Student Voice: To Walk in the Dark

Today, I have a guest post from a student who wants to share her writing with the world.  This piece was created for the Young Georgia Author Competition.  While it didn’t win at the district level, it deserves an audience.  Jane is a 4th grader at our school and would love for you to read her writing and leave her some comments about her work.

I hope to have more guest posts from students in the coming year.

To Walk in the Dark

Scary things can happen in this world, maybe when you’re alive, maybe when you’re dead, or maybe when you’re between life or death. Cora Walkers was not an optimist nor a pessimist, she was a believer. A believer when there was doubt, or a believer when the worst was coming. In this town the amazing things could become bland with the blink of an eye. You need to master seeing the good things in the world, or else all that’s left is the bad.

We go to a bright sunny summer day in San Francisco, California where the richness of the sun makes you feel quite refreshed. Cora was walking into Alamo square where the Painted Ladies Victorian houses sat. She walked up to the front porch of the last one on the left which had a big potted plant in the front. Cora walked up the white steps and turned to face the door. She opened her black messenger bag and pulled out a key, in which had a key chain with a deep C emblazoned in the brown leather. Cora placed the key in the lock and turned it gently, She slowly opened the door to hear the familiar creak of the hinges that needed to be oiled.

When the door was fully open she pulled the key out of the rusty lock and waltzed into the main entrance of her house. The crystal chandelier welcomed Cora home as she strolled up the stairs. When she reached the second door to the right she opened the door and looked in at her bedroom. Her four poster bed was reflecting the light that was shining in from her bay window. Just as Cora was setting her bag down on her bed, she heard an ear splitting cry that made her jump.

She opened her bedroom door and walked into the hall swiftly trying to find the root of where the noise was coming from. Cora slowly turned to the left and opened the door opposite to her. She swung open the door to see her baby sister Samantha in her crib wailing. Samantha was only 1 month old, and since Cora was the second to oldest it took her sometime to remember there was someone else in the house. Cora heard a creak coming from the door as someone walked into the nursery. “Is the baby crying again?” Ella asked in a plain voice. She rested her back against the doorway of the nursery.

Ella was Cora’s younger sister and she didn’t like the thought of someone replacing her as the youngest in the family. “Ella, you’re 10. You should have gotten over the fact that there is someone else in the family now,” Cora said trying to sound reasonable. Cora could relate to how Ella felt even though Ella refused to think that. When Cora was 3 she also had to get over the fact that she wasn’t the baby in the family anymore. When Ella was just born and Cora’s older sister Rachel was acknowledging the fact that they now had a baby sister. Cora turned her back to the thought that she would be forgotten as the middle child . As Cora was placing down Samantha in her crib after she soothed she heard Ella groan and stomp out of the room. Cora rolled her eyes and walked out of the nursery. As Cora was on her way down to living room she suddenly heard her phone ringing. Cora came to halt and and pulled the phone from out of her pocket. Cora’s pink case shimmered as the sun hit the phone. She put the phone to her ear and before she could say “hi” a loud voice screamed 4 words into her ears making her ear drums ring. “SALE-AT-THE-MALL!” Cora jumped as she heard this.

It was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and Mindy was already screaming in her ears. “Okay, I’ll be right there,” Cora said. “No worries my mom is picking up all of our friends, so she can give you a ride too,” Mindy said plainly as if she didn’t just scream through Cora’s phone. “Okay that sounds–”Cora couldn’t even finish her sentence as Mindy interrupted her. “Awesome! Bye see soon,” Mindy said quickly. Cora didn’t even have time to say good-bye because Mindy hung up.

Cora turned and sprinted upstairs to get her bag when someone stopped her. “You can’t go to the mall,” Ella said in a sharp voice. “What do you mean? I can go to the mall if I want to go to mall,” Cora said looking Ella up and down. “First off, mom and dad aren’t home, and second all off, my friends are going to the mall but when I called mom she said I couldn’t go,” Ella said in a reasonable voice.

