Skyping with Steve Milone @ Fox5 Atlanta

Mrs. Yawn’s enrichment cluster came to the library today to Skype with Steve Milone, meteorologist at Fox5 Atlanta.  The session was excellent.  The students have been studying weather for the past 4 enrichment cluster sessions and prepared questions to ask Steve.

Before the students came to Skype, Steve and I did a test call to check our sound and video quality.  This doesn’t always mean the session is going to go smoothly, but it does prevent those initial Skype setup mistakes that often happen.  Steve planned to switch from a stationary computer to an iPad, so we practiced doing that before the students arrived.

During the session, the students sat on the carpet in front of the Smart Board.  A student introduced the cluster and welcomed Steve.  Then, he launched into his introduction.  We disconnected and he called us again on the iPad in order to give a studio tour.  He walked all over the Fox5 Studio to show us the green screen, numerous computers, anchor desk, interview area, and more.  I was amazed at how close all of the areas are together.  It seems so much bigger on tv!

After the tour, Steve returned to his stationary computer and the students asked questions that they had prepared.  You can hear 2 of the questions here:

Many thanks to Fox5, Steve Milone, and Mrs. Yawn’s enrichment cluster for this great experience!  Look for this cluster to be on Fox5 Atlanta Sunday @ 8:15AM.

Our Staff Recommends: A Participatory Idea for Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month.  This is the 2nd year of the event, and we kicked things off on day one by starting a reading incentive.  Students & teachers are trying to see how many picture books they can read during the month of November.  To encourage their participation, each student and teacher received a sheet explaining the incentive with blanks for writing down each picture book read this month.  Each grade level had their own number of books with smaller numbers for lower grades and 25 picture books for upper grades.  All students who finish their sheet will receive a cool bookmark:  Scaredy Squirrel, Ladybug Girl, Elephant & Pigge, Babymouse, or Duck for President.  Students will also receive a certificate and be entered into a drawing to win autographed books by:  Kevin Henkes, Suzanne Bloom, Eric Litwin & James Dean, and Meghan McCarthy.  These incentives really inspired students because we have several sheets already turned in on this mid-way point of November.

On the Picture Book Month website, there are multiple resources for celebrating picture book month.  One of the tools is a shelf talker that says, “Our Staff Recommends”.  These can be displayed along a shelf for library staff to place books that they recommend to students.  At first, I wanted the shelf talkers to say something besides “library staff”, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that as part of the participatory culture of our library, I really consider every person who enters our library a part of our staff.  I ask students to be accountable for checking books in and out, placing books in the reshelving area, teaching other students how to use technology, etc, so why not consider everyone staff?

So….I made a quick video with iMovie and advertised to the school that anyone could put books on the shelf talkers just inside the library doors.

The shelf sat empty the first day, but it didn’t take long for people to start recommending picture books to one another.  Several students have checked out books from this area and several have replaced the books that they have selected.  It’s a small thing, but it gives one more opportunity for our school community to participate in our library.

Happy Picture Book Month!

Student Co-teaching: A Participatory Experience!

Lucy shows off the page in Thanking the Moon where she helped me pronounce the word correctly based on her knowledge of Chinese.

Today something wonderful happened.  I was doing a lesson with Kindergarten comparing and contrasting the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with Thanksgiving.  We used PebbleGo to read informational text about Thanksgiving and fact check with what we knew about Thanksgiving.  Then, we read Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin to learn about the Moon Festival.  At the end, we used an interactive Venn diagram from Read, Write, Think to compare and contrast.  During the story, I was first thrilled when a student was so excited that he recognized some of the names for sister, father, etc. in the story.  It made me remember the importance of students being able to see themselves and their cultures in the books on the library shelves and in the selections that are chosen for whole class lessons.

The second amazing thing that happened was when I came to a word in the story for older sister, Jei Jei.  I of course did not know the correct pronunciation, and I immediately knew I was wrong when the student who was so excited about the book did not recognize the word that I read.  Amazingly, Lucy, a student, was in the library working on a project and checking out a book.  She just happens to take a Chinese class after school, so she graciously shared the correct pronunciation and got us back on track.  She did this without any prompting.  I was so excited that she chose to participate and that she felt comfortable enough to interrupt my lesson in order to share that information.  These small moments really inform my bigger vision of the library as a site of participatory culture.  I hope that by sharing this, students will continue to find ways to get involved in any way they can in our library program.

