Continuing Our Battle of the Books with Even More Student Voices

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Each year we have a program called Battle of the Books in 3rd-5th grade.  This is a reading competition where teams of 5 students read a list of 10 books.  They work together to answer questions about the books in several rounds of competition in order to be crowned the Battle of the Books Champion.  Each year there are students who don’t participate in battle of the books for many reasons.  Sometimes they are unsure if they want to do it and by the time they decide it’s too late.  Sometimes they have too many other things going on that they can’t fit it in.  Whatever the reason, there are students who are left out. This year, one of our teachers, Ms. Mills, recognized that in 3rd grade and wanted to give these students a 2nd chance to participate.

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Since we are near the end of the year, reading the long chapter books that are on the regular list weren’t reasonable to consider, so she pulled several books that students could realistically finish, understand, and compete with.  Students read these books in small groups as well as during state testing when they finished their test.

Deciding to choose new books  meant that there weren’t questions written for these books, so she knew she would have to come up with every question asked.  I love what she decided to do.  She took the books to a 5th grade class and asked them if they would read the books and come up with questions to ask the 3rd graders.  The 5th grade students worked with their teacher to craft questions and they put their names on each question written.  During the competition, Ms. Mills or Ms. Garrett would say who a question was written by.

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We decided to broadcast the competition through Google Hangouts on Air so that all 3rd grade classes could watch and support their friends.  I setup the hangout and emailed the link to all of the teachers, and of course, we now have an archive of our competition for anyone else who wants to watch.  Students helped pull the questions from a basket of questions and the teachers asked them. Each team received 8 questions and the teachers kept track of which team got the most questions correct.  It was a tight competition because the students knew the books so well.

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I take no credit for any of this competition, but I just had to highlight what these teachers and students did.  Bravo to Ms. Mills and Ms. Garrett for giving even more of our students a voice in this fun competition during the busy end-of-the-year rush.  They all did an awesome job, represented our school well, and showed that they knew their books well!

Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Visit from Author Sarah Weeks

A few weeks ago our local independent bookshop, Avid Bookshop, emailed me with an opportunity.  Sarah Weeks, author of Pie and many other great books, was coming to Athens, and they wanted her to visit our school.  Hooray!  I try to jump at every author visit I can get.  For the visit, I needed to presale some books, which I always do, but this time we wanted to try something new and crazy. I’ve always wanted to do a school wide read, but I have never gotten the idea off the ground.  I saw this as a perfect chance to try it with a smaller number of students rather than the whole school. This author visit focused on upper grades. Our 5th graders would be gone to Skidaway on a field trip, so 3rd and 4th grade would be the classes coming to the visit. Rather than asking every student to buy a copy of the book, I decided to try a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to give every 3rd and 4th grader a copy of Pie as well as buy a few copies of Honey to give away to a few students.

Summer Reading w Author Sarah Weeks by Andy Plemmons   GoFundMe

In just under 1 month, 28 donors funded our project.  These donors included community members, grandparents, families, and friends from around the country.  Thank you to each one of these donors who made this crazy idea a reality.

When Sarah Weeks came to visit our school, I got to make the exciting announcement and tell them about the 28 people who took time to donate money to the project.  I also told them that the deal from me is that I want each one of them to read Pie.  I want them to share it with families and spend time talking about it.  I also want them to make things together like family recipes or even pies.  My hope is that they will document this over the summer on a Padlet.

Sarah Weeks was phenomenal in her visit and I highly recommend her to any schools looking for a great author visit. She built so many frequently asked questions into her talk such as “What was your first book?”, “What is your current book?”, “Do you get writer’s block?”, etc.  Each question was answered with slides filled with great photographs, personal stories, and lots of funny moments.  The students laughed so much at Sarah’s stories about boys painting their fingernails, kids doing puppets shows through the shirts, and dogs joining.

She talked about a story arc and had students moving their hands to show the flow of a story through beginning, middle, and end.  She also told them a story about a cowboy on a horse in the airport and paused along the way to point out what part of the arc she was in during the story. What a great connection to what they are learning in writing class!

She showed them the many revisions that her work goes through and how important it is to listen to her editor. She connected this to all of the notes that students see on their writing papers and stressed how they needed to listen to their teachers’ comments because it helps make the writing better.

Sarah has so many books that she couldn’t talk about them all.  She started with books like the Oggie Cooder books and how he charves cheese into the shapes of states.

We had one student who knew every state she showed a picture of!

