Tag Archives: Shelley Sommer

Why Summer Homework? Parent education talk at Inly presents a compelling case

Summer is right around the corner. Our family can feel it. After a busy year packed with school, homework, music lessons, sports, and never ending trips to the hockey rink, we are ready for a break. I can already hear the collective sigh we will make on the last day of school when we can finally drop into the hammock together, eat popsicles endlessly, and do nothing else.

Or will we this summer? After attending Tuesday’s Parent Insight Event, “Why Summer Work?” I think our family might be doing things differently this year.

Some interesting facts on reading and academic skills

Did you know that on average, all students regardless of socio-economic status, lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation over the summer months?

… that students who read at least six books during the summer maintain or improve their reading skills, while kids who don’t read can see their skills slip by as much as an entire grade level?

… or that students who consistently make time during each of the summer weeks to focus on learning show greater gains come fall than those who save everything to the last week of summer or do nothing at all?

These facts, presented by Julie Kelly-Detwiler and Shelley Sommer, were news to me. Fortunately, Inly has a plan to prevent students’ academic skills from sliding backwards during the summer months.

Reading, writing, math and… PLAY!

As part of Tuesday’s informal conversation, we learned about the importance of summer work and Inly’s plan for reading and projects for each of the different grade levels.  While summer time should be about play, it can also be a time of continuous learning.  As Julie explained, children need to exercise their reading, writing, and math muscles over summer break. At the upcoming parent/teacher conferences, teachers will present parents with Inly’s suggestions for age-appropriate summer work. Additional information about reading, writing, and math activities will also be posted on the Inly School website.

As Julie pointed out, we are our children’s first and best teachers, and teachable moments are happening all the time. Our children will do what they see us modeling for them. So read together, journal together, tell stories together, and laugh together. Find math opportunities on your car rides, trips to the grocery store and in the rest of your daily routine. Summer always goes by too quickly so savor each and every day with your children. And, of course, remember to eat lots of popsicles.

— Erin Hull

Thanks to Inly parent Erin Hull for writing this blog post. Erin has a child in the Children’s House preschool and kindergarten program at Inly School.

This Parent Insight Event was presented by Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School and Curriculum Director, and Shelley Sommer, Library Director and Middle School Literature Teacher.

Here are links to articles recommended by Shelley Sommer, Inly library director and literature teacher, during Tuesday’s event:

"Sommer Reading" Goes on All Year Long

Did you know that our head Inly Librarian writes a delightful blog about books? If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, we’d highly recommend Sommer Reading—for recommending is exactly what Shelley Sommer does best. She reads and reviews books for all ages, with a focus on children’s literature, and shares many a charming anecdote about conversations in the library along the way.

Looking for way to talk about September 11 with your young child? Shelley offers you a great title to initiate the conversation. Wondering about graphic novels, the biggest growing genre in children’s lit? Shelley directs you to best. Seeking a book for the pre-reader, the non-reader, the voracious reader, the adoescent, or yourself? Shelley is our trusted source.

From the “About Me” section of Sommer Reading:

As the director of a school library and a middle school literature teacher at Inly School in Scituate, Massachusetts, I have the opportunity to read lots of books. Depending on the day of the week, I have many books that I consider my favorites.
I received my masters at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College in 2005.
I am also the author of two biographies for young readers: John F. Kennedy: His Life and Legacy and Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer.

Inly Celebrates the Release of Shelley Sommer's New Book, Hammerin' Hank Greenberg

The Inly community was delighted to celebrate the early release of Shelley Sommer’s book “Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg” on Sunday, March 6.

Parents, students, faculty and members of the community came to the Meehan Family Artsbarn to learn about the project and also receive a signed copy of the book. Shelley proudly serves Inly as the head librarian and as a literature teacher in the middle school.

To see some highlights from the day click on the slideshow.

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Here are some reviews and links around the web to Shelley’s newly released book.

Inly to Host Book Launch Party for Shelley Sommer Celebrating the Publication of Hammerin' Hank Greenberg

You are invited to a Book Launch Party for Shelley Sommer, celebrating the publication of her newest title, Hammerin’
Hank Greenberg
on Sunday, March 6, 2011, from 3:00–5:00 pm at Inly School.

