Barrow Oral History Project: An Update

Back in 2009, the 5th grade classes, teachers, and I worked on an oral history project to try to capture some of the stories of Barrow’s history.  Our school was originally built in 1923, so there are many stories through the decades that could be told.

That year, the teachers and I participated in virtual professional learning with the Library of Congress. We engaged students in centers to explore primary documents from Barrow’s past, how to use laptops and microphones to record, interview etiquette, and how to craft the best interview questions to spark conversation.

Each student worked with a partner to interview a guest from Barrow’s past.  Those histories were recorded in Audacity and uploaded to our school website.  Since then, I have transferred those files into Youtube.  They can all be heard at our Barrow Oral History page.

This year, our school celebrated its 95th anniversary and our PTA planned a big celebration.  Since hundreds of guests would be in our building, I thought it was the perfect time to capture a few more Barrow memories.  This time, I used Flipgrid to capture the memories since it automatically uploads the video.  Our past interviews lasted 20-30 minutes, but I knew people wouldn’t have that much time to give during the anniversary.  Flipgrid limited the responses to 5 minutes or less.  Rather than ask a series of questions, I simply asked people to share their name, when they attended Barrow, and a special Barrow memory.

Some of this year’s 5th graders served as hosts in the library.  Some stood in the hall to welcome people in to record. Others went with each storyteller into my office, the makerspace, or other quiet parts of the library to assist with recording.

Flipgrid has gone through several changes that have been frustrating to me when it comes to events like this one.  One of those changes is requiring people to login to their email in order to record.  To bypass this step, I had each storyteller “register” with me.  They simply filled out their first and last name.  I went into the administration side of Flipgrid and added their name to the Oral History grid. Then, I assigned them a unique password. When they went to the iPad, they simply typed in the password, and Flipgrid knew who they were. This allowed them to just focus on recording.  Since this event, Flipgrid has added a “guest mode” feature that allows you  to record without logging in.

The 95th anniversary was jam-packed with activities, so we didn’t record as many videos as I had hoped. However, I do want to try to continue this grid and add additional memories each time we have an opportunity to share some memories. It could even become something that 5th graders do before they leave our school so that we have an ongoing addition of current memories of our school.

In order to make the Flipgrid videos viewable, I added them to what Flipgrid now calls a “mixtape”. You can enjoy all of the 95th anniversary memories by viewing our mixtape of videos: https://flipgrid.com/+barroworalhistory 

If you are a former Barrow student or teacher who would like to record a memory, you can email me at plemmonsa@clarke.k12.ga.us and I can get you info for how to record on your own device.

 

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.

The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

2018 Barrow Maker Fest

In addition to having regular makerspace sessions every Tuesday and Thursday in the spring, students also have the opportunity to work on an individual project to showcase at our annual maker fest.  To participate, students fill out a Google form sharing their possible project topics and whether they will complete the project at home or in our makerspace during school hours.  They also have the option of working alone or having a UGA mentor to help them.

I collaborate with Gretchen Thomas at UGA College of Education. I love seeing the relationships that my students develop with the UGA students, and they thrive knowing that they have a mentor to visit with and work with while they make their creations.  In the spring, she divides part of her UGA students to support our Tuesday/Thursday makerspace sessions while the other part supports students working on individual projects. My maker students don’t always meet with the same UGA student, but they have someone every Tuesday/Thursday who can support their work.

When students begin preparing for Maker Fest, we meet with them individually to see what type of project they are thinking about.

This year, I offered several categories for them to think about:

  • robots
  • cardboard
  • makey makey
  • littlebits invention
  • duct tape creation
  • 3d design
  • Scratch program
  • finger knitting
  • origami
  • strawbees structure
  • stop motion video
  • magic tricks
  • puppet/puppet show
  • magic tricks
  • something else! (This category meant students might explore our many craft books for ideas on projects to create)

Once students decided, we gathered the materials they needed and stored each project on the shelves in our makerspace storage room. This part is hard to manage and it feels a bit chaotic until we have the materials that each student needs.  Each Tuesday/Thursday they come for a 30-minute work session, gather their materials from the shelves, and work with me or a UGA student.  Some students complete their projects at home.

During the actual Barrow Maker Fest, we created a schedule so that every student who made something had two 30-minute windows to showcase their work.  There was also a schedule for classes to sign up and come to view the projects.  The entire UGA class came as well so that they could view the final projects as well as help students at tables.

