Celebrating Thanksgiving Traditions with Balloons Over Broadway and Looking Ahead

Second grade signed up for a rotation through the library as part of their Thanksgiving feast celebration on the day before our holiday break.  Their request was to read the book  Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.  If you’ve never read this book, it is amazing!  The illustrations are filled with details that you can search through for hours and it is packed full of information while being very readable as a read aloud.  While I love biographies, sometimes it is hard to read a biography aloud because of the length.  Balloons Over Broadway is just right.

Before we read the book, we looked at information about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Watching this parade has always been a part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  I was very surprised to see how many students had never watched the parade or even heard of it.  I was reminded of the importance of the picture book and how it brings out conversations that might never have happened without the sharing of a story.  Some of our conversations included perseverance, immigration, failure, and growth mindset along with some other Thanksgiving traditions.

There are numerous resources you can use to share about the parade and the book:

After we read the story, we used on of the pages out of the activity kit to design our own balloons.

www.hmhbooks.com kids resources BalloonsOverBroadway_ActivityKit.pdf

I loved watching what students came up with.  Once they finished, they had the option of sharing their balloon on a Flipgrid.

Students came up to the webcam on the projection board and I helped them click through the Flipgrid menus to take a picture and record.  Then, students came up to type their name.  I normally use the iPad app for Flipgrid, but this was a fast way of doing a lesson closing as students finished their coloring on their own time.

 

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Click here to see and here about their balloon designs!

The book also made me think ahead.  Last year in 2nd grade, we did a great project with the force and motion standards in science where students investigated Rube Goldberg and made their own inventions.  Balloons Over Broadway was a perfect introduction to the idea of tinkering and using everyday objects and simple machines to take mundane tasks and make them interesting.  I want to revisit the opening pages of the book where Tony Sarg invents a way t feed the chickens when we do the simple machine project later this year.

I also thought about the Hour of Code and how that event brought about so many conversations about failure and perseverance.  This book would be a great example to share ahead of Hour of Code to think about a growth mindset and prep students for the failure that comes with coding and how you handle that failure as a learning experience.

Who knew that so many thoughts would come about from a simple request to read a story.

 

 

 

 

We Need You to Vote on Whether these Explorers are Heroes or Villains!

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Fourth grade has been hard at work.  They have been researching multiple explorers in their social studies standards and considering whether those explorers are heroes or villains.  It all started with a lesson in the library using a video about Christopher Columbus, Encounter by Jane Yolen, and Tagxedo.

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After that, students selected an explorer and began their research.  They took their information and used that to write a persuasive piece convincing an audience that their explorer is a hero or villain.  They used Flipgrid to record themselves reading their persuasive piece.  All of the Flipgrid videos are housed on an Google Site for easy access and each explorer has a Google form voting tool to indicated whether that explorer is a hero or a villain.

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Now, this is where you come in!  We need you to watch our videos and vote on our heroes or villains.  You can choose an explorer and spend some time on that one explorer or you can watch them all!  You can share this project with other classrooms or educators and ask them to share.

If you choose to do this with a class, we would love to hear about it!  You can tweet pictures or comments to @plemmonsa  Most importantly we want you to vote and share.

 

Soon after our Thanksgiving break, we will take a look at the results and most likely connect with our friends at Flipgrid to talk about coding and our project’s reach.

We hope that our project makes you think about the many perspectives in our world’s history and that you enjoy hearing our voices.

Barrow Explorers

Click here to access our Explorer Google Site!  Tip:  If you are in Google Chrome, you will need to click on the shield in your address bar to load the “unsafe script”. This will show you the embedded grids.  Otherwise, just click on the link on each explorer’s name to access the Flipgrid on a separate page.  Feel free to “like” student videos by clicking the hearts, but don’t forget to vote on the Google forms on our site.

Writing Folktales with Puppet Pals

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A few weeks ago, I introduced the iPad app, Puppet Pals, to 3rd grade through a tinkering lesson connected with an author study.  After that lesson, the teachers and I started planning an extension of their folktale unit using this app.  Each class chose a folktale to read multiple version of such as Cinderella, Goldilocks, Three Little Pigs, etc.  Then, students wrote their own story using some of the elements that they had noticed in their study of folktales.  In art, students designed characters and settings for the stories that they wrote in writing time.

