Who Will Win?: A Research Lesson with 5th Grade

Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark. T-Rex vs. Velociraptor. Scorpion vs. Centipede.  These topics grab the attention of so many readers in our library.

When the 5th grade language arts teachers, Ms. Freeman & Ms. Hinkle, asked me to brainstorm some lessons ideas about the following standard, my mind immediately jumped to these popular books.

ELAGSE5RI8: EXPLAIN how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, IDENTIFYing which reasons and evidence supports which point(s).

I began to think about how students might create their own quick versions of these stories using books from our informational section.  Ms. Hinkle and Ms. Freeman scheduled each of their language arts classes to come to the library for 45 minutes.

We began our time together on the floor and took time to look at a selection of books from the Bug Wars, Dinosaur Wars, and Who Would Win series. I asked students how an author might go about comparing two animals who might not actually meet in real life. We brainstormed a list of categories that an author might use to compare animals: size, speed, abilities, classification, etc.

Next, we took a look at an interactive ebook from Capstone called Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Velociraptor from the Dinosaur Wars series. We looked at the structure of the book and how the author used size, speed/agility, weapons, and attack style to compare the two dinosaurs. In addition to the summaries at the top of the page, we saw how the author gave several pieces of evidence to backup the point of which dinosaur was superior to the other in a particular category.

This set us up for our work session. Ahead of time, I pulled multiple animals books from our library as well as a few other things that could be compared like weather events and landforms. When I pulled the books I considered which animals I might pair together if I was choosing, but I wanted students to have the choice of whichever pairings they wished to have.

With a partner, students selected two “things” to compare. This was a bit of a frenzy as students tried to quickly pair two animals or other things together before resources started to disappear to other partners.

Then, they used a brief graphic organizer to decide on 4 categories to compare the two things. I encouraged them to look at the index in the books to help them think about comparisons they might make.

Their goal was to find evidence for each thing in each category and then decide on a winner for that category based on the evidence.

After looking at the evidence for all 4 categories, students decided on the overall winner. Sometimes students couldn’t decide an overall winner, so I encouraged them to create some “what if” scenarios that might help them think about when one of the particular animals or things might come out on top. If time allowed, students could create a Flipgrid video explaining their comparisons.

The teachers and I circulated between the pairs of students and conferenced with them on their categories and pushed them to look for evidence. What we saw as we conferenced was that most students were excited and engaged.

They were really searching for information and putting books side by side to make comparisons. They were having critical conversations to determine which animal would actually win in each category based on the evidence they found.  They were even asking to see additional resources like websites and other books because they weren’t finding the info that they were looking for.

This project gave me lots to think about. The concept of competition between “things” was motivating for students. I didn’t give them a detailed graphic organizer with a bunch of pre-written questions they had to find answers to. They determined the categories and looked for the answers. I was surprised by how many students started asking for additional resources because they wanted to find the answer they were looking for rather than trying to make one resource work for everything as I’ve seen in other research projects.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect and some students didn’t stay focused the entire time. However, I saw an engagement that I don’t always see. I saw students excited about diving into books without too many complaints that we weren’t researching on the computer. We also didn’t really have enough time for most students to record. The teachers are going to try to give time back in class to finish recordings.

I want to unpack this a bit more in my mind and think about implications for future projects. I definitely think that this project could be expanded to something much bigger. It was obtainable in a day, but it could be so much better with a little more time.

The students who were able to record so far would love for you to take a moment to watch their videos. If you decide to try this out with your students, I would love to hear how it goes and what modifications you made.

 

Our Students Need Your Help to Decide the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize

Every year our Barrow 2nd graders embark on a month-long project to research 4 people from history and decide which person is most deserving of a peace prize that we named after our school. This project has gone through many changes over the years and is a project that we keep coming back to because so many standards are woven into it.

Our project begins with a Google Hangout with all 4 second grade classes. This year, we read Malala’s Magic Pencil and discussed her character traits. We also learned about the Nobel Peace Prize that Malala won. We used this information to create a list of character traits someone should show in order to be deserving of our peace prize.

Then, students researched 1 of 4 people from history using Pebble Go, Encyclopedia Britannica, and websites found in Destiny Discover. They gathered facts onto a Google doc shared with them in Google Classroom.

