# A Little Augmented Reality and Zombie Math with 1st Grade

A few weeks ago, Em Smith Headley, 1st grade teacher, asked if I could help with their math standards using the iPads.  They have been working on using a variety of strategies to solve basic addition and subtraction problems.

I pulled together just a few iPad apps for our time together that addressed basic addition and subtraction facts.  I decided to use:

• Fetch Lunch Rush: an augmented reality app that combines basic addition/subtraction, missing addends, racing, and augmented reality!
• Math Zombies:  a racing app that gives basic addition/subtraction problems along with double digit math to race against the ever-approaching zombies.  Correct answers knock them out of the way.
• Candy Count:  a sorting app that allows kids to sort candy by color and then asks several math questions about the candy in each bag.
• iXL: an app with multiple grade levels which gives standard problems and allows kids to type an answer.

I had student helpers make a 1st grade math folder on the iPads so that students could easily get to the apps.  We looked at the standard and students brainstormed several strategies that they currently use for solving math problems.  Things such as:

• number lines
• draw a picture
• count up or count back
• manipulatives
• etc.

I reminded them that these same strategies come into play when we do math digitally and sometimes the app even provides some strategies for you with hints.  I did not tell students how to play every app because they were perfectly capable of figuring that out on their own.  I spent my time helping students think about strategy and encouraging students to help one another figure out the technical details of how the games worked.  Of course, I helped students who had technical questions, too, but that wasn’t my main focus as the teacher.

Students were bursting with energy during this.  Whether we worked for 25 minutes or 40 minutes, they were extremely focused.  They were free to move in and out of the apps as needed.  We were also able to differentiate for students who needed problems that were more challenging or problems with more basic  features.

At the close, students gave some feedback on what they liked about each app.  Math Zombies and Fetch Lunch Rush was by far the favorite, and they begged to get to do this again in their classroom or the library.

# Little Free Libraries Open for Business

Barrow Little Free Library

After a year long project with last year’s 5th graders, our 2 Little Free Libraries are finally open for business.  This project has been one of the most meaningful ones that I have been a part of.  Just to highlight a few accomplishments of everyone involved:

• After a post on the Barrow Media Center Facebook page that simply described a wish to have a LFL, teacher Sara Cross jumped on board to make this project happen in 5th grade.
• Art teacher, Rita Foretich, along with her student teacher took a huge leadership role in creating multiple jobs for students, using Google sketchup to design libraries, and committing to painting the libraries in art.
• Co-founder Rick Brooks took time out of his busy schedule to skype with our students to answer their questions and encourage them on their project.
• Students in 5th grade wrote persuasive letters to multiple places which resulted in Lay Park becoming our 2nd location and Home Depot built and donated the 2 libraries and paint.
• Students in 5th grade encouraged students in the whole school to donate books which resulted in about 18 boxes of used books to fill the libraries.  Other incredible supporters like Barrow grandparent, Camilla Bracewell, donated money to support the registration of the libraries and additional supply & book purchases.
• Our project won the Eve Carson Service Learning Award at the 5th grade moving on ceremony

Our move into our new school delayed our installation a bit.  Mrs. Foretich kept the libraries over the summer and gave them some coats of clear coat to protect them from the weather.  Her husband also spent time making sure that the doors on the libraries opened smoothly after getting a bit sticky from the clear coat.

We entered this year with one big final step:  installation.  I should have known that once again our community would step up to support this project.  Susan Henderson, librarian at Fowler Drive, suggested that her neighbor Chase Cook, who is a Barrow parent, would be a good person to contact.  She even took time to ask him herself.  Chase was more than happy to help.  Another Barrow parent, Chris Adams, was suggested, and without hesitation he also agreed to help.  I was amazed that two parents who weren’t even involved in the project along the way were so willing to step up and offer their talents and service to this project.  Chase and Chris spent a hot Friday afternoon digging the holes at Barrow and Lay Park and installing both libraries.  I can’t thank them enough for their time and hard work.

Refilling the Barrow Little Free Library

On Sunday September 8, I filled the Barrow Little Free Library with books.  The Barrow library features our school theme of “Where am I in the world?”  You’ll find the tree that owns itself, Georgia peaches and peanuts, the GA flag & US flag, and GA football.  This week on our morning news show, I showed a video to all students explaining what this new mysterious box was all about.

