Author Visit with Laurel Snyder

Today, Barrow students were honored with a visit from talented author, Laurel Snyder.  We’ve been planning this visit since the beginning of the school year and building the anticipation of her arrival.  Before she came, students in Prek-1st grade heard about all of her chapter books and read Baxter the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.  Students in 2nd & 3rd grade read Inside the Slidy Diner and Baxter the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.  Students in 5th grade read Inside the Slidy Diner and part of Any Which Wall.  I also surveyed teachers in all grades about what they would like their students to gain from an author visit.  All of these details were sent to Laurel before the visit, and after hours of work to prepare, she magically wove these elements in her talk.

Prek-1st grade students walked through a PDF version of Baxter the Pig and saw how the words and illustrations had been revised from the original version.  They also read Inside the Slidy Diner and began writing their own version of the story called Inside the Leaky Library.  Students thought very carefully about the words that they chose so that the words painted the best picture they could for the reader. Many classes continued working on this story when they got back to their classrooms. Finally, students were able to walk through the pages of Laurel’s newest book, which isn’t going to come out until next spring!  She had to get special permission to be able to show it to us… shhhhhhhh!

Students in 4th and 5th grade heard a story about Laurel’s life as a writer from the time she was in 4th grade until now.  Along the way, they saw how Laurel’s writing has come full circle to the kinds of things she wrote about as a child and how her writing is developing into things that are more personal from her life.  Students saw how Laurel’s first novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, took 8 years to write and had multiple rejections and revisions before it was finally taken into the publishing process.  Finally, these students worked with Laurel to brainstorm the beginnings of a book and looked a the story arc of where the book needed to go by the end.  Students were encouraged to continue working on this brainstorm and share the finished stories with Laurel and the media center.  

Students in 2nd and 3rd grade had a similar program as 4th and 5th grade, but they also had the opportunity to listen to Laurel read Baxter the Pig and worked on their own version of Slidy Diner.

Today was an incredible day, and the energy that the kids had about Laurel’s books and writing was electric.  They had so many ideas stirring in their minds.  I can’t wait to see the stories that students create after this inspiring day.  Thank you, Laurel!

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Bigger, Better, Faster: Our Changing Nation

This week me and three fifth grade teachers are working with about 60 5th graders in the media center as they create final products for the Bigger, Better, Faster unit.  Students have spent several weeks researching their topics using a variety of print materials and online resources, including multiple websites and Galileo.  Students have also created their own united streaming accounts and watched videos about their topics.  Now students are working to create their final products using a variety of digital resources.  Most students have chosen to do Glogsters or Power Points, and a few have opted to make Animotos that they will link in their other products.  We explored Creative Commons as a resource for finding images to include in products, and students got to work creating.

This was my first venture into Glogster, and while it hasn’t been a perfect experience, I’ve been amazed at what the students have figured out how to do by just going in and exploring.  I showed them Glogster as one option for their final products, but I did not go into great detail about how to use it.  Students quickly figured out the features of the tool and began sharing it with one another.  The most frustrating thing for them so far has been that the free basic educator account does not allow them to upload files.  I’ve temporarily fixed that by subscribing to a one-month trial of the premium account so that we can see how well we actually like using Glogster.  

All in all, using tools like Glogster to create a final product has been a motivating experience for most students.  Instead of creating tri-boards and paper brochures and posters, they are creating digital content that can be easily shared with a winder audience.  They have worked collaboratively in groups of 3, and we’ve seen that each student is bringing his or her strengths to the groups.  I’ve stood in awe as I’ve watched one student pull up a double entry journal from the research phase of the project, which contains both quotes directly from the source and information in student words, while the other students had the final product pulled up to input the information.  I’ve watched students split themselves between 3 computers to do individual work, email their work to one another, and then find ways of putting it all together.  It has just reaffirmed the power of doing initial instruction and then giving students a space to create, at which point the teachers and media specialist become facilitators and supporters of learners as students need guidance or run into barriers.

I’ll spend the next 3 days working with these students to finish their products, but in the meantime, you can enjoy some of the early versions of their work and see how they progress.

Glogster 1

Glogster 2

Glogster 3

Becoming Blind

Students in Mrs. Slongo’s ELT class became blind last week, but not like you might think.  For the past two years, Mrs. Slongo has taken her 5th grade class on a journey of exploration and empathy through blind sculptor Michael Naranjo’s work.  Students watch a YouTube video about his work and philosophy.  Then, students are blindfolded and given a lump of clay to sculpt what they picture in their mind.  Last year students wrote letters to Naranjo and sent them to him, but this year Mrs. Slongo wanted the letters to be in a format that was more connected to Naranjo.  After students wrote letters about their experiences “being blind” and how they were inspired by his work, students came to the media center to record their letters using Audacity. Their work will be burned onto a CD and taken to one of Naranjo’s art exhibits that Mrs. Slongo’s sister will be attending.  It was so inspiring to listen to these 5th grade students share how they were inspired by Naranjo’s passion to keep doing what he loves even though he can’t “see” his work.

You can listen to each students’ letter here.