Thinglink Regions of Georgia with 2nd Grade

regions for thinglinkSecond grade has been studying the regions of Georgia as part of their social studies standards.  I pulled multiple resources for them to use including informational books, Georgia stories, posters of animals and plants, and regions of Georgia posters.  In each classroom, students were placed into groups to research a specific region.  This was built into both writing time and social studies.  Students were supposed to use their research to write a script for a regions of Georgia commercial.  Their job was to convince someone to visit that region by telling about the land, animals, plants, and things to do in that region.  During some of these sessions, students came to the media center in small groups for research support.   I worked with them both on researching facts and also writing scripts.  Finally in class, students designed backdrops for their commercials.

In the library, students came in small groups to film their commercials.  We filmed in our studio and used one of our fusion flip tables to tape the backdrops to.  I used an iPad to record the students acting out their commercial.  Our iPad had a dual shotgun microphone plugged in to improve the sound quality.  It was interesting to see the students’ different ideas for how to do a commercial.  Some incorporated puppets, creative slogans, and even a breakaway door.

I took each video and put it into iMovie, uploaded it to Youtube, and then attached it to a Thinglink.  For our Thinglink image, I took a photograph of a map of GA which is found on the floor just outside of the 2nd grade rooms.  Thinglink allows you to attach multiple links to one image.  I’ve used Thinglink for individual projects, but I liked that this use of Thinglink pulled all of the videos into one easy to reach location.  I shared the link with teachers so that they could see the progress being made toward finishing all of the videos.  They pulled the Thinglink up on their boards and let students watch the videos that had been made so far.  It created a great review tool for where all of the regions of GA are and also allowed classes to hear the research that had been gathered in the other classrooms.  We will make a QR code for the Thinglink so that visitors with mobile devices can scan the code and visit the project.  photo (1)

This was a great first quarter project.  I think it is a stepping stone toward the next technology-related project that 2nd grade will do.  My regret is that I wish that more students could have been involved in actually creating the final product.  I wish that I had at least had a few students from each room sit and watch or help make the Thinglink.

Take a look at their work in progress here.

Rhyming Words and Storybird

Our Kindergarten students have been learning about rhyming words.  For our library lesson, we read two different stories.

Storybird - Say What-! (Our Version)For our first story, we read Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson.  Students gave me a thumbs up when they heard rhyming words.  Sometimes we paused and they told a partner the rhyming words they heard.  Other times we shared them aloud to the whole group.  We also took time to notice that there was a counting pattern in this book, counting by twos.

For our second story, we read Say What? by Angela DiTerlizzi.  This book explores the sounds that animals make and thinks about what animals might really be saying when they make their sounds.  This book sets up a great pattern that students can model in their own writing.cats' night out

For our work time, I put together a Storybird to use with all of the classes that participated in this lesson.  I searched for animal pictures within Storybird and pulled a few onto each page of the book.  Then, I typed the sentence starters for each animal.  “When a _______________ says _______________ does she really mean _________________________?”  Each class brainstormed rhyming word pairs for each animal picture.  It was about 2-3 pictures per class.  After the final class, we had written a collaborative ebook.  I emailed the link to all of the teachers so that students could see how the book turned out.

This lesson also served another purpose.  It was an authentic way to show a web tool that students would be using in the future.  Rather than teach about making a Storybird, students saw a Storybird in action.  Now, when we actually look at some of the steps, they’ll have a concrete example of a finished product to reference.  This was the first time that I have tried this, and I’m curious to see how it will impact future Storybird projects.

Read their final version of the story here.

5th Grade Cell-a-bration

Star lab, checkout, computer/iPads were all used simultaneously in our space

Star lab, checkout, computer/iPads were all used simultaneously in our space

Today our 5th graders participated in 5 centers throughout the school to learn about cells.  This was another example of transliteracy in action.  Across the centers students:

  • heard a guest speaker talk about the USDA and tracking outbreaks of food sickness
  • looked at projected images of cells underneath a microscope
  • entered the Starlab to actually sit inside a cell that was projected on the planetarium ceiling
  • used a Sqworl pathfinder and iPad apps to interact with cells in multiple ways from games to videos to ebooks to interactive tours of the cell

In the media center, we hosted 2 of the rotations.  Once again, I was excited to see that the design of the space supported multiple things going on at once.  The Starlab was inflated where our tables are usually located.  This massive planetarium did not block a single shelf from being accessible to students who were coming to checkout.  The tables were moved to the other projection area so that students could use iPads and computers for the pathfinder and app center.

