Connecting Through Stories: World Read Aloud Day Part 4

WRAD15 Day 4 (19)

It’s snowing in the northeast, so today’s WRAD15 connections were a bit tricky.  I had 4 cancellations today, but that did not stop classes from coming to the library to still hear some good stories read aloud.

Ms. Wright’s class read I’m Bored.  Ms. Yawn’s class read Goodnight Already and Wolfie the Bunny.  Ms. Li’s class read The Story of Fish and Snail.  Great conversation filled the air even though we were disconnected from our friends through Skype.

Ms. Spurgeon’s class also had a cancellation, so we used this time to hear some oral stories about Harriet Powers, a former slave from Athens who made a famous Bible story quilt.  I have a replica of the quilt, so we sat around the quilt and heard stories about Harriet Powers and the various symbols she put on her quilt.

The day still had connections.

Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten class connected with Sherrell Stepp’s 1st grade in Gilbert, South Carolina.  We read Same, Same but Different.  Students asked questions about their schools to hear things that were the same but different.  We both have a college in our towns but they of course have different mascots.  We both have recess but our school has recess before lunch and their school has recess after lunch.  It’s always fun to see how same but different we are even if we are just a few hours away from each other.

Ms. Lauren’s PreK students connected with Catherine Word’s 4th graders in Baton Rouge, LA.  We shared Elephants Cannot Dance.  I was elephant and Catherine was Piggie.  Catherine’s students were the squirrels.  We took time to share our favorite Mo Willems books as well as other favorite books.

Ms. Ramsey’s class connected with Kelly Light, author of Louise Loves Art.  She read the book to us, but what we loved was how she pointed out so many details in the pictures that you can miss if you go too fast.  Kelly reminded us all of how important it is to slow down when we share a story aloud and spend time examining and talking about what we see in the pictures.  I know I need to do more of this as an adult.  I’m often rushing too fast to just get to the words.  I loved how Kelly told us that she chose red because it is a “strong color”.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class closed our Day 4 by connecting with author, Peter H. Reynolds.  Peter showed us all around his studio, let us asked questions, and just had a hangout session.  It was a blast.  We saw some examples of how he puts together a book idea such as putting ideas and sketches on index cards and then putting them in order.  Peter closed with Susan Verde’s You and Me and gave our students some encouraging words to go out and change the world.

Once again, we learned how much stories connect us!

Happy World Read Aloud Day 2015: Connecting Through Stories Part 3

WRAD15 Day 3 (3)

The official World Read Aloud Day 2015 is in the books.  We still have 2 days of connections, but it was fun to have a full day for the actual calendar date.

We started our day with enrichment clusters.  I have a group of 2nd-5th graders who are exploring coding and making in a variety of formates.  We connected with Okle Miller and her Kindergarten students in Tampa.  We read Rosie Revere Engineer and then my students had a chance to share some of the inventions that they are creating.  It was fun to see the messages of the book come through in their sharing.  Most students did not have a complete product and most had plenty of failures during the process.

Eli showed a lego mindstorm robot that he put together right before the Skype.  He has designed several robots, and this one was his version of a dog that you could walk since “everyone wants to be able to walk a dog and might not have one”.

Francisco showed his alarm that he made with littleBits that would go off when the sun came up.

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Ludwig and Malachi showed off their video game made of cardboard, Scratch, and MaKey MaKey.

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Louisa and Ansley showed off their blogs about how to use Tinkercad to 3d design.

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Taylor showed off his Barrow Peace Prize medal that he designed and 3d printed.

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Next, Ms. Ramseyer’s class connected with Crystal Hendrix and her students in Asheville, NC.  We read I’m Bored and once again had fun taking turns being the girl and the potato.  We also had the students talk about what they would write for a second book, and they were very interested in having the potato get eaten.


Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade connected with Jennifer Reed’s students in Newton, MA.  It was very special to get to share Beekle with one another.  We had some great discussions about the little girl in the book as well as dreaming the unimaginable and having courage.  We even continued our conversation after we said goodbye.

