Book Choice Champions Begins

Surveying students using iPad and Google forms

Once again, I’ve set out on a journey with a group of students to make decisions on what books are purchased for the library in a project called Book Choice Champions.  This year, I set aside $1500 in book fair profits for a budget that is completely decided on by students.  Once again, our school is doing enrichment clusters on Wednesdays, so from 9-10AM I have a group of 11 students in grades 2nd-5th that come to the library to work on this project until late November.  The students self-selected which enrichment cluster they would be in based on their interest in the cluster topic.  The surprising part of this is that the group of students I’m working with is all boys.

On day 1, the boys immediately noticed that no girls were in the group and they saw this as a problem.  How would they buy books that were supposed to be for the whole school without having girl representation in the group?  They decided to survey students from the whole school and felt that it was important to know how many boys and how many girls answered the survey.  They also wanted to know what grades students were in so that all grades were represented in the decisions.  Two students in the group were in a similar group last year and they talked about the problems that we had with surveying, especially using blank paper and simply asking people what they liked to read.  For this reason, they decided to develop a Google survey that could be done on laptops, desktops, smartboards, and iPads.  They felt it was important to ask about various categories of books such as animals/sports/fairies/etc, kinds of books such as chapter/picture/informational/etc, and to give students a chance to request specific books or series.

The next problem was when would students take the survey.  We knew we didn’t want to interrupt instruction, so we thought of the least disruptive process we could.  They came up with several idea that they are now trying:

  • Ask their teachers when they could come get an iPad from the media center to survey their own classes
  • Ask 3rd-5th grades to take surveys on the iPads and desktop computers in the media center during morning arrival time before going to homerooms.
  • Ask K-2nd grades to take the surveys on iPads in the art room during morning arrival time before going to class.
  • See which grade levels seem to be missing from the survey results and ask specific teachers if there is a time to come into their room to do surveys
  • If needed, email the survey to teachers to use on their smartboards
Today, we asked PreK teachers permission to pull students to survey.  Members of the book choice champions read the survey to them and filled in the results on the iPad.  Also today, several students have come to the media center throughout the day to borrow an iPad to take to their classroom and to recess to do more surveys.  At the beginning of today, we only had 14 results and by the writing of this post 85 students out of 500 have been surveyed.  That’s pretty impressive for a group of 11 students.
Our next steps will be to look at this data and make decisions about where we will focus our time.  I’m so excited by the energy and passion that this group has.  All 11 boys truly want to be a part of the process and they’re stepping up to offer ideas and make decisions.

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Shadra Strickland Illustrator Visit

We had a wonderful day hearing Shadra Strickland talk about her illustrating process.  She read White Water to grades PreK-3rd, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen to grades 2-3, and Bird to grades 4-5.  We saw thumbnail sketches and how those sketches move to larger versions that are transferred onto tracing paper before they finally make it to the paper that will be painted.  She shared several of her techniques with students including using saran wrap to create the ripples of the flood water in the large painting of New Orleans in A Place Where Hurricanes Happen.

As usual, I was amazed by the insight that students had into the stories.  They asked questions both about the content of the stories and about the process of illustrating.  Shadra entertained all questions, even ones about how much an illustrator makes.

A few students were fortunate enough to have a quick portrait sketched of themselves by Shadra.  Even though she gets nervous drawing in front of a whole group, Shadra willingly put herself out there and showcased her talent for drawing the human form.

Today was the culmination of many read-alouds, lessons expanding upon the stories, and discussions and comparisons of multiple pieces of art on exhibit for the past month.  We are very grateful to Shadra for her visit.  We are also grateful to the Auburn Avenue Research Library for supporting this traveling exhibit and illustrator visit.  

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September 11th: A Transliterate Experience

As I’m preparing to present at the School Library Journal  Leadership Summit 2011, I’m thinking a lot about transliteracy and how I can create experiences and opportunities for students to “read, write, and interact across a range of platforms.”

Students watching videos and eyewitness accounts of September 11

Fifth grade approached me a few weeks ago about collaborating on a day of September 11th activities.  Because they are departmentalized this year, they wanted to bring connections to September 11th in each of their classes:  reading, social studies, and math.  The more we planned the more the day came together as a day to experience the events and stories of September 11th in multiple ways in order to create a complete story about the day’s events.

The day started with each student getting a September 11th ribbon to wear throughout the day.  In homerooms, students wrote and illustrated what a hero was to them.

When students rotated to their reading class, they read the book Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  They watched videos of the actual fireboat and had a class discussion about how heroes were found in unexpected places during the events of September 11th.

Students exploring interactive websites on September 11

In the media center, we started our time by watching a 2-minute video that overviewed the day’s events.  We read a 3rd grade student reflection from the book Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001 collected by Shelley Harwayne.  Then, students went to the computer lab and used a pathfinder of websites to experience September 11th through videos, interactive timelines, personal accounts, news reports, and more.  Along the way, student wrote down information that they learned about the day.  To close our media center time, students used Wallwisher  to create their own memory wall for September 11th.  Students wrote thank –you’s, prayers, emotions, and other thoughts on our collaborative wall.

At the end of the day, students returned to their writing and illustrations of heroes to see if their thinking had changed in any way after experiencing the day’s lessons.  They also revisited the 5th grade wall to see how it had developed throughout the day.  Reading each 5th grader’s thoughts is a powerful experience and to see all of their thoughts published in one location was a dynamic closing of today’s lessons.

These students were less than one-year-old when September 11th happened.  Their lives are very disconnected with the events of that day.  We wanted today’s experiences to immerse the students in the stories and tragedies of this historic event through multiple kinds of media.  By the end of the day, students had:

  • Viewed recaps of the events of the day
  • Listened to accounts of the day through multiple viewpoints
  • Interacted with timelines and maps
  • Read and viewed news reports
  • Viewed personal videos & eyewitness accounts
  • Read and listened to stories & children’s books inspired by the tragedy
  • Wrote personal thoughts, views, and facts
  • Collaboratively documented their thoughts as a grade level with web 2.0 tools

A student types her memory on Wallwisher

As usual, I was amazed at the level of engagement and collaboration as students worked with technology.  At the beginning of the day, we had a big issue with Wallwisher not allowing students to post their messages.  I was frantically trying to figure out the problem, but at the same time students were trying out different things to fix the problem.  It was a student who figured out that the page had to be refreshed before typing a new note because we were all logged in under our school’s generic account.  Because of their willingness to try things out, the rest of the day went very smoothly to capture all students’ reflections on the wall.

Collaborative memory wall written by Barrow 5th Graders using Wallwisher

The sheer amout of resources for September 11th can be overwhelming, but I can only imagine how the number of resources might grow if this tragedy happened today.  Today, we would have tweets, facebook posts, huge amounts of personal videos, blogs, and more.  We would be able to live this story in a much more diverse way through multiple platforms.  I was impressed at the close of the day by how many platforms students had used to experience this tragic story, and I feel like our students leave us today and head into the weekend with a better understanding of September 11th as they see the memorials and television specials on Sunday.  I invite you to take a moment to visit our 5th grade wall and read students thoughts from today.