Paul Revere Transliteracy: A Third Grade Collaborative Project

Back in September, third grade took a transliteracy approach to exploring rocks and minerals.  After participating in this experience, Mrs. Shealey, 3rd grade teacher, had some ideas for how the transliteracy approach could inspire the Paul Revere standards that 3rd grade was about to work on.  She scoured the internet for resources and developed her own Sqworl pathfinder to share with students.  She also developed a menu of projects that students could choose from.  After introducing the idea to her team, we all met together to continue brainstorming and think about how technology could be incorporated with the menu ideas.

Ideas included:

  • Make a map of Paul Revere’s ride with important events, photos, and videos using Google Earth & Google maps
  • Create a newscast of Paul Revere’s ride with eyewitness accounts.  Use the iPad to film the newscast and iMovie to edit.
  • Use Museumbox to create various cubes about Paul Revere:  his ride, his character traits, events leading to American Revolution, etc.
  • Create a piece of art related to Paul Revere.  Use Photo Story, iPad, or Glogster to display the art and talk about it.
  • Write a poem or a song about Paul Revere.  Use the iPad to film a performance of the song/poem.

Ideas continue to be added to this menu.  We decided to narrow the technology focus to just a few tools:  Glogster, Museumbox, Photo Story, Animoto, iPad & iMovie, and Google Earth/Maps.  Many of these tools were new to students so we wanted students to have a chance to explore each tool before committing to a project or tech tool.  We decided to have a technology fair where each class could come and tour through the tech tools to gain some familiarity with each tool to inform their decisions.  I saw this as the perfect opportunity to bring in student expertise, so Ms.  Hicks, a spectrum teacher, helped identify students who could teach other students about each of the tools.  Google Maps and Museumbox were new to all students, so I led the station on Museumbox and Todd Hollett, technology integration specialist, led the station on Google Maps.  

The students and adults setup their stations, and each class came through the library for about 30-40 minutes to see mini-presentations and play around with each tech tool.  Students freely moved from table to table and at times needed encouragement to move on.  Many students wanted to stay at one table to become an expert in a tool, but that was not the point of the tech fair.  Expertise will develop later.  We just needed them to be familiar enough with each tool to know what it was capable of doing.  Even though all students did not make it to all stations, each class had a good representation of students who visited enough of the stations to be able to share back in class.

Our next step is for students to decide on their project and tech tool.  The teachers will then group these students into groups based on their tech tool.  Then, during a block of time each day, students using the same tech tool will meet in the same room so that they can support one another as needed.  I’ve seen amazing things happen when a large group of students using the same tool are in the same room.  They discover things that I would have never had time to figure out or teach to everyone and they willingly share their learning with other students.  I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the knowledge that students gain about these tools during this process.

The teachers and I will also support students with the technology, but we also want our focus to be on supporting students in locating quality information for their projects.  We will rely on the pathfinder as well as books from our library for this endeavor.  I can’t wait to see what students come up with!

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Suzanne Bloom Author/Illustrator Visit

We were thrilled today to host author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom thanks to the community connections of Avid Bookshop and the generous publisher, Boyds Mills Press.  What a great time to have an author visit during National Picture Book Month!  This visit was exclusive to our 1st and 3rd grades.  We began planning the visit a few weeks ago, when Avid Bookshop emailed me to see if I was willing to host a visit.  I’m seldom one to turn down the support of a published author/illustrator because I know the kind of impact it can have on student enthusiasm and productivity in reading and writing.

All 1st-3rd grade classes came individually to the library for an introduction to Suzanne Bloom’s books.  We visited her website and learned a bit about her life.  One of the things that sparked the most conversation was how she wasn’t allowed to play with blocks and trucks when she was in Kindergarten just because she was a girl.  This led to other books in our library that break away from gender profiles.  Students were also curious about her messy desk and talked about how how messy writing and illustrating can be sometimes.  We laughed together as we read the Bear and Goose books and made connections to Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie Series.

Today during her visit, Suzanne shared some of her earliest drawings from when she was in Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 4th grade.  For the students, it was validating that Suzanne’s work didn’t start out as the polished drawings that we see in her books today.  She had to practice, practice, practice in order to develop her skills.  Students also heard how each of her books has a bit of truth in them such as how Piggy Monday is really about her son’s Kindergarten class and how A Splendid Friend, Indeed came from a conversation she had with her dad while working on her writing.  Suzanne also took time to read aloud to students and do a quick sketch.  She immediately molded into our participatory culture by having students select the crayons from the box that she used and having students give details and topics for her illustrations.  All along the way, she encouraged participation through sounds, comments, questions, and more.  She honored every student’s voice and tried to make as many connections to her audience as possible.

