Students as Teachers: Exploring Text Structure with Flipgrid

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At the beginning of the year, I started talking with Melissa Freeman, 5th grade teacher, about exploring text structure in the library.  The very 1st unit in 5th grade language arts starts with text structure which explores the following standard.

ELAGSE5RI5  Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events,ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.

Melissa was wondering how to make the topic more engaging and wondered about the possibility of a library scavenger hunt.  We really weren’t sure where to go with the idea so we kept bouncing around possibilities over email and in person. She even came to the library and worked with me to pull books out of the nonfiction section and start sorting them into stacks.

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I continued this process so that we knew we had examples of compare/contrast, description, sequence/order, cause/effect, and problem/solution.  Then, I mixed them all up.  We knew that even though we personally picked a book for a specific structure that students might find other examples of text structure within the book.  We were also excited that students would have some one-on-one time looking through some nonfiction books that they might not know that the library has.

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In one of our brainstorms, I thought about the possibility of students recording their findings in a digital way that could be shared with one another and also other grade levels. I originally thought it would be a good way for them to agree or disagree with examples that were discovered, but we expanded the idea to be a way that students could teach other students in our school and other schools about ways text can be organized.

We decided to use Flipgrid for this task.  I created 5 separate questions: one for each type of text structure.  Then, I linked them all on a Symbaloo that Ms. Freeman could share with her students via Google Classroom.

In class, Ms. Freeman introduced each kind of text structure and students started exploring books on Tumblebooks for each structure.

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Each class came to the library for a 50-minute session.  We did a quick mini-lesson to review the structures, show how to use Flipgrid, and share what we hoped students would include in their video. This included things like the book title, author, text structure, and a concrete example from the text to justify the structure chosen.  We also setup the idea that these videos could be a teaching tool for the rest of 5th grade, the school, and other schools.

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I spread the books out at tables and students worked in partners to browse the tables for a book to start with. As they discovered one of the 5 text structures, they prepared to make a video.  Students used their own computers to record a Flipgrid, and then continued exploring for their next book example.

Ms. Freeman, Ms. Mullins (gifted teacher), and I all walked around and chatted with students as they searched through books.  One of our immediate noticings was that students were guessing the structure simply based on the title, topic, or cover of the book.

They weren’t even opening the book to read the text.  While this was a great predictor of what kind of structure might be inside, students were missing the point about looking at the organization. We clarified this in conferences and adjusted our mini-lesson with each class to put a stronger emphasis on explaining.

To close each class, we showed a few of the videos and had student offer noticings about what they heard. I love that in the new Flipgrid, you can actually respond to each video response.  I showed students how the comments they were making could actually be added right onto our Flipgrid.  I also encouraged each person who made a video to think about how they might add to their original video by posting a new video as a response.

The plan is for students to continue using these Flipgrids in class to post additional examples and respond to one another. We hope that eventually there will be some strong examples that can be shared with other classes in our school as well as with schools we collaborate with.

In the meantime, it’s a work in progress.

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Exploring Chefs and Food Trucks with Cantata Learning’s Harmony Project

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We love getting involved in global projects that connect us with different careers, cultures, and people. Last year, we shared what winter is like in our community of Athens, Georgia by contributing to an interactive ebook.

This fall, Cantata Learning’s Harmony Project is called “Give a Shout Out to Your Community“.  It will feature live connections with several community helpers such as chefs, authors, doctors, and farmers.  As students learn from these live connections, they are encouraged to explore their own communities and create videos that showcase their communities.

Students can also get involved in a service learning project in their community.  All of these products can be shared with Cantata Learning on their Harmony Project page so that they can be shared with the world and we can all learn about one another’s communities.

Today, Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class connected with Jason De Baca who is a chef and owner of a food truck in Denver, CO.  Through a Google Hangout facilitated by Shannon McClintock Miller, we were able to go inside the food truck, see a recipe prepared, and learn how a food truck works.

Ms. Kelly’s class also got to ask questions which was a very special part of our connection.  Students asked about how to become a chef, where to get recipes, where ingredients come from, what tools are used in cooking, who drives the food truck, and how much it costs to get started with a food truck business.

Jason was happy to answer all of their questions.

After we disconnected, we were able to look at a map to learn where Denver, CO is and how long it would take to get there.

Another exciting thing that happened was that a student in Ms. Kelly’s class shared that his dad owns a food truck. We hope this might lead to an opportunity for us to actually go inside a food truck or sample some food truck food.  It was also a special connection to see how food trucks are a part of our community in Athens, Georgia and Denver, Colorado too.

