The Wonder of Google

Mrs. Hicks’s 4th grade students have embarked on a project to research topics that interest them.  They have visited the media center to explore how to find “just right” nonfiction text.  They have brainstormed possible questions and pathways that they might take within their topics.

Last week, I visited their classroom to show them a search feature within Google called the Google Wonder Wheel.  The wonder wheel helps user narrow their search topics by offering a range of possible keywords to add to the original keyword typed into the search.  When users click on any of Google’s suggested search terms, a new wheel is formed.  With each click, the new search results are displayed on the right hand side of the screen.  Users can always go back to their original searches by clicking on the appropriate wheel or spoke.
Mrs. Hicks’s students startede exploring this tool in our media center computer lab right after I showed it to them in their classroom.  Many of them reported that they were able to better find the information they were looking for.  During my observations, I noticed a lower frustration level from students as they surfed the web.  I often see students get frustrated because they can’t find what they’re looking for.  I look forward to using this feature with future classes and seeing how it fits students’ needs.

Try it out for yourself and see how you like it.

Third Grade Expert Day

Third graders gathered in the media center today to interview habitat experts.  These students are involved in a project to learn about the plants, animals, and habitats of Georgia.  At the end of their project, students will design a state park that will fit into one of the habitats of Georgia with as minimal impact to the native plants and animals as possible.

Students began their learning exploration by gaining background information in their classroom about the habitats of Georgia and habitat terminology.  Then, students visited the media center and used a pathfinder to search website resources to inform their questions about the plants, landforms, animals, and climate of their assigned habitat.  To prepare for today, students developed questions that they needed to ask an expert in order to inform their state park project.  Students rotated every 10 minutes to expert tables and listened to presentations and asked questions about a variet of topics.  Many thanks to our experts who attended today:

Chris Adamson (Landscape Designer)
Berkley Boone (Memorial Park)

Melissa Caspary (Barrow Garden Designer)

Sara Clarke – (Horticulture/Parent)

Alicia Coughlan (Vermicomposting)

John Maerz (UGA/Warnell Natural Resources)

Lincoln Larson (UGA Eco Reach)

Debbie Mitchell (GA State Botanical Gardens)
Dawn Biehl (Floral Design)

The third grade teachers and resource teachers have worked incredibly hard to make this a dynamic learning experience for our students.  I am so glad that these students and teachers used their classrooms, the media center, and community resources to connect students with quality information.  I can’t wait to see the final projects that students create using the information they have discovered.

Veterans Day 2009

We had a wonderful day honoring veterans in our media center today.  Barrow’s 5th grade works very hard to create a day of celebrating and honoring the veterans connected to our school community.  Mrs. Slongo’s class discovered the book, America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven, after I borrowed it from our public library.  They decided to create this table for display at our veterans celebration and one student discussed the symbolism of the table.  For more info on the white table, visit this site.

white table

Other students read informational writing and poetry at the event to honor the veterans in attendance.  At each table, students were chosen to interview veterans and introduce them to the room.  Finally, Sophie and Levi served as roving reporters and interviewed many of the veterans in order to capture their stories from their days of service.  You can check out the video by clicking this link.  I hope everyone has had a wonderful veterans day today.


Book Review Resource

The Unfinished Angel review

I found this great book review resource on the Inky Girl site The Unfinished Angel is a book that is relatively new in our media center, but it’s a great one!  This year, we’ve explored writing book reviews in a blogging format, but this review offers a comic-style way of writing reviews.  If this style of writing reviews  is something that interests you or your child, I would love to display some comic reviews in our media center and on our website.  Just let me know!

A few thoughts from Charlotte…

My mind is overflowing with new ideas for our media center.  I’m at the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC, and I’m in awe at the creativity & knowledge of my librarian colleagues from across the country.  I’m also overwhelmed by the support that authors are giving to librarians and their role in creating sanctuaries for kids to come and access information and stories.  Tonight, I heard Laurie Halse Anderson talk about censorship and how censorship is an evil brew made up of power, fear, and frustration.  She continued by naming library budget cuts and cuts of library positions as a form of censorship.