In the end, 26 students showcased creations on a variety of topics which included:

  • a cardboard Earth robot
  • mason jar lights
  • a robotic arm
  • a cardboard pirate game with secret codes and a spyglass
  • a Python computer program similar to Google Translate which translated English to Pig Latin
  • a shadow puppet theater
  • a Littlebits throwing arm and car
  • Lego scenes and building station
  • 3D slinkies, Rubik’s cube, and Minecraft swords made with 3D pens
  • 3D action figure designed in Tinkercad
  • a cardboard robot suit
  • a cardboard tower
  • a car made from a mail tube
  • a stackable jewelry holder
  • magic tricks
  • Merge cubes
  • Osmo

They were so excited to share their work, have an authentic audience to entertain and ask questions, and see that their work inspired other makers.  Several students who came said they wanted to make something next year.

You can see many of these projects along with projects from other K-12 schools in the Clarke County School District at our CCSD Maker Fest.  It will be Saturday April 14 2-4PM at Clarke Central High School.  It is free and open to the public.  We hope to see you there.

 

The 2018 Barrow Storybook Celebration

This year, I shook things up by moving our annual storybook parade and celebration to the week of Read Across America.  Traditions are hard to change, but it’s fun to try something new every now and then to see what we can learn from it.

The storybook parade has always been a favorite activity at our school.  It’s a day to dress up as a favorite book character and celebrate that book for all to see.

We begin our day with 2 guest readers in every classroom.  These are organized by amazing parent volunteer, Kim Ness.  I pull a variety of books for them to choose from or they are welcome to bring their own. Students escort the readers to classrooms.  We love having these community readers in our school.  Many are parents, athletes, and leaders in our community.

Next, we have our storybook assembly. I try to keep this brief but meaningful.  Sometimes we have a storyteller, skit, or shared reading. This year, I was listening to Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast, and heard the authors of the book Festival of Colors talk about the Indian celebration of Holi.

I loved the themes of this celebration where hate goes out and love comes in. This year Holi was on the same day as our storybook celebration, so I knew it was the perfect fit for our assembly.  Our ESOL teacher, Ms. Childs, helped me reach out to families in our school who celebrate Holi to see if they would be part of our celebration.  Two families agreed to help.

One family read the book and shared examples of the powders used in Holi. Another family, including a Barrow student, spoke about how they celebrate Holi here in Athens and the many meanings behind the festival.

I loved that we were able to learn from families right here in our school and discover a festival that many of us don’t celebrate or know about.

Following this, we formed into a line and marched down the sidewalk, around the school, and around the UGA practice facilities chanting “Read more books” while we showed off our costumes and books. Our 5th graders enjoyed some lemonade in the Dooley Garden across the street.

Many teachers in the school including gifted, early intervention, and specials all offered literacy-focused sessions for teachers to sign up.

I can’t wait to hear feedback from students, teachers, and families about the new time of year for storybook celebration. We’ll use this feedback to make decisions about next year.

What remained the same was that it was a day filled with celebrating stories in their many forms.  Hooray for books.

World Read Aloud Week 2018: Author Visits, Skypes, and More

What an amazing week for celebrating the power of reading in our school!  For the past few years, we have celebrated World Read Aloud Day and stretched it into a whole week.  This celebration was created by an organization called LitWorld for a very important reason.

We think everyone in the world should get to read and write. Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people. ~Litworld

In fact, there are some pretty mindblowing facts about reading around the world.

and

This week in the library, we’ve hosted skypes and Google Hangouts with classes, libraries, authors, and illustrators as well as hosting an in-person visit with Matt de la Pena & Loren Long.

We’ve stressed many things in these connections.  One of those is that we all should read as much as possible and celebrate our freedom and right to read.

Author & Illustrator Visit

On Tuesday, Matt de la Pena & Loren Long visited our 1st-5th grade to share their new book Love.  This was one of the many stops on their national tour.  Our amazing art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich collaborated with me in the library to create art projects with every grade level in the school.  We wanted them to know how much their book impacted us by showing them an art exhibit throughout the front halls of the school.

Matt & Loren started their visit with a reading of the book.  Matt read the book from memory while Loren  painted the front cover of the book on chart paper.

