Hour of Code in the Library

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For the past 3 years, our library has participated in Hour of Code during Computer Science in Education Week.  This movement of setting aside an hour to tinker with coding was started by Hadi Partovi.  When we started back in 2014, there was only a handful of options of coding resources for students to try on code.org and many of them crashed due to the number of students using the site around the world. Fast forward to 2016 and students now have 172 reliable options in the Hour of Code portion of code.org and numerous other lessons that take them beyond the hour of code.

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When we first started participating, classes came to the library to try out an hour of code. This year, many classes still came, but some classrooms also tried out the hour in their own rooms.  It was fun to see something that started in the library spread into general classrooms.

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This year we had classes from every grade participate in Hour of Code in the library (including PreK next week).  We started each session by exploring the word “code” and connecting it to our own experiences. Many students talked about passcodes on phones or tablets.    We then related this to the language that a computer speaks.

Lots of choice, perseverance, and collaboration during hour of code. #kidscancode #hourofcode #librariesofinstagram

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I had students think about their favorite video game or app and explained that every tap or press of a button was coded with instructions for the computer to know what to do. I also had students imagine if their favorite game or app never existed.  What if the coders gave up while developing the game?  This question brought the most gasps.  We talked about the importance of mindset and not giving up. I loved that code.org had this great video that setup the idea of a growth mindset.

This year, I let students have a lot of choice in grades 3-5 because many of them had experienced hour of code or a coding project before.  Some needed to try something more advanced while others needed to start with the basics.  My big rule was that once they chose a coding activity, they were supposed to stick with it.  With 172 options, it would be really easy to jump from one thing to another without really pushing yourself through the hard parts. I loved that code.org had a filter to filter by grade level or coding experience.

For grades K-2, we used an app on the iPad called Box Island, but we also had the flexibility to move to code.org if students were ready to move on to something else.  I thought it was easier to stick with one tool for these grade levels since coding was so new to most of the students.

2nd grade coders using Box Island #kidscancode #hourofcode

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Students worked on coding all over the library. Some grouped themselves on cushions or tables. Others worked alone.  Collaboration between students started to happen whether they were using the same app or something different.  It’s something I see in makerspace as well.  There’s something about this kind of experience that facilitates natural collaboration. Students want to help one another. It isn’t forced or required. It just happens.

1st grade coders loved using Box Island. #hourofcode #kidscancode #librariesofinstagram

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Students persevere. They celebrate their success enthusiastically, and sometimes yell when something doesn’t work right.

Team coding with Osmo #hourofcode #kidscancode

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It isn’t always perfect, though. Sometimes students give up.  They say it’s too hard.  Those moments are frustrating for me, but I like to talk with students about why they gave up.  I can’t pretend that I don’t ever give up either…because I do.  However, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the importance of persevering even when things are hard because it’s a goal we should strive for.

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At the end of each session, I brought students back together to talk about the experience. They started to crowdsource a list of tips to pass on to the class that came after them. Looking at their list you will see so many tips that could be applied to multiple situations, not just coding.

We also looked at subject areas like reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  I asked students to consider whether or not they used any of these subjects or skills while coding. They of course gave brilliant responses.

  • Reading code is like reading another language
  • We read instructions to know what to do
  • I revised my code just like I revise my writing
  • I had to use strategy just like solving a math problem

I invited them to think about how we might continue to explore coding as we create projects in class.  Many of the students went home excited about coding and shared with families. I got messages from family members about their child’s eagerness to code.  I even got a few pictures of coders in action while at home.

I love doing hour of code in the library because it’s a source of professional learning for teachers and a chance for students to try something they enjoy.  We can take a risk together trying something new and then explore how to connect this with what we are already doing. Teachers see how engaged the students are and ponder how to continue that engagement.  It’s also a very public space, so anyone who walks into our library during hour of code also starts to consider the power of coding in school. I’m still figuring out how we can weave this into more of our year. The students love it. They are engaged. How can we use this excitement to connect to what we are learning together each day?

 

2016 Picture Book Smackdown

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Picture Book Month came to a close and we once again hosted a Picture Book Smackdown with schools around the country.  All month long, students have been celebrating Picture Book Month by reading picture books from every genre section of our library. As they read a book from a section, they earned a stamp on a challenge sheet. Once students collected all 12 stamps, they turned their sheet in for a bookmark, certificate, and to be entered into a drawing to win a new picture book.