Sarah’s two new books are Glamourpuss and Honey.  She treated the students to a full reading of Glamourpuss and the high-energy students were mesmerized.  I loved how she showed Honey to the students.  She showed several slides with single words that helped students know some things the books was about, but then she showed students several characters from the book along with text from the book that gave the students a taste of the character.

Then, she showed the students how she had to do research to learn about how nail polish is made.  This story connected with a great story about how some girls in a library were painting their nails and several boys were very curious.  The librarian at the school hosted a nails at noon session in the library and it was attended by mostly boys who painted their nails and posed for some fierce pictures.

I couldn’t believe how much Sarah packed into an hour long presentation.  There was even time for Q & A.  She was engaging, funny, and a pro at keeping the student’s attention.  I loved getting to hang out with Sarah Weeks even for a brief time.  She is a fun person and a talented writer.

Thank you Avid Bookshop and Scholastic for bringing her to our school. Thank you to all of the donors who got Pie into the hands of all of our kids.

As I went to car riders today, I saw several students in the hallway already reading their books while they waited.  That’s what it’s all about!

It was a really fun day!

 

 

A Visit with Illustrator R. Gregory Christie

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We have such an amazing community.  Anytime we have a wish or a dream that we put out there, we somehow find a way to make it happen. This year, our supportive PTA budgeted money for us to have a school-wide author or illustrator visit.  These types of visits are huge learning experiences for our students because they connect them to the real people behind the books on our shelves and inspire their own art and stories.  Author/illustrator visits are hard to do for an entire school every year because they take a lot of financial support to pay speaking fees and travel for the author/illustrator.  I am so thankful that our PTA brought Gregory Christie to our school this year for every grade.

From R. Gregory Christie’s site:

R. Gregory Christie has been working as an illustrator for over 20 years.

He has illustrated over fifty books,as well as collaborated with clients

such as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe, The Wall Street Journal,

The New York Times, The Kennedy Center, Pete Seeger, Queen Latifah ,

and Karyn Parsons on a variety of projects.

Our day kicked off with Kindergarten and 1st grade in their own sessions.  Mr. Christie took time to read a bit of A Chance to Shine and talk about how he connects the text of the story to his art.  What the students in these grades loved the most was seeing an illustration come to life before their eyes.  It was like magic.  Mr. Christie got the students to come up with some drawing ideas.  They wanted a cat.  Then he asked them to think about more details, so they added a bad cat from Korea.  Using these details, he started to draw.  He constantly checked in with them to see if his drawing was matching the text.  If it wasn’t, they gave him reminders and held him accountable for what to draw.  I loved how he connected this to what an editor does.

During our 1st grade visit, we had a bit of excitement: a real fire emergency.  We all had to evacuate while fire trucks and firefighters came to investigate our building.  The kids were fantastic, and Mr. Christie was so flexible with this unexpected part of our day.  First grade came back in for a few more minutes and we adjusted our schedule for the rest of the day.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders had a chance to really study some paintings and consider the mood of them.  They also compared two paintings to see what was similar and different.

These students loved it when Mr. Christie drew the face of Jazz Baby but then let students come up and collaborate on the drawing to help tell a story.  They only had  few seconds to add to the drawing.  He started asking them to be accountable for their work by telling what they were trying to achieve by drawing what they did.  After several students, he came in and added his own twist to the drawing.

Mr. Christie visited both PreK classes individually and read Jazzy Baby and A Chance to Shine.  Then, he took time to draw Jazz Baby and some other things like birds and dogs.  The kids loved having those illustrations left in their class.  My favorite part of this time was when the PreK students were able to show him their artwork and talk about what they did in their own artwork that was inspired by his artwork.  This was so empowering for our smallest students.

In our 4th and 5th grade, students had a special treat.  They saw Mr. Christie’s first book that he has written and illustrated.  It isn’t published yet, but they were treated to parts of the F & G version of the book.  He also took them through several of the books and how the illustrations came together.  Students saw the very first book that Gregory Christie did called Palm of My Heart.  It was great to see this first book side by side with the newest book to see how his illustrations changed or stayed the same.  Students shared a lot about why Mousetropolis stood out to them with its cute mice and its vibrant colors.  These students were also treated to a special video production that is yet to be released about an African American ballet performer.  It was a session full of special opportunities for our students.

I loved capturing some words from Gregory Chrisitie throughout the day.  Students heard:

“When a book starts it’s a manuscript.  When the book it comes to me.  The words can help you feel that it’s an upbeat bright colored book.”

“It’s graphic.  You see a lot of negative and positive space.”

