Finding Barrow’s Stories

Imagine the untold stories that could be hiding in a school building that was built in 1923.  Our 5th grade students are working to uncover some of those students in a project called the Barrow Oral History Project.  This project is funded through a grant from the Athens Area Community Foundation.  The grant purchased 12 digital cameras and books about oral history and photography.
This week we kicked off our project with a session where students learned an overview of the whole project.  Then, students were placed into four groups to rotate through 4 centers.  These centers are the result of many collaborative meetings and emails to plan what students would need in order to take on a project of this size.
Ms. Biehl is leading a center exploring mounds and mounds of scrapbooks, artifacts, and loose photographs from Barrow’s history.  Students are looking at how the school has changed over time and thinking of questions they might ask our interview guests.  Students are also brainstorming ways that these scrapbooks and artifcacts might be shared with others.  At the moment they are stored in a cabinet our of sight.
Ms. Mullins is working with students in the computer lab to explore oral history resources online.  There are many great examples of oral histories that have already been done such as Story Corps and the Veterans’ history project from the Library of Congress.  Students are also using this time to look at the oral history books that were purchased through the grant, and teachers are taking some of these books back to the classroom to read aloud.

Ms. Beshara is exploring interview etiquette and interview question development.  She is using the question generator from the National Day of Listening as well as having students develop their own questions to pull from for their interviews.

I (Mr. Plemmons) am training students on how to use Audacity to record their interviews as mp3s.  Students are interviewing one another in order to explore the software and walking though all of the steps to export the file to a shared folder.  Students are also learning how to use the digital cameras to take photographs of their interviewee and upload their photos to another shared folder.

Our interviews will take place on March 16, 17, and 18th.  Following these, the students will make final products that will be used to build a webpage of oral history from Barrow.  I can’t wait to see what stories we uncover.

Any Which Wall

If you were to stumble upon an object that looked like a Genie’s Lamp, you would know what to do wouldn’t you? You would probably give it a few rubs with your hand and wait for the genie to come rumbling out of the end. He would grant you three wishes with a few conditions attached to them. But….what if you stumbled upon a magical object that you didn’t know the rules for. How would you figure out how it worked? Would you get frustrated and just give up or would you collaborate with your friends to figure it out?

In Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder, Henry, Emma, Roy, and Susan do just that. They discover a magical wall in a field. The wall obviously has rules for how it works, but what are they? Through many different wishes and adventures this team of adventurers work together to unlock the mysteries of the wall, and they meet many interesting characters along the way.

I loved the moments in this story where Laurel Snyder was writing directly to the reader. Within her writing she put out into the open the rules of books and how narratives work. This direct conversation to the reader made me think of Kate DiCamillo’s style of writing in The Tale of Despereaux.

I won’t call this book flawless, because there were a few jumpy moments in the story where the writing quickly sped up to move further into the story, and I felt like we missed some entertaining adventures from the group of kids. However, I really enjoyed this book overall and think that many students would love the adventure, magic, and mystery of this great chapter book.

Reviewed by Mr. Plemmons