Skyping with Little Free Library

IMG_0082Our 5th grade Little Free Library Project is moving ahead.  You can read about our progress here and here.  A few weeks ago, I talked with Rick Brooks, co-founder of the Little Free Library movement, on the phone.  He contacted me after seeing my Youtube video introducing the project to our 5th graders.  After a few emails and facebook posts back and forth, we finally had a long phone conversation where we discussed other Little Free Library projects in schools as well as some potential ways that technology could be incorporated into our Barrow project.  I shared with him how our students were working in teams where each student had a specific job to do such as researching, writing, designing, and presenting.  During our call, he offered to help us in any way he was able to, so I suggested a Skype session with our students.  He was happy to do this.IMG_0080

On Tuesday and Thursday, Rick skyped with researchers, writers, and task managers from Ms. Cross and Ms. Slongo’s Class.  He told them a bit about the mission and vision of Little Free Libraries, shared specific parts of the website students might visit, and suggested some videos for them to watch.  The kids were able to ask Rick questions about things like green building techniques, location of little free libraries, and which libraries seemed to be more popular than others.  We even had a student have a conversation with Rick in Spanish.IMG_0084

IMG_0081More than anything, this Skype session made the project more “real” for the students.  They left the session with a new energy for the project.  Rick is following what we do, and we appreciate the time and energy that he has put into this worldwide movement and especially for taking time out of his busy schedule to support our small project here in Athens!


2nd Grade Bloggers

FireShot Screen Capture #017 - 'Barrow Media Center 2nd Graders' - kidblog_org_BarrowMediaCenter2ndGraders - CopyTwo 2nd grade classes have embarked on a blogging project with Shannon Miller’s students in Van Meter, Iowa.  We’ve connected with one another via skype and read the book Same Same but Different.  Our students have been working on writing their first blog posts on KidBlog to introduce themselves.  My students did this on paper, but Shannon’s students did their work in Google Docs.

IMG_0073 - CopyFor the past 2 days, my students have been busy typing their first “About Me” blog post.  While they typed, the teachers and I conferenced with students on their posts to check for details, spelling, and punctuation.  Then, we gave them the thumbs up to publish their post.  After publishing, students could personalize their blog with one of the KidBlog themes.  Both days, the teachers and I were amazed by the students’ focus.  They worked diligently for 45 minutes each day and were very willing to go back and check spelling and edit their punctuation.  Again, I think that the idea of having an authentic audience is very motivating to the students.

Our next step will be to mail our rough drafts to Iowa where Shannon will have her students practice commenting on post-it notes before commenting online.  Her students will mail paper copies of their posts as well so that we can practice too.  From there, we will continue to post a variety of posts and comment on one another’s writing.  IMG_0069 - Copy

The students and teachers are fully of energy for this project, and we are excited to see the work that they are eager to produce.

Their blogs are located at Barrow Media Center 2nd Grade KidBlog.  We invite you to read and comment on their posts.

Our very first blogger posted his "About Me" post

Our very first blogger posted his “About Me” post

Angry Birds Action Research (Part 2)

IMG_0055Mrs. Shealey’s 3rd grade class is still investigating our bird problem at Barrow.  They have made observations, developed questions, tracked suggestions and research findings, and made hypotheses about what they might try to stop the birds from flying into the window while still making our campus a bird-friendly place.  Last week, Ms. Hicks and I reached out to several people through email, Facebook, and Twitter to try to find people to connect with our students through Skype.


Expert 1: Claire Wislar, Middle School Student


Expert 2: Jennifer Fee, Cornell University

Today, Mrs. Shealey’s class came to hear from 2 experts.  Expert 1 was Claire Wislar, a former Barrow student.  She is a middle school student and aspires to be an ornithologist.  Over the weekend, she did some research on the topic for us as well as thought about her own knowledge and experiences with birds and windows.  Shawn Hinger, Clarke Middle Media Specialist, setup a computer in her office for Claire to use.  During her short Skype session, Claire let the students ask questions as well as shared to things that the students might try: wind chimes to scare the birds,electrical tape in lines on the window, and putting Saran wrap on the windows.  It was so much fun to have a connection to a student who used to go to our school who was able to share her expertise with students.

As info was learned, students wrote notes and Mrs. Shealey captured ideas on chart paper.

As info was learned, students wrote notes and Mrs. Shealey captured ideas on chart paper.

