Bringing Books to Life with Flipgrid

What happens after the cover of a library book has been closed? What thoughts and connections does the reader continue to think about? How many people have experienced this story and what would they say to one another?  These are the questions that a group of 3rd and 4th graders asked as we continued to think about how we share books with one another and build a reading community in our school.

We’ve tried several ways of sharing books this year, and this time we decided to create a digital way for people to continue the story after the pages of the book are closed. Using Flipgrid, we would create a topic for a book and leave the link & QR code in the front cover of the book for other readers to share their thoughts and experiences with the book. Since we were just coming to the end of November and Picture Book Month, we decided that we would focus on picture books for this project.

Session 1

Each 3rd and 4th grader in the group chose one book from our picture book section to read. They spread out around the library and had time to enjoy their book by themselves.  As they finished, they began to think about what they might say to someone about the book beyond just a summary. We talked about how in a book club there would be discussion questions where people would share wonderings about the book, connections to their own lives, and books that this book reminded them of.

Some students began to write out a script of everything they would say while other students decided to just make a list of talking points. I also made an example video for them to watch to see one way they might talk about the book they read.

As students finished their script/talking points, they practiced what they might say.

Session 2

Since we wanted each book to have its own Flipgrid topic, it meant that students had to create the topic within the admin panel of my Flipgrid account. They certainly could have created the video in the camera app on the iPad and then let me upload the video myself, but I wanted them to have ownership of starting the conversation. Ahead of students arriving, I logged into my Flipgrid account on multiple computers and pulled up the “Living Books” grid in the admin panel.

On the big screen, I modeled for students how they would click on “Add new topic”, fill out the details such as title/prompt/recording time, and how they would click “record a video” to make the opening video for their book. I also told them they could not go anywhere else in my account other than this screen.

Students picked up their books and continued where they left off in session 1. When they were ready to record, they got a computer with my Flipgrid account already pulled up, filled out the prompts, and then lined up at various rooms around the library for their turn to record in a quiet space. We used my office, makerspace storage, equipment storage, and a workroom for recording.

As students finished, they finalized their topic. If there was time, I went into the topic and turned on a guest QR code and link that we could paste into Word and print.  Most of this step happened after students left. As each QR code and link were printed, we taped them into the inside cover of the book using book tape.

Session 3

During our final session, students brainstormed how we might advertise this collection of 30 books to the rest of the school so that Flipgrid conversations begin. Our hope is that this space will become a digital conversation about the book between its numerous readers. There were many ideas for advertising the project: BTV announcement, a special display, shelf talkers to show where books were located, posters with pictures of the books, a flyer to send home, and more. When we return from winter break, we will implement some of these ideas.

With the rest of our time, students had an opportunity to test out the QR codes to make sure they were working. They also really wanted to hear about the other books. After they listened to 4-5 different topic videos, they chose one book to read and record a response.

You can listen to a few of the topics here and here and here.

Next Steps

I love watching this group grow as readers. The 4th graders that began this book club community last year have come up with so many ideas and they aren’t done. When we return from winter break, we will get the conversations started with these living books and hopefully encourage other students to create topics for even more books.

They are also very curious about starting a podcast about authors, illustrators, and the books they are reading. I went to a podcasting session at AASL so we have some ideas brewing.

Exploring Poetry: A Writer’s Workshop Support

Our 4th grade is currently reading poetry in their reading block and writing poetry during writer’s workshop. To support their work, they asked me to create a lesson to give their students an opportunity to read multiple kinds of poetry to inform their work back in class.

Planning

I love working on poetry with students and many times this doesn’t happen until April, so I was so glad to see poetry being studied earlier in the year too. To prepare for this lesson, I spent a lot of time in our poetry section of the library looking for a variety of poetry. I of course looked for forms of poetry but I also looked for groups of books that explored a certain theme or idea. As I found possibilities, I placed them in stacks for consideration as I narrowed down our final choices.

Next I wrote a short description of each stack of books so these could be printed and placed with each table.

For students, I created a list of the types of poetry the would visit.  The list had an empty box by each type so students could check the kinds of poetry they liked.  There was also a line for them to write any notes or the titles of the books if they wanted to revisit them later.

Opening

To begin our time, I shared with students how I had a hard time coming up with a definition of poetry that I really liked. I asked them to think with me about how we might describe a poem.  Students shared amazing ideas:

  • a description of your thoughts
  • capturing an emotion on paper
  • rhymes
  • feelings in words
  • creativity

Each time a definition was offered we agreed with it but we always felt like it didn’t completely capture all the things a poem could be. I asked them to continue thinking about this as they explored the kinds of poetry around our library. I encouraged them to read their poetry aloud so they could hear the rhythm and sounds the poets included.