The afternoon after the video was shown was a busy time for our library and it was almost empty that day as students were eager to take home a book.  We’ve already had to refill it once.

Lay Park Library

On Monday September 9, Randy Haygood opened the Lay Park Little Free Library.  This library features an old Barrow school look.  A giant sun radiates from the roof and the back features a beautiful flower garden.  I delivered 6 boxes of books to him so that he would have books to refill the library for a few weeks.  I can’t wait to see how this little library supports reading at Lay Park and the surrounding communities.

Lay Park Library back view

These libraries are truly a gift.  They represent so many voices, ideas, and creativity from students, parents, grandparents, and our community.  Thank you Athens community for supporting this project.  Enjoy these libraries for years to come.

# Painting our Little Free Libraries

Paint generously donated by the Athens Oconee Home Depot

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an update on our 2 Little Free Libraries.  We’ve had so many end-of-the-year events that it has slowed us down a bit.  Mrs. Foretich, our art teacher, and I sat down and looked at the designs that student groups submitted and narrowed it down to the 2 designs.  One will feature things that show “where I am in the world”.  It will include GA & US symbols as well as some Athens symbols.  The other design features a sun shine with a red color that resembles the bricks of Barrow school.  Ms. Foretich worked with Kenneth Sims and other employees at the Athens-Oconee Home Depot to select paints, and once again Home Depot generously donated these items.  I can’t say “Thank You” enough to this business.  They have been a huge supporter of this project.

While the 5th grade is practicing for the Moving On Ceremony and making music videos in music class, Mrs. Foretich is pulling small groups to paint.  Students primed both libraries first.  Then, designs were drawn on in pencil before beginning the painting process.  Students repeatedly went back to the paper designs and also talked with the designers to make sure the design was staying true to the vision.  Students even worked on mixing paints to get various shades of colors that were needed on the libraries.

Next week, Mrs. Foretich and I will travel to Lay Park and meet with Randy Haygood to discuss the exact location of our second library.  KenDarius, a Barrow 5th grader, is working on a plan for some rising 4th & 5th graders to deliver books to this library throughout next year as it needs to be filled.  He will join us next week when we meet with Randy.

Throughout this project, we’ve tried to keep students at the center.  They have been a part of almost every decision in the project and were instrumental in getting us the supplies that we needed through their carefully written letters.  Of course, this student involvement has stretched this project to a year-long project, but I think it just shows how when you take time to allow students to participate in the process, rich and rewarding experiences and learning occur.

# Expecting the Miraculous Now and in the New Year

Over the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reader copy of Flora & Ulysses:  The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  She is by far one of favorite authors because her words always seem to speak to me in some way beyond just the story.  On p. 130, I came across a quote that I have honestly carried with me in my heart and mind since reading it.  In fact, it has become a motto that I embrace in our school library because it exemplifies the brand that our library represents.

“All things are possible,” said Dr. Meescham.  “When I was a girl in Blundermeecen, the miraculous happened every day.  Or every third day.  Actually, sometimes it did not happen at all, even on the third day.  But still, we expected it.  You see what I’m saying?  Even when it didn’t happen, we were expecting it.  We knew the miraculous would come.” ~Kate DiCamillo

Expect the miraculous.  It’s the phrase that I cheezily say to myself as I enter school each day.  It’s what I remind myself of when I sit down to plan with teachers.  It’s what I whisper to myself in the midst of a technology fail.  It’s what came out of my mouth in a recent interview with School Library Journal:

For wary school librarians, Plemmons adds, “My philosophy is, if we don’t expect miraculous things to happen in our libraries, then we’re just limiting ourselves. Why totally shut a door when we don’t know where it leads to?”

I don’t want to put limits on what kids are allowed to do just because I might not be an expert in a particular tool or concept.  I’m willing to try anything new with any age of students and expect that something great will happen even if it’s not what I imagined happening in my head.  In Invent to Learn, Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager say,

“It is unacceptable and unnecessary to deny children the opportunity to work on something they are passionate about because the teacher is not an expert in that particular field.”

