Oral History Next Steps

The 5th grade students involved in the Barrow Oral History Project have almost completed their interviews.  We actually completed interviews last week and then some more Barrow buddies contacted us in the hopes of being interviewed.  What fun!

The students have been coming to the media center over the past week to use Windows Movie Maker.  They are importing the digital photographs and mp3 interviews into movie maker and adding transitions, titles, and credits.  These projects are being uploaded to Teacher Tube and will eventually be featured on a page of the David C. Barrow Elementary School Webpage.

Here’s a sneak peek at a couple of interviews.

Balfour Hunnicutt

Frances Barrow Hoge Harper


On March 17th 2009, author Deborah Wiles visited our school.  Her visit supported our narrative writing that every student works on, and she encouraged students to tell their stories.  This school year, her visit has been referenced numerous times in my own lessons, and teachers and students still talk about how much they loved her.  Since her visit, I (and many other teachers) have continued to follow her blog (here and here and here)  about the development of her upcoming novel, Countdown, which will be published in May 2010.  This novel is a part of a trilogy that takes place in the sixties during the Cuban Missle Crisis.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from Deborah Wiles announcing that her novel was now in the “galley” phase, which is an uncorrected proof of the book.  She also said in the email that her publisher, Scholastic, was granting her several copies of the book to send out to readers and that I was one of the lucky few who would get to read the book before it was officially published in May.  I was ecstatic!

I eagerly checked the mail each day hoping that the book had arrived, and during Spring Break it came.  What perfect timing!  I was able to sit each day and savor each page of this brilliant novel.  Are you ready to hear about it?

Countdown follows the main character, Franny, as she faces life in 1962 during a turbulent time in US history.  Franny’s life is filled with interesting characters.  Uncle Otts is still living a war in his mind and keeps the family a bit on edge with his antics.  Franny’s sister is going off to college and seems to have completely disappeared from the family.  Franny’s dad is currently in the military and is always off on various missions, which keeps her mom a bit tense.  Then, there’s Franny’s school friends, who provide her with lots of adventure, but also the feuding that comes with growing up with friends.  While Franny is trying to discover how to make her way through her own life, she’s also having to cope with the inherent fear that has developed in the world due to President Kennedy’s announcement that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba. The threat of a bomb is always on Franny’s mind, and her school doesn’t help to relieve this fear with their constant reminders of duck and cover drills.  How will Franny learn to heal the conflicts that she has with her friends?  How will she and her family come together during this turbulent time?  Will the United States ever be filled with peace instead of the constant thoughts and fears of war?

In Countdown, Deborah Wiles masterfully weaves a documentary novel that both takes us into the lives of one American family but also helps us to see the fearful history that took place during this time.  As I read, I felt as if I had boarded a time machine and traveled back to the sixties.  I felt the constant fear because as I read I was presented with music, news reports, presidential announcements, and advertisements that brought the thoughts of nuclear attack back to the front of my mind.  Just as I was living Franny’s life with her and enjoying her moments and adventures with her friends and family, an announcement or a duck and cover drill would take place.  I was never able to escape the fear of attack, and this made the novel so much more real.  At the same time, I was also reminded through these same photographs and music of how the rest of the United States was trying to move on with their day-to-day lives and how there were other major events taking place at the exact same time.  This is a must-read novel.  It brings back a time in history that has much relevance to the fears and issues we face today.  What might you learn from this novel?  What might you experience as you take this journey with Franny?

Countdown will be available in bookstores in May.  It will be available in our media center at the beginning of the next school year.  I hope you’ll read it and see how it speaks to you.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Reviewed by Mr. Plemmons

Claudette Colvin

When you think of important figures in black history, who do you think of? Martin Luther King, Jr? Harriet Tubman? Rosa Parks? What about Claudette Colvin? Never heard of her?

Well, I hadn’t either until I read Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Long before Rosa Parks took her famous stand on an Alabama bus, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman. She was dragged from the bus, kicked, and arrested. Because she was a teenager and from a poor family and neighborhood, the leaders of the civil rights movement did not highlight her case seeing her as an unfit role model. She was shunned by her classmates and ridiculed in the community. Her stand did start the fuel for the famous bus boycott, though. Claudette even spent time with Rosa Parks and had many conversations with her. It was until Rosa Parks did the same thing as Claudette that the actual boycott began. This book showcases her story and tells of her heroism and struggles as well as how her own people turned their back on her.

This book is a “MUST READ” because it brings up the important issue of untold history. We only know what we’ve been told, and thankfully Phillip Hoose took the time to tell this woman’s story. After reading this book, I have a whole different outlook on the civil rights movement and Rosa Parks. It also made me think back to when I was a teenager and how there were times when I felt like nobody was listening to me. I certainly never tried to stand up for something as large as what Claudette stood up for, but it made me remember the importance of listening to every voice no matter how old or experienced.

Claudette Colvin is a hero, and I am so thankful that she stood up for her rights. Even though she did not get the credit that she deserved at the time, I hope this book will shine light on her heroism and write her name into the history books alongside the others who have paved the way in black history.

