Stop Motion Colonial Perspectives

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I just love it when a teacher steps out and tries something totally new just to see where it goes.  Some of the most exciting projects happen when a teacher gives himself or herself permission to say, “Hey, I have this crazy idea”.  Mr. Coleman, 4th grade teacher, does this often.  He isn’t afraid to step out and try something that no one else has done and look for the miraculous things happening all along the way.

Fourth grade is currently studying colonial life in social studies.  He wanted to weave in something from our makerspace or some new type of technology that would allow students to engage with the content in different ways.  During a quick brainstorm, we tossed around several ideas and he reflected on them overnight.  The next day, he came back with the idea to create stop motion videos that showed the perspectives of various roles in colonial America.

To start, students watched many stop motion videos in class just to see what they looked like. In the library, they came for a tinkering session using Stop Motion Studio.  As we usually do during tinkering, I encouraged them to press every button to see what it did.  I also told them to not focus on creating a polished product but to try out many different strategies to see what worked best for stop motion.  Most of these students had never made a stop motion video before. They grabbed Legos, stuffed animals, and pipe cleaners to use in their videos and got to work.

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Mr. Coleman and I walked around and tried to give students tips that we were observing from other groups.  The main thing we noticed is that students were constantly moving the iPads which ruined the effect of stop motion.  They also weren’t taking enough pictures to show movement.  A few students started getting the hang of both of these, so we relied on them some to help other groups.  We also found it helpful to regroup and have kids share tips to the whole group as well as share out own tips.

Back in class, students selected a perspective to showcase in a stop motion video.  Many students were drawn to either slaves or women.  They formed groups and started developing a plan.  Across 3 one-hour work sessions they came back to the library to create their videos.  They pulled things from makerspace, used objects around the library, brought things from home, and made things to use in their videos.  Some groups jumped right into their projects with a lot of success while others had to learn to work together or how to back up and try again.  Mr. Coleman also gave them some time to work in class.

I loved how different strategies developed during the work time.  Students began using their computers as a setting and stage or used library bookends to help characters stand up.

Mr. Coleman and I constantly walked around to conference with groups.  We had them back up and look at their work to see where they might need to add pictures.  We also had them talk through their story to see if they had enough to tell a perspective.

As students finished up in their final work session in the library, we exported the videos onto the iPad camera roll and uploaded them to a shared folder in Google Drive.

Mr. Coleman plans to take these videos and continue using them in class.  Students might write out scripts and do voice over or maybe they will add music and simply attach an accompanying script.  However this goes from here, it was a big leap in using technology and tools we have tinkered with in our makerspace.  Many pieces wove together to support a social studies curriclum standard in a creative way.  Student interests, creativity, and expertise came into play in many groups.  I invite you to take a look at their work in progress.  This Youtube playlist is the raw footage that still needs to be finalized, but I always like to show that our work is never really finished.  There’s always something more we can do.


First Grade Wizard of Oz Meteorologists

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Our amazing 1st grade team and students have been working on their Wizard of Oz unit.  I love this unit because they weave in so many content standards with Wizard of Oz as their guiding text. A part of this unit is the weather standards from science.  Students have to know various kinds of weather as well as how to dress in that weather.  Since this is a part of what meteorologists do, we decided to try something new this year by looking closely at the role of meteorologists.  The goal was for students to write a weather report for the Wizard of Oz regarding the cyclone and to record the forecast in front of our green screen.

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Students came to the library and we looked at a few videos of meteorologists reporting on severe weather. As we watched, students noticed things about the posture and speech of the meteorologist.  They also pointed out many of the weather words he/she used.

As weather words were noticed, we added them to a shared Google doc.

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This doc was shared with all classroom teachers to continue to add to and use in class.  We also looked at another student-made video and noticed how the student introduced himself in his weather forecast and pretended to be outside in the story.

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In the library, we also spent some time beginning the writing process of creating a weather report.  Students continued working on this in class during writer’s workshop.  The list of weather words continued to be used and added to. They also did a bit of rehearsing.

