrissimeaux said, “allowing them to use their imagination.”