“Well that’s because you’re only 10, and I’m 13,” Cora responded. “And plus, I’m just going to ask Rachel.” Cora could tell that Ella was getting frustrated. Ella groaned and flipped her long blonde braid as she trudged down stairs. Cora looked back at Ella then remembered that Mindy was picking her up in a matter of time. She ran up to the main hall where all four of their bedrooms were. She ran up to the third door on the left and knocked. Cora waited for over a minute then she heard footsteps coming, and then the doorknob turned.

Cora was suddenly blinded by pinkness as Rachel opened the door to her bedroom. “What do you want?” Rachel asked in a bored voice. “I’m going to the mall so when mom and dad come home can you tell them?” Cora replied. “Fine but who’s picking you up?” Rachel asked, her eyes on Cora. “Mindy is. And she supposed to pick me up any second now so if you’ll excuse me,” Cora slowly turned then strolled away.

She turned to the left and started walking down the hall then she turned the doorknob to her bedroom. Cora pulled open the door and when it was fully open, she headed straight for her closet. Cora opened her closet door and pulled out a beige colored purse, slung it over her shoulder and strutted out of the room. As Cora made it down stairs her phone started to ring. Cora opened her purse and pulled out her phone once again. “Cora, me Lola, Emma, and Abby are waiting outside. Where are you?” Mindy said sounding annoyed. “Sorry Mindy, I’m on my out of the house right now. See you soon.”

Cora hung up the phone and ran to the door. She ran to the main entrance and pulled on her white high tops. She opened the door to feel the familiar air blow against her skin. She witnessed a metallic MDX waiting for her. As Cora ran to the car, the window rolled down. “Come on, get in Cora!” Emma screamed as she opened the door. Cora squeezed in and they made their way down the street.

Now we go to Ella. Right after Cora left, Ella ran outside. She made sure to wait until Cora was gone or else she would suspect something. Ella’s friend Hannah was picking her up to go to the mall, but Ella knew that wouldn’t be possible if Cora was in the house. Ella was a smart and reasonable girl, but she was tired of living in her sister’s shadow and now that she had a younger sister everything revolved around Rachel, Cora, and the baby. Hannah said that she would meet her at Alamo Square park which was simple for Ella. All she had to do was cross 2 crosswalks and then she would be at the park. As Ella pressed the button to the crosswalk she pulled out her phone. She dialed Hannah’s number and waited for her pick up. “Hey Ella, me and my mom are almost there,” Hannah said. “Awesome, I’m crossing the street right now,” Ella replied  as with a grin spread across her face. Ella was entering the second crosswalk. The sign had the white walking man on it so Ella took the chance to go. Without warning the light flashed, and changed to a red hand. Something seemed to be wrong with the lights up top that told the cars to go because that flickered and turned green. Ella had no time to notice this as a speeding black Chevrolet was coming her way. Ella on the other hand was just saying good-bye to Hannah. The person in the car must have not noticed Ella either as the car got closer. There was no time for Ella to hang up the phone because in the second that seemed like a moment, and the moment that seemed like a minute, Ella noticed. And before she knew it… everything went black.

The car pulled up in the driveway and Cora emerged. She didn’t buy anything, but being with her friends cheered her up. There was no time to say thank you as the MDX pulled out of the driveway and drove out of sight. Cora smiled and was heading for her house when she looked over and saw firetrucks, police cars, and at least 3 ambulances. Cora was getting curious so she started for the overwhelmed crowd that was surrounding the street. Cora elbowed her way through the crowd, then she got a glimpse of a girl being loaded into an ambulance. She was wearing the same white jean shorts and pink tank top as Ella was wearing that day. The girl had an air mask on her face and a messily wrapped bandage around both of her legs that Cora could tell, blood was already seeping through. Cora was getting closer until she felt something pull her back. She looked up and saw Rachel, with her mascara smeared under her eyes. To Cora it looked as though she was crying. “Rachel, what happened?” Cora asked cautiously as an expression of fear crossed her face. “It’s Ella, she’s been hit by a car,” Rachel said sounding as though she was about to cry again. Cora looked at her with disbelief. The color drained from her face. Cora wanted to know how this happened. Ella was a smart girl and now she might be gone and no last words would ever be said except denial and hatred expressions. The only memory Cora had of the last words she had said to Ella was when she rudely said that she was going to the mall . Cora felt as though the darkness that she never thought would come emerged from her soul erupted. For the first time in years you could say, that Cora was walking in the dark.       