Looking back through my posts of 2013, I see so many incredible things that happened in our library because we (myself, students, teachers, families, connected educators, and special guests) expected the miraculous.  Here are just a few:

• 5th graders working together to design, plan, persuade, collect, paint, and dedicate during the Little Free Library project.  We now have 2 Little Free Libraries thanks to their hard work.  We went into the project with so many unknowns, but we always expected that the libraries would exist in our community.  Check out the posts!
• 2nd graders developing their writing skills through blogging and connecting with students in Van Meter, Iowa.  This project included a miraculous connection with author/illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.  Check out the posts!  Post 1  Post 2   Post 3

• 3rd graders engaging in action research to solve a real-world problem at our school.  Their investigations included webcam observations, indoor and outdoor observation, skyping with Cornell University and a former Barrow Buddy via Skype, and email communication with other experts.  Their work resulted in many attempts at saving birds from crashing into our school windows.  Post 1  Post 2
• Multiple connections for special events like World Read Aloud Day, World Book Night, Dia de los Ninos, Read for the Record, and Talk Like a Pirate Day.
• Students purchasing books for our library with their very own student book budgets.  Check out the post!

• Students from throughout the school crowd-sourcing a poem using Google Forms for Poem In Your Pocket Day.  Check out the post!
• Our annual Poem In Your Pocket Days live on Adobe Connect with viewers in multiple states and countries.  Post 1   Post 2
• Kindergarten students becoming experts inTux Paint and making an informational video to teach others to use the program.  They even connected with students in Van Meter, Iowa to share their expertise.  Post 1  Post 2

• Moving into a brand new library and working together to learn how to use it.  Check out the post!
• The entire 4th grade working together in the library over several days to research explorers and Native Americans as well as challenge their thinking about heroes and villains.  Check out the post!
• 2nd graders using Thinglink to publish monster stories.  Check out the post!
• A Picture Book Month Smackdown with 2 authors and schools in 5 different states.  Check out the post!

• After our district decided not to buy a 3D printer, we continued expecting the miraculous.  Miraculously, Donors Choose and Makerbot created a partnership and overnight a 3D printer was funded for our library!  Check out the post!
• Classes in every grade level committed to exploring computer programming during the Hour of Code.  I’m expecting more miraculous things to come out of this one hour experience.  Post 1  Post 2
• Our very first student-made design was printed on our 3D printer.  Grant and I expected the miraculous (even though we were prepared for failure).  Check out the post!

When we give kids the space to explore, the tools to create, the connections to expertise and collaboration, and a global audience to share with, miraculous things will happen.  I know that not everyone believes this.  Recently, an article was published in the Athens Banner Herald highlighting out Hour of Code activities.  In the article, I was quoted saying:

“I encourage them to think about how coders aren’t afraid to make mistakes,” Plemmons said. And when they do make a mistake, they work with their peers to fix it.

Even though I try to avoid reading online comments (and I wish I had used the word failure instead of mistake), I was disturbed by one commenter’s post.  She said:

Such a lax attitude is not acceptable in my book. I am afraid to make mistakes in my work so I make sure all possibilities are considered and all details are addressed and included. I also make great effort to anticipate any questions my clients may have and am ready with an answer before I sit down at a meeting. I don’t need to ask others to help me fix any problems; I’ve already fixed them.

It’s good to tell kids to relax and not worry about making a mistake as they learn, but that real work for hire must be near perfect without wasting a lot of people’s time or your own.

The most disturbing part of this comment to me was the notion that giving kids space to fail, step back, re-evaluate, and try again is having a lax attitude.  Many major companies encourage their employees to fail early and fail often. This allows their employees the freedom to be innovative and take risks knowing that those risks are what unveil the latest great ideas. By failing early, learning from failure, and fine tuning their products, companies are able to release the best quality product that they can. In the digital world, companies continue to listen to the consumer and push out updates to improve any mistakes or ideas that they missed. This is the same kind of situation with students. They aren’t publishing final products online that are full of mistakes. Rather, they are attempting to make the computer do what they want it to do, trying some code, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and fine tuning their work. No one sits down and makes a perfect product without first failing.  Expecting the miraculous certainly doesn’t mean that you are expecting things to be perfect on the first try.

I was reminded of the importance of failure when I was recently reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Reynolds says:

“The fear of making a mistake, risking an error, or being told you are wrong is constantly with us. And that’s a shame. Making mistakes is not the same thing as being creative, but if you are not willing to make mistakes, then it is impossible to be truly creative. If your state of mind is coming from a place of fear and risk avoidance, then you will always settle for the safe solutions–the solutions already applied many times before.”