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This connection also allowed me to highlight our cooking and food section of the library.  This section includes cookbooks as well as books on where food comes from and how kids can get involved in growing their food.

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Ms. Kelly’s class is always dreaming up something exciting, so I look forward to what they will dream up after exploring food trucks with Jason and Cantata Learning.

Take a look at our whole connection.

Athens, GA & Seodaemun, South Korea: A Global Art Collaboration

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In June 2015, the mayors of Athens, GA and Seodaemun, South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding.  This MOU calls for both cities to exchange leadership programs in private and public sectors that promote economic development.  That basically means that our cities have a friendship to exchange ideas.

 

As a part of this collaboration, the 2nd graders at our school are engaging in a collaborative art project with students in Seodaemun.  This has been an exciting and challenging undertaking for our students and teachers, but it has been full of rewarding experiences.  The classroom teachers, art teacher, and media center all supported the students at Barrow in carrying out the project.

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In class, students read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw.  This set the stage for students thinking about how our city of Athens is the same as Seodaemun and how it’s different.  My wife, Denise Plemmons, in the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department, shared several websites with us to learn more about Seodaemun. I added some additional sites for students to visit that included resources from our state-funded Galileo databases. These were all housed on a Symbaloo page for students.

Teachers paired students within their rooms to research and create art together.  Students used a Venn diagram to write brief notes on what was the same and different between our cities. For example, students learned that we have an arch at UGA and Seodaemun has an arch at Independence Park. They saw that we go to school for 7-8 hours per day and Seodaemun may go up to 16 hours per day.  Research was done in the library, and prior to letting students search on their own via the Symbaloo, I provided some tangible examples like these to put into the diagram.

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The research was a challenge.  One reason was just the lack of resources on a 2nd grade level. The other big challenge was that students are 7 and 8 years old. There are currently studying regions of Georgia, so adding in a country on the other side of the world was hard to grasp within that context. We found that some students thought they had been to South Korea when in fact they were thinking of South Carolina. It may seem humorous, but it was valid conversation that we worked to clarify in the library, art room, and classroom.

After an hour-long session of research, students took their work to Ms. Foretich in the art room.  They used their Venn diagram to decide what art they would create that would show something that was the same or different between our cities.  One of the partners painted the Athens side of the art, and the other partner painted the Seodaemun side.

 

In classrooms, teachers continued to share maps and facts about our two cities. Mrs. Yawn, the 2nd grade team leader, worked to plan a morning of rotations for all of the 2nd graders. Some of our students are from South Korea, so she invited the parents of those students along with support from UGA to offer rotation topics on culture, games, and food.

Another part of the rotations was for each class to come to the library and record a Flipgrid video explaining what each pair of students learned about Athens and Seodaemun and what they created in their art.

Our goal is to send these Flipgrid links to Seodaemun so that the Korean students can respond back when they create their own art.

To celebrate the end of our portion of the project, the mayor of Seodaemun visited our whole 2nd grade along with members of the Athens Clarke County government.

Dr. Ellen Sabatini, principal, welcomed everyone.

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Ms. Yawn, 2nd grade team leader, explained the project to our visitors and families.

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Students shared pieces of the project that they worked on.

Commissioner Harry Sims spoke about how the students’ art work would now be a world traveler as it goes across the ocean to South Korea.

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Finally, Seok-Jin Mun, the mayor of Seodaemun, spoke to students about how we are all connected to one another because we are all mankind. Even though we have different beliefs or different skin color, we are all connected.

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To conclude the visit, Mayor Mun, teachers, and all guests explored the student artwork on display in the 2nd grade collaborative space.

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Mayor Mun pointed out his observations of what stood out to our students and clarified some facts from our research.

It was inspiring to think with him and the members of our Clarke County government about how we can continue to build upon this friendship between our two communities.

Now, our artwork is preparing to make its journey, and we look forward to seeing what our new friends in South Korea learn and draw about Athens, Georgia.  We thank the Athens Clarke County Economic Development Department for this opportunity to connect our students with our global community.

 

The Makerspace Is Open with a New Badging System

img_8887UGA is back in session which means our makerspace is cranking up again.  We already have some curriculum connections planned for special projects, but our students look forward to the weekly open makerspace times on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-12:30.

Gretchen Thomas and her UGA class collaborate with us to provide a weekly time where students can signup to explore various tools and projects in our makerspace.  Four UGA students come each time and lead up to 15 students every 30 minutes in the makerspace so that I can also teach classes at the same time.