Another piece of Picture Book Month was preparing for the Picture Book Smackdown.  Since 2013, I’ve been hosting and organizing a Google Hangout to bring together students from multiple states along with authors & illustrators to celebrate the power of the picture book.  For one hour, students and authors take turns stepping up to the microphone, book talking a favorite picture book, and saying why picture books matter in the world.

We advertised our event using Smore.

This year, we were joined by author Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month.  We had students from 4 states: Maine, Vermont, Texas, and Georgia.

 

We broadcasted through Youtube Live and had a full hour of sharing favorite picture books.  Dianne de Las Casas opened and closed our event.

 

I loved that at the end she reflected on what had been shared.  There was such a mix of classic picture books with current picture books.  There were books about Star Wars and books about difficult topics like hurricanes.  There were new twists on fairy tales like Little Red and books in made up languages like Du Iz Tak?

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As students shared, I had a wonderful parent volunteer who kept a list of the books that were shared during the hangout. We need to go back now and clean up the doc, but you can view its progress here.  I also had a volunteer who helped get students up to the microphone while I made sure our technology was all running smoothly.

We had multiple viewers from around the country during the event and it was fun to see tweets from different perspectives.

 

It was also fun to look at the Smore analytics to see where people were from who at least visited our page about the event.

I think one of the things I enjoy most is seeing students and authors share with the world with one voice.  They come together around a love of picture books and each take time to speak about why picture books matter to them.  Each student had a different take on the importance of picture books and they all brought something for us to consider.

You can view our entire Picture Book Smackdown here:

As you view, I hope you’ll consider tweeting about your own favorite picture books using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

Another incredible thing that happened this year is that I heard from a group of librarians in Alabama led by Bonnie Howard who wanted to host their own picture book smackdown gaining inspiration from the smackdown we started in 2013.  I of course encouraged them to go for it.  Their smackdown gained a lot of community attention and because of that, we get a chance to see the smackdown in action as well as hear some students talk about what they loved about the event.  One of the things I love about the video is how a principal and librarians got excited about the future of connections beyond their state and even country.  When you start connecting with other schools, you see the miraculous things that happen as students and adults collaborate with one another. I can’t wait to see how the work of Bonnie Howard, Kris Gray, Lisa D, and Dixie Paschal continues to grow.

If you are interested in starting your own picture book smackdown, I encourage you to go for it too.  Whether it’s within your own school, with other schools in your district, or reaching beyond state boundaries, you and your students will be rewarded by sharing your work with one another.

Closing Out Fall with a Makerspace Recess

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The fall semester is coming to a close at UGA, which means our open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays is about to take a small break until January.  To close out the semester, the entire Maker Dawgs class returned to Barrow to host a makerspace recess.

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Setting this time up take a little more work than having makerspace in the library, but each time we take our makerspace beyond the library, I’m reminded about how it makes the opportunity visible to students.

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Gretchen Thomas arrived early and started setting up tables under our pavilion on the playground. Each table featured something we’ve done in makerspace across the semester.

  1.  Duct tape bows and bow ties
  2. Kindness pins and necklaces
  3. Buttons
  4. Popsicle kazoos
  5. Strawbee architecture
  6. Cubelets

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Since we were outside, we could also have stations that are more difficult to do inside like sidewalk chalk art.  As UGA students arrived, they each took a station to facilitate any students who wanted to try that activity.  When students arrived at recess, they immediately gravitated toward the makerspace to see what was going on. One of the most common things I heard was: “I didn’t sign up”.  It was so fun to say that the makerspace was open to all.  Since we had numerous helpers and could spread out, it didn’t matter how many students wanted to participate or how loud they were.  Because of this, we saw students who had never been to makerspace suddenly get to experience what we do.

I know that I can’t do the scale of makerspace that we did today by myself, but I do want to think about how I can offer small opportunities to tinker with our makerspace tools in spaces where students are already gathered.  The tricky piece comes with managing the library while I’m in another space. Without a helper, I have to think about the best times I can do this while I have a volunteer or our computer technician in the library.