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Love! #thisislove

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Then, they both took time to tell us their own personal journeys of how they came to work together on the book, Love.  From Matt’s basketball scholarship to college to Loren’s mom encouraging him to continue his art pursuit even with the barrier of being colorblind, we learned of the many examples of love that filled these two guys lives.  They brought messages to students about taking risks, loving and respecting your family, working hard even when things are hard, having empathy for people going through tough bumps in the road of life, and more. I hope that their messages will connect with students for years to come.

The power of their spoken word had our audience of 450 1st-5th graders captivated for an entire hour.  We can’t thank Penguin, Avid Bookshop, and Matt & Loren enough for taking time to visit our school.

Class & Library Skypes

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, several of our classes connected with other classes around the country via Skype and Google Hangout to read aloud books.  This year, I tried to select books that had an element of discussion around doing good in the world.  Selections included books like Love by Matt de la Pena, Be a Friend by Salina Yoon, We’re All Wonders by R J Palacio, Yo Yes by Chris Raschka, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, and Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell.

Each connection had its own variation.  Sometimes students helped me read the text to the other class.  Sometimes the two librarians alternated reading the text.  Other times we read one book to our connecting class and they read a book back to us.  We always spent time making connections with one another through sharing and questions.  We talked about things like making things beautiful in our school, creating gifts to give to others in need, identifying wonders of our classmates, and what it takes to be a good friend.  So many of our conversations were filled with meaningful ways to make sure the world is a great place to live, and we learned that we aren’t alone in our interests and routines.

Authors & Illustrator Skypes

On the official World Read Aloud Day, we had several skypes with authors and illustrators.  Anne Marie Pace, Brian Lies, Carter Higgins, Donna Gephart, Jody Feldman, and Loree Griffin Burns all connected with students.  I loved that they showed many of their books and then read aloud from one of them.  Any time an author/illustrator connects with us in person or in Skype, they immediately become a favorite author/illustrator in our library.  Their books fly off the shelves and stay checked out.  This time was no different.

Brian Lies read from Bats at the Beach and then got kids to brainstorm a new bat drawing that he illustrated on Skype.

Donna Gephart read to us from a book that she had just gotten the ARCs for.  We couldn’t take pictures or record anything, but it was so exciting to get an early preview. Loree Burns went in depth with students about her research process and writing about what matters in the world. A group of writers met with her and got lots of inspiration for their own writing.  Anne Marie Pace and Carter Higgins both read from brand new books with a timely topics of love and Groundhog Day.

We are so appreciative of these professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to connect with readers.

Mapping

As usual, we used Google Tour Builder to keep track of our connections and the books that we shared. It’s always fun at the end of the week to see all of the stories that have been shared and the connections we’ve made. Technology flattens our world and reminds us that stories can connect us across the miles.

Happy World Read Aloud Week.

 

Top Elf: An Author Visit with Caleb Zane Huett

We have a magical bookshop in Athens called Avid Bookshoop, and in that bookshop works a talented author named Caleb Zane Huett.  Caleb’s new book, Top Elf, which is published by Scholastic, is the hilarious journey of a group of elves as they compete against one another to be the next Santa Claus.

It’s filled with a cast of characters that bring something for every reader, and numerous jokes fill the pages to keep you laughing along the way.

I was so excited when Caleb offered to visit our school this December.  Thanks to him and Avid Bookshop, our 3rd and 4th grade got to come to separate sessions to hear him speak.  He started each session with a reading of the first chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear him read, do it!  He brings every page to life with voices and movement and keeps the audience totally focused on every word.

After reading, Caleb facilitated the students in a collaborative story.  He wanted to model this story after some of his own thought process as he writes. Kids were raising hands and shouting out ideas all along the way, and Caleb masterfully wove their ideas together into a story that he told along the way.

Teachers were also excited because they knew that his mini writing workshop directly tied back to what they were doing in their classrooms and now students can go back to class and create their own stories using a similar process.

At the close, we heard a bit about how Top Elf followed this same type of process and students got to ask Caleb questions. I always love to hear students ask authors about how long it takes to write, how many times a book was rewritten, and what inspires them.  These become common questions but they make the author a real person to our readers.  It creates a connection between the author and the students because the process they go through is very similar.

I want to thank Caleb Zane Huett for taking time to visit our school. I also want to thank Avid Bookshop for this opportunity and the presales of books. Finally, I thank our wonderful PTA who makes sure that every classroom gets copies of the book to add to their classroom libraries.

I know we will now have many readers of Top Elf at Barrow, and I love that our readers can walk down the street and visit with Caleb if they want to share what they’ve discovered.