 

The Magic of Poetry

I love reading poetry and creating poetry with kids. I’m always amazed at the freedom that many kids feel when they express themselves through poetry and give themselves permission to abandon some of the “rules” we must follow when we write in other forms.  While there are many “rules” in poetry too, I’ve noticed that many kids aren’t intimidated by writing a poem when they realize that poetry is painting a picture with words and not necessarily writing in a complete sentence.

I’m happy to work with students on poetry all year round, but we of course do our fair share of lessons in April for poetry month. Recently, Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten class came to the library for an introduction to poetry leading up to our annual Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe.

Recycled vases ready for poetry flowers #barrowpoems

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

Rather than read a bunch of poetry, I chose to read one poem that is a full length book called Black Magic by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.  The text is filled with vivid similes about the color black such as “black is loud like my best tap shoes making happy noise with every move.”

Prior to reading the book, I wrote “Green Magic” on the board and asked students to think of a list of things that they thought of when they thought of the color green.  Their list looked like this:

  • green flags
  • green leaves
  • green books
  • green beans
  • green stickers
  • green turtles

Then, we read the book.  We paused along the way and paid attention to the language.  I wasn’t specifically focusing on similes with them but instead just noticing the unusual descriptions or the vivid descriptions.

Following the book, we revisited our list.  I asked them, “How can we take each of these things in our list and make it more vivid or unusual?”  Students took turns offering suggestions.  Sometimes we went with the first thing a student said, and other times we listened to several suggestions before deciding what to add.  I let the students come up with the words, and I wrote them for us on the board.

To close our time, we read the poem twice. First, I read it aloud, and then we did a choral reading.

Green Magic

By Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten Class

Green flags waving in the sky

Green leaves falling from the trees

Green books sitting in the library

Green beans dancing in my mouth

Green stickers sleeping on my hand

Green turtles minding their own business

Now, many of these students want to go back into the classroom and try writing their own color poetry modeled after this one. This time of writing really seems like magic to me.  Students come in with a blank screen in front of them and we unite our minds and voices to create something together as a community that just seems to spark when it is spoken into the air. We did this without any fancy technology or bells and whistles.  It was just us, our imaginations, an inspiring text, and a dry erase board and marker.

What poetry magic have you created this month?

Mo Willems Seriously Silly Exhibit at the High Museum of Art: Let the Planning Begin

Now through January 10, 2016 you can see an incredible exhibit of artwork by Mo Willems at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA.  As soon as I saw that the exhibit was coming last spring, I shared it with our art teacher, Rita Foretich.  We immediately began talking about a collaborative project and field trip.  She applied for a grant and both of us began thinking about which grade we might target and which standards we could weave in.

On July 11, the High offered an educators day which allowed educators and one guest to get into the museum for free.  This was a perfect time for me to see the exhibit without 100 elementary students and also to start thinking more about our project.  Thank goodness my wife went along so that I could take a moment to see the exhibit without chasing a 3 and 5 year old around.

As soon as we arrived in the parking deck at the High, we began seeing the Pigeon.  He was even in the elevator to the ground level.

And on the revolving doors at the entrance.

Before you even get to the main exhibit, there are some teasers along the way and some great photo opportunities.

You really have to keep your eyes open because there are characters and illustrations hiding everywhere.  Even this aspect could be woven into a field trip.  The museum provides its own scavenger hunt, but I think it would be fun for kids to write down all of the characters that they find along the way or count the number of pigeons they find and write down the locations that they found them in.  Of course, to recognize all of the characters, the kids would need to read all of Mo’s stand alone books and at least one of each of the series books.

The actual exhibit is grouped by series as well as stand alone books.

I loved the wall of ice ream where the Elephant and Piggie illustrations are found.  There’s even a pigeon hiding on this wall just like the end papers of the books.

One of the things that I immediately noticed was the pairs of illustrations that showed a sketch by Mo Willems followed by the final drawing before color was added.  This would be a great process to replicate with students in our project by having them create first, second, ….drafts of their art before drawing the final art.

