language arts

Poet Laureate Visits Classrooms


Philadelphia-based poet, singer, educator and curator Yolanda Wisher visited several TPS classrooms this week. Wisher was named the third Poet Laureate of Philadelphia in 2016.

“Poetry helps me make sense of my day,” explained Wisher to Primary Unit students. The poet spoke about The Black Opals, a group of young African American poets who worked in Philadelphia in the 1920s and who published their work in a literary journal at a time when no one was publishing poetry by African American poets. Wisher called them “the Avengers” (of poetry) of their time, superhero poets who did something no one was doing” in the early 20th century.

Cast Photos

The Shakespeare Festival has come to a close. Here are cast photos by Kate Riccardi Photography. From left to right, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet.

Literature Honoring the Lives of All Children

By Brian Johnson, Diversity Director

As a Diversity Director, I am frequently asked to recommend resources for teachers, students, and parents. One resource that is requested frequently is a book list of diverse literature. I recently came across several that were highly recommended to me by Elizabeth Denevi, Associate Director of th Eastern Educational Resource Collaborative, a nonprofit that works with schools nationally to increase equity and promote diversity pedagogy.

  • List put together by Elizabeth Denevi and librarian Elisa Gall
  • We're the People list (This list, compiled by a group of librarians, has a particularly good selection of Young Adult books.)
  • WNDB lists of diverse books (WNDB, or We Need Diverse Books, is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that advocates changes in the publishing industry to produce literature that honors the lives of all young people.)
  • A list with a strong social justice focus (compiled by Sarah Park Dahlen, associate professor in the Master's of Library and Information Science Program at St. Catherine University in Minnesota.   
  • Welcoming Schools lists of books on family diversity and gender identity/expression/stereotypes (Welcoming Schools provides training and resources to elementary school educators to welcome diverse families, create LGBTQ and gender-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying, and support transgender and non-binary students.)

Happy Reading!



The Plays Are the Thing

Just before winter break, 8th graders began preparation for February's Shakespeare Festival. 

The festival will run from February 21 to 23.  The Class of 2018 will be staging three of the bard's plays – The TempestMuch Ado About Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet. Not only will they be actors, they will also design the sets, make props, and do the costuming. Each play will have daytime and evening performances.



Reading Is More Than Words

By Carlye Nelson-Major, Head of School
It is with deep gratitude that I thank the many parent volunteers who organized and staffed the annual TPSA Book Fair. The fair highlights our community’s shared commitment to having our students exposed to good literature beyond their classroom. Every student visited the fair and browsed through a wide range of appealing books. Preschoolers and kindergarteners enjoyed guest readers during their visit to the fair. Students in grades 1-8 spent time with C. Alexander London, our visiting author. The conversations with Alex centered on his writing process; they were fun and inspiring. One Junior Unit teacher remarked that after Alex's presentation, the children "were ready to go off and write their first novels!" 

Author C. Alexander London was our guest author Wednesday and Thursday.

Author C. Alexander London was our guest author Wednesday and Thursday.

I encourage reading as a valued daily practice for all of our students and families. Having conversations around what all of you are reading should be a routine family endeavor. It is through these conversations that children build their comprehension skills, understand connections between texts and their lives, expand their world views, and deepen their foundational knowledge of a wide range of topics. As Alex London explained, "Great books give room for readers to see themselves, fill in blind spots, and see other worlds. They offer windows, mirrors, and doors."

Shared literacy was a familial core value that my mother instilled in us at an early age. A prime milestone rite of passage in my family was getting our very own library card.  We had a family celebration after each one of us obtained our very own card and kept them in mother’s desk as a secure and sacred place. Weekly trips to the local library were a regular Thursday afternoon ritual, as were nightly conversations about something we had read that day. For my sisters it was a joint Nancy Drew book club; for my mother, historical fiction and cookbooks; and for my father, current events and history. It is through those conversations that I developed some foundational knowledge about Anne Boleyn, the Battle of the Bulge, and how to make a fool-proof soufflé!
These shared literacy conversations are gifts that keeps on giving. My sisters and I still have ongoing book conversations across our three different time zones. My grown kids and I share Kindle accounts so we have joint access to each other’s divergent book genres. And reading and talking about books is a beloved part of my relationship with my 3-year-old grandson. The first thing he says to me is, ”Dearie, do you have any new books today?”

I encourage you to make December a literacy-infused month for you and your family.  Sharing books about your family traditions as well as those of different cultures can be a highlight of this universal season of lights. Please carve out time to go to your local library, ask teachers to borrow a favorite classroom book, and most importantly read and discuss print together. It will expand your child’s worldview, uncover new ways of thinking, and deepen connections to new ideas and different genres. Check out the New York Times 100 notable books for 2017 for ideas of new gems that were published this year. Several of our faculty and staff are at the People of Color Conference this week, and an early childhood educator at the conference recommended checking out the book lists at
Happy reading, talking, and listening.

Missed Shakespeare Live?

Didn't have the opportunity to see the 8th grade's recent Shakespeare plays? You did, but would like to see them again? Well, here are the films, produced by the Middle School Production Team, under the supervision of Thomas Flanagan.