Exploration

Students sat alone or in pairs at tables and began their exploration. They started by reading the short description of the type of poetry. Then, they read as many of the poems as they could. Since I wanted them to experience lots of poetry, I kept us moving every 3-4 minutes.

As students sat and read, the teacher and I walked around and chatted with students about the poetry. Sometimes this was an explanation of the kind of poetry they were looking at. Other times we were making observations about the poetry and sharing our own learning with the students. I saw the teachers do this multiple times.  They discovered poetry they had never heard of and shared their excitement with students as they learned something new.

Here’s a look at the tables students visited:

Multiple Voices

  • The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
  • Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  • Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! By Carole Gerber
  • Messing Around on the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco

These poems are meant to be read with a partner or group. Each person has a part they speak. Sometime you speak together and sometimes you speak alone.

Sijo & Haiku

  • Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park
  • Dogku by Andrew Clements
  • Guyku by Bob Raczka
  • Stone Bench in an Empty Park by Paul B. Janeczko
  • The Cuckoo’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen
  • One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis

Sijo poems are Korean poems that have 3 lines with 14-16 syllables each. Or…they have 6 shorter lines. Haiku poems are Japanese poems that have 3 lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables.

Experience Poems

  • Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Brown
  • Black Magic by Dinah Johnson
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina
  • The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas

Experience poems showcase a group of people, animals, or objects and what they experience in the world. This collection of books is a sample of African American experience.

Single Word & Golden Shovel Poetry

  • Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka
  • One Last Word by Nikki Grimes

Single word poems use one word to create other words that form a meaningful poem. Golden Shovel poems take a line from another poem. The words are written down the right side of the page. A new poem is created with each line ending in one of these words.

Acrostic Poems

  • Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli & Dan Brewer
  • Amazing Apples by Consie Powell
  • Animal Stackers by Jennifer Belle

An acrostic poem is a poem where certain letters in each line spell out a word or phrase.

Nature Poetry

  • Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
  • Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman
  • Swirl by Swirl Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

Nature poems use facts and observations from nature to create poetry. The facts and observations are often included beside the poem or in the back of the book.

Concrete Poetry (Shape Poetry)

  • A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco
  • Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham
  • Ode to a Commode by Brian P. Cleary

A concrete poem is a poem that takes on the shape of whatever it is about.

List & Found Poetry

  • The Arrow Finds Its Mark by Georgia Heard
  • Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard

List poetry takes an ordinary list of things and makes it extraordinary with a few descriptive words. Found poetry is words found in places that aren’t meant to be poems and then turning those words into a poem with very few changes.

Reverso Poetry

  • Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer
  • Follow, Follow by Marilyn Singer

When you read a reverso poem down, it is one poem.  When you read it up, it is a different poem. However, the same words are used in both stanzas. The only changes are in punctuation and capitalization.

Perspective Poems

  • Dirty Laundry Pile by Paul B. Janeczko
  • If the Shoe Fits by Laura Whipple
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? By Irene Lathan & Charles Waters

Perspective poems invite you to think about the same topic from a different point of view. Sometimes they are written from the perspective of an object that you wouldn’t normally hear from like a shoe.

Pocket Poems

  • Pocket Poems by Bobbi Katz
  • Firefly July By Paul B. Janeczko

Pocket poems are short poems small enough to carry in your pocket.

Music

  • Hip Hop Speak to Children by Nikki Giovanni
  • Imagine by John Lennon
  • America the Beautiful Together We Stand by Katharine Lee Bates
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney
  • God Bless the Child by Billie Holiday
  • One Love by Bob Marley/Cedella Marley
  • Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan

Song lyrics are poetry.  They have a structure and a rhythm.

Closing

At the end of our exploration, students took time to think about what there favorite types of poems to read are. They also thought about one kind of poem they wanted to try to write back in writing workshop. Now that all classes have visited, the poetry books they explored are available to check out as mentor texts back in the classroom.  I look forward to seeing the types of poetry they create in the coming weeks.

2019-20 Student Book Budget First Steps

It’s that time of year again when I hand over the profits from our book fair to a group of 3rd-5th graders. These students work together through a process to purchase new books for our library that are based on the interests and requests of students in our school. Each year, this project grows and changes and this year brought some of the biggest changes we’ve had in a while.

