One-Page Comic Contest: Prepping for a Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We are still in shock that next week we will be visited by Lincoln Peirce, the author of the bestselling Big Nate series. Lincoln is touring the country to promote his newest illustrated novel, Max and the Midknights. I can’t wait for students to be introduced to this new book. It has a little bit of everything: surprises, humor, medieval fights, mystery, magic, zombies, and more.

When an author/illustrator visits, I love to fill our windows and/or hallways with student work inspired by the author/illustrator. Sometimes there’s just not enough prep time, but luckily for Lincoln we knew a couple of months in advance.

When I read the Advance Reading Copy of Max and the Midknights, I saw that it opens with a one-page comic to setup the story. I thought this would be a great concept to invite students to try out. Instead of hosting class after class in the library, I made this a choice contest. In the contest, I invited students in any grade level to create a one-page comic on any topic. That’s pretty much the rules. They could create the comic on their own paper or use a pre-printed page of comic boxes that I provided in the library.

I introduced the contest on our morning broadcast and also made a video that teachers could share.

Students had a little less than 2 weeks to enter the contest and it didn’t take long to see that this was a high-interest topic. By the deadline date, we had over 100 entries in our contest from almost every grade level. It was impossible to pick winners by myself, so I had the help of Allie Melancon, SST, and my high school intern, Andrea Aramburo. I also had a few students, teachers, and my wife read a some comics too.

In the end, we picked 12 students to receive an autographed copy of Max and the Midknights. Thanks to a local organization called Books for Keeps, I had some other items I could hand out as prizes for about 50 honorable mention students.

These students received their choice of several doodling books, coloring books, magnetic storytelling kits, and comics.

Every student who entered a comic also has his/her work displayed on the windows of the library. As soon as the display went up, students, teachers, and families were stopping in the hall to read comics. We can’t wait for Lincoln Peirce to see them next week too.

I loved having this choice contest. It’s something I would like to try again with other author visits. It gives students one more way to interact with their library, one more way to make their voice heard, and one more way to be creative regardless of grade level, language, or background. I met some students in a new way through their art or writing. I saw some hidden talents that I didn’t realize were there.

We never know what opportunity is going to be the spark that students need in order to connect.

Enriching Rocks with Blendspace, Tinkercad, Research, Thinglink, and Painting

Third grade studies rocks as a part of their science curriculum. Each year Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade spectrum teacher, finds so many ways to enrich the study with her students. She collaborates with me in the library on several pieces of the project.

Blendspace

Early in the project, students come to the library to learn about a tool called Blendspace. This tool has gone through many changes and names. It allows users to create a lesson made up of tiles. The tiles can include quizes, images with descriptions, links to websites, embedded Google docs, and more. The goal for the students is to use Blendspace throughout the study of rocks to capture their learning and present in a way that might teach someone new what they have learned.

I show the students how to login with Google and we explore the features together. Ms. Hicks shares a folder with students in Google drive that is filled with images for them to pull from. The images feature work the students have done in class during their study of rocks and the Mohs hardness scale.

We also think about types of quizes and students create pre-test, midpoint checks, and post tests for their blendspace tiles. Each time they learn something new in class or create something new in the library, they add a tile to their blendspace.

Tinkercad

In another series of library blocks, students return to the library to explore a 3D design tool called Tinkercad. They use their knowledge of the Mohs hardness scale to design a climbing wall prototype. Each color they select represents a different rock or mineral that would work well in their wall. As students finish their design, they create screenshots and upload those to Blendspace.

Thinglink

When students have added several tiles to their Blendspace, they return to the library and add their link to a Thinglink image so that we can access every Blendspace in one location. This makes it easy to share with families and with other viewers around the world.

Research & Painting

This year, students were very interested in their birthstones. One birthstone in particular caught their attention more than others: opal. We had no idea how many kinds of opal there are in the world. Students spent a week in the library exploring 2 websites: Gem Kids and Geology.com

Each student narrowed down to one type of opal to research. Students added notes and images to a Google doc so that they could tell someone else about the type of opal they chose. Once they gathered enough information, students selected a river rock and used paints and paint pens to design the rock to resemble the opal they studied.

We sealed these with Mod Podge to give them the shiny play of color effect that opal has. Students added their Google docs to Blendspace and will get to take their painted rocks home.

It’s always fun each year to see what new directions this project takes. There are always pieces that we keep the same, but time and interests always lead us in new directions too.  Take a moment to look at some of the student work in Blendspace and see what you might learn about rocks.

 

Magazine Ornament Makerspace

Our open makerspace is taking a short break while our student book budget team works on new books for the library. We wrapped up our final makerspace session by hosting an ornament makerspace. Students signed up for this time with their teachers via a Google doc.

I have lots of old magazines that used to be in circulation but aren’t used anymore. I decided to pull them out and use them for our ornament materials as a way to promote reusing materials rather than throwing them out or putting them in recycling.

I wanted students to have a mixture of structure and freedom, so I selected 3 options for structured ornaments with a 4th option of designing your own.

Instructions for these 3 ornaments are found below.

