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.

 

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.

 

Using Two Truths and a Lie to Encourage Thorough Research

We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an informational writing project. You ask students to search for information. They do a quick Google search, choose the first thing they find, and say, “I’m done”. It’s frustrating, but in an age where information is so fast to find, it’s understandable that they would want an instant answer and be done.

This year, ahead of 5th grade’s informational writing unit, we decided to do an exercise in research by using the book series Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson.  Each chapter in the book is made up of 3 stories.  Two are truths and one is a lie.  The books have a great opening that explains that all of the stories are pretty unbelievable and that it will be a challenge to figure out which is false. I chose a section out of each book to make a copy of.  I put them in groups of three so that every table would have two truths and a lie on the table.

For the opening of the lesson, I asked students if everything on the Internet was true.  They immediately said no, but I reminded them that even though we say that, so often, we fall victim to something that is actually false.  We looked at Jennifer LaGarde’s infographic about identifying fake news so that we could review the importance of knowing the author, domain, and especially triangulation.

I read the opening of Two Truths and a Lie and explained the task at hand.

  1. In pairs, students would choose one folder to sit at.
  2. Pairs would read the article in the folder.
  3. Pairs would use our trusted databases in Galileo as well as do an independent Google search to find evidence to prove that the article was a truth or a lie.
  4. When pairs felt like they had enough evidence, they could talk with me about what they found.

Things got off to a great start. Pairs opened up folders and read their article.  However, when computers opened, things went downhill (at first). Hands started going up immediately because students had found an image that matched an image in the book or they found a video that matched their article. Those pieces of evidence alone were enough to prove something true in several students’ eyes.

It was a great teaching moment because I was able to go back to our infographic and repeat the questions about domain, author, and triangulation.  Students often didn’t know who made the video or where the picture came from, so we could dig around and look for that info. It was easier to send students back into our databases or Google because they simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove.  Many of them got serious after the conversations and started matching text in the article to text they found in sources. They began showing me that they weren’t just looking at Wikipedia as their only source and were instead using trusted news sites and museum sites.

By the end of our time, most groups had found enough evidence to make their case, and I revealed the truths and lies, which are found at the back of the book.  This is definitely not a one time lesson that will solve all of our research problems, but I loved that so many students were receptive to the idea of digging through multiple sources to prove something right or wrong. Now, my hope is that the momentum we gained from this experience will lead us into our informational writing.

 

The 2018 Barrow Peace Prize Goes To…

Our 2nd graders have been working on our annual Barrow Peace Prize project since January, and for the past few weeks you have been voting on which person from history will win the award.

On February 28, we all gathered in the library for the big announcement.  Prior to this day, students researched a civil rights leader, wrote a persuasive piece of writing, created artwork to accompany their writing, and recorded themselves in Flipgrid. We asked people around the world to view and vote on which civil rights leader should win.

People in 160 different locations around the world cast their votes.

During the Barrow Peace Prize Ceremony, we connected with Flipgrid via Skype. Brad Hosack set the stage for our ceremony by reminding us of the history of this project that has gone on for many years since Flipgrid was an emerging edtech tool.

Then, we launched into student recognitions. Each teacher selected 3 students to recognize for Prolific Persuader, Outstanding Opener, and Dynamic Designer.

A member of the Flipgrid team announced the winners in each category and I handed out certificates to rounds of applause.

Next, we recognized our Barrow Peace Prize designers. A few years ago, a student said that we needed an actual prize for the peace prize. Since then, a group of students designs the peace prize using Tinkercad and we 3D print it.  Every student who researches the winning civil rights leader receives a medal.

Finally, it was the moment we had been waiting for. Nate from Flipgrid announced the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize winner………………Martin Luther King Jr. The votes were super close and this was the first year that MLK was one of our finalists for the peace prize.  Every student who researched him received their peace prize medal and we also gave a medal to each classroom to share with all students in 2nd grade.

This ceremony really is a celebration of the collective work of 2nd grade. Yes, several students hear their names called, but we all celebrate knowing that our work has reached well beyond the walls of our school to inspire others.

Thank you to every person who watched the student videos, voted, and shared this project. It means the world to the students to know that their videos have been seen.

 

We Need Your Votes for the 2017 Barrow Peace Prize!

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It is time once again for the annual voting on the Barrow Peace Prize.  This award was established 3 years ago by our 2nd grade.  Each year students select up to 6 nominees from history.

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We hold a Google Hangout with the entire 2nd grade to decide what criteria someone must exemplify in order to win the prize.  This year, we read the book Peace is an Offering by Annettee LeBox before brainstorming our list on a Google doc.

Each student in 2nd grade selects one of the nominees to research.

Students research these people using PebbleGo, Britannica School, Destiny Quest web resources, and books.

Using Google Classroom and a Google doc graphic organizer, students gather facts about their person and use those facts to write a persuasive essay during writer’s workshop.

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In art, students create a watercolor image to represent their person.

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Back in the library, students use Flipgrid to record persuasive essays and showcase their art.

Now those videos are ready for you to view.  We need you to view, vote, and share!

Instructions:

  • Visit this Smore
  • View videos for each of the nominees.  This can be done as a class, individually, and can be shared with anyone you know.
  • Feel free to click the heart on any video to “like” it because the kids love that!
  • To vote on the Peace Prize, use the Google form here or on the Smore to select one of the 6 people who you were convinced deserves the prize

Voting will end on February 24th where we will announce the 2017 Barrow Peace Prize in a Skype with Flipgrid.  Two 2nd grade students designed a 3D peace prize that was printed on our 3D printer and every student who researched the winner will receive one of the medals along with each 2nd grade classroom.

peace-prize-design-4

Thank you for participating in our project, and we can’t wait to see who you pick!