Application

To apply to be in the group, students watch a short introductory video in class and then fill out a Google form that asks for their name, why they want to be in the group, and whether or not they are willing to make the commitment to finishing the project if they start it. I keep the application open for one week and then have responses automatically turn off.

Here’s a look at the application.

This year over 60 students applied to be in the group. This is the most I’ve ever had, and I truly try each year to include every student who applies as long as they are willing to make the commitment to being in the group. Even if I met with groups separately by grade level, there would be moments where I might have 40 students trying to make decisions about books.

I really stressed over what to do because I really didn’t want to choose some students and turn others away. I decided to put the dilemma back to the students by giving them a list of all the tasks that needed to be done across the entire project. I asked them to select which ones they were most interested in. They could certainly check every box but they could also just choose 1 or 2 that interested them.  This decision really helped because it dropped the number of students I would have at one time to a more manageable amount.

Here’s a look at the follow-up application.

The tricky part for me was organizing the students so that I could easily let them know what days to come as well as remind their teachers.  I made a spreadsheet with each task and copied student email addresses and teachers into the sheet. As we approach each task, I can just copy of paste the emails to send a message to students and teachers to remind them when to come to the library. Students come during their recess time on these select days which means 10:45-11:15 for 3rd grade, 11:00-11:30 for 4th grade, and 11:45-12:15 for 5th grade. The overlap of grades 3 & 4 is another tricky piece this year but we are going to do our best to make it work.

Meeting 1: Creating a Survey

Our 1st group of students agreed to work on a survey to ask students in our school what kinds of books they want to see more of in the library. To begin, students spent some time walking around our library to see what they noticed about the sections.  For example, which sections were packed with books? Which shelves looked empty?

Next, I made a copy of last year’s student interest survey and quickly went through all of the questions asked last year.  In pairs or small groups, students talked about what they liked and didn’t like about the survey as well as what new ideas they had. I tried to listen in to their discussions and then we had a discussion as a whole group.

I was really impressed with their conversations and ideas. They talked about the length of the survey and how they could make it more concise. They asked me questions about how last year’s survey worked out. One of my noticings from previous years was how some of our younger students tend to say that they like every section of the library. The book budget students had a long discussion of how they might limit the responses to get students to focus more on what they really wanted to add to the library. After much debate, they finally agreed to break the survey into our picture book, chapter book, and information sections and select 2 genres in each section that needs more books.  This was a very different take on the survey from what we’ve done in the past and I look forward to seeing how it impacts our final results. The students also wanted better pictures of each genre section so the younger students could see the genre sign and some example books from each section rather than a picture of the whole section from far away.

I took all of the student ideas and modified our Google Form survey. I emailed the survey to 3rd-5th grade teachers to share with students in Google Classroom. Then, I created a QR code for our book budget team to scan in order to survey our younger grades with iPads.

Here’s a look at this year’s survey.

Meeting 2 & 3: Surveying

About 30 students signed up to help survey younger students in our school. They came to the library and scanned the QR code using the camera app. Students went to the lunchroom and surveyed K-2 students while they ate lunch. The book budget students asked the questions, showed the genre pictures on the iPad, and typed out any short answers students had for questions. Each survey was submitted and then students pulled up a fresh survey to ask the next student.

On our first day, we had already surpassed 200 students surveyed through email and iPads. We continued this same process on day 2 by making a BTV announcement to remind grades 3-5 to complete the survey and again visiting lunch to survey the lower grades.

I loved watching the professionalism of our book budget students. They asked permission to survey students, focused on listening to and inputting all of their answers, and thanked them for their thoughts. The lunchroom monitors even commented on how much more peaceful the lunchroom was having something for the students to do while they ate.  I was worried we would add a layer of chaos to lunch, so it was great to hear that it actually helped.

It was also fun to see the book budget students interact with our younger learners. Some of our younger students had trouble verbalizing what they wanted more of in the library, and the book budget students naturally altered the questions to try to make them easier to understand. This surprised me. I was worried that I didn’t spend enough time talking about how to be professional and flexible, but students naturally adjusted and rolled with any challenges they faced in surveying.

As survey results roll in, we can check our Google charts to see how many of each grade level we have surveyed.  This helps us know if we need to focus more on a specific grade so that there is a relatively equal number of data from each grade level.

Next Week:

Our next steps will involve analyzing the data we have and setting some goals for the kinds of books we want to purchase.  So far we are off to a busy but great start and many more students are adding their voices to the project.