I started the students in the floor to intro the apps and pathfinder.  They grabbed the device they needed and then found the best space that worked for their learning.  On the pathfinder, the students most enjoyed the Capstone Interactive ebooks, Vampires and Cells and The Basics of Cell Life.  

vampires and cells

They also enjoyed the University of Utah’s Inside a Cell, which allowed them to zoom into different parts of a cell and read additional information about that part.


Talk Like a Pirate Day 2013

Ahoy thar maties!  Today be national “talk like a pirate” day.  What better way to celebrate than dressing up like a pirate, reading some stories with classes around the country, writing some fun pirate sentences to practice saying, and creating some pirate stories.

That’s exactly what we did in the Barrow library.  The planning started last weekend, when I started looking for classes in the school who wanted to participate.  As class signed up, I used twitter to locate some special library friends around the country to connect with.

(1) Andy Plemmons (plemmonsa) on Twitter


Over a couple of days, the schedule took shape for us to connect with:

  • Shannon Thompson at Stroud Elementary in Athens, GA
  • Jenny Lussier in Durham, CT
  • Okle Miller in Tampa, FL
  • Edie Crook in Gastonia, NC
  • Shannon Miller in Van Meter, IA

The plan during each connection was to:

  • look at a google map of where we were connecting and talk about distance
  • say hello with a few pirate words like “Arrrrrrrrrgh!”
  • take turns reading pages of a pirate story so that voices in each location were heard.  Sometimes it would be the librarian and other times it would be the students reading.
  • Say goodbye
  • At tables, write pirate sentences using a pirate vocabulary sheet.  Students could stretch out an -ar word or they could use actual pirate vocab.
  • Students moved to do projection areas to have an adult type their sentence onto a padlet.  Throughout the day, any school could add to the padlet as they had time.
Our pirate padlet

Our pirate padlet

We started our day with Mrs. Boyle’s Kindergarten class.  They have been learning how to tell stories from pictures.  Today was the launch of our storybird project, so I decided to focus our storybird on pirates.  After warming up with some “Tell Me a Story” cards, we searched for pirate pictures on Storybird.  We made  a simple story with a beginning, middle, and end.  It was a challenge to link our story together between pictures, but the students did a great job working together.  Be sure to read their story here.  

Our Storybird cover

Our Storybird cover


pirate day (16)Next, we skyped with Shannon Thompson at Stroud Elementary in Athens.  Shannon and I took turn reading A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller.  We both read in our best pirate voices.  Following our skype, we disconnected and students added sentences to the padlet.  We reconnected on skype and students shared their sentences with one another in their best pirate voices.  We had a few sound issues, which led me to switch the webcam I was using.

At 10 & 10:30, Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade classes connected with Jenny Lussier’s 4th graders in CT.  During one session, we read Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka and during the other session we read How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  It was fun to hear our different pirate voices and share the many costumes that both of our groups of students were wearing.

pirate day (29)At 11:45, Mrs. Yawn’s 2nd grade class had a special triple skype.  We connected with Okle Miller in FL and Edie Crook in NC at the same time.

triple skype

Okle and I read How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and Edie Crook read A is for Arrr! by Laura Salas.  Okle had on a great pirate costume, and Edie’s students had made great pirate hats to share, too.  It was fun to know our voices were connecting from 3 different southeastern states.


A is for Arrr! with Mrs. Crook

A is for Arrr! with Mrs. Crook


At 1:15, Shannon Miller’s students connected with Mrs. Em’s 1st grade students.  We read How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  Our students also took time to share what was going on at our schools today.  In addition to pirate day, our students had a walking field trip and Shannon’s students had dot day, Homecoming, and a color challenge.  Shannon’s students took time to add to the padlet after our connection, while Mrs. Em’s students added sentences that focused on words that used sounds they were working on in class.

Finally, at 1:45 Mrs. Choate’s Kindergarten class connected with Edie Crook in NC.  I read Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka and Pirates vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds.  It was a challenge to switch from pirate to cowboy while reading the book.  It would be a fun book to read over skype if both schools have a copy because you would only have to keep up with one accent.  I loved hearing Edie’s students make connections between the two books.

photo 2 (1)It was a fun-filled day.  We made connections.  We read text and had great discussions.  We practiced reading fluently and with expression.  We practiced our sentence writing.  I’m exhausted.  Now off to Krispy Kreme for some free donuts.  They are giving away a full dozen of donuts if you are dressed like a pirate!


Explorers and Native Americans: Perspective & Transliteracy with 4th grade

explorers & native americans (9)

Update:  This post is featured on Jane Yolen’s page for Encounter. 