  • Shelley will read, and then sign books.
  • Books will be available for sale from Buttonwood Books & Toys.
  • Join in the fun: hot dogs, popcorn, baseball tickets, fun surprises.
  • This event is free and open to the public. Parents, children, and baseball fans are welcome.
  • RSVP by March 4 to Inly School at 781-545-5544 x456.
  • Click for directions to Inly School.

A Review of Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg:

“Greenberg grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in New York and went on to be a Hall-of-Fame first baseman and left fielder, playing most of his career with the Detroit Tigers. Along the way, he endured many anti-Semitic taunts from both fans and fellow players. When Jackie Robinson entered the league, he found a strong supporter in Greenberg.

Sommer presents a fast-moving, straightforward biography that takes Greenberg from his early days as an outstanding high-school athlete to his struggles to make it out of the minors and into the major leagues, to his service in World War II and his post-playing years as a baseball executive.

An excellent choice for kids who enjoy delving into baseball history.”

— from Booklist

Publication Information:

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg
Baseball Pioneer
by Shelley Sommer

Calkins Creek
136 pages
Black-and-white archival photographs
7.5 x 9.5 inches
Ages 10 and up
Hardcover with jacket

About the Author:
Shelley Sommer works at Inly School in Scituate, MA, where she is the director of the library and an upper school literature teacher. Before joining Inly in 2000, Shelley worked for 15 years as the director of public relations for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston. She holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in children’s literature from Simmons College. Shelley’s first biography for young readers, John F. Kennedy: His Life and Legacy, was published in 2005 by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Every day Shelley inspires the Inly students and staff to read, by sharing her infectious love of books. You can find out how by reading her blog, Sommer Reading, at www.sommerreading.com.

The "Aha" Series: In Middle School, Not Speaking in Class is Not the Same as Not Paying Attention

This week, we asked our Middle School literature teacher, Shelley Sommer, to share a favorite story that illustrates a moment of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.


Shelley’s Quiet One Story

During one of my Middle School literature discussion groups, we were reading a novel about the life of a family of migrant workers in California. This particular book was the first part of the author’s memoirs, and it was my hope that we would have time to read the sequel.

One of the boys in the class was pretty quiet. He did not actively participate in the discussions, but when I directed a question to him, he seemed to have a good sense of the novel. Near the end of the book, I told the class that, unfortunately, we would not have time to read the second book. However, I told the group—which included about 10 students—that I had copies of “part two” for anyone who would like to read it on their own. After class, only one student asked for the book—and it was the quietest member of the group. As I gave it to him, it reminded me not to assume a student’s opinion of a novel based on their in-class comments. It also heartened me to know that the story of this young migrant worker had touched this student.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 15, 2009.]

In addition to being head librarian and literature teacher at Inly School, Shelley is the author of Sommer Reading, A Blog About Books.

The "Aha" Series: Exploring Options in UE2

This week, we asked two more of our Upper Elementary teachers, Mark Harvey and Shelley Sommer, to share some of their favorite stories that illustrate those moments of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks for a student and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.


Mark’s Kite Story

Teaching in a Montessori setting provides for many direct experiences of Aha moments. These can occur whether students are utilizing age-appropriate materials to master concepts, engaging in discussions (formally or not), figuring out how to read graphs, discovering a connection between events, or solving a complex or simple question. Reaching that Aha moment can be as rewarding for the teacher as it is for the child. Even those who are less vocal about their discovery usually show brightened faces and eyes during their moment of clarity.

The sixth-years recently designed and built kites using very light dowels and thin plastic. They did this as a culminating project to further implement ratio and proportion work. Part of the on-going project involved tracking and analyzing (other) pertinent data to then determine what adjustments needed to be made to their design in order to make it more effective. Placement of the crossing dowels was their decision. One child who placed the rod’s centers over each other created a shape that easily tipped and flipped as he tried to fly it. After many attempts he said, “I know…I’ll add a tail to give weight to one corner.” He excitedly looked for the nearest usable material and found some yarn. Upon creating a cord, he taped it to the bottom of the kite and asked, “Can I go test it now?” So, out we went again, to make further discoveries about wind currents and proper tension needed to assist in lift.

