4th Grade Inquiry Projects

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I’ve recently been collaborating with Ms. Hicks and Ms. Biehl and their students on inquiry learning.   Students all self-selected topics.  Some chose to work alone, while others worked with a partner.  The teachers have done a remarkable job giving the students time to plan their projects and search for information.  In the media center, I did lessons on searching the Internet using tools such as the Google Wonder Wheel.  Students spent days in the computer lab for 30 minutes per day searching for information to inform their projects.  The 4th grade teachers also contacted numerous experts to come in for interviews with the students.  I, myself, was one of the people interviewed because a student was creating a project about being a media specialist.

As they were collecting information, we moved into looking at possible final products.  I did lessons on using Powerpoint, Photostory, Animoto, Screencasts, and Windows Movie Maker.  We learned about using Flip video cameras and digital cameras, too.  Students thought about their own projects and how these tools might fit in.  Many of them decided to incorporate multiple types of technology into their projects.  For example, there might be a powerpoint of information with a Photostory or a Windows Movie Maker file embedded.

On February 16th, we’ll host a media festival where these students will stand with their projects as classrooms, district personnel, and parents file through to view them and see their hard work in action.  We’ll also be posting some of these projects to our website for all to see.

For now, enjoy our Animoto of the students working on their projects.

Lookin’ for Bird

BLOG review by Kelly Hocking

Book:  Lookin’ for Bird in the Big City

By:  Robert Burleigh illustrated by:  Marek Los

Did you ever hear a book make music?  If not, you have simply got to check out Lookin’ for Bird in the Big City by Robert Burleigh.  You cannot help but hear the smooth sound of jazz when you read the words in this book.  Growing up in New Orleans, everywhere I went, there was the sound of jazz music playing in the streets.  In the most surprising places, there would be a group or a lone musician just playing his tunes just for my pleasure.  It makes a city live and breathe and feel like home forever.  Imagine my surprise when I opened this book just to find that every page was filled with that feeling.  It’s been right here in Barrow’s library!

It’s the story of my favorite jazz musician.  His name is Miles Davis.  I have lots of his CDs in my classroom.  You see, jazz music sharpens your mind; that’s what I believe.  Besides, it’s beautiful and uplifting.  Miles Davis played a special kind of jazz called BeBop.  There’s a lot of freedom for the musician in BeBop jazz.  In the book, Miles says, “I let my horn be me.”  His favorite musician was Charlie “Bird” Parker.  Lots of people just called him “Bird.”  Young Miles went looking for Bird in New York City, and this story tells, or rather sings, his adventures.  The paintings in the book are just as musical as the text.  You’ll feel the music as you read and soak up the art.  You can even feel what New York City was like, cool and breezy, sometimes dark but hopeful.

Since Athens is home to so many musicians, this is a great book that’s in our library.  After you read this book, you’ll want to check out Charlie Parker and Miles Davis’ music.  Let me know if you like it, and if you like this book as much as I do, you’ll want to find a copy of Charlie Parker Played BeBop by Chris Raschka.  It’s another book you can just hear and feel in your bones.  There’s nothing I like better than when I can feel a book in my bones….BeBop.


We have been enjoying  supporting writing in the Barrow Media Center.  Right now, every grade level K-5 is working on persuasive writing.  Classes have been coming to the media center and hearing stories that showcase persuasive techniques.  In our talks, we have tried to encourage students to think of persuasive topics that aren’t just about getting something for themselves.  We talk about persuasion that creates change for many.

A second grade classroom worked on persuasive letters to the media center persuading me to purchase specific books for the school.   The students looked in Destiny Quest to see which books we might need extra copies of and which books were not in our media center at all.  They also looked at our media center selection policy and tried to find reasons for purchasing the books they wanted that matched the media center’s policy.  When the letters were finished, the students came to media center and read the letters to me.

My next step is to actually decide which books I will purchase in my next book order.  When these books arrive, these same students will find ways to promote the books and persuade others to read the books.  Most likely they will write reviews in Destiny and the blog as well as speak on our morning broadcast.

I can’t wait to see what other authentic ways we can support the writing that students are doing in their classrooms.

Zen Shorts

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

What would you think if a giant panda moved into your neighborhood? Not only that, he’s a talking panda who is fun to talk to and play with, AND he tells wonderful stories that teach you lessons about life. Well that’s exactly what happened to three kids, two brothers and their sister, one day when they find a giant panda named Stillwater sitting in their backyard holding a large red umbrella.

Each of the kids, Addy, Michael and Karl, visit Stillwater on their own and while they are playing they each hear stories that help them deal with an issue about life. Addy hears the story about giving gifts to a robber, while Michael’s story is about a farmer who knows that luck is something we cannot judge or predict. The youngest child, Karl, hears a story that helps him learn not to carry hard feelings because they become a burden that is too heavy to carry.

One of the things that make this such a great book to read is the beautiful watercolor illustrations that the author, Jon J. Muth has made. The illustrations are simple, but made me feel like I was right in the book with Addy, Michael, and Karl. He does a really cool thing by changing to black and white ink drawings to tell the Zen stories and then switches back to watercolor illustrations when the kids are in the story. It’s a nice effect. I am always jealous when I read books with beautiful illustrations and I hope that someday I can make pictures as nice as these!

Pick up this book in the Media Center soon. You’ll really love it…and learn some lessons about life that will help you forever.

~Reviewed by Mrs. Molly Efland, Instructional Coach

We’re an App!

Thanks to fellow media specialist, Buffy Hamilton, I found out how to make our library an app for Iphone/Ipod touch.  Our library can be found in the  LibraryThing Local Books app.  It’s free, so download it today!  You can search for our library by name (David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center, zip code, or address.  You can even search our card catalog and view our blog/website from the app.  I hope this helps some of you gain even more access to our collection of materials.

Read to Succeed

In our media center, we try to have several different reading promotions during the year to support reading for fun outside of school.  Earlier this year, we did a “Read Around the World” program where students read books from each section of our media center and earned stamps in a passport.  This allowed students to explore genres of books that they might not read on their own.  Several students have continued reading out of these sections even after the “promotion” was finished.

This month, we are participating in the Six Flags Read to Succeed program.  Students read outside of school for a total of six hours, record that time on a log sheet, have it signed by an adult, and they earn a free ticket to Six Flags for the summer.  Many of our students already read this much outside of school, so why not earn a free ticket to Six Flags for something you’re already doing!  For our students who aren’t in this routine yet, we hope that this might be one incentive that will start a culture of reading beyond the school walls.  Reading logs were sent home in purple folders on January 5th and logs are due back to teachers no later than February 26.

Our media center will always encourage students to celebrate the love of reading.  If  you have ideas of things you would like to see us do to support this, feel free to email me or post a comment.