Letters for Justice: Empowering Young Voices on Topics that Matter

There’s a lot going on in the world right now and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many current issues being debated and decided on in our country and around the world.  As a teacher librarian, it’s challenging because I want to support all students and families knowing that I might not personally agree with their perspectives.  I make sure that I step back and listen to the students, support their research and perspectives, and check my own beliefs.

Recently, Ms. Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, came to me with an idea. She wanted to get students thinking about current US & World issues and considering what their own perspectives were based on the facts of the issues. She also wanted them to know that their voices mattered in the world and that they could get their thoughts out to local, state, and national representatives as well as the general public to have an influence on decisions being made.

Ms. Olin started this project in her classroom by sharing the book I Have  a Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres. This sparked discussion about basic human rights and current issues in the world. She also shared news sites with them so that they could start reading current articles about various trending topics, especially if they weren’t familiar with the current topics being debated. Through these sites, students began to choose a topic that they were interested in, curious about, or passionate for. Sites included Newsela, CNN Student News, PBS News Hour, and Time for Kids.

After two days of exploring, students selected their topic.

In the library, we focused on the importance of raising our voices when we have concerns. I read excerpts from Be A Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson.

“Don’t wait. Don’t wait to be powerful, to change the lives and communities around you significantly.”

I also read excerpts from It’s Your World by Chelsea Clinton.

“We can–and should–respectfully disagree with others who have reached different answers from ours” and “Even if we disagree with one another, it’s important to recognize what the facts are”.

Ms. Olin and I both encouraged students to look at issues from all sides and to gather as many facts as possible. With those facts, they could form their own opinions on the issues and brainstorm some possible actions they hope are taken.

We took some time to look at the Letters to the Next President project to see letters that were written by students from many location about a variety of topics. Students could sort the letters by their own topic and see what other students were saying.

As students looked at example opinions and continued to gather facts, they started filling out organizers to get their own thoughts together.  In class, they began writing letters, protest signs, and editorial cartoons to express the facts and their own views.

5th grader's editorial cartoon #editorialcartoon #cartoon #politicalcartoon #studentvoice

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

5th grader's editorial cartoon. #studentvoice #politicalcartoon #cartoon #editorialcartoon

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Finally, students came to the library to begin sharing their voice.  We spent some time talking about how we can make our voice visible. We could of course mail the letters and artwork to their intended recipients, but how else could we share our voice? I was able to talk to the students about my recent recognition as an AASL Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice and how social media and collaborative tools like Flipgrid allow us to spread our voices to an even larger audience.

We hope our voices are heard by our local, state, and national representatives, but even if they aren’t, we can share our voices with others and offer perspectives and actions that might encourage them to support our cause or make the world a better place.  As students finished their work, they recorded their voices in a Flipgrid so that others can consider their perspectives and possibly join their collective voice.

We hope you will take time to listen to each student. If one of the voices speaks to you, give them a response.  Better yet, if they inspire you, consider writing your own letter and adding your voice to our grid.  We invite your students to join our voices as well.

As we were closing our time in the library, some of the students spoke up and said, “I bet Mr. Trump won’t even read our letters.” This was a great opportunity for Ms Olin and I to repeatedly say to the students, “Your voice matters”. We talked about collective voice, and how sometimes a single voice isn’t heard by someone like the president. However, that single voice can inspire other voices who come together collectively around a common cause. This was a great closing because even as an adult I sometimes wonder why I should even take time to call or write my representatives. However, I was reminded that our individual voices do matter and collectively they make impact.

 

Weaving Together Social Studies and Makerspace

inventors-24Our 5th grade is currently studying the impact on American life that several famous inventors had. When I was brainstorming with Shelley Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, we began to wonder about connections these standards had to makerspace.  It started as an idea seed and grew into a set of experiences for all 5th graders to engage in.

I wanted students to put themselves into the shoes of an inventor so that they could begin to understand the perseverance and curiosity that inventors have. We focused on 3 of the inventors: Thomas Edison (electricity), Alexander Graham Bell (communication), and the Wright Brothers (flight).

I prepared 3 centers on electricity, communication, and flight.  Each center included a biography about the inventors, instructions for an activity, and a clipboard to leave wisdom for the next group to learn from.

Invention centers are being prepped for our 5th graders. #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #invention #bitmoji

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

For flight, I selected some paper airplanes that could be made from a full sheet of paper.  I also included books about other paper airplanes.