A great day for making at recess. #worldkindnessday #choosekind #makerspace

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As typically happens in makerspace, we saw big groups of students who might not play together on the playground suddenly crowded around the same table sharing materials, collaborating, chatting, and sharing their creations. There’s something magical about the atmosphere of a makerspace and the community it builds among makers.

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I need to keep this thought at the front of my mind as I move into the 2nd half of the year. How can I maintain the makerspace opportunities we have as well as expand the opportunities to students who haven’t had a chance to participate?

As always, thank you to Gretchen Thomas, her Maker Dawgs students, and UGA for exploring this complex topic with me each semester. We’re doing great work together.

Exploring Advance Reader Copies with 1st Grade

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I love getting Advance Reader Copies (ARC) of books.  I selfishly enjoy having them for myself to read, but the real joy comes when I get to share them with readers well in advance of the book being released. It’s like sharing a secret with them and creates an extra level of engagement for the story. It also gives me a chance to get reader input on books that might become a part of our library collection.  In the past, I’ve returned from conferences with a suitcase full of books and distributed them to readers to enjoy and offer opinions.

Most of the time ARCs come from publishers in the mail or at conferences.  However, yesterday, I received 2 ARCs direct from author Hannah Barnaby with a special note tucked inside.

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Today, Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class visited the library for a story time, so it was the perfect opportunity to share the books for the first time. Since it’s world kindness week, we discussed what a kind gesture it was for the author to send us a sneak peek of her two new books. We also discussed how we could in turn offer some kindness back by reading the books, discussing them, and sharing a bit of feedback with the world.

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The first Hannah Barnaby book we took a look at was Bad Guy illustrated by Mike Yamada. The book uses short sentences on each page to highlight the daily sinister deeds of one bad boy.  Many of these deeds are against his sister.  Without giving too much away, he learns that being a bad guy can have its consequences too.

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After we read, I asked the students to think about what they loved, what they wondered, and who they would recommend the book to.  Here are a few of their thoughts about Bad Guy.

What we loved:

  • bad guys
  • bad guys can be good
  • it went back and forth between the characters like a brother & sister.
  • his sister played a trick on him, too..
  • it was like playing a game.

What we wondered:

  • if they had made a trap for each other
  • how his sister made the trap
  • if he was really doing all the bad stuff or if it was pretend.

Who should read this book:

  • people who like stories about bad guys.
  • people who like stories where characters play tricks on each other
  • people who like traps

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The second book we read was Garcia & Colette Go Exploring illustrated by Andrew Joyner.  This book follows two characters who both want to go exploring but can’t seem to agree with one another on where to explore. This results in them taking two different journeys alone. As they explore, they make observations about their world and without knowing it, make many of the same observations.

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I again asked students to think about what they loved and wondered as well as who they would recommend the book to.

Book Title: Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Author: Hannah Barnaby

What we loved:

  • they said the same things when they were apart
  • the packed the same things to eat
  • both couldn’t do the things they wanted to do.

What we wondered:

  • how did they make their rocket and submarine?
  • did they eat all their sandwiches?

Who should read this book:

  • people who like exploring
  • people who like space & sea
  • people who like the desert
  • people who like to explore alone

Finally, we had some discussion about both books together.  First, should we have these books in our library when they are released.  It was an overwhelming, unanimous “YES!”.  Both books are different, so I didn’t want to pit the books against each other.  However, students did offer some feedback about which book hooked their attention the most depending on the reader.  It was really split between the two books.  The students who preferred Bad Guys liked the trickery and brother/sister relationship.  Many students felt a connection to how the brother and sister picked on each other.  The students who preferred Garcia & Colette Go Exploring liked the adventure and the setting as well as the illustrations of the two inventions the characters made.

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I want to explore more ways to use ARCs with students. Thank you Hannah Barnaby for thinking of us and allowing us a sneak peek at your new books. We can’t wait to add them to our library.  We’ll continue to enjoy them with more classes over the next few weeks.

Bad Guy will be released in May 2017.

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring will be released in June 2017.