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Gretchen and I are have learned a lot during our collaboration together, and I love that she’s always pushing her class to try something new.  For our first few sessions this year, the UGA students are presenting a maker-related book to the students and an activity to accompany that book.  There’s not really enough time to read the entire book and still make something, but they at least are able to show the book, talk a bit about it, and then make something with the students.

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For our first session, the UGA students read or showed Iggy Peck Architect.  At the end of the book, they invited our students in 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to become an architect and use Strawbees to build the tallest free standing tower.

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I loved watching the UGA students decide how much information to give the students versus when to let them discover things on their own.  In one group, they just gave them the Strawbees and straws and said “build”.

Then, in another group they gave some examples of how the straws and Strawbees could connect to one another.  The amount of guidance definitely impacted the type of structures made.

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I don’t know that we have a firm answer on how much structure to offer to the students, but I’m glad that we are always thinking about how much is too much.  I think we certainly stayed conservative on how much we told the students.  Every structure was different and students found things that worked really well and things that failed miserably.  In the end, the important thing is that we really didn’t have students who gave up or who even got extremely upset because they didn’t “win”.  That’s the true spirit of making.

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One new addition this year is something we’ve talked about for a long time.  So many students come to the makerspace, that it’s hard to track who has learned what tool or skill.  I really wanted a badging system but didn’t think I had time to make it.  Gretchen and I have talked through this many times and discussed the idea of badges for specific tools like Sphero, Duct Tape, LittleBits, etc and badges for skills such as problem-solver, thinking outside the box, teamwork, etc.

Gretchen took it upon herself to make this happen for us.  She started making badges that students would attach to chain necklaces.  Students would earn a badge for the tool they explored and the group they worked with as well as have an opportunity to earn rare badges for skills or qualities.  Gretchen and her students will continue to design badges and add them to the collection.  They will be stored in plastic drawers in the makerspace.  Students will hang their necklaces on a hook in the space and grab them when they come to makerspace.

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We’ll easily be able to look at badges and see which students have learned which tools and which students have demonstrated the skills of a maker.

I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I’m so thankful for Gretchen and her class making this happen!

A Visit with Christian Robinson

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We are one fortunate school. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Avid Bookshop we welcomed illustrator Christian Robinson to our school in promotion of his newest book School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex.  Christian has illustrated numerous books including the award-winning Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena.

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Prior to Christian’s visit our Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes all read the book in the library during library orientation. We loved thinking about our own feelings on the first day of school and relating those feelings to the feelings of the school. We also loved examining the illustrations to see the face of the school and discovering connections to our own lives in the illustrations.  One of those connections came on the spread in the book that shows the children arriving to school. Students loved finding the way that they come to school on this page because they were all represented somewhere.

In classrooms, students created drawings of our school and turned them in to the library. Each student who completed a drawing had his/her drawing displayed in the library windows the week before the visit. Christian Robinson took some time to appreciate them all when he arrived at our school.

Our visit with Christian was in the library, so I pushed shelves and tables away to make room for over 250 little students.

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He began his visit with a reading of School’s First Day of School.  It was so fun to hear the book read by one of the collaborators. I hope students discovered something new after hearing the book again.  I know I did!

Schools First Day of School with @theartoffun #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator

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Christian Robinson walked us through his process in creating the book. We learned about starting small by making sketches on tiny post it notes.

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We also learned about making mistakes. Christian showed us one picture of a big pile of mistakes, and he stressed with students that mistakes are a part of the process.

He showed us the research that went into the book including visiting actual schools and looking at buildings that seemed to have faces in real life.

Christian also took questions from the audience.

How long does illustrating take? #kidquestion #illustrator #process #timeline

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Finally, he created some drawings.  Students imagined an animal and he called on different students to suggest an animal to draw.

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Thanks to our incredible PTA every classroom got a copy of the book to put into their classroom library, and Christian signed them all.

The impact of these author and illustrator visits is very special. Different students connect in different ways.  Some are inspired to write and illustrate their own books that they proudly show off in their classroom, the library, and at home.  Some realize that being an artist isn’t something that has to wait until you are an adult; the foundation starts now. Some students connect with an author or illustrator as a person and realize that there’s a friendly face behind the writing or art on the library shelves. Some students connect with a story in a way that they didn’t connect before because they know the story behind the story.  Often after a visit, the author or illustrator’s books fly off the shelves and stay consistently checked out.

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Today as I was walking down the hall, two boys in Kindergarten stopped me to ask, “Where’s Christian Robinson?”. I smiled knowing that they had met someone who they respected and hoped to see again at our school.  Thank you so much for supporting our local bookshop to bring authors and illustrators like Christian Robinson into our schools. It matters to our students.