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Puppet Pals HD is a free app, but if you upgrade the app for $4.99, you have access to so many more features.  My favorite feature is the ability to take photographs of anything and turn it into a character or a setting for your story.  Students used their artwork from art to create the characters and settings in the app.  From there, students took their script and recorded their folktales.  Some students had multiple characters and settings, so it was nice that they could pause the recording to switch out settings or characters.

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Once the recordings were done, we exported them to the camera roll and uploaded them to Youtube.  The app does allow you to name each story, but it doesn’t transfer the name into the camera roll.  I wish we had done the Youtube upload as part of recording because I couldn’t tell which story belonged to which student.  For now, all of the stories are just called “Puppet Pals” in Youtube. We’ll go back later and add the student titles and names.

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Celebrating Picture Book Month with the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown

IMG_4429Our 2014 Picture Book Smackdown was a huge success.  Students in 5 states including Georgia, Texas, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania shared their favorite picture books along with 2 amazing authors, Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace.

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Anytime you host an event like this, you worry about technical difficulties.  However, today the internet gave us smooth sailing.  I do want to take a moment to uncover some of the pieces that went into making this event successful.  There was a lot of preparation that went on behind the scenes.

  • I created our Google Plus Hangout on Air event page well in advance so that we could advertise our smackdown to all of our networks.

  • All of the authors and participating schools have been communicating with one another via email, twitter, and a shared Google doc.  The doc contained tips for making the hangout run smoothly such as keeping our microphones muted unless we were speaking as well as listed the order that we would speak.

Picture Book Smackdown Notes   Google Docs

  • All of the participating schools had students prepare in advance.  Many of our students wrote our scripts or memorized a brief blurb about their books.  Some of us hosted a practice for our students to run through their talks.

  • We opened the hangout well in advance so that we could test our microphones as needed.  I sent everyone a direct link to join the hangout rather than sending everyone a G+ invite.
  • Many of us had organization to how our students came up to the microphone. For example, I setup my chairs in groups of 3 so that students were already sitting in the groups of 3 that would come up to the microphone.

  • Some of us had helpers who were assisting us behind the scenes.  I recruited a parent volunteer, a UGA student, and UGA teacher to help me.  The parent volunteer took pictures and assisted students to the microphone.  The UGA teacher created a Google doc of all of the picture books that were shared during the event.  The UGA student helped students to the microphone.  Since I was in charge of the hangout, I wanted to be able to focus on the technology and supporting any issues that came up with our event.

  • As we had time, we tweet pictures or publicity about the event while it was happening.

I hope that you will take time to listen to the archive because it truly was miraculous.  We heard from Dianne de Las Casas about why Picture Book Month was started and it was amazing to see how many authors and  illustrators she has recruited to be picture book champions.

We also heard Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace share some of their favorite picture books.  I wish we could have heard more from them, but they were gracious enough to step aside so that students could voice their love for so many wonderful books.

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We heard titles, authors, and summaries.  One of my favorite things to hear from students was why picture books matter in our world.  To hear their own reasoning about why picture books matter was truly inspiring.

2014 Picture Book Smackdown Titles   Google Docs

Click here to see a full list of the picture books that were shared during the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

I would like to take a moment to thank our participating author, librarians, and schools for the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month
Anne Marie Pace, author
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

This will definitely be an annual event for me, and I encourage you to think about how you might host your own event like this to get kids connected and sharing their passions and interests.  Happy Picture Book Month!

Watch the archive!

America Recycles Day: Connecting with the World and Making a Difference

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This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to collaborate globally.  In the past, I’ve participated in amazing events such as Dot Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and World Read Aloud Day.  Each of those events has connected our students to classrooms and authors around the globe, and I’ve found so many collaborative colleagues through these events.  It’s these very events that have pushed me to wonder what more we can do with our students.  I’ve been pondering how we can have collaborations that allow our students to make a difference in the world and share their ideas, their questions, their problems, and their solutions.

When our spectrum teacher, Natalie Hicks, came to me with a flyer about America Recycles Day, I knew that this day had potential to spark some action projects with our students and students around the globe.  I made a Google doc, crafted a blog post, and started inviting anyone and everyone to connect for America Recycles Day.  It didn’t take long for some of the very people I’ve connected with for other events to start posting their own schedules in the doc and making connections.  I want to thank Shawna Ford, Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Donna MacDonald, Misti Sikes, Ly Phan, Kathy Schmidt, and Craig Seasholes for taking a risk with me and trying something new.  These people put their schedules out there and started making connections.