Expert 2 was Jennifer Fee with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  Cornell has an impressive program in Ornithology and a great website resource that we have already been using.  It was really interesting because Jennifer has experience with this same problem at her building at Cornell.  She and her colleagues did an action research project, too, and tried several solutions and collected data.  She explained this process to the students.  She also made some suggestions about what students might try:  shiny decals, hang CDs by windows, bird feeders that stick to windows or bird feeders that aren’t right by the windows, and bird shape cutouts.  She also encouraged the students to keep trying the things that they are trying and to constantly collect data on what was happening.  We were so excited that at the end of our time together she told us that she would be sending a window bird feeder for us to try!

IMG_0063Expert 3 did not connect with us in real-time but sent us an email instead.  Richard Hall is the president of the local Audubon Society.  He suggested that student visit this website and also try cross-hatching the window with a yellow hi lighter.  He also invited the students to write about their experience in the local Audubon Society newsletter!  They are so excited about this opportunity.

IMG_0053This is such an exciting project.  It is full of higher order thinking, student ownership, multiple standards, and authenticity.  I was sure to be transparent with students about how we connected with so many fantastic people.  The power of social media and technology “for good” is incredible.

Tweeting with 1st Graders

IMG_0047Can 1st graders tweet?  Sure they can.  Since our district opened up Twitter for teachers to use, I’ve been incorporating it into lessons.  It allows kids to put their thoughts into a succinct statement, and it also connects kids with the world.  We can send tweets out to Web 2.0 tools, organizations, or just a general tweet to get some help with a project.

Today, 1st grade came to the library to work on the conventions of writing and opinion/persuasive writing.  I thought Twitter would be great for this because it would require the students to write 1 short sentence that used capital letters, punctuation, and persuasion.  To start, we looked at my Twitter page to see what a tweet looked like and how tweets create conversations with people around the world.  We talked about the 140 character limit, too.

Next, we read the books hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell and On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole.  I chose these books because both have a hint of persuasion in them.  The teacher and I had a conversation about how we wanted students to think beyond just “what can I get people to give me?”.  We wanted their persuasive writing to be more about taking action or creating change.  In hello! hello! , there is a theme of connecting with nature, spending quality time with family, and disconnecting from technology.  In On Meadowview Street, there is a theme of caring for nature rather than destroying it and how small steps can inspire a community.  As we read these stories, we talked about those themes to spark ideas for tweets.

IMG_0046Students then talked with a partner to put their idea for a tweet together.  The tweet needed to be an opinion or persuasive thought connected to or inspired by the books.  It needed to have capital letters and correct punctuation.  Once they had their ideas, they moved to tables and wrote their tweet on a small sheet.  The substitute teacher and two student teachers conferenced with students and then sent them to me when their tweet was ready.  I gave it a final read, and if it needed some addition I sent them back to the tables.  If it was ready, I tweeted it from my account @plemmonsa and tagged the library @barrowmc.  I also added the hashtag #comments4kids so that the kids would hopefully get some feedback or responses on their tweets.

Within just a few minutes, we started getting some responses some fantastic friends around the country.  Kim Keith @capecodlibrary and Sue Kowalski @spkowalski were the first to respond with some comments, questions, and even pictures to respond to the students’ tweets.  They were so excited to see that their thoughts were being read by people around the world.twitter convo 1

twitter convo 3 twitter convo 2

I plan to do this with the other three 1st grade classes soon.

“Same, Same but Different”: Making Connections through Blogging with 2nd Grade

983 miles to Van Meter

983 miles to Van Meter

I’m so excited about the project that two 2nd grade classes are working on right now.  Mrs. Ramseyer and Mrs. Wright’s classes are connecting with Shannon Miller’s 2nd grade students in Van Meter, Iowa.  Right now, our 2nd graders are working on opinion writing.  The idea for this project started there, but it has grown into so much more through email and face-to-face conversations with the teachers and tweets, emails, and Google Docs with Shannon Miller.


Yesterday, the 2 second grade classes came to the library to kickoff the project.  We looked at Google Earth and mapped the distance from our school to Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa.  It is 983 miles and would take over 15 hours to drive there.  Students were also curious about how long it would take to walk there, so Google Earth showed us it would take about 304 hours!  With the approaching snow storm, I’m not sure I want to try that one!

Next we talked about what it means to blog.  I showed them the library blog and how it is read by people all around the world.  We even looked at the Clustr map showing where our blog readers come from.  I was trying to build their understanding of how large your audience is when you publish your writing online.