Our 4th grade is studying Native Americans and Explorers.  When I met with the 4th grade team to plan, one of the main topics of our conversation was how we wanted our students to really think about perspective.  We didn’t want them to come away looking at the explorers as only a group of heroes, but instead to question what the costs were of their exploration.  We wanted them to think from the Native Americans’ perspective and consider how they felt about the explorers coming into their land.  We decided to approach this in a few ways.  The teachers planned regular social studies instruction in their classrooms.  They made Google presentations that were shared with the kids.  They also created graphic organizers for students to use to collect info.  Some students chose to have paper print outs of their organizers while others chose to fill out the organizer digitally.

Our guiding standards included:

SS4H1 The student will describe how early Native American cultures developed in
North America.
a. Locate where Native Americans settled with emphasis on the Arctic (Inuit),
Northwest (Kwakiutl), Plateau (Nez Perce), Southwest (Hopi), Plains (Pawnee),
and Southeast (Seminole).
b. Describe how Native Americans used their environment to obtain food, clothing,
and shelter.
SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.
a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.
b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native

In the media center, I pulled multiple folktales from each of the Native American tribes.  During 2 separate sessions, we looked at Google Earth to see where the tribes were located originally.  Then as we read the folktales, we considered how location impacted the food, shelter, and clothing of the tribes by citing evidence from the tales.

The teachers wanted students to have access to multiple kinds of resources for their research portion of the unit.  We talked about classes coming individually to the library, but we ultimately decided that it would be nice for students to all be together in one location with multiple resources.  We scheduled 3 hour-long sessions.  I pulled together folktales, books about explorers, books about Native Americans, a pathfinder about Native Americans, and a pathfinder about Explorers.

During session 1, we met as a whole group.  I showed students a video of Christopher Columbus from National Geographic.  After the video, I asked students to think about how they would describe Columbus.  After talking with partners, I put as many words into a Tagxedo as possible.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

These words were how students described Christopher Columbus after watching a video about Columbus.

Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen, which is the Columbus story told from the Native American perspective.  After the story, I asked the students to once again describe Columbus.  Their words made a big shift.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

These words are how students described Christopher Columbus after reading Encounter by Jane Yolen.

I followed up by talking about perspective, and how so many stories in history are silenced until the perspective of that group of people is brought forward.  I cited authors such as Phillip Hoose and Tanya Lee Stone who have written multiple texts about stories from history that have been untold.  I encouraged students as they did their research for this project to strongly consider perspective.  I did not want to tell them what to believe, but I asked them to be critical of the information they read and form their own opinions of history.

During sessions 2 & 3, all classes came back to the media center.  On one projection board, I posted the Native American pathfinder.  On the other projection board, I posted the Explorers pathfinder.  In addition, I made QR codes for each pathfinder and pulled out our cart of iPads.  I separated the books into 3 separate areas:  folktales, Native Americans, and explorers.  All students brought their netbooks, but they had the option to use the iPad if it fit their learning needs better than the netbook.  After  a quick reminder about our focus and where things were located, students freely moved around the media center.  About 75 students simultaneously made choices about which resources to start with, where to work, whether to work with a partner or small group or alone, and what technology supported their needs the most.  All 3 classroom teachers, a teacher candidate (student teacher), a gifted teacher, and I walked around and checked in with students.  Sometimes we were troubleshooting technology or redirecting, but often we were able to have individual conversations with students about the information that students were collecting.  Teachers worked with all students regardless if they were in their class or not.

What amazed me the most were the decisions that students made about their learning.  I saw transliteracy in action.  As I walked around, I saw students with pencils, papers, iPads, netbooks, and books all spread out around them.  They were simultaneously moving from one device or tool to the next.  Some students sat at tables while others sat inside bookshelves.  Some students tucked away by themselves while others worked in a large group.  Some students worked with very few resources at a time such as 1 book while others had every possible resource in front of them at once.  After months of wondering about how our space would support the kinds of learning I hope to see in our library, I was finally able to truly see it today.  I saw every piece of furniture in use.  I saw students combine pieces of furniture to make themselves comfortable for learning.  An entire grade level descended upon the library and remained productive while groups of kids were still coming into the library to checkout books.explorers & native americans (15)

It was loud, energetic, productive, and fun.  It’s a model I hope to replicate with other groups and a model that I hope carries into our classrooms, which can now accommodate some of these sames types of opportunities.