For communication, I created 2 choices.  One was to use littlebits to create a tool for communicating using Morse code. I included a buzzer and LED bit as well as button, pulse sensor, and slide dimmer bits.  The other experience was to create a tin can phone.  I provided coffee cans and cups and various kinds of string.

Invention centers are finally ready for 5th grade #librariesofinstagram #invention #makerspace #steam #socialstudies

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

For electricity, I copied instructions for making a simple paper circuit using a coin battery, led light, and copper tape.  I put materials in Ziploc bags so each group would have what they needed to create a circuit.  I added extra led lights for tinkering beyond an simple circuit.

It took a long time to prepare all of the materials for 3 back-to-back 5th grade classes.  I had to have everything ready for an immediate turn round between classes.

Before coming to the library to engage in some makerspace activities related to these themes, students read about each inventor in textbooks and on PebbleGo.  They gave Ms. Olin their top 2 interests out of the 3 themes so that she could put them in groups.

inventors-22

In the library, we started by looking at the littlebits invention cycle.  There’s not just one place to start in the cycle and it doesn’t necessarily follow a linear sequence.  We talked about how students could start with “create” by following the directions that I had given. Then they could play with their creation and begin to remix ideas to create an improved version or an alternative invention.  By the end, I hoped that they would have something to share with the rest of their class or group.  It really seemed like it could be linear in talking about it, but I quickly saw that it is very fluid.

After our quick intro, students sorted into their chosen task and got to work. Luckily, Ms. Olin and other collaborative teachers joined the class during this session. At times, we had me and 3 teachers supporting students around the library.  It was 3 very different activities, so having the extra support was beneficial.

Inventions in action #5thgrade #invention #librariesofinstagram #makerspace #steam

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

What I quickly saw was how much students wanted to just jump in and put things together without reading directions.  At paper airplanes, students started folding paper in all sorts of folds and testing them out.

inventors-25

At paper circuits, students were sticking down tape and connecting the led to the battery without reading  the instructions or even formulating a plan.

inventors-1

At tin can phones, students immediately started connecting cans.

inventors-3

But…as I stepped back and thought about it, isn’t that really what inventors do?  They don’t necessarily have a set of instructions to follow. They just try things out to see what happens.

After some initial tinkering, several students did in fact try to read the instructions and many said that they wished they had read them at the beginning. It was an important lesson that we talked about and learned from. It’s hard to read all the instructions before putting something together when all you want is to see the finished product.  I do that myself as an adult.

inventors-17

One thing that was really interesting was when students finished their first prototype and they started remixing. One example at the tin can phone center was when 2 groups decided to combine their two phones and see if they could make a four-way call.

inventors-26

At the paper airplane center, students started combining their planes together to see if a combination would create a better flying plane.  They were truly embracing the idea of remixing.

inventors-20

When we came back together at the end, I asked students to think about what it was like to be an inventor.  We had some great conversation about perseverance, staying calm through frustration, trying again, problem solving, and taking plenty of time to invent. We circled back to our inventors and considered how much time, frustration, and perseverance they each put into their inventions.  I think the experience gave the students a greater appreciation for the inventors they were learning about rather than just passively reading about them.

inventors-14

We even had a moment to talk about continuing inventions in our makerspace or at home and entering them into our school maker faire coming soon.  I loved how a simple idea from a social studies standard was able to weave together growth mindset, literature, social studies, and makerspace all into one experience.

 

The 2016 Barrow Peace Prize is Ready for Your Votes!

flipgrid peace prize recording (29)

Our Barrow 2nd graders have been hard at work researching 6 people from history to nominate for the Barrow Peace Prize. As part of this process, the students developed a list of criteria for what character traits should be represented by the winner of the peace prize. They wrote persuasive essays and created pieces of art work with Ms. Foretich, our art teacher.  You can read more about what the students have done in the post, Beginning the Barrow Peace Prize.

flipgrid peace prize recording (15) flipgrid peace prize recording (8) flipgrid peace prize recording (2)

This week, students have been coming in to the library in groups of 4 for 15 minutes to record their persuasive essays. When they come, I give them a quick overview of Flipgrid and remind them that there work will be seen by lots of people. Then, they split up around the library and we make sure that the space is relatively quiet for recording. I setup a question for each person from history so that all of the Ruby Bridges videos are together, all the Langston Hughes videos, etc. During the process, students take a picture of their artwork for the Flipgrid and then record themselves reading. Some chose to show their artwork while recording, and other chose to have their face on the video.

flipgrid peace prize recording (16) flipgrid peace prize recording (7) flipgrid peace prize recording (4)

One of the things I love the most about Flipgrid is that the videos are instantly uploaded in one central place. I don’t have to spend hours uploading and naming 100 videos after students have recorded.

