A Rock Exploration: Researchers, Photographers, and Poets

Our 3rd graders study rocks every year as a part of their science curriculum. This year, we brainstormed some new ideas to support this study and scheduled two 45-minute sessions for each 3rd grade class.

Session one focused on facts and observations. To begin, I asked student to put themselves in the shoes of a researcher and consider what someone researching rocks might do. They named things such as reading books, talking to experts, doing experiments with rocks, going outside and looking for rocks, and visiting websites and videos. For this session, students rotated between 3 stations. Each station lasted for approximately 10 minutes.  I didn’t want them to be slowed down by writing down facts, so this day was just an exploration to mentally gather as many facts as they could. Some students still chose to write things down but most took my advice of making mental notes.

Center 1: Books

I gathered multiple books from our nature section of library. Prior to this center, I reminded students how they might dive in to multiple books without reading entire books. We reviewed the table of contents, index, and captions. As students explored this station, the teachers and I noticed students talking about photographs that caught their attention so we jumped in to the conversation by directing students to text or captions that supported the conversation. So often, I see students chat about photographs and forget to read the text, so we tried to gently intervene to make sure the conversation was based in fact rather than speculation.  One of the biggest hits at this stations was learning about birthstones and making a personal connection to gemstones.

Center 2: Rocks

When I was growing up, my grandmother and grandfather took me to Cherokee, North Carolina to visit ruby and gem mines. My grandmother would save her money all year and then buy multiple bags of dirt containing gems and we would spend hours sifting through the dirt in a water trough. I saved the rocks from all of those trips and now they have become a part of my educator collection.

At this station, students used this mix of rocks to make observations and sort rocks in different ways. I included to large circles that students could use as a Venn diagram and compare and contrast rocks based on texture, size, shine, and more. All students worked together to sort as many rocks as time allowed.

Center 3: Websites and Videos

Amethyst is February’s birthstone and also Georgia’s state gem. This station focused on exploring amethyst through websites and videos using a Symbaloo. One of our favorite sites is Gem Kids because it allows students to see gems under a microscope, on a map of the world, and see photos of gems with captions full of info. Students also loved watching the Jackson’s Crossroads video from Georgia to see what amethyst looks like when it is found.

Day 2 of our exploration focused on creativity. We read the book A Rock Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija. At the conclusion of this poetic book, it says “go a discover what else a rock can be”. This invitation brought us to our next explorations. This time rather than rotating every 10 minutes, students rotated as they finished each step.

Center 1: Artistic Creations

Students once again found boxes of rocks that they could observe. However, this time, their goal was to use the rocks to create something new. They could create a word, shape, object, or anything their creativity sparked. Once they made this creation, they used an iPad to snap a photograph.

This center was fun to watch because every student had a different way of making something. Some had an object in mind already like a football, and they used the rocks to make that shape. Others found one rock that inspired them and they used that rock to form what came to their mind. This was also the station where we saw so many students shine. I loved that whether a student had an English barrier, a reading challenge, etc, this was a visual station that allowed so many voices to be heard in a strong way.

Center 2: Poetry

As students finished photography, they moved to writing in another part of the library. If students had a poem already forming in their mind, they could use a blank piece of paper to create it. However, if students needed some extra support, they used A Rock Can Be… as a mentor text. I had a simple organizer with a structure already formed for them with “a rock can be” and some blanks to create two-word lines in their poem.

The teachers and I did a lot of conferencing at this station to help students focus on the photograph that they created. Most students had their photograph pulled up on their iPad as they wrote. Some chose to focus more on rocks in their poem while others focused on whatever shape they had created.

Center 3: Recording

Students moved to quiet space in the library to put all of their creativity together in Flipgrid. I setup our grid to have a guest code so that students could scan a QR code, enter their first/last name, and start recording. They could record their face on the video or flip the camera and record their poem. During the final step, students imported the photograph of their creation and then used the Flipgrid stickers to add another layer of artistic expression. This final step was tricky because it was tempting to add lots of the fun stickers. However, I encouraged the students to think about what stickers added to their photograph and brought their rock to life. I loved seeing what some of the students chose from the sticker assortment.