The students will use Kid Blog to create their blogs.  This tool allows you to quickly create multiple accounts through an Excel spreadsheet upload.  No email addresses are required.  Then, all students have to do is go to the blog, select their name, and type in their password to type their posts.  We took a look at this, and you should have heard the excitement when they saw that their names were already on the screen.

Writing our paper blogs

Writing our paper blogs

IMG_0016Finally, we had the kids brainstorm with a partner what they might write about in a first post.  We wanted the focus to be “About Me”.  Before we sent them to tables to write, I reminded them of the importance of not including personal information such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.  At tables, each student wrote a paper blog post about themselves.  Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Ramseyer, and I all walked around and conferenced with students on their posts.  We were impressed with how much students were willing to write.  I was reminded of the importance of kids having an authentic audience for their work and how motivating that audience can be to even the most reluctant of writers.

Same, Same but Different will be a theme for our conversations

Same, Same but Different will be a theme for our conversations

Today, we connected via Skype with Shannon and her students.  We read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.   It was such a perfect book because it pushes the notion that all over the world we do things that are the same but they might look a little different.  During our Skype, we paused and let the kids talk about Iowa and Georgia.  They stepped up to the camera and asked questions about one another about the weather, activities, and school population.  They made several connections to the story.  For example, in Iowa it is about to snow a lot.  It takes a major snow for them to get out of school.  We get snow here in GA, too, but we get out of school if there is just a dusting.  Same, same but different!  As we blog with one anther, it is our hope to share our favorite books and opinions as well as continue to explore the idea of how connected we are in the world even though things might look and sound a little different.  I have a feeling students will continue to say “Same, same but different”.IMG_0028

On Monday and Tuesday, our 2nd graders will type and post their blogs.  We will mail our paper versions of our writing to Iowa so that Shannon’s students can practice commenting on them before they actually comment online.  She will do the same with her students’ writing so that we can practice commenting, too.

IMG_0025From there, we hope to connect some more through Skype and through the continued writing of our blogs.

This is going to be a very rich experience for these students, teachers, and librarians!

Students stepped up to ask one another about living in Iowa and Georgia

Students stepped up to ask one another about living in Iowa and Georgia

Connecting Libraries with Extra Yarn (Part 2)

IMG_0001Today, Ms. Seeling’s students had the chance to connect with another Kindergarten class in Van Meter, Iowa.  Librarian Shannon Miller and I read the book Extra Yarn once again and students made bookmarks to send to one another.  It was another magical time.

I made some fun observations this time:

  • Students wondered if Shannon’s students could read the same letters that they do.
  • Students wondered if they would get their bookmarks in the mail by this afternoon.
  • Students wondered if Shannon’s students were in another country.
  • Students had personal stories for each of their bookmarks.IMG_0010

Any of these wonderings would have been great next steps of investigation in the library or in the classroom.  The personal stories really made me curious, so I grabbed my phone and tried to capture a few of the stories.  Each student had a reason they were using particular color and shapes.  Many were trying to tell the Van Meter students something about themselves through their artwork.  It really made me wonder how many stories we miss from students about the work that they create when we don’t stop to listen.  I want to do better capturing these kinds of stories.


Bookmarks are almost ready to mail to Iowa.

Bookmarks are almost ready to mail to Iowa.

Since Shannon and I connected our 2 classes, I’ve had some brainstorming going on with teachers and other librarians about other activities to do with the book Extra Yarn.  Today, Ms. Seeling talked about doing a compliment web using yarn.  A student gives another student a compliment and then tosses the yarn to that student.  This continues until students have made a big web of yarn.  Kathy Schmidt in Gwinnett County brainstormed with me on twitter.  Now I really want to read the book again and try some of these new activities.  There’s always next year.  Who wants to connect?  It’s not too early to start planning 🙂


Kathy and I brainstormed on Twitter.

Kathy and I brainstormed on Twitter.

After our brainstorm, Kathy extended the lesson Shannon and I did and shared on Twitter.

After our brainstorm, Kathy extended the lesson Shannon and I did and shared on Twitter.