In art, students created an image of their person using watercolors.

In writing, students used their facts to craft a persuasive piece of writing to convince an audience to vote for their person from history.

Finally, students recorded their artwork and writing using Flipgrid so that it could be viewed by a worldwide audience.

That’s where you come in. Our 2nd graders want you to hear their voices. They want you to listen to videos about each of the 4 nominated historical figures and decide which person should win the 2019 Barrow Peace Prize. You can access all of the videos on this Smore.

At the top and bottom of the Smore is a Google form where you can cast your vote. Voting starts now and will end on February 24 at 12:00PM EST. We will announce the winner of the Barrow Peace Prize when we Skype with the Flipgrid team in Minnesota in early March.  Every student who researched the winning historical figure will be awarded a 2019 Barrow Peace Prize medal created on our 3D printer.

We hope you will watch and vote. We also hope you will share this project with your own students, networks, or people in your community. Anyone can vote. The students love seeing where people have viewed their projects and how many votes were cast.

Who will win? You decide! Click here to start.

 

Kindergarten Exploring How Books Are Made: Authors, Illustrators, Editors, & Publishers

Kindergarten has launched into an exploration of “how-to” writing. In class, they’ve been thinking a lot about the steps it takes to make something. They’ve been taking these steps and writing their own “how-to” books.

As a part of this exploration, they are also exploring how books are made. The teachers each scheduled 2 sessions in the library. During the 1st session, we split the class into 3 groups to rotate through centers related to how books are made. Since this was Kindergarten, we had me, the classroom teacher, and the classroom paraprofessional to lead the centers that I planned.

Center 1: Read Aloud

We used How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex. In true Mac Barnett form, this book is filled with humor that was a little bit above the heads of some Kindergarten friends, but there’s a lot of great info on the process that a book goes through to end up in our hands. The book goes over the role of the author taking an idea and turning it into a draft. It also hits home the idea of writing multiple drafts of a book and getting feedback from an editor that is sometimes hard to receive.  Next the book takes us through the illustrator’s role of creating pictures for the author’s words. It shows students how the book is printed and put together before it is shipped to the shelves to await a reader.

To me, one of the best lines in this book happens at the end when Mac writes, “a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader”.

Center 2: Video

I pulled together a variety of videos so that we could pick and choose pieces of videos to play and discuss with students. One video from Capstone walks through the process of making a book from an idea to the printing.

If students were really interested in how a book is actually put together, we spent more time with this Discovery video.

I also wanted students to hear from some authors. There are many options to choose from, but I pulled an interview with Jacqueline Woodson. She shares more details about ideas, characters, and rewriting.

Since students are exploring how to make their own books, I also wanted them to see some different options than what we might have in our library. They watched just a bit of this video showing elaborate pop-up books by Robert Sabuda.

We could pause the videos along the way and let kids make noticings or ask questions about how books are made.

Center 3: Writing & Illustrating

At this writing center, students put themselves in the shoes of an author and illustrator. Since our time was limited, we weren’t writing a full story. Instead, students finished the stem “Once upon a time there was….”.  Students filled in whatever they wanted to as the author.

We talked about how often an author and illustrator don’t meet in person. The publisher might assign a text to an illustrator and the publisher is the one who communicates with that person. To mimic this, students sent their writing to someone else at the table. That person read the text and created an illustration to go with the text.

This was a challenge for some students because they saw that the illustrator didn’t always draw things the way they had pictured it in their mind. We used this “conflict” to connect with what published authors and illustrators sometimes face.

Closing:

We came back together after our 3 experiences and took a glance around the library as the books sat on the shelves around us. We talked about how every book on our shelves has gone through a journey to make it to our shelves. Students shared some of the journey that they remembered from the various centers.

Next up, students will be working in the art classroom to make their own bound book.  Then, they will return to the library to explore the “how-to” books.

 

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our 2018-19 student book budget team is hard at work creating consideration lists of books for purchase. So far, they have created an interest survey, surveyed numerous students in our school, and set purchasing goals. I sent their goals to vendors and setup some appointments for vendors to meet with the team.