Donna MacDonald’s 4th grade students were such great role models for Ms. Heather’s PreK students today.  It was our PreK’s 1st Skype experience, and it was so special.  We read Wolfie the Bunny.  My students read the part of Dot, and Donna’s students were all of the other characters.

Getting to connect with authors is another really amazing part of the World Read Aloud experience.  Barbara O’Connor was our 1st author of the day, and she connected with Mr. Coleman’s 4th grade class and a few of Ms. Tesler’s students.  She read from How to Steal A Dog.

After the story, she took lots of questions from the audience.  We learned the story of the poster that inspired the book and the story of calling Willie’s real owners to give them a copy of the book.  We also heard about the revision process and how a book that is coming out next year is already heavily into this process with the editor.

Barbara even walked us through her house to show us the manuscript with all of its pages and markings.  Our visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the 2 famous dogs in Barbara’s house.

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Ms. Mullins brought several 5th graders to connect with Margo Jantzi in Virginia.  We read Crankee Doodle.  Margo was hilarious with her pony voice, and I played the roll of Crankee.

Ms. Clarke’s students had a unique opportunity to connect with Mrs. P from Mrs. P.’s storytime.   Mrs. P. (AKA actress Kathy Kinney) is an advocate for reading and writing.  She is a master storyteller and encouraged all of our young learners to read and create as much as possible.

She told the students a couple of stories, but also gave them some thoughts to ponder.  We had great fun hearing poems and songs about her cat and even heard the very first thing she wrote when she came out of the womb in the delivery room!

We closed out our official World Read Aloud Day with Laurel Snyder.  She read to Mr. Coleman’s 4th grade from Free to Be You and Me, a favorite childhood book.  It brought up some interesting things to think about in regards to “boy books” and “girl books”.  We loved Laurel’s voices for the babies in the selection from this book.

Another thing that I love about World Read Aloud week is that the books that we share aloud and the books that are by the authors that we connect with are immediately checked out of the library.  I love seeing readers get so excited about finding a book that they have a connection with.

I closed out World Read Aloud Day at my house by reading aloud Some Bugs, Toys Galore, and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons with my son, Anderson.

We have 2 more days of connectionthis week, and we can’t wait to see what happens!

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 2

WRAD15 Day 2 (79)

Wow!  Day 2 was busy.  We had much smoother Skype connections and plenty of stories.  Here’s a quick look at what happened.

Ms. Hicks’ 3rd grade ELT students connected with Crystal Hendrix in Asheville, NC.  We shared the story I’m Bored.  Then, students had fun asking about life in each other’s communities.  We made several connections between Asheville and Athens including college towns and weather.

Next Ms. Brink and Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade connected with Carol Scrimgeour and her 2nd grade in Essex, VT.  We read the story Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  We had our students form lines and step up to the camera and take turns reading pages of the book.  It was great fun to hear student voices reading across the miles.

Ms. Yawn’s 2nd grade came and read Elephant and Piggie Waiting is Not Easy.  We had some trouble getting the right Skype accounts connected for our author visit, but we finally got it worked out in time to make our connection with Alison Randall, author of The Wheat Doll.  She told us about her book and then read from Roald Dahl’s The Witches.  It was scary fun.

Ms. Clarke’s 3rd grade class connected with Cathy Potter’s students in Maine.  We were fortunate to be joined by Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic.  We got to meet her camera-shy dog, Biscuit.  Then, we saw some of her favorite books before hearing her read aloud the first chapter of Snicker of Magic.  It truly was magical to hear her words drifting to Georgia and Maine from Tennessee.  We even got to hear just a bit about her book that was just sent off to the editor.

Ms. Clarke plans to read Natalie’s book to her class as their next read aloud, so The Beedle just happened to put a new copy of the book in Ms. Clarke’s box.

Ms. Ramsey’s 3rd grade connected with Shannon Hyman’s Kindergarten in Virginia.  We were joined by author Melissa Guion.  She shared her wonderful penguin stories and illustrations.  Shannon’s students were able to share some facts about penguins that they had just learned.

Ms. Em’s 1st grade connected with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten in Tampa, FL.  We were joined by the amazing poet Laura Purdie Salas.  She had our students chanting poetry about rocks and listening to poems about books and unusual pets.