“Children are naturally creative, playful, and experimental. If you ask me, we were the most human when we were young kids. We worked on our art, sometimes for hours without a break, because it was in us, although we didn’t intellectualize it. As we got older, fears crept in along with doubts, self censoring, and overthinking.”

In 2014, I am going to continue expecting the miraculous with my students, my collaborators, my families, and my peers.  We will embrace our failures, learn from them, and continue to create innovative work together.

I am going to start 2014 by asking my students, “What miraculous things do you expect in 2014?”  They will record their responses on a Flipgrid.  I invite you to add your own expectations to the same Flipgrid.  Go ahead.  Give it a try.  Expect the miraculous.

# Who Will Win?: A Research Lesson with 5th Grade

Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark. T-Rex vs. Velociraptor. Scorpion vs. Centipede.  These topics grab the attention of so many readers in our library.

When the 5th grade language arts teachers, Ms. Freeman & Ms. Hinkle, asked me to brainstorm some lessons ideas about the following standard, my mind immediately jumped to these popular books.

ELAGSE5RI8: EXPLAIN how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, IDENTIFYing which reasons and evidence supports which point(s).

I began to think about how students might create their own quick versions of these stories using books from our informational section.  Ms. Hinkle and Ms. Freeman scheduled each of their language arts classes to come to the library for 45 minutes.

We began our time together on the floor and took time to look at a selection of books from the Bug Wars, Dinosaur Wars, and Who Would Win series. I asked students how an author might go about comparing two animals who might not actually meet in real life. We brainstormed a list of categories that an author might use to compare animals: size, speed, abilities, classification, etc.

Next, we took a look at an interactive ebook from Capstone called Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Velociraptor from the Dinosaur Wars series. We looked at the structure of the book and how the author used size, speed/agility, weapons, and attack style to compare the two dinosaurs. In addition to the summaries at the top of the page, we saw how the author gave several pieces of evidence to backup the point of which dinosaur was superior to the other in a particular category.

This set us up for our work session. Ahead of time, I pulled multiple animals books from our library as well as a few other things that could be compared like weather events and landforms. When I pulled the books I considered which animals I might pair together if I was choosing, but I wanted students to have the choice of whichever pairings they wished to have.

With a partner, students selected two “things” to compare. This was a bit of a frenzy as students tried to quickly pair two animals or other things together before resources started to disappear to other partners.

Then, they used a brief graphic organizer to decide on 4 categories to compare the two things. I encouraged them to look at the index in the books to help them think about comparisons they might make.

Their goal was to find evidence for each thing in each category and then decide on a winner for that category based on the evidence.

After looking at the evidence for all 4 categories, students decided on the overall winner. Sometimes students couldn’t decide an overall winner, so I encouraged them to create some “what if” scenarios that might help them think about when one of the particular animals or things might come out on top. If time allowed, students could create a Flipgrid video explaining their comparisons.

The teachers and I circulated between the pairs of students and conferenced with them on their categories and pushed them to look for evidence. What we saw as we conferenced was that most students were excited and engaged.

They were really searching for information and putting books side by side to make comparisons. They were having critical conversations to determine which animal would actually win in each category based on the evidence they found.  They were even asking to see additional resources like websites and other books because they weren’t finding the info that they were looking for.

This project gave me lots to think about. The concept of competition between “things” was motivating for students. I didn’t give them a detailed graphic organizer with a bunch of pre-written questions they had to find answers to. They determined the categories and looked for the answers. I was surprised by how many students started asking for additional resources because they wanted to find the answer they were looking for rather than trying to make one resource work for everything as I’ve seen in other research projects.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect and some students didn’t stay focused the entire time. However, I saw an engagement that I don’t always see. I saw students excited about diving into books without too many complaints that we weren’t researching on the computer. We also didn’t really have enough time for most students to record. The teachers are going to try to give time back in class to finish recordings.

I want to unpack this a bit more in my mind and think about implications for future projects. I definitely think that this project could be expanded to something much bigger. It was obtainable in a day, but it could be so much better with a little more time.

The students who were able to record so far would love for you to take a moment to watch their videos. If you decide to try this out with your students, I would love to hear how it goes and what modifications you made.