This week, my own students started making connections for America Recycles Day.  Each Skype or Google Hangout offered a little something different.

Ms. Clarke and Ms. Haley’s 3rd grade class connected with Kathy Schmidt and her 3rd graders in Gwinnett County, GA.  We learned about how her students are collecting items from home to put in the library’s tinker lab rather than throw them away.

Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class connected with Cally Flickinger in South Burlington, Vermont.  We read the book Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter.  The story sparked a great conversation about how our trash can take over our world and how important it is to recycle or reuse instead of throw things away.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class connected with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, Vermont.  Her students shared how they are using Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit to inspire a save the crayons campain.  Students are collecting crayons and sending them to be melted into new crayons.  Our students took time to offer some other ways that the crayons might be used such as making candles, melting crayons for artwork, fusing crayons together to make two-sided crayons, and investigating what crayons are made of so that they might discover even more things that crayons could make.

Ms. Li’s Kindergarten connected with Misti Sikes and her Kindergarten in Forsyth, Georgia.  They shared how they recycle at their school by separating white paper and color paper as well as other ways that recycling has to be prepared before it goes into the bin such as removing paper clips and staples.

Ms. Boyle’s Kindergarten connected with Holly Esterline & Katie LeFrancois’s grade 1 & 2 class in Bolton, Vermont.  We shared the book Compost Stew and heard about how their school is doing TerraCycling.  Even with our connection issues, we still learned a lot about something we don’t do much of at our school.

Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade students gathered a lunch bunch together to connect with Cathy Potter and her students in Falmouth, Maine.  The 1st graders at her school showed us a Google presentation with pictures of recycling and composting efforts in their school.  They have a whole process of how their scraps at lunch get put into a bucket to go to the composting bin.

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Finally, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class connected with Karre Sloan’s 6th grade students in Nashville, Tennessee.  They shared the recycling program from their school and how their 3rd graders are in charge of recycling.  They also shared their ideas and tips for our own recycling problem at our school.

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In every connection, our students shared our own school problem.  We have recycling bins in every classroom, but we are finding that people are still throwing away recyclable things.  Even when we recycle, we have an additional problem.  People are parking in front of our recycling dumpster and the recycling truck can’t get to the recycling to empty it.  We posted these problems onto a Padlet.  We showed each connecting class the bins that we have in our classrooms and read the recycling instructions that can be found on the bag inside.  Sometimes our connecting classes gave us new ideas right on the spot or shared what their own school is doing that might support our problem.  Other classes added to our Padlet after we disconnected.  We also added to the Padlet.

Barrow America Recycles 2014

Our next step is to take this Padlet and share the ideas with our environmental committee which is chaired by Natalie Hicks.  We also have 2 enrichment clusters that we can share the Padlet with.  Our hope is that some of the ideas that came from so many perspectives will spark change within our school problem.  We want to connect back with some of the classes we met this week and share what we’ve done to improve our problem, and we want to see what they have done since our connection.

I loved that during our very last connection, students arrived in the library to put signs on our recycling bin that were sent by our recycling department.

 

Miraculous things came out of our connections:

  • We saw that we weren’t alone with our problem and that there were multiple things to test out to try to reach a solution.
  • We learned that recycling is very different from place to place.  We are so fortunate in Athens to have a state of the art recycling facility and single stream recycling.  Some communities have to put forth a lot of effort to recycle, and it is so easy for us.
  • We realized that there were so many things we could do with our “recycling” other than put it in the bin.  The concept of makerspaces is really causing a lot of us to think about turning trash into functional creations.
  • We saw that together we could come up with out-of-the-box ideas.  We often started with “put up posters about recycling”, but with the energy of collaboration, new ideas surface such as make smaller trash cans, create a recycling contest, write a catchy song about recycling to sing on morning announcements, and more.

My hope is that this week of connections really does spark change in our school and others.  At the very least, I think it made us more aware of what we are throwing away.  These types of connections have the potential to grow into large-scale collaborations around the globe.  The combination of powerful texts such as Here Comes the Garbage Barge and Eyes Wide Open along with the innovative ideas of students, teachers, and families fosters a healthy environment for long-lasting collaboration.  Our students are the future of our world, and when we allow them to unite with one another around authentic dilemmas in our world, we are equipping them with problem solving skills to keep our world a peaceful place.

