Third Grade Rockhounds

Our third grade is just beginning a study of rocks and minerals in their standards.  We are taking an inquiry approach to this study and using the lens of transliteracy as we plan.

In class, students began a KWL in their science journals.  They wrote what they know about rocks and what they wonder about before coming to the library.  I planned groupings of experiences to give them multiple platforms for looking at rocks.  One stations was a big box of rocks and minerals that I collected in my childhood during yearly visits to Santa’s Land in Cherokee, NC where we always stopped at the “ruby mine”.  Students could explore the rocks and minerals using hand lenses and write observations or sketches in their journals.  Another station had multiple informational books about rocks and minerals as well as poetry using photographs of rocks.  The final station was at the computer where I created a pathfinder of games, videos, interactive sites, ebooks, and informational sites about rocks and minerals.

Students started in the floor where I talked about transliteracy and the natural flow in and out of different platforms of information.  We talked about how more questions will develop the more that you research and how to document those new questions in the science journals.  Rather than ask students to switch every 20 minutes or so to a different center, I gave them the freedom to move in and out of centers as they chose.

I gave them a little structure by providing a sheet that asked them to visit 4 books, 7 websites, and the box of rocks and minerals.  Students were welcome to move back and forth between the stations as many times as they needed.  For example, a student might make an observation of a rock in the box, look in books to identify the rock, go back to the box to clarify observations, and visit websites to confirm the identification.  The classroom teacher, spectrum teacher, and I floated among the groups and conferenced with students to encourage them to be curious and to document their learning.  As always, some students had a natural curiosity and freely documented their learning, while others needed more guidance and support.

Now the classes will return to their rooms to use the information they gathered to support their study of rocks and minerals.  They will revisit the resources I’ve gathered throughout the study.

This is a model I am starting to replicate in more and more lessons.  I love the freedom that it offers students and the support it offers for individualized instruction.

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LL8 Virtual Comic Workshop with Jarrett Krosoczka

I have long been a fan of Jarrett Krosoczka’s illustrations and writing.  His Lunch Lady comics are among the most popular comics in our library.  I was thrilled to learn that he was doing a virtual comic workshop today via Ustream for free!  I advertised this to teachers a few weeks ago so that they could watch in their classroom or in the media center.

Today a small group of 3 students and their teacher came for the 10:00 session.

My largest group came for the 12:00 session.  In this group, I had 2nd grade Spectrum students who will be studying graphic novels very soon.  Last week, I did an exploration lesson with their class to identify some of the elements of graphic novels.  They began constructing some of their questions for Jarrett.  Later, they will read multiple graphic novels before constructing their own.  Another group that came at 12:00 came by choice.  One of Jarrett’s biggest fans, Marquavious, is a 5th grader at our school.  Marquavious re-read all of the Lunch Lady books to gear up for today’s webcast.  His teacher gave him permission to leave class to come, but he did some detective work and found several other 5th graders who wanted to participate in the workshop, too.  All of these students brought their lunch to the library and ate while they watched.  I also put drawing materials out on tables for them to draw their own comics along with Jarrett.  

All of this setup really helped us when Jarrett had technical difficulties at the 12:00 session.  Since the session was delayed until 12:30PM, I had time to have the students eat lunch, create mini-comics, and read some of Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.  Even though the food ended up all over the tables and carpet, it just seemed appropriate to have lunchroom food during our virtual comic workshop.

Jarrett showed the kids some pages from his newest book, a sneak peak of the cover of his book coming out in April, and ended by creating a comic using ideas from all of the viewers tuning in.  The kids had a great time, and they were thrilled when they heard their suggestions read aloud by Jarrett and were even more over-the-top with excitement when he used one of their ideas in his comic.  Thanks for a great FREE event, Jarrett Krosoczka!