In the social realm, I have also observed aha moments pertaining to the group in general. One example of this is evident through the children realizing the effectiveness of the class meeting structure, and then implementing it on their own. Shortly into the year the students ran and participated in the meetings with little to no redirection from us, the teachers; therefore, meeting a landmark moment. Using this structure, the children recently came upon another aha moment. The students were listing sandwich options to prepare for an upcoming Upper Elementary-provided staff lunch menu, with the proceeds going to our Heifer fund raising. Eventually they realized there were many meat options but only one vegetarian option. Someone said, “Hey, one option isn’t enough.” The light bulb went off for the group at that point and in turn they provided more to decide upon.

These moments are a large part of what I enjoy as a teacher, whether directly or indirectly. Each child has many of these moments as they progress through their education and life. My role is to cultivate these moments and take note when they arise.

Shelley’s Symbolism Story

Reading good books with 5th and 6th grade students is wonderful. The kids are imaginative and enthusiastic—and they are just beginning to understand the power of literature. One of the concepts we introduce over the course of the year is symbolism.

In order to show the students how authors use symbols to convey meaning, we begin with picture books. I might show a picture of a character who feels sad and point out that it is no coincidence that the accompanying picture shows rain and closed doors. And, then, we look at the end of the book where, of course, the sun is out, birds are singing, and the windows are wide open.

From there, we begin looking for symbols in text. I direct them to clues that point to some further development in a story—for example, calling attention to a garden that was stagnant during the book’s central conflict, but has “new buds” on the trees at the end.

I encourage them to pay attention to things that may have escaped their attention when they were younger: colors, weather, doors, and windows. The “Aha” moments are theirs, not mine, and it’s rewarding to watch them begin reading at a higher level. It’s literally as if a light switch has been flipped on when they see that, in Tangerine, for example, the character who wears glasses because he has trouble seeing, actually “sees” better than anyone in the book.

In their eagerness to play this new “game,” the kids sometimes begin finding things where nothing is there. They think everything means something. I always think of Natalie Babbitt, the author of Tuck Everlasting, who when repeatedly asked the meaning of the man in the yellow suit, replied that sometimes a man in a yellow suit is just a man in a yellow suit! Regardless of their stumbles along the way, it is a privilege to watch them continue their journey as readers and thinkers.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on April 24, 2009.]

The "Aha" Series: 'Coooooooooooooool!' Stuff with the Lower Elementary Library and Technology Specialists

This week, we asked our Lower Elementary library and technology specialists to share some of their favorite stories that illustrate those moments of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks for a student and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.

Shelley Sommer, Head Librarian

There are several requests that are made each day in the Inly Library:

I want a chapter book that is exciting…It is about a girl my age… She might be a princess or have a magical power…She has adventures.

I’m looking for a book that I read last year. It’s green.

I want a book about a dog that looks just like my dog.

I want the book that my friend checked out last month. I don’t know what it’s called.

I’m looking for a book about witches and monsters, but it can’t be scary.

Meeting each of these requests takes a good memory, a little luck, and a sense of humor. But, few things are as satisfying as making the perfect match between student and book. When a student says those magic words: “That’s it!” it’s wonderful and quite frankly, a bit of a relief.

I’m lucky to have aha moments every day. When I see a post-it note stuck to my computer from an older student telling me that a recommended book was perfect, it makes my day. I love helping teachers and parents find a good book to read aloud to a class. I love hearing the kindergarten students proudly announce that they are “moving up” a level in their learn-to-read books. Most of all, I love to see the spark that comes from connecting with a book. There are times when a book reaches a student at just the right time in their lives, and you can almost see their world getting bigger. It’s a privilege to share the journey with them.

Library Class

During the second half of the year, all third-year Lower Elementary students have an extra weekly Library class of their own to learn more advanced research skills. We begin by covering different types of reference books—including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and atlases—and later move on to the Dewey Decimal System. It’s interesting to see students’ progression throughout the semester.

Here’s a specific example: A third-year student came down to the Library to do research on agriculture in New Zealand. He started by asking for just that: a book on agriculture in New Zealand. I suggested he start with a general book on New Zealand, and he headed straight for the 900s section, knowing right where to look. A few minutes later he called out, “But there’s nothing on agriculture in the Table of Contents.” I asked him where else in the book he could look, someplace that would list topics alphabetically rather than by chapter. “The index?” he asked, flipping to the back of the book. “Agriculture—found it!” he said, and then searched for the right pages. I went on to assist another student and then heard him call out again: “But there’s only one good page here. I need to write a whole paper!”

