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School & Teaching

    The First Day of School

    School started on Thursday, so we only had a 2-day first week! We were so excited for the kids to arrive. It was wonderful to see our returning students and to meet our new students.


    Benedicts on the first day of school


    Kids waiting outside


    Once the bell rang, the entire school met together outside for a welcome assembly. In the past, the director has given away 5TL to a student who can recite the OASIS acronym: Outstanding Character, Academic Excellence, Servant Leadership, Intellectual Curiosity, Sportsmanship. This is our school’s tenth year in existence, so he changed it up and offered 10TL! A fifth grader volunteered but couldn’t remember the acronym, so the director told him he could tell the top 10 things he loved about Oasis. The student came up with funny quips like recess, the time the school let out, and how he got in trouble for silly things. BUT! When he got to number 10, guess what he said? The library! I cheered loudly.


    The director giving a speech


    Another first day tradition Oasis has is for all of the students to take a moment of silence and walk around the school. It’s a time for students to be thankful in their hearts for everyone who made the school and their being at the school possible. The processional was lead by two seniors who held our school flag and the Turkish flag:


    Seniors leading the walk with flags


    Students walking around the school


    It was a great kick off to the new school year!


    Flowers outside the school


    Running Club’s 10K to Panora

    During the last two months, I trained with the running club. The running club met once a week since last fall. It is a group of sixth grade students led by two friends of mine. After running in the ActiveWater 5k, the running club set a goal to run 10 kilometers from our neighborhood to Panora Mall.

    The two boys that ran with me are both in my sixth grade class. I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them outside of the formal classroom setting. As we ran, we worked together to find a reasonable, but challenging pace.


    Running Club's 10k race


    Panora Mall


    Because we live in Ankara, the first 6 or 7 kilometers were pretty much uphill, with over 600 feet in altitude gain. We were fortunate to have a good downhill finish.


    Nike Run Info


    Running towards Panora


    When we reached the finish, there were friends waiting for us with water and congratulations.


    Approaching the finish line


    I am proud of all of my running partners. They demonstrated hard work and perseverance throughout the race. I’ve had a lot of fun and am thankful for the conversations we’ve had on the trail.


    The Running Club


    The Yearbook

    I was the new yearbook teacher this semester. Yearbook was an elective for secondary students. I had 14 kids in the class: 2 freshmen, 1 sophomore, 3 juniors, and 8 seniors. Luckily half of them were in my Computer Graphic Design class in the fall, so many were familiar with design principles and the computer programs. We used Scribus to layout the spreads and Gimp to edit photographs. Some students used Inkscape to create vector artwork.

    I was a bit intimidated to teach the class since I was never on yearbook staff in high school or in college. I was, however, on my college’s newspaper staff, so I had experience with publication design. I am very thankful to one of my college professors who gave me some fantastic resources.

    The first week, I had all of the students sign up for a Gmail account if they didn’t have one already. For almost every step of the process, I had students refer to documents on Google Drive. We had a spread assignment sheet, student and faculty lists, style guide information, and more. Every student was assigned a grade level mugshot and feature page. After that, they were assigned various spreads. We referred to these as spread #3, #4, and #5. If a student couldn’t remember what their next assignment was, I told them to look it up online.

    Click here to download my spread assignment sheet.


    Yearbook spread assignment sheet


    We spent the first 4 weeks of the semester learning about publication design, copy writing, yearbook spreads, photography, and photo editing. After that, we had less than 15 weeks to write and edit articles, create mock ups, edit photos, make revisions, and finalize the pages.


    Yearbook editing marks


    While I had students print out some of their spreads, a lot of my grading was done on the school server. Our tech director set up preferences so I had access to all folders and files. This made it easier for me to check alignment, resolution, file links, etc.


    Yearbook comps


    I was so excited the yearbooks arrived today!


    Yearbook delivery


    The class voted and decided on the theme “A Lion’s Tale.” Our mascot is the lion.


    Yearbook Cover


    The students did excellent work! One of the seniors created the table of contents with absolutely no art direction from me:


    Yearbook table of contents


    Every grade had a “mugshot” spread and an additional feature spread that included an article about the class:


    Yearbook mugshot page


    We had 14 seniors this year. Another senior came up with the idea and design for these pages:


    Yearbook senior spreads


    We highlighted all of the school’s extra curricular activities. Most of these ended up being 1 page spreads:


    Yearbook 1 page spreads


    School events were 2-page spreads:


    Yearbook 2 page spread


    The yearbook class was so creative! They thought up and executed a staff face-swap page. Can you find David’s and my face or body?


    A fun page where students mixed the faces of the staff


    I put together the index page with the help of several students:


    Yearbook index page


    A junior designed the front and back cover. Most students created cover options and we voted on our favorite:


    Back cover of the yearbook


    Today was the first of the half days for finals. We’ll distribute the yearbooks on Monday. I can’t wait!



    Field Trip to Feza Gürsey Science Center

    Recently, the fifth and sixth grade classes went to the Feza Gürsey Science Center at Altınpark. When we first arrived, we were treated to a presentation on static electricity. This was a lot of fun and several of the students touched a static electricity generator that made their hair go frizzy. I especially enjoyed the presentation because it centered around material we had just covered in class. The students were very entertained by the presentation and loved seeing their friends’ hair rise up.