A Virtual Google Earth Field Trip with 1st Grade

virtual field trip (1)1st grade is getting ready to go on a walking field trip.  They have been learning about community helpers, so they will walk from our school to 5 Points to visit several businesses.  I met with the team early in the year and we brainstormed how we might bring technology in to support the trip.  I suggested having the students walk the actual trip in a Google Earth tour before they go.  Of course, at the time, I had no idea how to even create a tour, but I knew it could be done.  They were eager to try this, so I got to work.

virtual field trip (4)I watched an online tutorial of how to make a tour.  There were a couple of options, but I chose the one that was simple.  You basically create a folder in your places on Google Earth, start searching for the places that you want to visit, add pins with any info you want to include at each place, and then you click the play button to start the tour.  You save the tour as a kmz file that Google Earth can read.

I put our file on my website so that students could click the link and download the kmz file.  To make the process even smoother, I used LanSchool, our monitoring software, to push the file out to computers.  It created a folder on each student desktop.  They opened the folder and clicked on the link.  Google Earth automatically opened and they clicked play to begin.  I showed students how they could pause the tour at any time and drag the little person out of the toolbar in order to switch to streetview.  This was really helpful because students could actually see the place that they were about to visit.  To continue the tour, students pressed play again and it went out of streetview and moved to the next location.  Students had fun seeing familiar places and also took a few detours to look for their house or other Athens landmarks.  I could tell they were engaged when they didn’t want to get up to checkout a book.virtual field trip (2)

On the actual field trip, teachers are going to let the students tweet about their experiences.  They will use the hashtag #barrowbuddies so that classrooms at school can follow along with the field trip, ask questions, and feel a part of the trip while here at school.  We hope to do this on several of our trips this year.

International Dot Day 2013 @ Barrow

Ms. Kelly Hocking's class mural inspired by Chuck Close

Ms. Kelly Hocking’s class mural inspired by Chuck Close

International Dot Day has become a special day at our school and it seems to grow a bit each year.  This day was created by author/illustrator Peter Reynolds.  Each of Peter’s books focus in some way on creativity, expressing your individuality, and making your mark on the world.  It’s so much more than a day to create dots.  It’s a day to embrace your own uniqueness and express the things that you truly love.  It’s a day to establish an environment of innovation and encourage students to express their ideas through multiple formats.

This year at Barrow many classes came to the library to read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and Press Here by Herve Tullet.  Students made digital dots using Drawcast and Glow Coloring on the iPads.  They made coffee filter dots with markers and water.  They used the super cool app colAR Mix to create augmented reality dots.  The media center windows have filled with dots throughout the past week to the point that you can barely see in.  Our principal even let us have a Dot Dress-up Day today.  It was so much fun to look down the halls and see dots everywhere.

Mr. Plemmons with pumpkin dots, converse dot, and Scaredy Squirrel dot.

Mr. Plemmons with pumpkin dots, converse dot, and Scaredy Squirrel dot.

hocking mural (2)A unique project that emerged was Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class.  Kelly always listens carefully to her students’ interests and this year she has heard their interest in art.  They are looking carefully at multiple artists and recently started looking at Chuck Close.  His artwork had a direct connection to dot day with its many dots to make a larger image.  This spark took us on a great journey.  We read Sky Color by Peter Reynolds where students were introduced to murals.  We spent time learning about Diego Rivera’s murals.  I shared my own mural that is in my son’s room and how it was designed and painted.  Students started looking in the community for murals.  Some even began to report back about the murals that they saw while in Atlanta.  Ms. Hocking facilitated her students in deciding what kind of mural they could make and over several class periods they penciled in their mural onto a large piece of paper and began filling it with dots just like they had seen in Chuck Close’s art.  Today, their dot mural was displayed on the large window of our media center.  The sunlight gave the mural a stained glass effect.  It was breathtaking and so many people were in awe as they saw it.  When I posted the picture of the mural on our media center facebook page, it immediately was showered with likes.  The mural was surrounded by window cling dots that a Barrow parent discovered and collaborated with other parents to purchase some for the library.hocking mural (1)

dot day (15)Today was also a day for students to come and tour the dot gallery on the media center windows.  I had all of our iPads available for classes to come and interact with the colAR dots on the inside and outside of the windows.  Ms. Li’s Kindergarten class was here bright and early to look at the dots.  Look at how much fun they had!


Reading The Dot with Van Meter

Reading The Dot with Van Meter

At the end of the day, Mrs. Wyatt’s 1st grade class skyped with Shannon Miller’s students in Van Meter Iowa.  We read the dot together.  Then, Mrs. Wyatt’s class used Google Earth to go on a virtual tour of a walking field trip that they will soon take in 5 Points.  Each stop on the tour was of course a dot on the map!

Our Van Meter dot friends

Our Van Meter dot friends

I look forward to next year and how we might celebrate even bigger when we aren’t in the middle of moving in to a new school.