Ornament 1 (top center):

  1. Cut 2 pages from a magazine and fan fold each page.
  2. Stack the 2 fan folds on top of one another and tie in the middle.
  3. If you want, trim the ends of the fan into a fancy design with craft scissors or regular scissors.
  4. Fan out each side and connect together to make a circle. Staple if low on time. Glue if you have time for drying.
  5. Use a hole punch to make a hole and tie a string.

Ornament 2 (bottom left):

  1. Cut multiple strips of the same length from a magazine page.
  2. Bring the ends of each strip together to form a loop.
  3. Repeat the process of bringing ends of strips together and begin adding the loops together.
  4. You might want to use a gem clip to hold the loops together if you have trouble holding them in your hand and folding paper at the same time.
  5. Staple the loops together at the top.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string. (If you have added a lot of strips, it may be difficult to punch a hole)

Ornament 3 (bottom right):

  1. Cut 5 strips from a magazine page. 2 long, 2 medium, 1 short.
  2. Arrange the strips in this order: long, medium, short, medium, long.
  3. At one end of your stack, make sure the ends of the strips are even and staple them together.
  4. Starting in the center with the short strip, connect the two medium strips to the top of the short strip.
  5. Next, connect the two long strips to the short strip. Staple together.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string.

When students came to the makerspace session, I quickly showed them the 3 options which were all at their own table.  Then, I showed them a 4th table where they could design their own. Since a UGA class collaborates with us in makerspace, there was a UGA student at each table to assist students as needed with the directions. I also had a UGA student help with hole punching and string tying.

Students were welcome to make as many ornaments as they wanted. They could take them all with them, but they were also welcome to add them to our holiday area of the library. At the front of the library, I have pulled out all of our November/December holiday books and created displays to highlight those holidays such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year.

As with every makerspace time, I loved seeing how students took structured ideas and put their own creative spins on them. I also loved seeing what unique ideas students came up with on their own too. It’s always hard to decide how to balance structure with open-ended projects, but I think it’s important to offer both. We all learn in different ways. I’ve seen that some learners have high anxiety when given no structure and others have high anxiety when they have structure and think that their creation has to look exactly like the picture.

Several students did decide to add at least one of their creations to our tree in the library. It’s one more way that we can share ownership of our library.

 

Celebrating Hansel & Gretel with Bethan Woollvin

I’ve loved Bethan Woollvin’s fractured, humorous, and subversive fairy tales for many years now. My own two kids have read Little Red until it’s falling apart. These books beg to be read aloud. Kids recite the repeating phrases, gasp at unexpected twists, and cheer for the heroines of the story.

Last year, our 2nd graders Skyped with Bethan to celebrate the release of Rapunzel. This year, we were over-the-moon excited that Peachtree Publishers brought her to our school as part of her US tour for her new book Hansel and Gretel.

In Hansel and Gretel, Willow the witch is a witch who only uses her magic for good. Hansel and Gretel are two mischievous and naughty kids who only think of themselves.  Willow tries her best to be nice to them along the way as they eat her house, gobble up all of her food, and wreak havoc with her magical things.  Can Willow continue to use her magic for good or is it time for Hansel and Gretel to be taught a lesson?  You’ll just have to read this fractured fairy tale to find out.

Ahead of Bethan’s visit, all classes in K-3 read all 3 of her books.  With each reading, students noticed similarities and differences between the tales.  They noticed the bravery of Rapunzel and Red.  They noticed the color scheme of black, white, and gray with a pop of a bright color. They noticed the hidden pictures underneath dust jackets and end papers.  In art, students worked on creating scenes of their own versions of fairy tales.  We hung this art in the hallways of the front of the school.

Our third graders all designed candy for a giant gingerbread house outside the library that I made out of some pumpkin spice tablecloth. My high school intern created Bethan Woollvin’s iconic eyes to go on the door of the library.

In classrooms, students also created their own Hansel & Gretel puppets, which were provided to us by Peachtree Publishers.  Many of them brought their puppets to the visit to hold up as Bethan shared the story.

Bethan presented 2 times: once for K-1 and once for 2-3.  She showed England on a map along with some childhood pictures.  We got a peek at her studio where she creates her illustrations.  One of my favorite parts was seeing how she creates the characters in her books.  She created some time lapse videos to show us how she begins with a pencil and then fills in the details one color at a time.

She also showed students how the illustrations changed over time.  They started as sketches but then went through several versions before reaching the final version found in the books. It was great to see how artists revise too and things aren’t perfect the first time.

Another great surprise was seeing how Bethan’s little sister created a drawing that inspired the ending of Hansel and Gretel.

Students loved watching Bethan draw many of her characters.  At one point, she sat in the middle of the floor amongst the students and drew. Students loved having her right in the middle of all of them, even if it did cause a stir of energy.

As always, students went back to class buzzing with excitement about the visit.  Our PTA bought a copy of Hansel & Gretel for all the class libraries and many students also purchased copies that Bethan autographed.  I can’t wait to see what projects, stories, and art spark from this visit.