    Hair raising


    During the presentation, two students went up to show how humans are good conductors of electricity (due to 70% of the human body being made up of water). These two were embarrassed when the man presenting required them to hold hands and typical adolescent giggles followed among their friends.


    Hair raising


    After the presentation, students walked around and participated in a variety of hands on exhibits. There was a phosphoric wall, many reaction time experiments, momentum explorations, and energy exhibits. It was not hard to keep the students entertained and they were disappointed when our time was up.


    Altinpark Science Center


    Although the students were disappointed to leave the exhibits, they soon were enjoying time in the park with friends. We finished the trip off with ice cream for everyone. Some students brought extra money and treated themselves or friends to extra treats.


    Ice cream


    Picnic lunch


    Soon it was time to head back to the school. I am so glad that we were able to take this field trip. As I said before, much of the material we covered this year in class was demonstrated at the science center. My students benefited from the hands-on learning experience and time spent with their friends. I benefited from the time spent outside the classroom with my students.


    The sixth grade



    Elementary Read Aloud Books

    I was a bookworm when I was younger. I’d get in trouble because I’d read by my night light when I was supposed to be sleeping. On a third grade questionnaire, I remember I wrote down librarian as my dream job. Little did I know!

    This has been my first year as a teacher and librarian in Turkey. The previous librarian left behind many wonderful resources, which have been crucial to my ability to function.

    One of the great joys of my position is sharing stories with students. I see the preschool through sixth grade classes once a week for 40 minutes. I’ve mostly relied on the read aloud lists that were left for me. Here’s what we’ve been reading this year (excluding the picture books for the preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders):


    Second grade read aloud list
    I started by reading picture books to the second graders. After the first several weeks, we moved onto chapter books.

    • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – This is a Newbery Honor Book. The kids enjoyed the story and thought the animals were funny.
    • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary – While the second graders seemed to like this book for the most part, some of the boys got bored with it. There may have been a bit of a disconnect since Ramona is a kindergartner. Some of the chapters were a little long and I’d split them into two for the sake of attention span.
    • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – Both the boys and the girls really liked this book! I may need to hunt down the movie for next year.


    Third grade read aloud list

    • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald – I remember my teacher reading this book when I was in elementary school. The third graders loved it! After we finished reading, I had them create their own Piggle-Wiggle cures. Several of the students really picked up on the format of the chapters where the mom calls another mom who tells her to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. (Download my free Piggle-Wiggle Cure worksheet!)
    • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This was another hit. There were always lots of laughs from both the story and the pictures.
    • Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol – My third grade teacher Mr. Connor loved to read us Encyclopedia Brown books. After I read a chapter, the students tried to figure out how Encyclopedia solved the case. They got it right several times!


    Fourth grade read aloud list

    • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – Almost half of the fourth grade class this year was ESL (English As A Second Langauge). They learned leaps and bounds since the first day of school, but this book was tough for them to understand. I wish I could have shown them the movie at the end, but I didn’t have a copy. It’s a classic and good for students to know, but I may reevaluate it as a read aloud book for next year.
    • No Talking by Andrew Clements – This year’s fourth grade class definitely had a boys versus girls spirit, so they loved this book. We did several exercises that mimicked what the students were doing in the book, like telling a story using 3 word sentences and only writing notes back and forth.


    Fifth grade read aloud list

    • The Boys Start the War and The Girls Get Even by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – The copy in our library is a 2-in-1 book, and we read both. The fifth graders enjoyed the story and competition.
    • The BFG by Roald Dahl – The students laughed at the funny words the BFG said.


    Sixth grade read aloud list

    • Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson – The sixth graders loved this book! It kept the attention of both the boys and girls. Some of them even tried out the writing style in their papers. The book has humorous characters and a wild plot. This is the first book in a series of four. We have the second book in our library, but the third and fourth books must have had limited printings. A hardback copy of the fourth book is listed on Amazon for over $140!
    •  The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – This fantasy novel was written in 1872, and the writing style reflects the era. There are several ESL kids in sixth grade, but even for the native English speakers, the text was over their heads at times. Sometimes after reading a passage, I’d stop to make sure they understood what was happening in the story. It’s quite long, and I don’t think we’ll be able to finish this book before the school year is over.


    Are there any books you’d recommend for next year?



    International Day

    Last week our upper elementary students had International Day. Students dressed up to represent their home country. It was so fun to see everyone in their costumes!


    Cowgirl and the Statue of Liberty

    American cowgirl and the Statue of Liberty


    America and Malaysia

    America and Malaysia


    India and Gambia

    India and Gambia








    Korean traditional dress



    Equator, Korea, Japanese traditional clothing

    Ecuador, Korea, and Japan


    Here’s David and his sixth grade class:


    David and his sixth grade class on international day


    And the entire upper elementary:


    Upper elementary on international day


    After lunch, the students went outside for games:


    Playing games outside on international day


    While the kids played, some mothers set up the International Cafe. The spread was as amazingly diverse as our students! The food was all so yummy! Rice, fish chips, chicken, potato cakes, potato soup, humus, no bake cookies, homemade caramel, pies…


    International food for international day


    Russian waffles


    I don’t think I’d eaten any Korean food before we came to Turkey. Here’s kimbop:


    Korean kimbop


    And – be still my heart – delicious, authentic Italian tiramisù!




    What a privilege it is to a part of such a diverse community! It is a diversity that is celebrated every day.

    The lower elementary students have their International Day next. I can’t wait to see what they wear and bring!