I was also impressed with the conversations I had with her outside of the presentations.  I learned how she overwrites her stories and then cuts away at the words to find the very best language.  She looks for language that feels and sounds right while it is read aloud.  What seems like a very simple text, actually has a tremendous amount of thought poured into it to create just the right effect in readers.   I even learned that she was a contributing author/illustrator to the Picture Book Month celebration which started last year!

Suzanne Bloom was a delight.  Many thanks to Avid and Boyds Mills Press for allowing this visit to be possible.  I know our students’ writing and illustrating lives are enriched because of her generosity of love for sharing her words and illustrations.

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Election Centers 2012

October was busy!  I had big plans to do multiple kinds of election lessons with classes and time just slipped away from me.  Our school did a mock election through Youth Leadership Initiative.  I also did a storybook character election using “for president” books and a Google form.  Several classes are still completing that lesson this week and we’ll announce the storybook president on Friday.

Today, all of 4th grade came for an election lesson.  I put together an election pathfinder with various links:  information about the election, Youtube videos of the candidates and election analysis, interactive election games, electoral college interactive maps, candidate-matching surveys, and campaign sites.  Since our 4th graders now have 1 to 1 netbooks, they brought those to the library.  I did a quick intro on the carpet and previewed a few of the sites.  Then, students went to tables to choose which sites they focused on.

One of the most popular sites was the NY Times electoral college floating bubbles.  This site showed states that had already chosen their candidate vs states that were undecided.  For each state, the site listed reasons the state was decided or undecided.  Students could move the undecided bubbles to either candidate to see how that would impact the election.  Many were amazed at the number of states already decided based on previous voting and polls.

Another popular site was USA Today’s Candidate Match.  This site allowed students to take a stance on a variety of topics and see how that matched with candidates beliefs.  Students could even look at what the 2 candidates have said about the topic.  I loved seeing kids having discussions with adults and peers about the issues and choosing their candidates based on the issues rather than on popularity or what their peers were choosing.

Again, I was amazed at the level of engagement these students were able to sustain for an extended amount of time when they were offered choice and variety.  I even had election, president, and voting books on the table for those who were waiting on sites to load or those that were tired of the technology.  Very few of the books were used, but some students did find them valuable.

At the close of the exploration, I had students answer a Google form (also found on the pathfinder).  Students had to tell something they learned, tell if their opinion on the candidates had changed, and tell how many electoral votes it took to win.  I wanted a mixture of fact and opinion questions for the closing.  After students completed the survey, we came back to the carpet to see the results.  It was nice to quickly grab some facts from the spreadsheet to share rather than having students tell facts aloud.  It saved time and allowed students to be anonymous.  We ended with a brief conversation on being an informed voter.

Even though I didn’t get to do as much with as many classes as I wanted, I was proud of the impact that these resources had with our 4th grade students.  Now, I have sent the pathfinder link to the classroom teacher to push out to students through Edmodo.  They will continue to use these resources in class.

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Gaming in Education w/Xbox: NatGeo TV

This year, we are exploring ways that gaming can be used in education.  I’ve previously mentioned that a group of 14 boys are exploring the xbox, Nintendo DS, and Minecraft during an enrichment cluster.  This week, a 5th grader used our xbox 360 with Kinect to research wolverines for his animal research project.

One of the games that we purchased for our xbox is Kinect NatGeo TV.  This 2-disc set includes multiple NatGeo 30-minute episodes on a variety of animals and places.  As you watch the episode there are sidetracks where you can take pictures of the animals, discover hidden facts, take short quizzes, and play games that help demonstrate an animal behavior.

Henry is a 5th grader who did not find a book in our library about his topic, wolverines.  He has been relying on digital resources, databases, and encyclopedias to get his information.  I was so excited when I looked at the table of contents on the NatGeo TV game and saw wolverines as a topic.  Mrs. Mullins, a spectrum teacher, worked out arrangements for Henry to come to the library during language arts to do his research on the xbox.  I setup the machine, dimmed the lights, and helped Henry get setup with his notecards and floor space to interact.  As he watched the episode, he added several notes to his notecards.  When a sidetrack popped up, he put everything down to interact.  I was impressed by how the facts in the episode were reinforced through the games.  When Henry learned that wolverines dig through snow to locate dead carcasses, he was able to practice digging by becoming a virtual wolverine and digging through snow to find meat.  When he left, this was a fact that stood out to him.  It made me wonder about how we can bring facts to life for students when they discover them in books, websites, videos, or other resources.  The active game element seemed to reinforce the facts and help Henry retain them.  I know that the amount of NatGeo content on these discs is limited and will only support specific students and projects, but the concept makes me think beyond the xbox and how it might inform future lessons.