November Makerspace with Doll-E 1.0

Our makerspace is taking a break for the next 2 months while we work on our student book budget project. We wrapped up November with a makerspace inspired by the book Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda Mcloskey. This book is about a girl who receives a doll that only says “mama”. She tries lots of ways to play with the doll but just can’t get past the fact that it only says one thing. Then, she figures out that she can hack the toy using her computer programming skills and a Makey Makey.  As soon as I read this book last year, I wanted to do a makerspace with it. Then, the amazing Colleen Graves put together an instructables with step-by-step instructions on how to create a toy programmed with Scratch and controlled by Makey Makey.  While we didn’t really follow all of Colleen’s instructions, we did have fun creating our own variations.  Here’s a look at what we did.

For context, this took place during our open makerspace time on Tuesdays/Thursdays. Students sign up through their teacher via a Google Doc. We have four 30-minute segments which allows students from grades 1-5 to try out our month-long theme. Students from Gretchen Thomas’s maker class at UGA help facilitate each of the segments alongside me.

Session 1: Tinkering

Since students have a variety of experiences with Scratch and Makey Makey, we wanted all students to have some time to tinker with both tools. Our UGA students made some example toys out of toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, copper tape, and a variety of other objects. We stationed these at tables with Makey Makey piano and Makey Makey kits. Students had an opportunity to tinker with how to hook up the Makey Makey as well as how to use the toy to play the piano on the computer. In another area, students practiced creating blocks of code in Scratch with events and sounds.

Session 2 & 3: Coding

In these sessions, students considered the sounds they would like their toy to make. They could record their own sounds or use the gallery of sounds located in Scratch. Each student made an account in Scratch and worked to code all four arrow keys and the space bar to correspond with the front of the Makey Makey.  More advanced students could try out some of the extra pieces of code from Colleen’s instructions, but most students simply used an event block “when key is pressed” and a sound block “play sound until done”.

This was one of the most frustrating pieces of our project because with such as short time segment and students who couldn’t remember their email addresses and passwords, it took a long time to get accounts setup. Once we got through the initial setup, the coding wasn’t too bad, especially if students took the simple route.

Session 4: Toy Creation

In this session, students used toilet paper and paper towel tubes to create toys. We asked them to think about making up to 5 points of contact to connect their Makey Makey to. This was their first focus before adding details to give their toy character. Students used clothes pins, copper tape, brads, paper clips, aluminum foil, and other miscellaneous conductors.

We had a hot glue gun station with 5 glue guns to attach pieces. A UGA student stayed with the glue guns to facilitate safety.

Then, students used a variety of craft supplies to give their toy character: sequins, googly eyes, pom poms, feathers, etc.

I won’t lie. This was extremely messy and no matter how many hands I had helping or how many ways I tried to keep us organized, we ended up with supplies all over the tables, chairs, and floor.

As students finished their segment, we stored the toys in cardboard boxes by grade level.

Session 5:

This was the session to bring it all together. If students needed to finish coding or their toy, this was the session to do it. Then, their final goal was to hook up their toy to Makey Makey and see if their code worked. Many students realized that they had not created 5 separate contact points but had instead created contact points that touched one another. This resulted in 2-3 different sounds going off at one time. This was a good learning experience because they had to figure out a way to revise their design.  If we had additional sessions this could have been expanded on but most just got to the beginnings of revision.

Our youngest makers in 1st grade didn’t quite make it through all of the steps since they had so much to explore and learn. In this final session, we hooked up the UGA student toys to the 1st graders’ code and also had a computer with pre-made code where they could try out the toys they had made.  This was also true for students who had missed one or more sessions.  We just couldn’t get through all the steps.

There were a lot of moments during this month where I wanted to pull my hair out and moments where I had to stop and take deep breaths. I had to remind students that I didn’t hold all the answers and I couldn’t show them every step to do. I find that this is a constant struggle. Students can figure things out if they just have the space and encouragement. Many of them stepped up, persevered through frustration, and helped their peers when they figured things out.

In the end, I learned a lot about what this might look like as a class or grade level curriculum based project. We could do so much with storytelling and writing with this project in addition to the science standards involved. The purpose of our makerspace wasn’t to have a polished product at the end. We wanted to have fun, problem solve, and invent while learning a lot about coding and circuits. I think we accomplished that, even if there were moments that felt messy and chaotic. I would do it again and try to do a bit more to keep us organized and moving forward. More days would definitely have been beneficial.