Going into these 2 days, I was really unsure of how it would all connect together, but once I saw the flow, I really like what happened. I especially enjoyed day 2 and the creativity that came from our students. I need to do a bit more thinking about day 1. I think it was a great mix of modalities, but I do wonder about what I could do to keep the students more focused in the centers, especially the reading center. It might be as simple as drawing out a card that says “pick a word from the index to read more about” or “flip to a random page and read a caption”.

All in all, I’m excited about the creations we made. I invite you to visit our Flipgrid and view and like the student poetry videos.

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.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Weather Reports

Back at the beginning of the year, I worked with first grade on weather reports using our green screen.  They learn lots of weather vocabulary, look at meteorologist reports, and create their own weather reports. When we were planning that idea, we talked about how it would be fun to look for books that feature some type of weather that kids could report on. Our minds were first on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but my mind continued to think of other books we could use as well. We ran out of time during quarter 1 to incorporate this idea, but the first grade team continued it into quarter 2.

The teachers decided to focus on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Students created images featuring the weather of Chew and Swallow. Then, they wrote out a weather report for what was falling from the sky. In class, they practiced reading over their work before they came to the library to film.

My preference would be to film in small groups, but our limited time before the holidays prevented that from happening. Each class scheduled a 30-minute block. A collaborating teacher came with the class so that we could split the class up. I pulled 5 students at a time to take to the other side of the library to the green screen while the collaborating teacher read aloud some stories with the remainder of the class. As I finished with one group, the classroom teacher helped transition kids from green screen to storytime and bring a new green screen group.

Our first step at green screen was to take a picture of each student’s artwork so that it could become the background image for the weather report. Next, students took turns coming to the green screen. We put their image as the background and faced the iPad toward them so they could see where various pieces of food appeared in their image.

They had practiced pointing to the parts of the weather as they reported, but some students forgot this piece while they were filming. We used the Do Ink green screen app on the iPad to film everything. Students left their piece of art with me so that I could use it to more easily add their names to the videos.

I plugged the iPad into the computer and uploaded each video to my Youtube page. I made a playlist for each class so that teachers could easily share the videos with families.

We have lots of room for improvement.  I would love to work more on the quality of the videos so students could be heard better. If we weren’t so rushed to film, then students could do a practice round and then film so that they could point to more parts of their images. I would also love to incorporate more books with weather instead of just focusing on one book. I’m so glad that the 1st grade team tried this out this year, and I can’t wait to see what we can add on next year.

 

Using Objects from Nature to Inspire Creativity

As we near the end of the year, I’m collaborating with Natalie Hicks, one our gifted teachers, to create a project with the entire 3rd grade. In science, 3rd grade studies habitats and human impact on them. Our school is also a “Green School” which offers many opportunities throughout the year for students to explore how we care for our planet.

Each 3rd grade class is coming to the library for 2 one-hour sessions. The purpose is to use found objects from nature to create letters. Those letters are photographed so they can be used to spell various words and also inspire writing. Ms. Hicks and I both gathered as many objects as we could from outside the school and our own yards. Our original plan was for students to bring in objects to use for the project, but that piece didn’t happen this time.

Session 1:

As students were seated, they saw a clip from a Rose Bowl Parade video.

The purpose was to get them thinking about real-world examples of people using objects from nature to create. Another purpose was to think about the time and planning that went into the floats. Our students had a connection to the Rose Bowl since UGA played there this year.

Next, I segued into a book called Our World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat. Each page features a scene made with foods of a similar color and poetry that brings the scene to life. Again, we talked about how each object was intentionally placed into the scene.

Finally, I gave students their challenge. They could choose up to 5 objects from our nature tables to create one of their initials. I asked them to think about the shape of their letter and which objects might be the best choices to form that shape. We looked at some pictures of fonts as well as some letters found in nature for inspiration.