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Fetch! Lunch Rush! App

Recently, on one of my favorite blogs, Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne featured the app Fetch! Lunch Rush! for iPhone (also can be for iPad).   I immediately downloaded it, played around with it, and loved it.  I emailed all lower grade teachers to see if it might benefit their students with practicing some basic math facts, and the entire 1st grade team signed up to give it a try.  I printed out the cards  and posted them around the media center so that the game took on a true scavenger hunt feel.  The basics of the game are that you have basic math facts that add or subtract up to 10.  You have 10 printed cards with numbers and symbols on them to post around the room.  The app gives you a fact, you find the answer, you point the iPad at the picture, a picture of sushi appears on your screen, and you tap it to send it to lunch.  The app times how long it takes to answer the problems and increases in difficulty as accuracy and speed increase.

Students began on the carpet for a very brief demo of how the app worked.  Some students were paired together on 1 iPad (up to 4 players can play on 1 device).  Other students worked alone.  It was amazing to watch how active the students were.  They were scurrying about the media center looking for answers, pointing their iPads at the answer, tapping the augmented reality sushi, and moving on to the next problem.  Along the way, students got problems that were challenging to them.  The teacher and I gave them tangible objects to help them (fingers, popsicle sticks, markers, etc).  They stopped on the floor or at tables to figure out the answer before moving to find the card on the wall.  Students also began to get missing integer problems like 3 + ____ = 9.  These were the most challenging for first graders, but the challenge didn’t stop them.  They were eager to get an answer and continue the game.  

This app pulled together so many great learning pieces for students.  There was gaming, movement, problem solving, the cool factor, and technology.  The teacher made observations and then went back to the classroom to practice more strategies that will help students develop their math fact fluency.  I hope more apps like this one cross our path because it was fun, engaging, and took boring math fact practice to a whole new level!

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International Dot Day 2012 @barrowmc

September 15(ish) is International Dot Day.  We’ve been celebrating for the past week in the Barrow Media Center.  Numerous classes came to listen to The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  We talked about the importance of making your mark on the world and avoiding the words “I can’t”.  After our discussion, students moved to tables and made dots in 2 different ways.

Using Drawcast on the iPad, students made digital dots in a variety of ways.  They saved their images to the iPad photo gallery.  We took those dots and imported them into a collective dot folder and used Animoto to make a digital dot gallery.  We also made a QR code and displayed it outside the library to link to our Animoto video.

At the other tables, student had access to coffee filters, markers, crayons, and color pencils.  They decorated their coffee filters in creative ways.  All of the paper dots filled the windows of the media center to the point that you almost couldn’t see in!  Some students used a spray bottle of water to spray their filters so that the color ran together.  After many classes came, we realized that our sprayed dots had created even more dots in the drying area.  The final class, Ms. Olin’s class, wrote on the drying paper “Barrow School Made Their Mark” and we displayed this in the hallway as well.

We hope our creativity will inspire others to make their mark on the world!



September 11th: Another Transliteracy Experience

Last year, the 5th grade participated in a series of experiences around September 11th.  We used transliteracy as a lens to plan these experiences so that across a full day, students were learning about September 11th in a non-linear, cross-platform way.  This year, we continued this idea and built upon it.  Both 5th grade teachers, our 5th grade spectrum teacher, and myself each planned an experience for students to rotate through.  The teachers also thought about the day as a whole and what they could add to the day to support the study of September 11th, which is a part of the 5th grade standards.

Students began their day in their homeroom morning meetings viewing a brief speech from Barack Obama declaring September 11th as a day of remembrance.  After students went to ELT and specials, we launched into our 4 experiences. Students spent 30 minutes at each experience with a 5 minute transition window.

Center Descriptions:

1) Learning more about the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the brave response of its citizens through a wonderful children’s book by Maira Kalman, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. This old fireboat which was first launched in 1931 was called into duty by the NYC fire department and volunteers responded so that water could be pumped to battle the raging fires of the Twin Towers. One teacher will read this book aloud (a very special book to her and her young grandson from a visit to the 9/11 Museum together in NYC) to students and they will be able to also watch news video of the John J. Harvey.
2) To help students learn more about how the nature of heroism, another teacher will share from two more books:, Messages to Ground Zero that includes how children responded in poems and letters about heroes of 9/11, and 14 Cows for America BY Carmen Deedy, about how the Maasai people of Africa responded to 9/11. They will respond with their own artistic rendering of a postage stamp celebrating heroes of 9/11.
3) A lesson about haiku poetry which will review the magic of the brief three-line poem with seventeen syllables to express a feeling or image and students will write their own Haiku for Heroes.
4) Technology sites on 9/11 and Wallwisher Reflection -Students will view multiple interactive websites, videos, oral histories, eyewitness accounts, and more in order to build a picture of the events of the day.  Students will have full choice of which sites they visit and how long they spend at each site.  After processing what they have seen, they will write a reflection, memory, wish, etc. on a collaborative Wallwisher wall.