American Symbol Research in Kindergarten

Students in 2 Kindergarten classes have been hard at work researching American symbols as part of their social studies standards. Doing research projects with the youngest learners in our school doesn’t look like it does in the upper grades. We think about what some of the biggest barriers might be for our young creators and put pieces in places to support students in getting over those barriers.

First, students chose one of four American symbols to research: American flag, statue of liberty, liberty bell, and bald eagle.  In the library, we introduced students to a graphic organizer for collecting 3 facts about their chosen symbol. I learned from another Kindergarten teacher a few years ago during research to set an expectation that allows all students to succeed or exceed during the first research session. We asked students to have a goal of writing at least one fact during the first work session, but if they still had time, they should keep going.

research 1

Students used Capstone’s PebbleGo for their research. We love this database for many reasons but mostly because it breaks information down into manageable pieces and reads the text in a human voice for students. I modeled for students how to listen to a portion of the text and then think about what they had learned by listening. Then, we talked about what we would write on our organizer. This modeling was done with a different American symbol than the one students were researching.

At tables, I setup computers for students to use in pairs. We chose pairs because it gave students one more source of support as they worked. Also at each table, we tried to place an adult for support. The teacher, classroom paraprofessional, and me all worked at tables. If a parent volunteer or student teacher was available, they stayed at the 4th table. Otherwise, the adults took turns checking between tables.  We found that we had to continue modeling for students how to listen, ponder, and then write rather than just copying a sentence off the screen. However, some students still chose a sentence to copy.  All students left with at least one fact but many left with 3 or more.

research 2

After this initial work session, students continued their research in centers in the classroom.  Then, they returned to the library for another work session in small groups. Each group came for 15-20 minutes. We did a short tinkering session with Chatterpix Kids to see how you can take a picture of something, draw a mouth on it, and then record that picture talking. Ahead of time, I chose creative commons images of the symbols for kids to use for their pictures. Rather than having every student create their own Chatterpix, each group created one Chatterpix video with the iPads. Each student chose one fact from their research to read.

Before recording, students chose their fact. We decided the order students would read and practiced a few times. Students helped take the picture of the symbol and draw the mouth. Then, we pressed record and passed the iPad to record. If we needed to record a few times, we did. Then, we uploaded our videos to Youtube and created a playlist to share with the class, families, and you.  I hope you will take a moment to listen to their work.

I love building foundations of research in our early grades and seeing where these students end up by the time they are in 5th grade. We have a lot of work to do, but we celebrate the work of these Kindergarten students and what they have created.

Ms. Lauren’s American Symbols:

Ms. Boyle’s American Symbols:

Beginning the Barrow Peace Prize: A Flipgrid Project

peace prize research (5)

Each year, our 2nd grade takes on a big research project that has evolved into a project called the Barrow Peace Prize. Students research one of six people from black history, write a persuasive piece convincing people to vote for their person to win, and record their writing using Flipgrid. These videos are shared with the world along with a Google forms voting ballot. We celebrate the winner with the Flipgrid team via Skype.

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This year’s project is off to a great start, and I’m amazed by what these 2nd graders are doing with their technology, especially since they aren’t 1:1 in their classes.  With fewer devices to practice on, it takes these students a bit longer to navigate tools on the computer.

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To start, each student chose one of six people: Langston Hughes, Wilma Rudolph, Bessie Coleman, Jesse Owens, Charles Drew, and Ruby Bridges. Using Google Classroom, each teacher shared a Google doc graphic organizer with students. In the library, students brought class computers and I provided additional computers so each student had one. We did a review of how to login to Google and navigate to Classroom to get the doc. I also showed students how to click between tabs in Chrome, how to copy and paste facts, and where to look for information.

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Students started in 2 resources: PebbleGo and Encyclopedia Britannica. I love these sites because they have great information and both will read the content to students who need that extra support. I debated about teaching students how to copy and paste because I don’t want to set students up for just copying. However, we wanted students to have access to a collection of the best facts when they prepared to do their writing without having to weed through all of the articles. The writing workshop time would be the time to focus on taking those copied facts and put them into students’ own words.

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We did 3 hour-long sessions of research. Each session we saw students get more proficient at navigating the technology, and even in the frustration we faced, I reminded myself and the teachers to step back and really look at what 7-year olds were doing. Students were logging into email, accessing Google Classroom, finding a Google doc, visiting multiple resources, using ctrl C and ctrl V, keeping track of where facts came from, and leaning to use the research tool in a Google Doc. This list could definitely be added to because there was a lot more.

Once facts were gathered, teachers began writing workshops in their classrooms for students to start writing scripts for their videos. Prior to this, we held a Google Hangout where all classes tuned in from classrooms. The purpose of this was to establish a list of character traits that someone who is deserving of the Barrow Peace Prize might represent. We read about Alfred Nobel and looked at Malala and why she represented peace. Then, classes added to a Google Doc to create a list of these character traits. This list was displayed during writing times for all students to consider in their writing.

Now, students are continuing to fine tune their writing before recording takes place.  We can’t wait to share the videos with our school, families, and classrooms around the world.  Be on the lookout for a post in the next couple of weeks inviting you to view and vote for the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize.

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