I also noticed the illustrations from Knuffle Bunny.  The drawings were done without the digital photographs.  I could see this being incorporated into a project on mixed media and layering drawing and digital photographs together.  Having this image to show students can give them an idea of how to imagine the digital photograph in their illustration before adding it.

Of course, the thing that I love most about Mo Willems is how simple his artwork is without being oversimplified.  In Elephant and Piggie, for example, there is very little on the page other than speech bubbles and the characters.  However, each line drawn around the characters, each raised eyebrow, upward looking eye, outstretched arm, etc gives life to the character and reveals the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the characters.  To me, there is great potential in a project around this aspect of Mo Willems.  I could see us studying his artwork very carefully for all of the subtle details that allow us to know a character’s emotions and actions and implement those same ideas into our own characters, stories, or new versions of Mo’s stories.  The exhibit is filled with numerous illustrations to show these details up close.

The exhibit continues in the Greene Family Learning Gallery where you can learn the steps to draw the Pigeon as well as practice drawing him with different emotions.  I snapped a picture of the directions because I plan to incorporate this into either a center in the library or a lesson in our project.

In the learning gallery as well as the exhibit, you can pick up a scavenger hunt to do while you are in the exhibit, but this scavenger hunt could also be used as a way to look closely at the whole body of Mo’s work.

I loved that the gallery included a bus driven by the Pigeon so that you could take a fun picture like this one.

As soon as we get back to school, I’m going to debrief my experience with the art teacher.  We’ll start looking at our own standards as well as the standards of other grade levels and narrow down to which grades, what project, and which standards we will weave together.

Collaborating brings together the expertise of everyone involved.  I love that I can bring my knowledge and observations as a reader and pair it with the art teacher’s expertise in art terminology and technique.  When we put that together with the interests of the kids and the expertise of the grade level teachers, we have a crowdsourced project that is fun, enriching, authentic, supported, and driven.  I can’t wait to see where this project goes this year.

Think about who you could collaborate within your school.  If you’ve never done a project with the art teacher, I recommend it.  I love that a project can flow from the library to the art room to the classroom and back.  Even if you don’t have a big museum exhibit like this near your school, there are endless possibilities when educators work together with students.

Collaborating Within Walls Using Google Hangouts: A List Poetry Lesson

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Last year, I tried something new with the 2nd grade.  My library schedule was packed and it was hard to get all 4 classes on the calendar, so I used Google Hangouts to teach all 4 classes at one time.  It was an experiment, but it proved to be a lot of fun and also showed the students and teachers how to use a Google Hangout and collaborate on a Google doc.

This year, we planned it again and added on a few layers.  One of our favorite kinds of poems to write is list poetry.  You take a list and add descriptive words to each item on the list so that the reader can experience the items on the list.  Our goal in our Google Hangout this time was to learn about list poetry, hear a mentor poem, practice list poetry together, and then create one collaborative list poem.

In advance, I setup a Google Hangout on Air.

 

I sent the link to the hangout to all of the teachers participating in the hangout.  I also created a blank Google Doc for our collaborative poem and shared editing rights with all 4 teachers.

 

I gave the blank doc a title and wrote each teacher’s name inside the doc to create a space for each class to add to the collaborative poem without writing on top of one another.

On the morning of the hangout, I emailed teachers a reminder that included the link to the doc as well as the direct link for  joining as a participant in the hangout.

At hangout time, I went in my office and awaited the classes.  As they entered, I did a sound check to make sure microphones were working.  Then I used the control panel in Hangouts to mute all of their microphones to eliminate feedback.

I opened our lesson by reading from Falling Down the Page, list poems collected by Georgia Heard.  We focused on “In my Desk” by Jane Yolen.  I pointed out how she gave describing words for each item found in her desk so that we would be able to picture it or experience it.  I built on the reactions of students to the line about a “great big hunk of rotting cheese” found in a lunch box.  These kinds of words cause us to react which is exactly what we want in a poem.

Next, I opened up a blank doc and started writing a grocery list:  bread, milk, eggs, cereal.  Then I assigned each word to one of the 4 classes and had them brainstorm describing words to add to each item on my list.  Each class had a chance to speak in the hangout as I added our words to the poem.