Laurie Halse Anderson was not the only author who spoke of the importance of school librarians.  James Patterson began the day by praising the work that librarians do to open doors for young readers.  He stressed the importance of helping children have positive experiences with books.  Kids should have access to the books that they want to read.  Once they find a love of books, other books that adults want them to read can be sprinkled into the mix.  I want to highlight James Patterson’s website Read Kiddo Read because it is a wonderful resource for finding new books to read whether you’re a student, a parent, a teacher, a friend, or a family member.  Mr. Patterson includes many categories of books, including a section on supporting reluctant boy readers.  Please check out his site and see what you find.

I invite you to include any thoughts in the comments section of this post about:  censorship, librarians, how you find your own books to read, or resources you have to share.

read kiddo read


The Crossroads


It took me a long time to work up the courage to read Chris Grabenstein’s The Crossroads.  I read the first few pages and got scared out of my wits.  From the beginning, this book is filled with evil trees and ghost from beyond the grave.  But once I got used to having ghosts as some of the main characters, I discovered that there’s really a great mystery to solve here.

Zack Jennings really wants to like his new stepmother.  She seems nice enough, but Zack keeps wondering when she’s going to yell at him the way his mother used to before she died.  When Zack’s family moves to a small town in Connecticut, he begins to realize that life might become really different for him after all.  He gets a dog, starts to make a few friends… and a tree keeps trying to kill him.  Fortunately for Zack, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together with the help of some local ghosts.

If you enjoy a good mystery, check this book out!  In the beginning, you might think that all these characters are just random people, but pay attention!  You never know who will have the key to unlocking the mystery…


Reviewed by Ms. Meghan Beshara

Greetings from Nowhere

In Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor, the reader is introduced to a cast of characters who don’t seem to have anything in common.  There’s Aggie, whose husband has just died, forcing her to sell the Sleepy Time Motel when she can no longer take care it.  There’s Willow, whose parents don’t love each other anymore and who doesn’t quite know what to do with herself now that her mother is gone.  There’s Loretta, whose other mother just “crossed over to the other side” and left her a box full of mysteries.  And then there’s Kirby, who is driving into the Great Smoky Mountains with his mother because he has attend a special school for boys.  Kirby knows the real reason he’s going is because everyone hates him.

Eventually, everyone ends up at the Sleepy Time Motel and that’s when things really get interesting.  While all the characters are different ages, they all learn something from one another as they gather around an emptied out old pool.  The book is organized into chapters told from the point of view of a different character every time.  Reading this book made me feel good all the way down to my toes.

Reviewed by Ms. Meghan Beshara

Raising Young Readers

Last night at our PTA meeting, Georgia Collier gave a wonderful presentation on supporting readers from birth to into their independent years.  One of the most amazing pieces of information that she shared was about the Wee Read program.  This program is made possible through the Ferst Foundation, United Way Success by 6, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  Any child in Clarke County below the age of 5 can register.  Registered children receive one book per month that is age appropriate.  These books build a wonderful home library before children even begin school.  In the media center, we have a table setup with information and forms to fill out if you want to register your child.  I hope you will all take advantage of this great program.  I know I’m signing up my child as soon as she arrives in December!

Gone from these Woods Author Visit

Today 3rd-5th graders were lucky enough to have a 45 minute session with author, Donny Bailey Seagraves.  She is the author of Gone from these Woods, a book recently published by Random House.  Donny’s talk included many details of how she uses her surroundings, memories, and acquaintances to inspire her writing.  Students also had an opportunity to ask questions about being an author and about the writing process.

This author visit was made possible from funds from our recent book fair.  Thank you for all you do to support our media center.  Author visits always inspire students to go back to their writing notebooks and work on crafting great stories.  In March, we will have author, Carmen Agra Deedy, who will visit with all students at Barrow.

Donny Seagraves’s book is available for checkout in our media center.  It’s a great story for older readers that is a great book to share with a family member and have thoughtful discussions about real-world situations.  Check out our pictures from today’s visit.