Our first vendor was Gret from Gumdrop Books. Gret brought in fiction and nonfiction and split them into separate groups on tables. She gave each student a pad of paper to write down item numbers for books or series they were interested in. They gave Gret each of their papers at the end of their time and then she put them into a consideration list in Excel. One of the things I love about what Gret does is that she has a printed list inside each book that shows other books in the series. Students can easily see if there are other books they are interested in.

Since Gret only had a sample of books to peruse, we had the Gumdrop website pulled up on the big screen so that Gret or students could search for books that weren’t represented on the tables. At the close of Gret’s time students in the 3 groups had made a list that totaled over $6,000! That’s not unusual for this group. It will become a good lesson later into how you get critical and purchase the very best of what you’ve found with the money you actually have.

Our second vendor was Jim Boon from Capstone. Jim has worked with us since the very beginning of this project. He’s great at bringing in a variety of books in fiction and nonfiction and splitting them into 2 displays that students can easily access. He also has catalogs and pens shipped to the school prior to his visit so that students can look through catalogs for books that aren’t found in his displays. Jim does a quick overview of what he has brought, how to use the catalogs, and any promotions Capstone currently has. Then, he spends time assisting students in looking at books and finding specifics in the catalogs.

My favorite feature in the Capstone catalog is the barcode listed on each series. Students can scan the barcode and it pulls up the entire series on the screen. Then, students can check the books they want to add to the list.  It’s so much faster than having to write things down or bookmark pages in a catalog. Then, we can easily go into the list later to delete the books we don’t want.

Jim gets right in with the students and helps them find whatever they are looking for. He’s so fun and keeps them laughing and shopping. He even brought them a special treat bag to go with their Capstone pen and bookmarks.

Now, students have a lot of work to do after the break looking through their Capstone catalogs and cutting books from their Gumdrop list. Then, we’ll meet with one more vendor before making final decisions.

I love watching this group work and seeing what stands out to them.

 

2018-19 Student Book Budget First Steps

One of my favorite projects of the year has started. Our student book budget group is a group of 3rd-5th grade students who volunteer their time to decide on new books for the library.  This project has been a part of our library for several years. Each year, we make some adjustments to improve the process and make sure student voice is heard. Over the course of December and January, students in this group will survey the school on reading interests, develop goals, meet with vendors, develop consideration lists, place a book order that meets a budget, process new books, market new books, and enjoy reading the books they have selected.  It’s quite an undertaking, but something I cherish every year.

Step One

I created a Google form application that was emailed to all 3rd-5th grade students. In the application, I linked to a video that explained the project to students. Some teachers played this video for the whole class. Other teachers simply reminded students that applications were open. We made announcement reminders on our morning broadcast for students to apply.  Applications were only open for one week.

This year, I wanted students to make a commitment up front to stick with the project from beginning to end. I made this one of questions to help me decide who to accept into the group. I generally accept every student who applies, but if students weren’t willing to commit to the time the project takes, then I knew they might not be the best choice for the group. I knew I could at least talk in person with students who said no/maybe so that we could clear up expectations and requirements.

Step Two

Once students were chosen, I announced our team on the morning broadcast and communicated with them and their teachers via email. We have 25 students on this year’s team. Our routine schedule is to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 for 3rd grade, 11:30 for 4th grade, and 12:00 for 5th grade. This time is taking the place of our open makerspace time during December and January.

During our first meeting, students thought about what they might put on a survey about reading interests. They started by doing a walk around the library and seeing what they noticed about the shelves. For example, they saw how empty the dinosaur, fun facts, and ghost section was. They noticed that we have a lot more humor chapter books than they realized.  We used these noticings and last year’s survey to create a new survey.

In the end, they mostly kept the survey the same with a few small changes.

Step Three

I emailed the survey to all 3rd-5th graders who have their own computer and let teachers know the survey was available. At our 2nd book budget meeting, each grade of students took iPads to the lunchroom and surveyed as many PreK-2nd grade students as possible.  Each time the survey was submitted, it sent the data to a spreadsheet and summary so that we could see which grade levels weren’t as heavily represented and we could begin to set goals for our purchasing.

Step Four

At our 3rd meeting, we checked in on our data to see what else we needed to do.  We noticed that we needed more 4th and 5th grader voices, so we surveyed some of them at recess and made a final plea to teachers to give them time to take the survey in class.