Finally, I invited all of the classes to work on a collaborative poem about things under our beds.  Each teacher facilitated the work in their own classrooms.  I checked in from time to time to give an update on when we would stop working.  Then, each class read their stanza of the poem to close out our time.

While we were writing, I invited people on Twitter to watch the doc in construction.  We had lots of viewers engaged in our work in progress, and students loved being published authors with one tweet.

Viewers

You can watch the whole thing here:

This lesson certainly saved me time in the library to give to other classes who needed a lesson, but it was much more than that.  Rather than having each class in the grade level feel isolated, this lesson allowed them to unite together to create a piece of writing that immediately reached an audience outside of our school.  It allowed us to collaborate within the walls of our school without the disruption of shuffling kids from class to class.  It gave each class a space to think and work with one another and also a space for all classes to work together.  I don’t think that every lesson would work in this type of setup, but it does make me curious to think about when this type of learning is the better choice than scheduling each class individually.

Under My Bed

By Barrow 2nd graders

Under my bed you will find…

 

(Yawn’s Stanza)

Slimey Socks

Lost High Fives

Stuffed animals, toys, and books

Scraps of paper

Remote control plane

Hairy, mad Tarantula

Dusty Boogers

Junky Legos

Clothes and shoes and jackets

Hairy Monkey Eyes with a big chin

Tv, coke can, and baseball cards

Football cards and a zipline

Dirty underwear, rotten bread, and an old sandwich

 

(Ramseyer’s Stanza)

Two fat picture books

A fake diamond sword

My playful black kitten

Giant Lego parts

Huge dead bugs in the corner

A stinky, rainbow sock

A blue crate filled with Adidas shoes

A chewed up puppy stuffed animal

 

(Brink’s Stanza)

Hiding under my bed with my big, hairy monster

you will find

smelly dead cockroaches and dust bunnies

old paper candy wrappers

a big purple three horned monster

basketball shoes

an empty shoebox and an old toy

a skeleton reaching for water

a stinking mummy, rotten eggs, and a stinky sock

cuddly stuffed animals

a golden chair, medals, trophies

smooth rocks I found in the street

lost, overdue library books

a racing track

paper plates

 

(Wright’s Stanza)

Under my bed, I look and see

Flattened books

moldy food

cute and sleepy puppies

old broken legos I used to play with

misplaced and forgotten toys

and ripped, dirty money

 

So many things under my bed.

 

Following this lesson, I did a very similar lesson with one Kindergarten class in person.  We didn’t do the hangout, but we did share our work with the Internet so that students’ voices were already reaching an audience even in their beginning steps of writing.  It was so much fun to get a comment from one of the viewers of the doc.

 

 

Coding and Beyond with PreK Using Sphero, Osmo, iPads, Computers, and Books

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I love it when a small seed of an idea turns into something much more.  A few weeks ago, I approached PreK about using our Sphero to practice writing letters.  I knew that PreK was working on forming the letters of the alphabet and I thought that the Sphero Draw and Drive app would be a perfect way to merge letter practice with some programming.  I originally thought that small groups might come to the library and use the Sphero with me, but further brainstorming with Ms. Heather resulted in us deciding to do 5 centers that students would rotate through in order to experience many technology, math, and literacy experiences.

Ms. Heather’s class has been bubbling with excitement about coming to the library to try out all of these centers.  Ms. Heather split the class up into 5 groups which was 4-5 students per group.  Ms. Heather, Ms. Melissa (parapro), Ms. Callahan (parent), and I all led a center and one center was independent.  Each center lasted about 10 minutes and took up about an hour with transitions. Here’s what they did.

Center 1:  Hour of Code programming with Sphero

Since this week is our hour of code, I was so glad that PreK got to experience an aspect of coding.  While coding didn’t fill up our hour, it certainly sparked their interest in how to make a computer or robot do what you want it to.  Students sat in a row and each took a turn to think of a letter to practice drawing.  Using the Draw and Drive app on iPad, students drew a letter and pressed play.  The Sphero drove around the carpet in the shape of that letter.  With a shake of the iPad, the letter was erased and the next student had a turn.

We repeated this process over and over until we were out of time.  Each time the robot rolled around the floor there was a burst of excitement.  As the facilitator, I asked students about the letters that they were drawing to make sure that they understood what they were trying to draw.