# King Alice: A Visit with Matthew Cordell

I love collaborating with our local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Each year, we get amazing authors and illustrators who visit our schools and share their expertise with our kids. Our first visit of this year was Caldecott-medalist Matthew Cordell.  He won the Caldecott for his story of bravery and kindness called Wolf in the Snow.  Now, he is touring for his newest book King Alice.  His visit to our school was made possible by his publisher MacMillan Kids and Avid Bookshop.

I’ve followed Matthew’s work for several years. His book,  Hello Hello, is a favorite book that I love to use as we ponder how we balance our digital lives and real lives.  Even though it is a few years old, it continues to be relevant.

When I found out he was coming to our school, I began collaborating with Rita Foretich, our art teacher.  I scheduled read alouds with every class in K-2.  During every class, we read Wolf in the Snow. First grade also read Dream. Second grade also read Hello Hello.

In art, Ms. Foretich focused on 1 book per grade. Kindergarten made art inspired by Wolf in the Snow. They considered a time they were kind or brave and illustrated that moment. First grade made art inspired by Dream. They considered what they dreamed to be and illustrated that dream.  Second grade made art inspired by Hello Hello. They considered what they like to do in their free time and how they balance digital/real life and illustrated those thoughts.

Each piece of art was mounted on black construction paper to create a gallery in the front halls of our school.

For the visit, we transformed the entrance to the library to look like a castle wall. My talented high school intern, Andrea Aramburo, created a hand-lettered banner that said “Welcome Kings”. Every class received paper crowns from the publisher to wear to the visit. All of this was in honor of King Alice.

During Matthew’s visit, he shared a little of his childhood leading up to where he is now. Then, we got to see inside his messy studio. He talked about how he purposefully took a picture of the studio in action because he wanted students to see that art wasn’t a neat and clean process.  This became one of the favorite moments of the talk for some students.

Before Matthew read King Alice, he told some stories from his family. One example was how his daughter suggested things for them to do together like throw a pie in dad’s face or put on dad’s makeup. I loved hearing these real-life examples because it showed all of us that ideas are truly all around us.  King Alice is about a dad and daughter doing things together on a snow day. The dad doesn’t always want to do everything Alice suggests, but when she suggests making a book, the dad is all on board. We loved learning that Matthew’s daughter even got to collaborate on parts of the book.  King Alice has many laugh-out-loud moments that students were still talking about after the visit, and I heard more than one student shout out “Idea!” just like Alice did when she thought of additions to her story.

Students always love seeing an illustrator draw. Matthew drew King Alice and narrated every step of the drawing process. Seeing the blank page transform into the stoic King Alice was incredible and inspiring. I always see students go back to class after these moments and try to draw the characters themselves.

Before Matthew left, he chatted with several students including one student who presented him with a book that he wrote just for Matthew.

He also took time to tour the gallery of student art and get to know our many creators throughout K-2.

Thanks to our PTA, every classroom teacher received a copy of King Alice.  I’m sure it will be heavily used as a mentor text in writing workshop. It brings up some many important ideas of storytelling from ideas to revision to illustrating.

If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I encourage you to go to your local independent bookshop and make a purchase. I’m sure there’s even a few signed copies still left at Avid Bookshop if you want to order one online.

Thank you, Matthew Cordell, for sharing your wisdom with our students, teachers, and families. Thank you MacMillan Publishers for making our city one of the stops on the tour. Thank you Avid Bookshop for collaborating with our school to make this visit possible and for supporting all of our book sales.

# Fine Tuning Genrefication with Custom Signs

One of the things I’ve loved the most about organizing our library by genre has been the ability to customize the experience for readers. If a section of books isn’t working for how readers find books, then it can be changed. If kids keep asking for a kind of book that is mixed into lots of sections, they you could pull those books into a new section.  I’m always watching and listening to the words I’m having to repeat over and over as well as the questions that readers are asking about where books are located.

One noticing this past year was how I was always having to explain that the “E” section or “Everybody” section is where picture books live.  The “F” or the “Fiction” section is where chapter books live.  Students would search the library catalog and see that something was located in “Sports Fiction”, but that didn’t really translate to the sports chapter book area to them.  I decided to fine tune this in Destiny to make searching more user-friendly for readers.