I covered our library tables with colorful tablecloths to use as backgrounds and building spaces.  Students sat in groups of 5 and waited for their turn to collect objects. It was wonderful to have Ms. Hicks, the classroom teacher, and Ms. Em (EIP teacher) as support during this project. Ms. Hicks had conversations with students about their selections, while the classroom teacher and I supported students with questions about how to build their letters.

When letters were made, students used iPads to take a photograph and then bring the iPad to me to upload the picture in Google Drive.

Then, students returned their nature objects for the next class to use and went to Ms. Em to select nature poetry to read while others finished. My hope was that reading lots of nature poems would serve as a mentor text for the work we will do in session 2.

I was very impressed by how efficient students were. They selected objects, experimented with combining them in different ways, and moved through all the areas of the lesson with the help of adults. Adults were all able to circulate and have conversations with students about their selections, creations, and reading. I wonder how things would have been different if we had time for students to actually collect the objects themselves.

Before session 2, I’ll print the pictures so students can use them in their writing and recording.  We can’t wait to see how all of this comes together.

Share Your #Eclipse2017 Stories on This Flipgrid

The Great Eclipse 2017 is coming on Monday August 21, 2017.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s an event we are sharing all across North America.  I made a space that we can all use to share our observations, learning, projects, stories, or really anything eclipse-related.

Before, during, and after eclipse, this Flipgrid is a space we can connect student, teacher, and family voices to share this event. Even if you aren’t in school yet, this Flipgrid can be a place you can find out what your students did while they weren’t in school.

Simply share this link with anyone and everyone.  https://flipgrid.com/f8fc0d 

If you have the most updated version of Flipgrid on your mobile device or tablet, you can also just scan this QR code to instantly go to the topic.

Scan here with Flipgrid to share your eclipse story.

I also made a Google doc that you can print and give to classrooms to scan if they have devices available.

Click to access an easy Google doc

Once you are on the topic, simply touch the + and follow the prompts to record your voice and take a selfie.  Don’t forget to tell us where you are recording from.  I hope we can all learn from one another as we experience this unique event together.  See you on the grid.

 

 

 

Earth Day Environmental Centers

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Our school is a green school, so we do a lot as a whole school to learn about caring for our Earth throughout the year. Our third grade has some specific science standards that explore pollution and effects of humans on the environment. They are beginning a unit on this during science, and the opportunity aligned to allow us to explore the topic during the week of Earth Day. Each class came to the library for a 45-minute exploration of 5 centers. Students began on the carpet for a quick intro to the 5 centers. Students did not have to make it to all of the centers. Instead, I told them to prioritize which ones interested them the most and do their best to make it to those and save the others in case centers were full or they had extra time.

The classroom teacher, gifted teacher, and I all walked around and talked with individual students as they worked to see what they were discovering and assisting them if they had a question. Here’s a look at the 5 centers they explored:

 

Center 1: Books

I pulled multiple books from our collection about the environment, energy, recycling, water conservation, and more. Students were encouraged to find a book that caught their eye and spend a few minutes reading parts of that book or parts of several books.

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Center 2: Flipgrid

I created a list of authentic environmental problems that exist in our school. These included things like printing to copiers and never picking up the copies, throwing away recyclables, and trash in our parking lot after a UGA football game. Students were encouraged to pick an issue from my list or come up with their own observation. Using Flipgrid, they recorded a brief video identifying the problem and naming possible solutions.

 

Center 3: Observation and Poetry

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This center included multiple books by Joyce Sidman. She is a master of making observations in the natural world, researching those observations, and then turning them into poetry. Many of her books feature side-by-side poetry and the information that inspired the poem. Students were encouraged pick a book, find a poem, and see how the factual information that Sidman researched made its way into her poetry.