Center 2:  Osmo Tangrams and Words

Our Osmo devices are one of our favorite tools in the library.  The Osmo is came out this summer.  It includes a base to put the iPad in and a red attachment to place over the camera.  Osmo comes with 2 sets of tools to use with the apps: a set of letter tiles and a set of tangrams.  The three apps are free to download but you must have the base and attachment for them to work.  For this center, students used the Junior version of the Words app.  This app gives students a picture with a matching word.  The beginning sound of the word is missing and students have to lay the correct letter tile in front of the iPad.  If it is correct, the red attachment “sees” the letter tile and magically adds it to the word on the screen.  If it is incorrect, students have to try again.

Students also used the Introduction to Tangrams in the tangrams app.  This app shows students 2-3 tangram pieces pushed together.  For this beginning phase, the colors of the tangrams on the screen match the colors of the actual tangrams.  As students correctly place the tangrams on the table in front of the iPad, the red attachment “sees” them and fills in with black on the screen.  When they are all correct, a new combination is shown.

This center was one that needed adjustment as we went along depending on student needs and strengths. Some needed to focus more on the shapes while others were ready to think about letter sounds in words.  All students had a blast watching the magic of the Osmo happen on the screen and table.

Center 3: Starfall on Computers

Ms. Heather facilitated the computer center.  I put out a computer, mouse, and headphones for each student in the group.  One part of this center was simply using fine motor skills to practice using a mouse.  The other part was to use Starfall to continue practicing letters and sounds.

Center 4: Reading

A parent volunteer read aloud stories that I pulled.  The selections were Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, Job Site, and Stars.  She had students engaged in discussion about the story and the pictures all along the way.

Center 5: iPads

PreK has 5 iPads in each classroom.  Students have a variety of word apps that they can use at their own center time in class, so they are used to using these apps independently.  This made the perfect independent center since we didn’t have 5 adults.  Students sat on the bean bags by the windows and used the iPads by themselves for the 10 minutes of this center.

I think many times people think that our younger students can’t use technology or they are unsure of what to do with younger students.  I love giving things a go and seeing what happens.  We were amazed by students’ engagement and excitement today.  Some asked, “Can we do this every day?”  That was a sure sign of success.  When working with younger students, you have to think about what your barriers might be.  For us, we wanted smaller groups in order to have more adult support if needed.  We also wanted smaller groups so that students wouldn’t be waiting around since we only have 1 Sphero and 3 Osmos.  Using the teacher, parapro, parent volunteer, and me helped to make this possible.  You might have a different barrier, but I hope that you will consider what you might leap into with your youngest learners in your building.

Kindergarten Narrative Writing Using Chromville Augmented Reality (and a little Skype too)

IMG_2789 IMG_2804Kindergarten is revisiting narrative writing at the close of the year.  This year, they have also worked very hard on the standard

ELACCKW6 Production and distribution of writing: With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

With this standard as our guide, we have explored tools such as Storybird, Padlet, and Flipgrid to publish our writing.  We’ve also used digital tools such as Pebble Go and the Capstone Interactive Library to gather information for our writing.

The Kindergarten teachers wanted to try one more digital tool, so I met with them to brainstorm.  We tossed around a lot of ideas, but we ended up deciding to try a brand new tool called Chromville.  Chromville is an augmented reality app that was just released this year.  It offers 6 different coloring pages.  Five of the coloring pages have a setting and a character and the sixth coloring page is a “create your own” character with no setting.  First you color your page.  Then, you use the Chromville app to select the matching setting and scan the page.  Once the screen turns green and you wait 3 seconds, the character and setting come to life on the iPad and the character begins to move around and interact with the setting.

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From my own experience with Kindergarten students, I’ve seen how visual they are, and I thought that seeing their character and setting in an interactive way might give them enough ideas to begin imagining their own stories.  The teachers and I mapped out what we would do in the library and in class.  It looked something like this:

  • In class, choose a setting and color it.
  • In the library, use the iPads and the Chromville app to see the setting come to life and brainstorm what to write about.
  • In class, begin the writing process by describing the character and setting as well as thinking about 3 events and a reaction that might happen in the story.
  • In the library, use the iPads to look at the Chromville character and setting again for more brainstorming and continue the writing process, including revision and publishing.
  • In class and in the library, share the final stories.
  • In the library, do a gallery walk of the all the stories by scanning the Chromville setting and reading the accompanying story

Four of the Kindergarten classes went through this process and it was very exciting to watch.  I saw some of the longest stories by Kindergarten students that I have ever seen.  Chromville was an exciting and motivating tool for them to use and they were full of energy when using it.