Student Book Budgets 2012-2013 (Part 2)

The lists are done and the orders are placed!  Twenty-seven 3rd-5th graders have worked very hard during their lunch time for the past week to create lists of books that are grounded in the results of their school-wide reading interest survey data.  Rather than type everything out here, I’ve made a screencast that shows you the survey, the data, the focus categories, and the final lists.  I invite you to listen:

I’m very proud of these students.  Although, doing this during lunch across multiple times and groups of students was literally and figuratively very messy, I liked the overall results.  As always, some amazing moments happened along the way like:

  •  A student standing up and telling the whole group not to think of themselves.  That they needed to keep in mind all of the students of the school.
  • A male student taking a stand for princess books being on the list because he personally heard from multiple students who desperately wanted more of those books in the library.
  • A group of 3 fifth graders debating whether or not to cut a graphic novel off of the list because it cost $26.00.  They talked for 15 minutes just about that one book.  They read reviews, considered popularity, examined quality, and checked circulation statistics for other books in that series.  (They decided to keep it on the list!)
  • Several students repeatedly went into Destiny to search for how many books we had in particular categories, which books were lost in a particular series, and how many copies we had of certain books like Wimpy Kid.

I’m thankful for Capstone Rewards, too, because I helped out some of our tough decisions by using $500 of free book credit to bump up our budget from $1200 to $1700.  Even with that bump, some very tough decisions were made to cut books that would have been equally as popular.  I look forward to seeing what this group comes up with to market these books to the school and how fast they get checked out!

Real-Life Angry Birds: A 3rd Grade Action Research Project

Our school has a problem that I’m sure many of you have seen or have experience with.  We have angry birds.  Not the ones that live on an iPhone, iPad, or other device.  These are ones that take a crash dive into the windows of the school and either knock themselves out or something a little more grimm.  Our students, of course, notice this every time they pass by a window.

Mrs. Shealey’s 3rd grade students have decided to do something about this, so they have launched into an action research project which ties to many of their curriculum areas including habitats, research, information writing, data collection & interpretation, and more.  It would be easy for a small group of adults to sit down and figure this out, but it is much more meaningful when the students are involved.  It is also our hope that the process of this project will carry over into the lives of students outside of school to notice problems, investigate, and take action.

Mrs. Shealey is doing a tremendous amount of work for this project within her classroom, but the library has been one small piece of this larger initiative.  Mrs. Shealey, Ms. Hicks (spectrum teachers), and I met to brainstorm and map out a timeline.

Our webcam pathfinder

Our webcam pathfinder

I wanted to help the students with observational skills.  When I stayed on Skidaway Island for 2 weeks a few years ago, I practiced careful observation in a field journal.  We decided to have one lesson in the library that explored careful observation.  I shared my journal including the sketches, quick notes, and deep reflection that I did on various pages.  I talked about the importance of being still, staying focused, noticing the small things, and observation stamina.  Then, students moved to computers where they used multiple live and recorded webcams to practice observing.  While students observed, the three of us made note of what they were doing well, what needed to be worked on, and what we might need to focus on as we did our actual observations of the birds at Barrow.  I think this practice session was really helpful to the process.

Using webcams to practice observation

Using webcams to practice observation

In class, students began making bird feeders that they plan to put outside the windows that birds are crashing into.

Mrs. Shealey also split the class into 4 small observation groups that both me and Ms. Hicks took to observe at the windows in the hallway leading down to the media center.

Here’s a quick look at what we saw:

I was amazed by the noticings the kids made after 30 minutes of careful observations and prompting from me and Ms. Hicks.  Some examples are:

  • Birds were more attracted to the tree that had berries and leaves on it outside the window than to the tree that was bare.
  • Some students had put laminated colorful pictures of flowers on the outside of the window and birds were flying straight into those pictures.
  • The window is different than other windows because the outside is exactly like a mirror.
  • Birds did not fly into the window when we were outside watching, but they did fly into the window when we were inside.
  • The tree with the berries seemed to have a smell that some students thought might attract birds.
  • Students noticed that birds were not flying into the windows of other hallways and wondered if it was the height of those windows that caused that.
  • Students began to wonder if bird feeders, statues, dark colored window decals, and perches might deter the birds from the window.

I think that these students crafted some wonderful, authentic questions that they can now research and create things to test out in this space.  As we observed, several teachers stopped and thanked the students for working on this project and asked them to share their findings with the whole school because some teachers are having the same problem at their classroom windows.

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Here are a few of the student reflections about what they saw:


5th Grade Little Free Library Project Part 2

Students designed on paper before using Google Sketchup

Students designed on paper before using Google Sketchup

Our 5th grade Little Free Library Project is picking up speed.  Thanks to the amazing collaboration of Rita Foretich and her student teacher, this project is really getting off the ground.  In art, students from both 5th grade classes have been split into teams of 4-5 students.  Each team has a lead designer, a task manager, a researcher, a writer, and a presenter.  Each job has specific responsibilities which Ms. Foretich and her student teacher constantly check in on.  They also give the task managers checklists to help them check in with each person on the team.