Ms. Slongo’s 4th grade had a special treat Skyping with Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady.  Barbara visited our school last year in person and it was her very first school visit.  This time, we were her very first Skype visit.  Our students loved hearing about the Athens connection to Moina, who is responsible for getting the poppy to be a symbol of remembrance.

Finally, we closed out our day with a high-energy Skype with 2 authors, Ame Dyckman and Adam Lehrhaupt.  These two were full of laughs and energy.  They took questions and then shared some stories.  Adam shared a book that isn’t coming out until October (shhhh….don’t tell anyone).  Ame shared Wolfie the Bunny.  Ame even sent some amazing book swag for all of the readers in the class.

It was truly an amazing day.  It was exhausting, but we feel connected to so many readers across our great country.  Thank you to each and every author and class who connected with us for World Read Aloud Day.

The 2015 Barrow Peace Prize with the Flipgrid Team: And the winner is…

Flipgrid Barrow Peace Prize (2)For the entire month of February, people around the globe have been voting on our 2nd grade black history Flipgrid project.

After all of the research, the writing, the filming, the promoting, and the designing, we are ready to announce our winner.

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Today, we Skyped with the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis, Minnesota to learn about Flipgrid, announce the winner, and also give out some very special recognitions.

First, students got to meet the Flipgrid team and ask some questions about creating an app.  I love when students get to talk directly to the developers.  They gain an understanding of how coding plays into real careers.  They also hear that app developers come from many different backgrounds and didn’t necessarily come into their role with all of the expertise to create an app.

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One of the very special parts of our Skype with Flipgrid is giving out awards.  I combed through our grids and looked for students who had the most views and the most likes.  These students received some special awards called “The Global Like Award” and “The Global View Award”.  Three students had more than 100 views each so they received a special award called “The Super Global View Award”.

I emailed the names to the Flipgrid team and they took turns calling out student names.  The teachers and I handed out certificates, and it was so much fun to see the kids cheering each other on.  It was a supportive community.  Since there were several awards, we did our best to do silent cheers and silent claps for one another.  Even the Flipgrid team joined in with our silent celebrating.

Another special moment happened when Taylor, the designer of our Barrow Peace Prize medal, stepped up and told the Flipgrid team about his design.  I presented him with the very first Barrow Peace Prize to take home with him.

We also told the Flipgrid team that we are sending a Barrow Peace Prize medal to them as well.  They are going to hang it in a special place in the office with their many other awards.

Finally, it was time for us to announce the winner of the 2015 Barrow Peace Prize.  The votes were very close between our 6 people from Black History, but in the end, we are happy to announce that the 2015 Barrow Peace Prize goes to….Jesse Owens!

Another copy of the Barrow Peace Prize medal was presented to the 2nd grade in  honor of Jesse Owens, and it will be passed around among the classes.

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Of course, when you’re Skyping it’s always interesting to see the perspective from the other side.  Here are a few views of what it looked like in the Flipgrid headquarters.

At the close of our Skype, the Flipgrid team let the students know that they would be getting a special Peace Prize party complete with Flipgrid stickers!

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We would like to send another big thank you to the Charlie Miller, Brad Hosack, and the whole Flipgrid team for taking time out of your day to connect with us and remind our students that their voices matter in our global community.  This project just keeps growing and inspiring us (and others) to do even more.

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 1


Our first day of Read Across America and World Read Aloud was filled with wonderful stories and plenty of technical difficulties, but we didn’t let the technical difficulties prevent us from connecting through stories.

The day began with my first cancellation emails.  Since World Read Aloud Day is right at the beginning of March, many states are still experiencing winter weather.  Two connections were cancelled before we could even begin due to snow.  Did this stop us? No.  Ms. Wyatt’s 1st grade class still came, and we read aloud Goodnight Already and Waiting Is Not Easy and noticed many similarities between the two books.  We just didn’t have a Skype connection to go with it.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade students came to connect with Cassandra Ogletree and her students in Forsyth, GA.  Before we connected, our students made predictions about where they thought Forsyth, GA was located.  Then, we used Google Maps to take a look.  During our connection, we read Goodnight Already with Cassandra and her students.  I was Bear and Cassandra was Duck.  Since our 5th graders are studying perspective, they noticed how the book showed the different perspectives of bear and duck.  As usual, students had time to ask one another questions about where they live.  We often take for granted that students realize how connected we are around the world, but these Skypes surface that our students have lots of wonderings about the day to day lives of others around the world.  When we disconnected, we took time to look at a street view in Google Maps to see the school that we had just Skyped with.  Student were amazed by the lack of buildings around the school.  It seemed to be way out in the country surrounded by pastures and trees.  This is very different from our school that is right next to UGA.