I simply went into each subcategory in Destiny and changed it so that it specifically said “chapter”, “picture”, or “information” next to each genre category. Now, when a student searches, they will see a book like Ghost by Jason Reynolds is in the “Sports Chapter” section.

I also wanted to improve the signs in the library to help students see which sections of the library are “chapter”, “picture”, and “information”.  I started browsing around online looking for existing signs or even custom signs that would be helpful and appealing in the library, but I didn’t really see anything I liked. Then, I had the idea that some custom signs could be made using fabric designed by illustrators. I looked at Mo Willems, Eric Carle, and other illustrator fabric, but the fabric that I kept coming back to was the fabric designed by illustrator Christian Robinson.

He visited our school a few years ago to celebrate the release of School’s First Day of School, so we have a special connection with him. His fabric also features a diverse group of individuals which represents both our school, our community, and the books we strive to have in our collection.

I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any connections with someone who would be willing to work on custom signs for our library using Christian Robinson’s fabric. Several people gave helpful information to think about in designing the signs, but then I got a wonderful email from Barrow parent, Amy Norris, offering to help.

This began a string of emails and conversations to design the 3 signs. Amy offered her design expertise as well as her sewing talents to create the signs. We met in person and sketched out what the signs might look like as 3 rectangular hanging quilts. Then, she went home and created a mock up of several options.  I was amazed at her attention to detail and thoughts about maximizing the fabric to cut down on cost. I picked out the design that I thought would work best and ordered the fabric.

Amy jumped right into designing the signs. She was so enthusiastic about this project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to create our signs. She sent little progress updates all along the way and even helped me think through how the signs would hang. I originally was going to use a quilt or curtain rod, but we decided that it was light enough to just use a wooden dowel.

As soon as Amy had the signs finished, she delivered them to school and they were absolutely beautiful. Each section’s word was created in a different color and the Christian Robinson fabric stood out beautifully. Now it was my turn to get the signs installed. I went to Lowes and purchased eye screws, wooden dowels, chain, and s hooks. I cut down the dowels to the length of each sign, and put each quilt onto its rod using the sleeve on the back.

Now, each sign is flying high in our library to help kids see where our 3 main areas of the library are. Since they hang by a single chain, they freely rotate with the gentle air currents. It’s a simple change that I really should have done much sooner, but the library is always evolving, and sometimes a small change is just the thing that was needed to make the collection easier to navigate for readers. I’m so thankful for the many talents that exist in our community, and this project once again reminded me that so many people are out there waiting to support the work happening in schools, but many times we have to put our work and requests out there to help them connect to those opportunities. A huge “Thank You” goes out to Amy Norris for taking the time to create these beautiful signs that we will enjoy for years to come.

# Make Your Mark for Dot Day 2016…Let the Planning Begin

One of our favorite times of the year is Dot Day and September 15 will be here before we know it!  It’s a day to celebrate connecting, collaborating, and creating and seeing where our creativity takes us. Can you believe that it’s less than 2 months away?

Now is the time to start brainstorming ideas for celebrating creativity and supporting your students in making their mark in the world. You can read all about this special day and sign up here.  There is a wonderful educator’s handbook that you will receive as part of the registration.

Then head over to the Get Involved…Making a Mark page to be inspired to Read, Create, Learn and Visit on Dot Day too.

There are tons of ideas on Shannon McClintock Miller’s International Dot Day Pinterest Board

In our own library, we’ve enjoyed reading lots of stories related to dots and creativity as well as connecting Dot Day to core subject areas.

Check out these examples:

• After reading the book, Going Places, with Sherry Gick’s students in Indiana, two of our students made their mark by teaching Sherry’s students how to create a beading craft from our makerspace

• We’ve enjoyed countless storytimes with classes around the globe reading dot-related stories and stories of creativity including Ish, The Dot, Press Here, Mix It Up, Let’s Play, Rose’s Garden, Little Elliot Big City, and more.

For the last several years, hundreds of us have used our Google Doc as a place to make and plan lots of special connections on September 15 and throughout the week of Dot Day. When we put our minds together, we come up with amazing new ways to celebrate the day with our students.