The student teacher is a Google Sketchup expert, so she has the lead designers using this tool to design a potential Little Free Library.  Students have made sketches on paper and moved to Google Sketchup to create a model of their library.  Presenters are putting together a presentation to inform our audience about each library design.  We may end up having the principal choose 2 designs or we may move forward with a student vote. LFL 4

The researchers and writers are working with me in the library to research the Little Free Library site for information about building the actual structure.  As we research the many tips on the site, we are considering other topics that we may need to research such as reusing materials and green building techniques.  We’re thinking of careers that we may need to research in order to identify experts to connect with or people to target for persuasive writing.  The writers are writing persuasive letters to send to potential donors, builders, or collaborators on this project.  They are also considering persuasive tweets they may need to craft for me to tweet out to target audiences for support.

5th graders used the Google Research tool in Google Docs to look for reading statistics

5th graders used the Google Research tool in Google Docs to look for reading statistics

I’m also working with the 5th grade classes on persuasive writing techniques.  We used the Read Write Think powerpoint of strategies and thought about what information we might include underneath each strategy.  I also showed them the research tool within Google Docs.  The students (and teachers) were excited that you could search for a topic such as “reading statistics” to find quotes about reading in the United States and automatically cite the source within your Google Doc.  I think this tool alone will spill over into many other projects now that the students know how to use it!  All 5th graders are writing letters to businesses, builders, parents, students, and other groups in order to ask for money, labor, supplies, books, and a location for our 2nd library.  The teachers are continuing this writing in the regular classroom as well as exploring the Little Free Library site for additional information.  One student was even able to locate a Little Free Library from his hometown in India!

Google Sketchup is proving to be a helpful tool in design

Google Sketchup is proving to be a helpful tool in design

I can’t wait to see where this project goes because it is certainly exploring many of the standards that our 5th graders work on in a variety of areas.









A team checks in with one another before starting individual work

A team checks in with one another before starting individual work


Connecting Libraries through some “Extra Yarn”

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

Shannon and I took turns reading pages of Extra Yarn.

What a fun day!  After lots of tweeting, collaborating via a Google Doc, and emailing, Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten Class connected today with Shannon Miller’s Kindergarten students in Van Meter, Iowa.  In the spirit of World Read Aloud Day #WRAD13, we read a book that connected with the theme of “Reading it Forward” and used the book Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  This book was just honored with the Caldecott Honor Award at the ALA Youth Media Awards.  So far, I’ve read the book to all 1st grade classes and every class falls in love with this text and the illustrations.  It also generates some great discussion about the mysterious yarn box.

In today’s session, Ms. Hocking’s Class gathered in the library.  We talked about etiquette during the Skype session and looked at a map of where Van Meter Iowa is located.  We also did a quick intro of what we would be doing together.  Then, we made the call via Skype.  Shannon Miller introduced her students and we enjoyed waving at one another and saying hello.  Then, Shannon and I launched into reading the book.  We each read a 2-page spread of the book, and it was so much fun to hear 2 different voices reading the text.  The kids enjoyed joining in by saying “extra yarn” every time that appeared in the text.  It was great to hear voices in 2 different states shouting “extra yarn”.  We stopped a little bit along the way to look at how the illustrations were changing and to make some predictions.  Our last step was to make yarn bookmarks to send to one another.  Shannon’s students had already made their bookmarks before the call, so they were able to show us their work.  This really inspired my students to do their best work and to make connections to what Shannon’s students had already started.  We said goodbye and got to work on our bookmarks.  Each student had a card stock bookmark with yarn attached at the end.  They put their name on the bookmark and decorated both sides.  Now we will mail our bookmarks to Iowa and eagerly await bookmarks to arrive from Iowa.  We plan to continue to connect these 2 classes through a follow-up project in book making.

You can read Shannon’s post about the experience on her Van Meter Library Voice Blog!

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Student bookmarks had yarn attached to the end in honor of the book.

Our students are read to send their bookmarks to Iowa

Our students are ready to send their bookmarks to Iowa

This was such a fun time.  It meant a lot to the students, and it was really super easy to do through so many virtual tools.  I look forward to many more collaborations with Shannon and other librarians across the country (and world)!


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