This book is coming soon to our media center.  Look for it in the next few weeks!

Reviewed by Mr. Plemmons

When You Reach Me

A few years ago I read a book called The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy. At the time, I did not consider myself to be a reader of science fiction, but afterward I was hooked. I remember being a little confused throughout the story and constantly picking my brain to figure out what was going on. Since then, I’ve read the story 3-4 more times, and each time I see new clues, new foreshadowing that I didn’t see before.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is that kind of book. It’s a great piece of realistic fiction with some light science fiction woven in. It’s captivating. It’s mysterious. It’s confusing! (but in a good kind of way). It wasn’t until the very last page of the book that I “got it”, and now I want to go back and start reading it all over again.

Miranda, the main character, is a latch key kid who has learned the safety of New York City streets from her mother. Her and her friend Sal do everything together, but suddenly things change when Sal is punched by some kid on the street and Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes that seem like they are from the future. I honestly can’t say much more about the plot without giving something away, but I hope that you can trust that this is an incredible book.

I read most of it aloud to myself and my daughter, and I was in awe at Miranda’s voice. Rebecca Stead captured the consciousness of a sixth grader and created a believable and remarkable character. Rebecca is a strong girl and she learns how to pull the most important things out of life and tie them together just as she ties the string knots taught to her by her mom’s boyfriend, Richard.

This book was very deserving of the Newbery Medal, and I think both kids and adults will enjoy every moment of this book.

Reviewed by Mr. Plemmons

Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day

Well…we did it.  Even with rain, wind, cold weather, and some snow flakes, guest readers visited Barrow Elementary and read Dr. Seuss books to every classroom in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

This morning the media center was packed.  We had members of the community as well as a huge support from Sigma Phi Epsilon.  Readers enjoyed some conversation and refreshment and were escorted by student ambassadors to classrooms.  Readers shared stories with the classes and had good conversation about books and reading.

At 8:15, all of PreK came to the media center to hear a special program done by Lorraine Holahan from the Athens Regional Library.  Students heard stories, sang songs, helped tell stories, and saw puppets.

At 10:00, Beth Friese’s class from UGA, visited and read books to individual students, small groups, and whole classes.  It was a day packed with reading.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this successful, especially Ms. Olin who did all of the scheduling and had to be out sick today!

We would like to thank these wonderful readers:

Sigma Phi Epsilon

Lorraine Holahan

Lesley Black

Jana Stough

Christie Purks

Amy Gellins

Michelle Francis

Denise Mewborn

Sue Holt

Paul Kurtz

CC Robinson

Don Nelson

David Sweat

Ted White

Lissa Clark

Leland Barrow

Heidi Davison

Eric Keese

Ken Mauldin

Beth Friese and her UGA LLED4120 Students

Small Adventures

When I was little, I used to play outside in the creek in front of my house. I would make little boats and sail them down the creek and catch crawdads and keep them in a kiddie tub. My outdoor adventures also took me across the road and into the woods where my Mammaw helped me create what we called the Enchanted Trail. I would spend hours exploring the woods and using my imagination to create all sorts of adventures.

The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O’Connor brought all of those memories of the fun I had outdoors back into my mind. Popeye is a child, just like I was, who has to entertain himself. As fate would have it, a rambunctious boy named Elvis and his family get their motor home stuck in the mud, and Elvis and Popeye soon become great friends. When they discover a little boat sailing down the creek made out of Yoo Hoo boxes, a mystery begins to unfold. The Yoo Hoo boat leads them into a series of small adventures to discover where the boat came from and who made it.

This book is filled with great southern characters, which always brings a smile to my face. I also enjoyed how the book introduces lots of interesting vocabulary words. In fact, the word is defined right in the story and then it’s immediately used in a sentence. What a great way to learn some new words!

If you enjoy stories about rambunctious kids, stories about the south, stories about outdoor adventures, stories about creating your own fun, or stories with a small mystery to solve, then this just may be the book for you. I hope you’ll join Popeye and Elvis and take a small adventure with them today.

Reviewed by Mr. Plemmons

Carmen Deedy

What a phenomenal day with author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy!  Carmen shared stories with students in Second & Third Grade, Kindergarten and First Grade, and Fourth and Fifth Grade.

As I watched the students during her performances, I was in awe at how our Barrow students came together as one student body and helped to tell the stories that Carmen was sharing.  She had them clapping, making sound effects, and definitely laughing the 45 minutes away.

What was even more fun for me was when I heard teachers talking about how much their students enjoyed the programs.  Students went back to their classrooms and wrote down the stories Carmen told so they wouldn’t forget.  They wrote down books that she mentioned so she could find them later.  They begged their teachers to let them practice telling stories.  In fact, teachers said that the students just couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved Carmen’s visit.

Teachers and students have stopped me in the hallways all afternoon thanking me for this visit.  Author visits take a lot of planning, but when you see the joy and excitement for reading, writing, and storytelling that come out of successful visits, it makes all of the hours of planning well worth it.