Thank you, Bethan, for taking time to share your expertise with our school.  Thank you Peachtree Publishers and Avid Bookshop for bringing this opportunity to our students. It was truly a special day for all of us.

Celebrating International Dot Day 2018

September 15(ish) is International Dot Day. This day celebrates The Dot by Peter Reynolds and the idea that we are all creative and unique and can all make our mark on the world. Every year, we use this week to make Skype connections with classes around the country, share dot-related stories, and realize that we are all connected to each other.

Some years I try to host many dot-making activities in the library.

This year, we are doing creativity challenges every week as a whole school, so I asked my principal if we could make this week’s challenge dot-related. At the beginning of the week on our morning broadcast, I explained the purpose of Dot Day and challenged all classes to see what they could make out of dots. They could create something as a class, create individual ideas on post-its or index cards, or anything else. Each class was encouraged to hang their work outside their door for all to see. They were also encouraged to bring their creations to Skype sessions to share with our connecting classes.

I really loved this new addition because I feel like more people jumped into celebrating Dot Day. On Friday, we invited everyone to wear dots, and I was surprised to see how many students created their own shirts at home with dots.  One student even hid a Mo Willems pigeon in his dots on his shirt.

For our Skypes we connected with:

  • Donna MacDonald at Orchard School in South Burlington Vermont to read Little Elliot by Mike Curato.
  • Craig Seasholes in Seattle, Washington to read Yo! Yes! and The Dot
  • Shannon Miller at Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa to read Ish
  • Mrs. Shekleton at Howard Winneshiek School District in Iowa to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Guardiola at Caldwell Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • Mrs. Snead at Central Elementary in Carrollton, Texas to read Say Zoop by Herve Tullet
  • Mrs. Schnurr in Dallas, Texas to read I Don’t Draw I Color by Adam Lehrhaupt

As usual, every connection was filled with special moments. One of my favorites was reading Say Zoop with so many students. It’s a book that puts you a bit out of your comfort zone, but the kids had a blast making all of the noises.

I also loved seeing all of the creativity of dots from place to place and hearing students ask questions and share with one another. These Skype connections always remind us how we are sometimes stuck in our routines and forget that there’s a whole world of people out there doing some of the same things we are. It just takes reaching out and having a conversation to connect yourself to one another.

Thank you to everyone who connected with us and to all educators and students who reached out, tried something new, and connected the dots around the world.

Makerspace Begins: Themes and Options

Our makerspace has once again cranked up for the 2018-19 school year. Once again, I’m collaborating with Gretchen Thomas and her class of over 30 undergraduates from the University of Georgia. Every year, Gretchen and I meet to think about what our open makerspace time might look like, ,and every time we make some changes and try something new.

Our idea for this year is offer specific themes around materials or tools rather than try to squeeze in so many different things in a short amount of time.

For September, we’ve chosen cardboard as our material.  Across 3 weeks, we hope to offer 3 short-term challenges using cardboard.  One of those challenges will be a “making with a cause” challenge.

  • Week 1: Design a hat. This can be interpreted however students want.
  • Week 2: Making with a Cause. Make an award. Students will choose someone who deserves an award. Make the award. Give the award to that person with an explanation of why they deserve the award.
  • Week 3: Make a puppet. Use cardboard tubes to create unique puppets and hopefully begin storytelling with them.

For the second open makerspace, we know that there will be students who aren’t interested in the short-term options and want to branch out to their own projects that take longer than 1 or 2 sessions. For these students, we will offer them a space to plan, design, and create their own inventions that have a purpose.  We wanted to keep this option open ended, but encourage students to develop something using cardboard that actually has some sort of function/purpose.

In each Tuesday/Thursday session, groups of UGA students come to work alongside students. They come in 30-minutes waves so that each round of students has me and UGA students to support them. I’ve put a bit more structure on the front end of makerspace this year. Students check-in with a UGA student and then sit on the carpet. I offer a quick intro to what we are making and connect it to a book. For cardboard, we used Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Then, students move to tables to do some planning before they start grabbing cardboard and cutting.

This week, we launched into the first challenge of making a hat. Students had access to cardboard, Makedo safe saws, scissors, duct tape, and coloring supplies. Students sketched hats onto cardboard and started sawing.  There was a learning curve on the best strategies for sawing. Some students were more patient than others with the cutting process. Be warned! It was very loud and very messy. All adults circulated around to support as many students as possible.

At the end of session 1, students labeled all of their pieces of cardboard and we stored them in the makerspace.

For session 2, we spread all of the pieces out so that students could locate their cardboard to start again.

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Our hats continue. #makerspace #barrowbuddies

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I loved seeing the hats that students came up with in such a short amount of time. At dismissal, I could see the cardboard hats parading down the halls and lots of students were curious about where they came from. Many students needed more than 2 sessions to finish. Some chose to take the materials with them to finish at home. Others left their hats behind to continue working on next week.

I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to work. It’s fast-paced and a challenge to get one group finished and cleaned up before the next group comes in. It’s also a mess of cardboard dust and bits, and I hate leaving that for our custodians. However, we’re pressing forward, expecting the miraculous, and making changes as needed along the way.

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.