During recess, students participated in an alternative recess picking up trash and offering their service to the school.  They closed their day by thinking about our local first responders and writing letters to thank them for their service in the community.

Once again, I was amazed to look around and see all of the ways that students were engaging with the events of September 11th.  Some students were listening to the 911 phone calls with the planes.  Some were looking at diagrams of the towers and what was located on each floor, including the impact zone.  Some were watching National Geographic video footage of the events of the day.  Some were looking at memorials created across the country.  Others were listening to oral histories of family members of victims and 9/11 survivors.  Each experience carried over to the next and inspired discussions and creations made in the other experiences.  For example, I noticed one student who had viewed images of people jumping from the twin towers and then used that image in her haiku that she wrote in another experience.

I continue to think that there is a lot to learn from this type of planning.  Students left the day talking and energized.  I have a feeling that they will go home and continue conversations with their families and hopefully continue to investigate the many resources available on 9/11.

We had a lot of press here at Barrow today, too.  UGA Grady Newsource will air a feature story at 5PM today.  You can watch live at or you can view the story later by visiting their website

The Athens Banner Herald will also feature our work in a story tomorrow, including the following haikus from some of our students.

th grade students at David C. Barrow Elementary School
Poems from 5

Hear the sound crashing
Innocent people crying
I hear, “Let’s roll.”
~by Tymarius~

It was so tragic
Lives were lost, people were missed
You’ll be remembered
~by Caroline~

It was a bad thing
Many heroes saved the day
They were great and brave
~by Brian~

The Tragic Day
Screams fill flaming streets
As sad tears roll down faces,
We watch the horror.
~by Emily~

So many lives lost
A lot of damage for us
So many heroes
~by Henry~

Chaos everywhere
Heroes save lives and risk them
Death of love and friends
~by Ryan~

I feel unhappy.
I feel like I wanted to help them.
I am very sad.
~by Jasiyah~

Insidious, mean
People dying, lives ending
A new beginning
~by Parker~

I didn’t realize
Passengers had lost their lives
People risked their lives
~by Joel M~

What they did was sad.
Those terrorists were so mean.
It was so, so sad.
~by DeMontre~

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Digital Alphabet Books



Two Kindergarten classes have been collaborating with me in the library to support their study of the alphabet.  First students came to the library for a lesson on alphabet books.  We explored numerous alphabet books, upper/lowercase letters, and the sounds letters make.  I used LMNO Peas by Keith Baker to look specifically at upper/lowercase letters.  Next, we used Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David McLimans to continue looking at upper and lowercase letters, but in an animal format.  We put each illustration under the document camera, guessed what letter the animal was making, looked at the standard upper/lowercase letter, and talked about how the animal’s name started with the letter.  We ended with Alphabet Explosion: Search and Count from Alien to Zebra by John Nickle.  We put a few illustrations under the document camera and had students identify as many things as they could find that started with the letter of the alphabet represented on the page.  At the close, students checked out an alphabet book from our wide selection.

In class, students were each assigned a letter of the alphabet.  They decorated an uppercase & lowercase letter, added an illustration that represented that letter, and wrote the word for the illustration.  They also began practicing saying the letter, the sound it makes, and the word for their illustration.  In small groups, they brought their finished illustrations to the library to use the scanner to scan their images.  While students waited to scan, they continued practicing their scripts.  After 2 days of scanning, I imported all of their pictures into Photo Story.  Then, in small groups they came back to record their scripts for their assigned letter(s).  Once again, while students waited, they practiced.  After all students recorded their voices, I finalized the Photo Story and uploaded it to Youtube.  The students will come back to the library the next time they check out books for a premiere of their video, but you can get a sneak peek of one class below.