Finally, students returned to he library and one by one recorded themselves in front of the green screen with a tornado or other weather behind them.  As students were recording, the rest of the class practiced, looked at weather books, and searched for the current weather in our area using apps on the iPad.

They loved seeing the weather magically appear on our iPad using the DoInk app on the iPad.  We took all of the videos from the iPad and uploaded them to class playlists to share back with the class.

You can enjoy the variety of videos in each of these lists.

One of my favorite parts of this short project was how it tied to a real career and gave students experience with a real-world job related to the standards they were studying in science.  They were each able to be a bit creative in their forecasting, and each student had a chance to use a cool technology to make their voice heard at such an early age.

Recording wizard of oz weather reports #science #tlchat #weather

A photo posted by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Dr. Seuss Author Study Centers

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It has been some time since I did traditional types of centers that student rotate through.  Third grade is currently working on a Dr. Seuss author study as they close out the year, and they wondered what students might do in the library related to Dr. Seuss.  We looked at the days on the calendar along with everything that has to be done and decided that there wasn’t time to pull off a project around Dr. Seuss and really give it the time it needed.  Instead, we decided that I would give students some experiences to connect with Dr. Seuss as enrichment.

Before student arrived, I setup the 5 centers around the library so that they were somewhat in a circular arrangement.  I wrote the 5 centers on the whiteboard so that students could check the order as needed.

When students arrived, I explained each center very briefly and then we numbered off 1-5 to begin centers.  Each center lasted about 10 minutes before rotating to the next center.

Center 1: Tongue Twisters

Listen to our tongue twisters here!

I found a variety of tongue twister online as well as some Dr. Seuss books that had more tongue twisting lines than others.  At this center, students practiced reading tongue twisters from the table, recited ones they already knew, or even made up their own.  When they found one they were happy with, they recorded the tongue twister on Flipgrid.  They loved listening to how other students sounded and many students “liked” other student videos.  Most students recorded more than one tongue twister while at this station.  I had fun with one student writing a variation of Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  Her family own a pickle business, so we were trying to change the words to match her family business.  We came up with “The Phickle Chickle picked a peck of Phickles Pickles.”  I encouraged her to continue writing her version and we would record it sometime.

Center 2: Checkout

Rather than waiting until the end to have students check out books, I made it a center.  Students could check out up to 5 books or just browse the library if they had enough books out already.

Center 3: Seussville on computers

I setup 5 Lenovo computers with the Seussville website pulled up.  Most of the students had never visited this site, so this gave them some time to explore the videos, games, and activities that fill this site.  Many found things that they wanted to print out and do later, so I hope some students discovered some summer activities.

Center 4: iPad apps

I downloaded 2 free iPad apps related to Dr. Seuss.  One is the Happy Birthday to You camera.  This was definitely the most popular app of the two.  Students enjoyed taking selfies or pictures of friends and then using the stickers to develop their own Seuss personality.  This would have been a great lead in to creative writing.  Students could have created their picture and then developed an accompanying story to match the picture.  The other app was the Dr. Seuss Fun Machine, but students moved away from it fairly quickly due to its simplicity and lack of clear instructions.

Center 5: Seuss books

We have SO MANY Dr. Seuss books in the library, but it’s amazing how many of them students have never seen or read.  I loved having a station built in where students could just spend time browsing Seuss books, reading along, or buddy reading.  This was a center that most of the teachers visited along with students to read with them or listen to them read.

This was a wonderful end of the year activity, but I saw several potential opportunities that could have taken us into a larger project or even just a follow-up lesson.  It reminded me that centers can serve many purposes and are still a great way to split students up into a variety of experiences.

The Natural Side of Student Voice with Flipgrid

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Empowering student voice has become one of the goals in the library that I am most passionate about.  I love it when a student’s voice reaches out into the world, finds an authentic audience, and gets a response.  One of the tools that has been the most helpful in getting student voices out into the world has been Flipgrid.  In fact, we use Flipgrid so much that students ask why we aren’t using Flipgrid if we choose to use something else.  It is user-friendly for both the educator and the student.