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We did learn a lot about what to do differently next time.  For example, we will probably opt to use crayons or color pencils next time rather than markers.  We will also avoid black as a color since the lines of the coloring page are black.  These black lines are the instructions for the iPad to read in order to generated the augmented reality scene.  Students also need to be careful not to cross over too many of the lines or color so dark that the black lines can no longer be seen.

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Along the way, we shared our success (and our failures) with Chromville, and they were eager to learn with us.  We sent them images of pictures that didn’t scan for us and they started taking a look at them to better improve the app.

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Today, Mrs. Boyle’s class Skyped with them all the way in Spain.  It was so much fun to Skype with someone in another country, but it was even cooler to see the improvements that they are working hard to create for the next update of Chromville.  We even got to see some upcoming Chromville projects as well as other augmented reality projects that the team is working on.  We loved seeing how even a t-shirt could be a part of an augmented reality project.  During the Skype, we also heard them talk about the improvements that they are making to the app.  This was such a great connection to the writing revision that students had just gone through.  It also validated all of the feedback that students have given about the app over the past few weeks.  They heard from the developers that their feedback was making a difference.

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We selected one student from each of the Chromville settings to share their stories with the Chromville team.  Each student showed his/her coloring page first and then read the story.

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Chromville currently has a narrative writing contest going on using the Greenland setting but Kindergarten is not eligible to enter.  This was a way to still honor their work and let the good people at Chromville hear how fantastic a Kindergarten story can be too.

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This is definitely a project we will try again.  I’m thankful for Kindergarten teachers who took a risk with me to try something totally new.  As usual, things didn’t work perfectly along the way, but that’s usually where some of the best learning happens.  Even though there were some tears, it was a great lesson that things aren’t always perfect and we have to push through failure and learn from it in order to be innovative.

 

 

Using Freedom Summer to Create Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry (14)In third grade, students learn about civil rights through the standard:

SS3H2 The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s
rights and freedoms in a democracy.

Students specifically learn about Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglas, and Thurgood Marshall.  When these students get to 5th grade, they will spend a larger amount of time studying the civil rights movement, but I thought this would be a good time to explore some text that connected with their current understanding of civil rights.

Students spent a small amount of time sharing what they currently understand about segregation and civil rights.  They brought up things like drinking from separate fountains, riding in the back of the bus, and holding boycotts of the transportation system.

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Then, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.  Students immediately noticed the connections to their own understanding of segregation as the 2 main characters could not do the same things together.  They were shocked when they got to the part in the story where the two boys couldn’t go to the pool because it was closed and filled in with asphalt.  The students used words like unfair, lunatics, and furious when describing their feelings and the idea of closing things rather than follow the law.

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After discussing the book, I showed them how some artists and poets use text that they find in the world and turn it into something new.  Austin Kleon, in Austin Texas, is one of these writers and artists.  We looked at a few of his poems called “blackout poems”.  He takes pages from newspapers or other texts and blacks out all of the words on the page except for the words in the poem.

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I gave the students one of three pages from Freedom Summer.  They spent time looking for words that stood out to them as a possible poem.  When they decided on the words of their poem, they circled them or drew boxes around them with a black marker.  Next, they used that same marker to blackout the rest of the words on the page.

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It was interesting to see how students interpreted the exact same page in a different way.

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We had students share their poems at the end, and it gave us a new understanding of what stood out on the page and in the story for students.  It was as if the poem helped us to look more closely at the meaning that we might all take from the text.  As usual, this was more difficult for some students than others, but we noticed that this kind of poetry did take away the barrier of spelling or deciding what to write.  We could instead focus on the meaning of the words on the page and use those words to interpret the story as a poem.

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Here are a few of the poems that students created.

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