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!