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With your yearly Flipgrid subscription, you get 10 grids.  Think of your grids like your classes or your big topics.  I have a reading grid, math grid, science grid, etc.  Within those grids, you can ask unlimited questions with unlimited video responses from students up to 90 seconds each.  As soon as students press the submit button, there video is uploaded and live for an audience to view which means no extra work on the part of the educator to prep videos for viewing.

You can find multiple uses of Flipgrid within the posts on this blog.  It seems like we are always coming up with new ways to use the tool in our library.

Recently, some of the Flipgrid team visited my school to see what a day in our library is like.  Along the way, they saw ways that our students have a voice as well as ways that we are using Flipgrid.

The first of two videos has been released based on that visit.  I invite you to watch this short video about the natural side of student voice.  Share it with your network and consider how you can give students a voice within your library.



National Poetry Month: Book Spine Poetry Lessons

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I love found poetry.  It is so interesting to think about how words, phrases, and sentences that already exist in the world can be remixed into something new.  We recently spent some time creating blackout poetry, and now students have been coming to the library to create book spine poems.  Each year that we try this type of found poetry, I’m finding that we get a little bit better and add some new strategies for crafting a book spine poem.

This year I decided to do some storytelling to share with students how I crafted my own book spine poem.  Rather than give a list of tasks to do, I told my story and let that guide our instructions for how to make a book spine poem.

“When I made my book spine poem, I just wandered around and picked a shelf in the library.  I spent time at the shelf scanning every title and looking for a title that spoke to me in some way.  The first book that jumped out to me was In My Mothers’ House.  I continued creeping along that same section of the library looking for a title that seemed to go with the one that I had already found.  I didn’t really know if I had found my first line of the poem or just a piece of the poem, but when I came across The Wonderful Happens, it seemed like magic.  Both of those titles just sounded like the beginning of the poem to me.  Now I had a focus.  I needed to find more books that told more about In My Mothers’ House.  I didn’t really worry about order.  I just wanted books that sounded like a good fit.  Once I found 3-4 more, I went to a table and started arranging them and reading them aloud.  I tried many different ways to see what sounded right.  I even had a book that just didn’t seem to fit, so I decided to put that one back on the cart at the front of the library.  When my poem felt just right, I knew I was reading to record myself reading it.”

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By telling this story, I really felt like student had a good sense of what to do, but we did still rephrase the steps together.

1.  Choose a place to start.

2.  Look for books that speak to you and only take the ones that you think you will use.

3.  Continue choosing books that connect to one another

4.  Arrange them in a way that sounds right and put the extras on the cart at the front of the library.

5.  Record yourself reading your poem and return your books to the cart at the front of the library.

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Students got to work.  Most of them jumped right in, but a few had trouble starting.  I found a few students who just wandered around without knowing how to start, so I encouraged them to stop wandering and start reading titles.  Some were very focused on content which made it a bit harder to craft a poem.  They wanted a book about X instead of thinking about a book’s actual title.  I tried to explain that the content of the book really didn’t matter. All that mattered was the title.  It took some time for that to click with some students.  I didn’t want to tell students not to use the computer, but we did nudge students to really try looking at the shelves rather than try to find something on the computer.  Most students who tried the computer strategy ended up abandoning it anyway because it added too much time and frustration to the process.

As students recorded their poems, they came to me at a table.  I had an iPad cord plugged into my computer, so we just connected and uploaded straight to Youtube and put the videos into a class playlist of poetry.

You can enjoy their work in each of these playlists.

Empowering Student Voice Through Individual Projects: A Kindergarten Research Project



My library uses a flexible schedule.  This means that I don’t see classes at a set time every week.  Instead, I collaborate with teachers and schedule lessons and projects as they fit into the curriculum each week.  This flexibility allows me to work with more than just homeroom classes to include classes like art and music, gifted, special education, and extended learning time groups.  It also allows me to work with small groups of students or even individuals.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working with Mick, a Kindergarten student.  He is an avid reader and is very curious about so many things.  Mick discovers a topic and wants to know all there is to know about it.  Our recent exploration has been around seahorses, which was sparked by a book that he read in his class.