We also used the 3rd meeting to go ahead and notice what the data was telling us so far.  Each group noticed that in picture books the top requests were humor, jokes, graphic novels, and sports.  In chapter books, the top requests were humor, sports, and mystery. In informational, the top requests were fun facts, cooking, ghosts, and animals/dinosaurs.

Students compared these results with what they noticed in their walk around the library. They saw that things mostly matched, but the biggest difference was the humor chapter books.  People are asking for more, but we have so many that aren’t getting checked out. This is a point they are considering so that they really focus on what they think people will actually read.

Moving Forward

Now, we are wrapping up our survey and firming up our purchasing goals so that we can start meeting with booksellers.  We already have appointments with Jim Boon at Capstone and Gret Hechenbleikner at Gumdrop to look at their products. We’ll continue to update our progress along the way.

 

 

Our 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was a Success!

The 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 29, 2018.  This has been a yearly tradition since November became Picture Book Month.  During a smackdown, we hold a Youtube Live event where students and authors in multiple states book talk as many picture books as possible across 45-60 minutes.

This year’s smackdown featured students in 4 different grades in 3 different states, which included:

Andy Plemmons and students at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA

Donna MacDonald and students at Orchard School in South Burlington, VT

Julee Murphy and students at Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX

Ahead of the event, students selected a picture book to share, read the book, prepared a script, and practiced.  I also communicated with all the librarians at each site to make sure we all knew our roles during the hangout.

I made a Smore for us to advertise our event, and it’s really fun to see where people are viewing the smackdown from.

Donna MacDonald reached out to author Saadia Faruqi who agreed to kickoff our smackdown. She shared her Yasmin books as well as 3 favorite picture books featuring Muslim characters and stories.  We can’t thank her enough for speaking to our students. I know many of my students want to read all of the Yasmin books now.

During the smackdown, we had 5 students from each school step to the microphone, share their name, and tell about their book. We kept this rotation going until we ran out of students or time.

It was amazing to see that every student chose a different book, even though we didn’t plan that. We kept a list of all of our books so we could remember them for our own libraries and to share with all of you.

Saadia Faruqi closed out our hangout by encouraging students to continue to read picture books and create their own stories. She found it so encouraging to see so many students reading and also enjoying the books that she created herself.

You can watch the full smackdown here.

I encourage you to host your own, even if it’s just in your own school.  We are even thinking about doing a smackdown with other formats of books like graphic novels or chapter books.  Thank you to everyone who participated and watched.  We’ll see you next year for the 2019 Picture Book Smackdown.

It’s Time to Plan for World Read Aloud Day 2019

It’s time for us all to start making plans and building excitement for World Read Aloud Day 2019 with Litworld.  This year, World Read Aloud Day takes place on February 1, 2019, but many of us will celebrate the entire week of January 28-February 1, 2019.

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World Read Aloud Day “calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  When we connect our students through Skype, Google Hangouts, or other web tools, they experience the power of the read aloud and realize that they are connected with a bigger world that is both the same and different from them.  By connecting our voices through reading aloud, we are reading on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

Shannon McClintock Miller, Matthew Winner, and I invite you to start posting your schedules on our shared Google Doc.

World Read Aloud Day 2019 Planning Document

This year, we’ve tried to organize the document by time zones to make it easier to find connections that work for you.  If you don’t see your time zone listed, please add it as a heading.

When you share your schedule, be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your contact info such as social media, Skype, and/or email
  • Your role
  • Your school and grade levels
  • Your location
  • List your time zone when posting your available dates and times

wrad-map

After you post your own schedule, take a look at the other schedules and sign up on someone’s schedule to connect your students.  We’ve found that it doesn’t matter if same grade levels connect with one another. Often times, an older grade can read aloud to a younger grade or younger grades can find parts of a books that they can read aloud to an older grade.  There’s not just one way to connect.  Part of the fun is meeting new friends, planning your read alouds, and seeing what magical things happen during your connection that you weren’t even expecting.

We have many ideas from previous years on our blogs.  You can read more about previous World Read Aloud Day connections on Expect the Miraculous and The Library Voice.  Litworld also has several resources for you to use in your planning and connections including:

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Please let us know if you have any questions.  Happy connecting!

Shannon McClintock Miller @shannonmmiller Matthew Winner @matthewwinner & Andy Plemmons @plemmonsa