 

Center 4: Environmental Blackout Poetry

This center was modeled after the blackout poetry of Austin Kleon. It is  kind of found poetry where you find words in magazines, newspaper, websites, or books to arrange into a poem and you blackout the rest of the words on the page. I copied multiple selections from books about the environment and students chose one of those pages to create a blackout poem. It’s always interesting to see how students boil the words down to the ones that stand out the most in the article or page. This year, I made sure that we did our blackout poetry on top of a table cover so that they black crayon and marker didn’t make its way onto our tables.

 

Center 5: Environmental Online Resources

Using Symbaloo, I pulled together ebooks, websites, interactive sites, and videos about the environment. Students spent time on a few of the sites before moving on to other centers.

Now the students will use the topics and ideas that they discovered in this exploration as they continue to study these topics back in the classroom.

 

Kindergarten Green Screen Animal Interviews

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Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class has been hard at work on an animal research project that is unlike any other I’ve been a part of.  For the culmination of the project, students recorded an interview of an animal in its habitat using our green screen and the Do Ink app.  There were many layers to the process that students went through the create their final product. The class has been to the library throughout the project to initiate various pieces and then moved forward with the project work in class.

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It’s hard to even go back to where the project began, but eventually each student came to be in one of 4 groups researching an animal of interest: crows, sharks, spiders, and alligators. Students checked out both fiction and nonfiction books about their animals in the library during one piece of the project. During another piece, students spent time researching their animals and gathering facts.

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In another lesson, students came to the library to talk about crafting great interview questions. We looked at the Story Corps great question generator and practiced interviewing one another in a way that would elicit extended responses from the person being interviewed.

Students took this skill and went back to class to write questions that they would ask to their animals if they were doing an interview of the animal they researched.  Using their research, they thought about the answers to their questions.

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In another session, students came just to learn about how the green screen worked.  We watched a tutorial video from Do Ink as well as a video that had been made on our green screen.

Finally, students came back for one more work session in the library to prep for their interview project. This was a work session because students were in all kinds of stages of their completed project. The teacher, parapro, and I all worked with groups of students at the point they were at. My group was getting close to ready for use of the green screen, so we took some time to experiment a bit with what students hoped to do. Instead of a static picture of the animal’s habitat, students wanted a video of the habitat. We searched creative commons Youtube videos for nature scenes that matched where an animal would be found and used the iPad to record snippets of those videos. This helped us think about what we would need to accomplish before recording.

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Back in the classroom, students made final preparations for their animal interviews. They made props. They wrote our their script on cue cards and assigned parts to each person in the group.  The teacher made copies of these cards for students to practice with in class as well as sent them home for weekly homework practice.  Students also decided exactly what they hoped to have a video of for the background of the green screen. The teacher sent these to me in advance, so that I could pull some videos from Youtube for us to use.

Each group came individually to the library to record. We did a practice run of the script.  The teacher held the cue cards and I ran the iPad.  I flipped the screen so that students could see themselves as they talked. This helped them know to be in the right place, but it also tempted them to wave at the camera and make faces.

Once students finished recording, they had a chance to watch their video back. I uploaded the videos to Youtube so that we could share them with families and authentic audiences.  I encourage you to take a look at the work.

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Pulling off Kindergarten projects like this takes some creative thinking. Anytime that we can break the project into pieces, work in small groups rather than the whole group, and do recording within single groups makes the project run much more smoothly. I also love when a project flows in and out of the library and classroom.

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Ms. Kelly is an awesome teacher to collaborate with because she finds so many connections to the standards students are working on but also weaves in student interest and expertise.  She dives into a project and trusts that along the way she is going to realize just how many standards a project based in student interest and curiosity can actually included. She also thinks about how to reinforce the project so that students are fully prepared before jumping in to creating the final product. I thought it was genius (and time consuming) to create so many cue cards and give students copies to practice for homework.

I’ve been doing several technology computer projects lately, and I’m so thankful for the flexibility of our schedule so that we can get creative with how to break the projects down into pieces as well as smaller groups.  Bravo Kindergarten for another awesome project.