Ms. Boyle’s class skyped with Colleen Friel and her 1st grade in Long Island, NY.  We shared The Story of Fish and Snail.  Our Skype calls kept freezing or dropping, so we reached a point where we just had to stop the call and finish the story on our own.  Once again, the students were so patient during the technical difficulties and we didn’t let it stand in the way of the story.

Ms. Haley’s class had an opportunity to connect with Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, author of wonderful treasures such as All the World and The Good Pie Party.  The downside was that we couldn’t get Skype to work at all in order to connect with her.  I tried every trick I could think of to make the connection better and faster and nothing worked.  Finally, I took out my phone and we huddled around my phone for over 30 minutes listening to her share about her books, her ideas, her dog, and her upcoming work.  We had the treat of hearing the first few pagers of her upcoming book The Great Good Summer.  Within just a few pages, several of our students started opening up about connections they had to the book.  One student shared about losing her dad.  Another talked about her dad being gone on tour.  I love how stories help us make connections to the emotions we wrestle with and give us a pathway to conversation with one another.  It must be amazing as an author to hear how your words open up conversations for readers.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade returned at the end of the day to connect again with Colleen Friel in Long Island, NY.  This time, our Skype connection was much better since the district worked on the network.  We read the book The Day the Crayons Quit.  Students loved finding out that even though there were 7 inches of snow on the ground, the New York students were still in school.

Finally, we closed our day by doing a triple Google Hangout with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, VT and Craig Seasholes in Seattle, WA.  Ms. Carney’s Kindergarten class joined their Kindergarten classes in reading 3 Elephant and Piggie stories.  It was fun to connect across the country and hear words being spoken between thousands of miles of the United States.  We had fun, engaged in some silliness while we read, and made some new friends.  Even though Donna had some technical difficulties, we still made it work.  We could hear her, but not see her.

I won’t lie that I was a bit flustered today with all of the problems, but I have to say how important it is to persevere.  I could have easily given up and called it all off, but we made things work with what we had.  Because of that, our students had an amazing first day of connections through stories.

Dr. Seuss Day: Our Read Across America Celebration

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Today was the beginning of a very exciting week in the Barrow Media Center.  Each year on March 2nd, we schedule guest readers for every classroom in the school.  These readers select favorite Dr. Seuss books to share with our students.  It is amazing to see our community come together for this event.  Each time we celebrate, there are new faces that join our readers.

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Courtney Tobin helped me this year to organize readers.  She created a Signup Genius and parent leaders in each grade level began sharing the signup.  It was also shared with our regular library volunteers and on our library and PTA Facebook pages.  By this morning, we had almost 2 readers for every classroom.

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Readers gathered in the library, chose their books, and socialized before we took a group picture.

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Then, students escorted them to their classrooms to read.  I quickly ran around to as many classrooms as I could snapping pictures.  It was so special to see students circled up on the floor listening to the words of Seuss spoken into the air.  There were also special memories shared as readers brought in their own copies of books that they had read to their children or had even owned as a child.  My wife, Denise Plemmons, shared a copy of Green Eggs and Ham with my daughter’s PreK class and she was able to show them where she had written her name in the book when she was a child.

These are the kinds of things that can’t be replaced by technology.  While I’m a huge advocate of using technology to share our voice, it doesn’t replace the shared experience of sitting around a book, hearing the pages turn, and losing yourself in the illustrations.  Thank you to all of the readers who took time to share stories with our Barrow readers.

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This was just a warm-up to the 38 skype and Google hangout sessions that we have schedule this week for Read Across America and World Read Aloud week!