It takes about a year to do a book.

Body language is important when you are illustrating a book.

I know these students will remember this visit for years to come.  We now have all of our Gregory Christie books autographed and ready for checkout in the library.  Thank you again to our PTA for this opportunity, and thank you Avid Bookshop for helping with our book sales.

2015 Poem In Your Pocket (Part 2)

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Our live poetry cafe continued today with 11 more sessions.  Again, we broadcast each reading through Google Hangouts and encouraged people to Tweet about our poetry using the hashtag #barrowpoems.  You can read about yesterday here.

I always love the surprises that come up from students: a student reading from a computer, a student who barely speaks who reads an incredibly descriptive poem, a student giving his teacher a standing ovation, a student who shared a poem in Chinese and then English, students encouraging their friends with a “you can do it”, a student sharing a poem about his home country, a student reading a poem for another student who was too shy to come up, and  a student handing me her poem to carry in my pocket.

Today I added a little sign to help with our traffic in and out of the library for checkout.

The energy of our students sharing poetry is simply amazing and inspiring.  Check out all these pictures of the students in action.

Our Twitter wall was very popular with students during the two days:

A few tweets from today:

Watch all of today’s archives:

2015 Poem In Your Pocket Day (Part 1)

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Each year, Poem In Your Pocket Day morphs into something just a little bit new.  It’s always a day to come to the library and share poems into our open microphone, but we like to mix things up a bit each year.  This year, I put out soft seating instead of tables.  It allowed students to be a bit closer to the speaker and hopefully felt a bit more cozy.

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In the past, I’ve used Adobe Connect to broadcast our day.  While it is a great tool, it has some drawbacks.  I love that it is one room that our online guests can stay in all day long and I can communicate with them via chat.  However, I don’t love the way the archive is created.  I have to setup and name each recording right as I’m starting the recording.  It doesn’t take long, but it’s one more step I have to do.  Also, once all of the archives are done, I have to go in, change them to public, and copy the link to share in order for people to view them.

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This year, I decided to try Google Hangouts on Air.  We use this every day for our morning broadcast, so I’m very familiar with using it.  Ahead of our event, I setup a Google Hangout on Air for each session on our schedule.  Then, I opened each hangout and copied the Youtube link where the video would stream live.  I embedded these videos on one big Google site so that they were easily accessible in one spot.

Click to visit our Google Site

As each group came in, I opened the hangout, tested the sound, and pressed start.  Our guests could watch online, but as soon as I pressed stop the video was instantly archived on that same Google site.  It saved me the hassle of having to go back and find all of the videos in order to share them.  While it’s not huge, any amount of time I can save is valuable to me.

This year, to make up for the chat feature being taken away, we decided to use Twitter to talk about our poems.  We encourage our online guests and future viewers of our content to tweet using the hashtag #barrowpoems I used Tweet Beam to display the tweet on our projection board for students to see.  It was fun to see how this populated throughout the day and how much students smiled when they saw a tweet mentioning their poem.  Teachers even pulled out their phones and helped document the day through pictures, videos, and comments on Twitter.

Also, here’s a little look at what it’s like to be in the room.

This event always amazes me because pretty much every student in the school gets up in front of an audience and speaks.  It’s a small amount of speaking, but I love seeing students get used to speaking to an audience and seeing what that feels like.  This is a very positive and supportive atmosphere, so most students leave the reading feeling validated for their work.

I encourage you to listen to some of our archives and continue to tweet about #barrowpoems

Continue watching us live on April 10th!

 

Get Ready for Poem In Your Pocket Day 2015

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Poem in Your Pocket Day has grown to be one of our favorite days of the year.  Each year, we’ve found new ways to celebrate this day.  We write poetry to prepare.  We hold a poetry contest.  We encourage every person in our school to carry a poem in your pocket.

The thing about Poem in Your Pocket that people look forward to the most is our poetry cafe in the library.  I decorate the library with tables, tablecloths, lights, and poetry.  There’s a fancy microphone and a poet’s stool.  Every class in the school comes the library across 2 days to share poems into the open microphone.  This year’s poetry cafe will be on Thursday and Friday April 9th and 10th.

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For the past few years, we’ve used Adobe Connect to broadcast and archive our poetry readings for the world to see.  This year, we are once again trying something new.  We’re still broadcasting, but now we are using Google Hangouts.  Each class has a Google Hangout setup.  I’ve made one Google Site that contains all of the links to the hangout feeds.  At each scheduled time, the hangout will go live for an audience to view.