You can add your schedule, connect with others, and start making your mark with others around the world. Check out the doc here: http://bit.ly/dotday2016

Please include your information including name, location, grade level and subject, Twitter handle and whatever else you’d like to share.  As you start planning, add your schedule and ideas.  Others can then look at your profile and connect if they’d like to on the Google Document with you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask.

Let’s Make Our Mark on the World! Happy Connecting!

Many thanks to Shannon McClintock Miller for co-writing this post.

# Mo Willems Seriously Silly Exhibit at the High Museum of Art: Let the Planning Begin

Now through January 10, 2016 you can see an incredible exhibit of artwork by Mo Willems at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA.  As soon as I saw that the exhibit was coming last spring, I shared it with our art teacher, Rita Foretich.  We immediately began talking about a collaborative project and field trip.  She applied for a grant and both of us began thinking about which grade we might target and which standards we could weave in.

On July 11, the High offered an educators day which allowed educators and one guest to get into the museum for free.  This was a perfect time for me to see the exhibit without 100 elementary students and also to start thinking more about our project.  Thank goodness my wife went along so that I could take a moment to see the exhibit without chasing a 3 and 5 year old around.

As soon as we arrived in the parking deck at the High, we began seeing the Pigeon.  He was even in the elevator to the ground level.

And on the revolving doors at the entrance.

Before you even get to the main exhibit, there are some teasers along the way and some great photo opportunities.

You really have to keep your eyes open because there are characters and illustrations hiding everywhere.  Even this aspect could be woven into a field trip.  The museum provides its own scavenger hunt, but I think it would be fun for kids to write down all of the characters that they find along the way or count the number of pigeons they find and write down the locations that they found them in.  Of course, to recognize all of the characters, the kids would need to read all of Mo’s stand alone books and at least one of each of the series books.

The actual exhibit is grouped by series as well as stand alone books.

I loved the wall of ice ream where the Elephant and Piggie illustrations are found.  There’s even a pigeon hiding on this wall just like the end papers of the books.

One of the things that I immediately noticed was the pairs of illustrations that showed a sketch by Mo Willems followed by the final drawing before color was added.  This would be a great process to replicate with students in our project by having them create first, second, ….drafts of their art before drawing the final art.

I also noticed the illustrations from Knuffle Bunny.  The drawings were done without the digital photographs.  I could see this being incorporated into a project on mixed media and layering drawing and digital photographs together.  Having this image to show students can give them an idea of how to imagine the digital photograph in their illustration before adding it.

Of course, the thing that I love most about Mo Willems is how simple his artwork is without being oversimplified.  In Elephant and Piggie, for example, there is very little on the page other than speech bubbles and the characters.  However, each line drawn around the characters, each raised eyebrow, upward looking eye, outstretched arm, etc gives life to the character and reveals the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the characters.  To me, there is great potential in a project around this aspect of Mo Willems.  I could see us studying his artwork very carefully for all of the subtle details that allow us to know a character’s emotions and actions and implement those same ideas into our own characters, stories, or new versions of Mo’s stories.  The exhibit is filled with numerous illustrations to show these details up close.

The exhibit continues in the Greene Family Learning Gallery where you can learn the steps to draw the Pigeon as well as practice drawing him with different emotions.  I snapped a picture of the directions because I plan to incorporate this into either a center in the library or a lesson in our project.

In the learning gallery as well as the exhibit, you can pick up a scavenger hunt to do while you are in the exhibit, but this scavenger hunt could also be used as a way to look closely at the whole body of Mo’s work.

I loved that the gallery included a bus driven by the Pigeon so that you could take a fun picture like this one.

As soon as we get back to school, I’m going to debrief my experience with the art teacher.  We’ll start looking at our own standards as well as the standards of other grade levels and narrow down to which grades, what project, and which standards we will weave together.

Collaborating brings together the expertise of everyone involved.  I love that I can bring my knowledge and observations as a reader and pair it with the art teacher’s expertise in art terminology and technique.  When we put that together with the interests of the kids and the expertise of the grade level teachers, we have a crowdsourced project that is fun, enriching, authentic, supported, and driven.  I can’t wait to see where this project goes this year.

Think about who you could collaborate within your school.  If you’ve never done a project with the art teacher, I recommend it.  I love that a project can flow from the library to the art room to the classroom and back.  Even if you don’t have a big museum exhibit like this near your school, there are endless possibilities when educators work together with students.