Cartooning with Chuck

Ms. Hicks and Ms. Saxon’s 2nd grade spectrum class have been learning about graphic novels.  Their exploration started off in the media center where we looked at how graphic novels are created by watching a video from Capstone Publishers.  This video got students started in thinking about storyboarding, penciling, inking, and other terminology used when creating a graphic novel.  Next, we moved to our graphic novel collection in the media center and looked at multiple graphic novels under the document camera to see how reading a graphic novel might be different than reading a novel.  After exploring this together, students all chose a graphic novel to read at tables and started making noticings about what they discovered in the pictures and text.

Ms. Hicks and Ms. Saxon continued this process in their classroom by having students read multiple graphic novels and compare they writing, art, and other techniques used.  Students are also working on book reviews of all of their readings.

All of this exploration is building a foundation for students before they launch into creating their own graphic novels.  One more source of support was bringing in a cartoonist to demonstrate his art for the students.  Dr. Chuck Cunningham is the assistant principal at Colham Ferry Elementary School in Oconee County, but he is also a cartoonist.  He regularly publishes cartoons in the Oconee Enterprise and has created cartoons for other newspapers and magazines for many years.  He also shares his talents with many of the classes at his own elementary school, but we were fortunate enough to have him visit Clarke County to share with our students.

Dr. Cunningham created a cartoon with students in the moment and wove in instruction about creating panels, penciling/inking, kinds of text, drawing tips, and more.  The students were bubbling with excitement and left the media center fired-up about starting their own graphic novels.  Dr. Cunningham left all of the artwork that he created today so that students can reference the tips that he offered.

I love to connect students and teachers with expert guest speakers because it is hard for teachers to be experts in all that they teach.  If you are an individual who would love to support our students with a talent or area of expertise that you have, let me know and I would love to connect you with our students and teachers at Barrow.

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Take the Reading Heroes Challenge

Starting Monday September 20th, a new reading challenge begins in the Barrow Media Center.  In honor of our upcoming book fair, “Here’s to Our Heroes: Reading Saves the Day”, we’re challenging all Barrow students, teachers, and parents to participate in a month long reading promotion called the Reading Heroes Challenge.  Each participant will set 3 important reading goals for the next 4 weeks.

Goal 1:  Heroes need to read a lot in order to become experts at what they do.  How many pages or books can you read before October 8th?

Goal 2:  Heroes need to spend a lot of time training to be good at what they do.  How many minutes can you read before October 8th?

Goal 3:  Heroes never know what kind of challenge they may face.  What book can you read that is outside your comfort zone?

Entry forms are coming in Monday’s purple folder or can be downloaded at Slideshare.  Set your goals.  Visit the Media Center for great books.  Keep track of your goals.  Turn in your completed sheets to the Media Center by October 8th.  Each completed entry will enter you into a drawing for a book fair gift certificate and your name will be displayed in our book fair decorations.

Are you up for a challenge?

Raindrops are Falling on Our Heads

Usually on our blog, I share reflections on lessons, exciting new resources, or news of great books. Today, however, I share a leak. Over the summer, our media center experienced multiple leaks. These leaks were not new. In fact, they were leaks that we asked multiple times last year to be fixed. Each time they are “fixed” within a few hours they start again. They typically happen in the warmer months when the air conditioning is working overtime. Over the summer, the leaks damaged several books along with our ceiling above the circulation desk.

Upon our return to school, we started the year with no air conditioning. Then we learned that we needed to set the air at a high temperature in order to keep the leaks from starting, which was like not having air conditioning at all. Finally, even this stopped working, and now the air conditioner just leaks no matter what the temperature is. The worst area is in front of the Smartboard where we have increased the number of buckets on a daily basis. We have 14 buckets so far and even those aren’t catching all the water that has now made a wet ring on the carpet. Two ceiling tiles have been removed and one is on the verge of falling. Due to budget cuts, they can’t call HVAC repair services to come frequently to work on the problem and when they do come, they tell us there is no way to fix it.

So…we make the most out of it. I’ve invited students as they sit on the rug to take themselves to a swamp after a rainstorm and imagine the drops of water clinging to the Spanish moss before lightly plopping into the murky waters. I’ve invited students to imagine they are in the rain forest under a canopy of bright green trees enjoying a story from afar. We’ve welcomed the drops of water that hit us in the face and head during the lesson and are thankful for the cool, dirty drops of water that refresh us from the heat. We laugh when I trip over the buckets full of water and almost take my second bath of the day. We brainstorm ways we could use the water that is collecting in the buckets.

I have no idea when or if the leak will be fixed. I want it to be fixed so badly, but I try to be thankful for what we have. As the water drips, I think of the classroom I visited in Mexico where sunlight poured through the cracks in the tin sides of the building and rain water rushed across the dirt floor creating a muddy mess for the students and teacher. On this 5th anniversary of Katrina, I think of the many classrooms and libraries that lost everything and had to have classes in inconvenient places. I try to be thankful for what I have.

What physical obstacles do you face in your classrooms or libraries? How do you handle them?

What does it mean to read?

I recently got an email from one of our preK teachers, Ms. Kelly, asking if I would join her class during small group time for a library lesson.  She sensed that some of her students were feeling frustrated with reading books because they couldn’t read the words on the page.  Like many teachers, she wanted to model doing a “picture walk” for her students so that they could read the story from the pictures.  I happily agreed and the two of us did some ping pong collaboration via email where we batted our ideas back and forth until we had a plan.

Ms. Kelly’s observations made me start thinking about the many ways that we read, and I decided to open our lesson with these thoughts.  We started by learning about oral traditions and how people tell stories aloud and others read the story by listening to the storyteller.   We talked about reading the words in a book.  We also looked at a book called The Black Book of Colors and thought about how someone who is blind might read a story by feeling the pages of a Braille book.  We could have kept going and talked about e-readers and smart phones and more, but I left the ideas at that.  I wanted students to know that there wasn’t just one way to read a story.

With this seed of reading planted in the students’ minds, they selected a book from a selection of books in my cart around the theme of families, which was the topic Ms. Kelly is focusing on right now with her students.  They checked out with me at my laptop and returned to the floor.

Next was one of my favorite kinds of collaboration where each adult in the room takes a group of students and works with them in their own style using the same topic.  Ms. Kelly, Ms. Clarke (the parapro), a parent volunteer, and myself each took a small group of students.  Each of us shared picture walking in our own style.  In my group, we used the book Chalk, a wordless picture book, and practiced reading the pictures very slowly until we gleaned every detail we could before turning the page.  My hope was that students would notice this slow way of looking at the picture and replicate it in their own reading.  I quickly learned that they did notice the slowness, but many still flew through the pages without pausing to “read” what was there.  Next I worked with each student to picture walk slowly through a few pages of his or her book.

Ms. Kelly invited us all back to the floor and each group shared something that they noticed or learned about how to picture walk.  It was so much fun to support our youngest learners in the school with a strategy for reading.  It was also fun to get out of the library and interact with students in their own classroom environment.  Finally, it was such a treat to work with three other adults with different ideas and expertise.  I look forward to many other experiences where adults bring their expertise to support a classroom of students.  Thank you Ms. Kelly for this great idea and finding such wonderful adult support for your students.