 

When Authors Connect: A Skype with Barbara O’Connor

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One of our amazing Barrow teachers, Ms. Spurgeon, is leading a book club with some 5th grade students.  To select their book, she read the summaries of several books as well as the first page of those books.  The members of the group unanimously chose Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog after hearing the opening line: “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.  They have been savoring every moment of reading the book since choosing it.  They’ve taken their time because a book like this one deserves some discussion, and Ms. Spurgeon has shared that some of that discussion has been hard.

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How to Steal a Dog is about Georgina Hayes and her brother who have been evicted from their apartment and now live out of their car with their mother.  They long for a place of their own, and a “lost dog” poster suddenly gives them an idea.  What if they stole a dog and then collected the reward money after giving the dog back to its owner?  The plan sounds brilliant, but even though it is well planned out by Georgina, the duo face some unexpected challenges that complicate their hopes.

Ms. Spurgeon’s group has had some tough discussions about homelessness, poverty, stealing, and family relationships, but the students have embraced those discussions and in turn stayed connected and engaged in the book. When she shared with me how powerful the discussions were, I really wanted Barbara O’Connor to hear about it.

I shared some of Ms. Spurgeon’s observations with Barbara and wondered if we might connect over Skype for just a few minutes when they were close to finished with the book.  Barbara enthusiastically said yes, and we set a date to connect for about 20 minutes.

A small group in 5th grade connected with @barbaraoconnor to discuss How to Steal a Dog. #tlchat #authorvisit #studentvoice

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Ms Spurgeon kept the Skype a surprise until the day of the connection, and the 5 students were shocked that they would actually talk to the “real author” of the book they were reading. They prepared some questions over lunch and came to the library to Skype.

Meeting Barbara O'Connor #authorvisit #studentvoice

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It was a different kind of Skype because it was intimate. I pulled 5 chairs right up to the board so students could be close to Barbara on screen. Students each introduced themselves, and Ms. Spurgeon had a moment to talk to Barbara about their experience with the book.

Barbara took time to talk a bit about herself as a writer, how many books she has published, and where she lives. Then, it really became a conversation between the students and Barbara. I love author and illustrator visits, but often these visits are more presentation and less conversation because of the size of the groups we pack in for a visit. This type of visit built a connection between author and reader.

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Students asked about whether Barbara had experienced homelessness, why she wrote the book, how long it took, and more. Some students also came up with follow-up questions in the moment and because it was a small group, they could actually ask those.  We got to take a quick tour around Barbara’s house as she showed the students her dogs after they asked whether or not she had a dog of her own.

We closed our time by thinking about next reads. I had pulled the books from our library that weren’t checked out at the moment and asked Barbara if she would like to suggest any of her other books as a follow-up selection. She suggested The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis and showed students an example of a Yoohoo boat from the story. While she mentioned other books like Wish, one of the students reached out and grabbed Popeye and Elvis and started reading it. That’s one of the great rewards of an author visit whether it’s through Skype or in person.  The books come alive for the students and they can’t wait to read them all. Even though I can often recommend a book to a student and they will read it, the recommendation from the actual author is as good as gold.

Connecting with an author via skype means finding a new book to dive into. #studentvoice #authorvisit #reader

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When the students returned to their class, they continued to talk about the visit and how wonderful Barbara was to talk to.  Some of them said they couldn’t wait to read more of her books once they finish this one.  I know that Skype visits take time for authors, but it means the world to readers when they offer even a small amount of time to say hello, show off their dogs, and talk about the joys and challenges of writing and reading. Thank you for joining us today, Barbara O’Connor!

 

Exploring Pigloo with Anne Marie Pace

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Today Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class had the great fortune to Skype with Anne Marie Pace to celebrate her new picture book, Pigloo. This book began when Anne Marie was in 1st grade, and now it is a beautiful picture book for our readers to explore. Pigloo dreams of going on an exploration to the north pole, and thanks to some snow, his sister, and some imagination, he is able to make his dreams come true.

This Skype was made possible through a contest that Anne Marie Pace held for librarians and teachers of 1st grade.  Prior to our Skype, students watched the book trailer to get familiar with where the idea for the book came from.  Anne Marie also sent us coloring pages for the students to color.