This year, we are encouraging our viewing audience to use Twitter to talk about our poetry.  Comments for classes or individual students can be tweets using the hashtag #barrowpoems  I’ll have a Twitter feed up on our board so that our students can see what people are saying about their poems.

I encourage you to tune in and watch on April 9th & 10th.  Please share this event with everyone you know.  It is sure to be a great 2 days of poetry!

Here’s what you need to know:

When:  8:00AM-2:30PM eastern on April 9th and 10th

Where:  Google Hangouts.  All links can be found at bitly.com/barrowpoems15

View the complete schedule here.

Tweet about the event and the poems using hashtag #barrowpoems

 

Popup Makerspace at UGA with the Maker Dawgs and Flipgrid

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A few weeks ago, Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructional technology teacher, emailed me about a possible collaboration on the UGA campus. She wanted to bring her Maker Dawgs class to the UGA Tate Center Plaza to host a popup makerspace.  The idea would be to have a variety of maker tools available for UGA students to try on the spot.  She wondered if I had students who might join them.  Without hesitation, I said yes and  we started the logistics.  The more we planned, the bigger the trip got.  The biggest news was that 2 members of the Flipgrid and Vidku team from Minneapolis flew down to do a video in our library.  They wanted to go with us on our trip to see how students were getting their voice into the world and also how we planned to use Flipgrid to reflect on the day.

Our school is about a mile from the UGA Tate Center Plaza and our students have walking field trip forms on file so it was easy for me to create a field trip.  The hard part was working out the logistics for bad weather.  In true fashion, we had plan A, plan B, plan C, and maybe even a plan D.  It was right up to the wire deciding about going to UGA, but the rain held off and we made our trek down to Tate.

Students had a little bit of time to explore the maker tools that Gretchen brought before we prepped all of our supplies for UGA students to explore.

Students connected Spheros to iPads through bluetooth, setup a wireless network with Justin & Greg from Flipgrid, and made a playable piano with Playdoh and MaKey MaKey.

Then, we waited.  Traffic on the UGA campus quickly picked up at around 10:30 when classes changed, but most UGA students had their earbuds in and walked at a fast pace to get to the next class.  The kids were a bit timid at first, but with some encouragement, they began to develop techniques to get UGA students to stop and try out our makerspace stuff.

Several students started driving the Spheros right into the paths of walking college students.  At first, they dodged them, but eventually they started asking questions.  Other students started experimenting with phrases to get the UGA students interested.

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One student even put on silly costumes and made up dances to attract attention to our cause, and so many people loved his techniques!

It was really interesting to see the college students when they stopped.  Most of them wanted the students to demonstrate for them how each piece of technology worked.  They had to be nudged and encouraged to try them.  It made me wonder if there is less of a culture of risk-taking in this age bracket than with our elementary students.

Halfway though our makerspace time, Gretchen’s Maker Dawgs class joined us and helped talk with UGA students, demonstrate tools, and document the day through pictures and Flipgrid.

We used Flipgrid part of the time just to capture some video of what was going on.

Ludwig and Kearn spent a lot of time showing people how MaKey MaKey could control a computer.  They setup a piano and bongos that could be played with Playdoh, and they got several people to stop and try it out.  It was fun to listen them explain the science behind how it works.  When you touch the Playdoh and a piano plays, it seems like magic, but they did an incredible job of talking about circuits as they demonstrated the tool.

Many of our students worked hard to drive the Spheros around and demo them.  I wish that our Sphero students had been able to get some UGA students to try programming the Sphero, but most were just in too big of a hurry.  They mostly showed how you can use the Drive app to control the ball.  Maybe next time, we can be prepared to demo alternate apps.  However, they still had a good many students stop by and actually try out the ball after seeing how it worked.  The kids loved talking about how it worked and being able to teach students who were much older than them.

Another group of our students spent time making some things from duct tape and then teaching UGA students how to make them too.

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Others had a great time exploring littlebits, connecting blocks, and making friendship bracelets.

As our popup makerspace came to a close, we used Flipgrid to reflect on what we had learned.

Here are links to a few of those responses.

It was truly an amazing day of getting our students out into the world to share their knowledge and pass on their passion for makerspaces.  Gretchen was able to promote her UGA class.  We were able to show what’s happening in K-12 education right now with makerspaces.  Our students were empowered by the chance to be the experts in the room.  Gretchen and I are already brainstorming what this might look like next time.

Many thanks to Greg and Justin from Vidku and Flipgrid for tagging along and helping to document our day.

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