Over several sessions, Mick came to the library for research.  We developed questions together on a Google doc.  He did all of the talking, and I did the typing.

Seahorse doc

Once we had a good list of questions, we started exploring PebbleGo, a Capstone Interactive ebook on seahorses, and Encyclopedia Britannica in our Galileo database.  We listened to the read aloud feature or I read the text aloud if it was too difficult for him to read on his own.  We paused often to see if any facts had answered our questions.  If Mick pulled out a fact, we put it into his own words and I added it to the doc.

After each session, I printed our notes for him to take back to class in case he did more research on his own or at home.  Once Mick felt like he had enough facts, I asked him what he wanted to do with his information.

He really wanted to “make a book using the computer”.  There are several tools we could use to do this, but we decided to use an iPad and the Storykit app.  This app lets you create multiple pages, type text, record audio, draw, take pictures, and import pictures.  I’ve seen other Kindergarten students use it, so I felt like it was the right tool for the job.

Mick’s first steps were to find some creative commons pictures of seahorses.  He used the camera on the iPad to take pictures of the pictures and put one picture on each page.

During another session, we went through Mick’s facts and selected an order for the information.  He read the facts he wanted, and I typed them onto the iPad.  I originally had him typing, but it was taking longer than we had time for.

In our final session, Mick recorded his voice reading each page.

The Storykit app lets you upload the book to the Storykit server and then you get a link to the work to share.

I invite you to take a look and a listen to Mick’s informational story on Seahorses.  I love it when student’s voices are empowered through projects in the library.  If you have comments for Mick, please leave them in the comments.

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Crafting Opinion Writing with Puppet Pals in First Grade

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Almost every class in our school is doing some form of opinion writing at the moment.  Last week, 1st grade spent some time tinkering with the Puppet Pals app on the iPad to see how it worked.  We have also been reading books that feature some type of opinion such as The Sandwich Swap and Sylvia’s Spinach.

In class, the 1st graders have been writing an opinion piece, so they brought that piece of writing to the library to use the Puppet Pals app to record their script.  We started on the floor in front of the projector.  I projected an iPad and opened the puppet pal app.  I quickly went through the various screens and made sure everything still looked familiar to students from their tinkering sessions.

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Then, I showed the students a few extra steps they would need to do in order to save their video.  They would need to give their story a title and export the story to the camera roll on the iPad.  I also used this time to explain what my role for the day would be.  Since each class has about 20 students, twenty videos needed to be uploaded to Youtube and put into a playlist for the teacher to share in class and with families.  I really wanted this step to be done while the students were in the library, so I told the students that uploading videos was my only role during our work time.  The teacher was available to walk around and monitor and assist students who were recording, but more importantly, the whole class had expertise in Puppet Pals because of our tinkering and could help one another.  I encouraged them to ask one another for help if they got stuck so that I could focus on getting their videos uploaded.

During the work time, there was not a single student who came to ask me for help to use Puppet Pals.  There were certainly students who got stuck, but they relied on one another to figure things out.  I really saw the benefit of giving them time to tinker in the previous lesson.  They also were empowered to support one another rather than rely on an adult to help.

When they finished recording, they did their additional steps to export their videos and then formed a line in the middle of the library at my table.  I opened the video on the camera roll and selected to upload the video to Youtube.  I signed into my channel on each iPad.  The students helped me name the video and stayed until the video was uploaded.  Then, they went back to their work space and continued using Puppet Pals to tinker and try out a story of their own choice.

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Once all of the videos were uploaded, I selected them all in my account and added them to a playlist.

We worked for a full 45 minutes to record, upload, and continue tinkering.  There was little to no behavior problems.  Every student who had an opinion writing finished was able to film and upload a video.

Now the classes are thinking about a next step for Puppet Pals.  The students are very curious about creating a story with the characters in Puppet Pals, so I have a feeling that we will be crafting some narrative stories very soon.