During our Skype, Anne Marie had students think about times they have waited on something just like Pigloo waits on the snow.  We heard stories of waiting on pizza and Pokemon cards.  We also talked about weather in Virginia where Anne Marie lives and in Georgia where we live.  We certainly don’t have as much snow as Anne Marie has, so it was fun for the students to think about opportunities to get out and play in the snow which is rare here.

Ms Skinner's class is having fun with author Anne Marie Pace. @barrow21firsties #pigloo #author #skype

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Next, Anne Marie read through the entire book.  She held it up for students to see, but luckily a copy arrived in the mail for us just in time for the Skype.  I held up the book so that students could see it on the screen or on the physical pages.

One of the things I love about connecting with authors is the chance for students to chat with them one on one.  Anne Marie took time to let students step up and ask a question.  Many wanted to ask more questions about Pigloo.  Why did his sister “trick” him?  Where did he get his sled and hat?  However, we also got to ask about writing.  She encouraged students to keep writing even when it’s hard.  She explained that sometimes writing has fun parts and sometimes it has hard parts.  She wanted them to always listen to their teacher and realize that feedback was a teacher’s wish for them to each become better writers.  This affirmation is always powerful for students to hear and realize that we all need to push ourselves to do better.

Pigloo will now be available for checkout in our library, but students have a chance to order it from Anne Marie’s local bookshop, The Sycamore Tree.  She will sign each one and the bookshop will mail them to our school.

Connecting with authors in person and virtually is always a treat for our readers. Each experience reminds students that there is a person and lots of hard work behind the pages of each book on our shelves.  Thank you Anne Marie Pace for stepping into our school for the morning.

Community Collaboration: Book Making in the Makerspace

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I love opportunities to connect with community and bring expertise, talents, and interests to our students.  Recently, a parent contacted me to tell me that her child’s grandmother was traveling to Athens to visit and would love to do book making with some students at our school.  I immediately responded back that we would love to have this opportunity in our makerspace, and the planning began.

Grandmother Kathleen sent me a list of supplies we would need, so I ordered those from Amazon in advance.  She packed everything else on her flight from Texas.

I also communicated with Gretchen Thomas at UGA to let her know that her students could help Kathleen during this makerspace time.  I let teachers know the topic of the makerspace in advance and students signed up to participate across two days (Tuesday and Thursday).

When Kathleen arrived, her enthusiasm for art was contagious.  You could tell that she was an amazing art teacher in Texas.  She had multiple examples of books she had made from instruction found in Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.

So many amazing book making projects in this text. #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking #makered

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She had a different kinds of book planned for each group who visited the makerspace: 1st & 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade.

Before each group arrived, she put materials at each chair with the  help of Gretchen’s UGA students.  She gave very clear, step-by-step instructions for each group and me and the UGA students went around assisting students as needed.

Book making in today's makerspace #makered #librariesofinstagram #bookmaking

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A grandparent from Texas is leading book making in makerspace #librariesofinstagram #makered #bookmaking

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Because each project took more than 30-minutes, we reached a stopping point and then stored the projects for Thursday.

Each book had its own purpose and made me and the students think about so many possibilities. One book allowed you to record things from different perspectives. Another book allowed you to write your own Choose Your Own Adventure story with pull out cards.  Another book fanned out like a flower and allowed you to put poems, photographs, and more within the folds.

Each time Kathleen showed us a book, my mind was swirling with connections to each grade level’s curriculum.  Students were focused, productive, and buzzing with excitement about today’s makerspace.  I bet that when students are involved in the process of creating their own published books, they are more likely to fill those books with productive writing.  I know that when I personally made my own book during the final 30-minute session, I really wanted to go home and fill it with writing and photographs.

This book I made in makerspace today amazes me. #makered #bookmaking #librariesofinstagram #community #grandparentsrock

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I was reminded once again about how many interests and talents are hiding within our students, families, extended families, and community.  Alone, I would not have thought much about book making or how to attempt it with groups of students.  However, now that the expertise of a grandparent was shared with me and our students, I’m considering new possibilities with projects.

How many more talents and interests are just waiting for us within our communities?  How do we tap into these resources? This was an opportunity that was given to me, but I know that if I had a way of unearthing and organizing the wealth of talents and interests in our community that more opportunities like this would make its way to our students and teachers.