 

 

It’s Picture Book Month….Let’s Have a Smackdown

November is Picture Book Month.  It’s a time to celebrate the power of picture books and why the matter in our lives no matter what our age.  Picture Book Month was started by author Dianne de Las Casas to bring awareness to the role of picture books in our lives.  Each year, multiple authors and illustrators contribute daily posts about why they think picture books matter.  The Picture Book Month website has a wealth of resources for you to celebrate picture book month with your students, including a calendar, logos, bookmarks, and certificate.

At our school, we host a Picture Book Month Shelf Challenge.  Students set their own goal for how many picture books they will read during November.  I like allowing students to set their own goal because it allows for differentiation and also allows for surprising goals from students.  Each student receives a sheet to document their reading for the month.

Shelf Challenge   Google Docs

At the end of the month, students turn in this sheet.  They receive a certificate, a bookmark, and get entered into a drawing to win picture books that I’ve collected for prizes.

picturebookmonth.com wp content uploads 2011 11 pbm certificate color.pdf

For the 2nd year, we will host our annual Picture Book Smackdown.  On November 18th from 1:30-2:30PM EST, students in multiple schools across multiple states will gather online with authors in a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books and why they matter in our lives.  The event will be a Hangout On Air, so it will also be archived for future enjoyment.

To prepare for the event, I’ve sent a Google form to students to identify students in various grades who want to participate.

Barrow Picture Book Smackdown

As students share their interest, I’m sending them a script to help them prepare for their sharing during the smackdown.  They don’t have to use this script, but many find it helpful to remember all of the pieces of sharing.  The day before the smackdown, they will gather in the library to do a quick practice.

Picture Book Month Smackdown Script   Google Docs

I hope you will join us on November 18th to watch the smackdown and help spread the word about the event in advance.  During the smackdown, students and authors will step to the microphone in their own states and share a favorite picture book.  We also hope to capture all of these recommendations in a Google doc.

Here are some things to know:

  • Tweet about the event and your favorite picture books.  Even if your class isn’t in the smackdown, they can still share their favorite picture books with the hashtag #pbsmkdwn  as well as leave comments for our authors and students.  You can also include the picture book month hashtag #picturebookmonth

Many thanks to all of the schools and authors who are participating in the smackdown so far this year:

Participating schools include:
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Kathy Kaldenberg, school librarian in Solon, Iowa
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

Participating authors include:
Dianne de Las Casas, founder of picture book month
Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina

How are you celebrating Picture Book Month?  It’s not too late to get a plan together and promote the power of picture books with your students.

Honoring Our Veterans with The Poppy Lady, Padlet, and Flipgrid

Last year, we were honored to have Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady, visit our school and share her book about Moina Michael’s vision for honoring veterans with the poppy.  Now, last year’s fourth graders that attended that visit are in the 5th grade.   They are about to host several veterans at our school for Veteran’s Day on Tuesday.

British use poppies to commemorate WWI

To prepare for our luncheon, the 5th grade classes each came to the library.  We read The Poppy Lady again.  We also watched a video from CBS news.  The video gave the students some great context on why the poppy is so important and what it really symbolizes.  This paired nicely with the advocacy story of Moina Michael.

We also had a great discussion about the importance of honoring veterans and what students might ask when they sit at a table with a veteran.  They brainstormed questions/statements like: “Tell me more about your time of service”, “What division of the military did you serve in”, “What were some of your biggest challenges in the military”, etc.

Then, students took time to visit 2 centers in the library.  I setup multiple iPads as a Flipgrid recording station.  With Flipgrid, students reflected on how we could continue to honor veterans just like the poppy lady did.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

 

The 2nd station was a padlet where students could send messages to author Barbara Walsh about their appreciation for honoring the work of Moina Michael.  I pulled the site up on both projection screens and three other computers in the library for students to visit.

The Poppy Lady

Now the 5th graders will continue to work on poems, artwork, letters, and speeches for Tuesday’s luncheon.  During the luncheon, they will sit with veterans and have meaningful conversations.  I hope that they will take time to bring up the Poppy Lady while they talk.