Now that the videos are recorded, we need you and everyone you know to watch the videos and help us decide which person from history should be the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize winner.  I’ve created a Smore page to pull everything together.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Visit https://www.smore.com/dfmsd-2016-barrow-peace-prize 
  • Click on the link to each grid an watch as many videos as you can.
  • Click the heart icon on any video that you “like”.
  • At the bottom of the Smore, you will find a link to the Google form to vote on the person you think should win.  Or…you can click here.
  • Finally, please share our project with your students and networks so that we can have a record-breaking number of votes this year!

On February 18th, we have big plans for how we will announce the winner.  We can’t reveal exactly what is going to happen just yet, but we promise it’s big!  Happy voting!

 

First Grade Wizard of Oz Meteorologists

weather (2) - Copy

Our amazing 1st grade team and students have been working on their Wizard of Oz unit.  I love this unit because they weave in so many content standards with Wizard of Oz as their guiding text. A part of this unit is the weather standards from science.  Students have to know various kinds of weather as well as how to dress in that weather.  Since this is a part of what meteorologists do, we decided to try something new this year by looking closely at the role of meteorologists.  The goal was for students to write a weather report for the Wizard of Oz regarding the cyclone and to record the forecast in front of our green screen.

weather (4) - Copy

Students came to the library and we looked at a few videos of meteorologists reporting on severe weather. As we watched, students noticed things about the posture and speech of the meteorologist.  They also pointed out many of the weather words he/she used.

As weather words were noticed, we added them to a shared Google doc.

weather (3) - Copy

This doc was shared with all classroom teachers to continue to add to and use in class.  We also looked at another student-made video and noticed how the student introduced himself in his weather forecast and pretended to be outside in the story.

weather (5) - Copy

In the library, we also spent some time beginning the writing process of creating a weather report.  Students continued working on this in class during writer’s workshop.  The list of weather words continued to be used and added to. They also did a bit of rehearsing.

Finally, students returned to he library and one by one recorded themselves in front of the green screen with a tornado or other weather behind them.  As students were recording, the rest of the class practiced, looked at weather books, and searched for the current weather in our area using apps on the iPad.

They loved seeing the weather magically appear on our iPad using the DoInk app on the iPad.  We took all of the videos from the iPad and uploaded them to class playlists to share back with the class.

You can enjoy the variety of videos in each of these lists.

One of my favorite parts of this short project was how it tied to a real career and gave students experience with a real-world job related to the standards they were studying in science.  They were each able to be a bit creative in their forecasting, and each student had a chance to use a cool technology to make their voice heard at such an early age.

Recording wizard of oz weather reports #science #tlchat #weather

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

2nd Grade’s Black History Flipgrid Project is Ready for Your Votes!

filming (7)

Our Barrow 2nd graders have been hard at work creating this year’s Black History research project.  We built upon our momentum from last year, but added many new layers.

filming (19)

During the project students

Over the past 2 weeks, students have been coming to the library in groups of 4 during blocks of 10-minute segments.  During each session, I put a sign on the library door to encourage people to enter quietly.

The teachers scheduled their students on a shared Google doc, so I knew who was coming at each 10-minute interval.  This was really helpful for me to know if students really had some extra time or if they needed to finish and hurry back to class.  recording sessions

I put out a helpful list of instructions by 4 iPad stations in the library with all of the codes that students would need to get to their questions.

filming (14)

Students were focused and productive as they got their work ready for the world.

Now, the students are finished with their recording and they need your help.

jesse owens

They would like for you to visit their Google site and view videos about each of the 6 people.  Then, help us decide who should win the first Barrow Peace Prize.  Students decided that the person who wins should be someone who represents the following character traits:

  • Dependability
  • Kindness
  • Peaceful
  • Determined
  • Modest
  • Fairness
  • Bravery
  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Perseverance
  • Respectful
  • Helpful

In a couple of weeks, voting will close and we will announce the winner of this year’s Barrow Peace Prize.  Thank you for taking time to view the students’ work.  If you have any comments about specific videos feel free to leave a comment or a Tweet for me to share with the students.  Also, you are welcome to share this project with other educators you know and encourage them to view and vote, too!

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Click here to visit our Google Site and Vote!