“Where else can you look?” I asked. “Google?” he replied.

“Yes, but are there any other books to try first? How about in the Reference section?”

“The encyclopedia!” he said, heading for the World Book section.

“Sure, but is there another encyclopedia you could look in first? One that’s all about different countries?”

“You mean People and Places”?

“Yes! That’s the perfect place to look.”

He picked the right volume and flipped through the alphabetical headings until he found his country. “Look, there are like three whole pages, just on agriculture! Cool, there’s a picture of a kiwi tree.” He spent several minutes perusing the subtitles and text. Then he said, “But I also need to find out how many kiwis they shipped to America last year. It doesn’t say here.”

“Then where do you think you could find that information? You need something more specific and up-to-date.”

“Google?” he asked.

Yes. Aha! He got it! Step by step, he used the skills he’d learned in Library class to hunt down the information he needed for his research project. He went from broad to narrow, used a variety of reliable resources, and learned a lot—in terms of both process and content—along the way. Now he was logging on to one of the library computers, to continue his quest for data on kiwis, using all the sage advice he’d learned from “Mr. Paul” in Technology class, I’m sure.

Brigid Lengyel, Assistant Librarian

I’m new to Inly, but some of its students made an impression on me right away. One morning a Children’s House class arrived in small groups for their library time. Each group contained two kindergartners who took responsibility for their younger classmates, helping them with book selections, making recommendations, and generally keeping a watchful eye on the preschool students.

I was struck by how serious these five-year-old children took their responsibility while remaining kind and gentle. I wondered if I might be seeing them on their best, September behavior, but their attitude hasn’t changed over the course of seven months. I’ve observed as the school year has progressed that this combination of nurturing and confidence-building is a thread that runs through the Inly environment, and that what seemed a bit remarkable at the time was in fact an everyday occurrence here.

Paul Park, Technology

The pervasiveness of digital technology can make the word “digital” seem almost mundane. Their joy at being able to manipulate and create digitally is something that seems to be almost innate in today’s youth. However, in the journey that I am privileged to guide the third-year students through each spring semester, there are times when the inner workings of today’s digital ubiquity can produce those low and drawn-out utterances like “Cooooooool!” or “Neeeeat!” and that certainly makes my day.

One of the first discussions we have in the class is about the flow of digital signals throughout, in and out of a computer. I show them various components of a computer and explain how they communicate with each other by sending digital codes down either wires or electronic circuit paths. While we are having this discussion, I pass around the physical computer parts for the students to inspect. The ability to see and touch the parts—parts that when turned on come together and communicate to produce the technology experience that they are so familiar with by now—produces some of the longest exclamations: “Coooooooooooooool!”

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on April 10, 2009.]

Senator Paul Kirk Visits Inly School

Senator Paul Kirk

“Remember that the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose…so set high standards, so that whether by accident of history or time you are ready to serve.”

During his visit to Inly on November 13, Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA) called on Inly’s Middle School students to have passion, self-discipline, and a commitment to their communities. As he said, “Service is important, making a difference in people’s lives is everything.”

“I came here to pay respects to you and your parents, who had the wisdom to send you here,” said Senator Kirk to the audience of students and faculty.

Senator Kirk visited at the request of his former staffer, Inly’s own librarian Shelley Sommer. Shelley first met Paul Kirk when she was a recent college graduate working at the Democratic National Committee in 1987.

“It was a hello-and-get-coffee kind of job,” Shelley said. From the beginning, she was impressed with then-Democratic Chairman Kirk. “I knew how to operate the copy machine, and Chairman Kirk was traveling around the country leading the nation’s oldest political party. Despite being on opposite ends of the operation, Paul Kirk was unfailingly respectful to everyone on the staff and he had our loyalty.”

In 1989, Shelley left the Democratic National Committee for a job at the Kennedy Library in Boston. “I was very new on the job when they announced a new director, and it was Chairman Kirk! Only this time I didn’t have to get coffee,” she laughed. When she learned that her former boss was appointed to replace his friend Senator Kennedy this past September, Shelley dropped him an e-mail congratulating him and asking him to come speak to Inly’s Middle School. She was thrilled when he accepted.

Senator Kirk’s life of public service is an inspiration,” said Head of School Donna Milani Luther. “He exemplifies the type of leadership we expect our students to aspire to. It is an honor to have him here.”