The Meaning of Home: A 5th Grade Art Project

For the past month of our 5th graders have been exploring the meaning of home through art. They began their journey by reading Home by Carson Ellis and watching a video of Carson in her home.

They brainstormed what symbolized home for each of them. It is more than the physical building. It’s what you miss when you leave. It’s what comforts you.  It’s what makes you feel at home.

Using a variety of materials such as tissue paper, cardboard, construction paper, paint, and more, they began to construct a scene.  A portion of every student’s scene was made using a 3Doodler pen. These pens warm filament into a steady flow of material to 3D design in a freeform style. It took some tinkering to get used to these pens, but once students figured out the best strategies, they were designing swings, trampolines, bedrooms, trees, and more objects that symbolized home.  This work began in the library and continued in art until students finished.

As students finished their work, we began to construct an exhibit on the shelves of the library. Students filled out an artist statement to accompany each piece so that people touring the exhibit could learn more about each representation of home.  They also took time to record a Flipgrid to show and talk about their art.  This allowed people who aren’t at our school to also take a tour and meet the artists.

Click to hear the voices of our artists

We also wanted to inspire our youngest artists with our project, so once the project was on full display, we invited Kindergarten classes to come to art class with each 5th grade class.  The 5th graders were in charge of the lesson and tour (with the facilitation of Ms. Foretich, art teacher).

5th grade is reading Home to Kindergarten and sharing their art projects #art #home #librariesofinstagram

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The Kindergarten classes started on the carpet. A 5th grader read Home by Carson Ellis and students viewed a few of the Flipgrid videos. Ms. Foretich invited students to think about some questions they might ask the artists as they toured the exhibit. During this time, the rest of the 5th grade class was making sure their art pieces were ready and waited on the Kindergarten to begin touring.

Kindergarten is hearing all about our 5th grade Home exhibit. #librariesofinstagram #home #art #studentvoice

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Classes began wandering through the exhibit and listening to 5th graders talk about the process and materials of their art. One of the special things was when a student would make a connection to a piece of art and share a special moment about “home” from their own life.

The Kindergarten students left the library buzzing with excitement and talking about a project that they hoped they got to do in 5th grade. I’m sure Ms. Foretich is already brainstorming what these students might do next year so they don’t have to wait until 5th grade to do a project like this one.

This project was filled with student voice and ownership, and we learned something about each student that we might not know. It was also filled with perseverance and creativity. We were so impressed with what the students created. When we take time to get to know our students, it leads to connection, understanding, and new conversations. I would love to think about more opportunities to make these connections, especially earlier in students’ elementary years so that we can grow together through the year.

What represents home for you?

Students as Teachers: Exploring Text Structure with Flipgrid

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At the beginning of the year, I started talking with Melissa Freeman, 5th grade teacher, about exploring text structure in the library.  The very 1st unit in 5th grade language arts starts with text structure which explores the following standard.

ELAGSE5RI5  Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events,ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.

Melissa was wondering how to make the topic more engaging and wondered about the possibility of a library scavenger hunt.  We really weren’t sure where to go with the idea so we kept bouncing around possibilities over email and in person. She even came to the library and worked with me to pull books out of the nonfiction section and start sorting them into stacks.

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I continued this process so that we knew we had examples of compare/contrast, description, sequence/order, cause/effect, and problem/solution.  Then, I mixed them all up.  We knew that even though we personally picked a book for a specific structure that students might find other examples of text structure within the book.  We were also excited that students would have some one-on-one time looking through some nonfiction books that they might not know that the library has.

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In one of our brainstorms, I thought about the possibility of students recording their findings in a digital way that could be shared with one another and also other grade levels. I originally thought it would be a good way for them to agree or disagree with examples that were discovered, but we expanded the idea to be a way that students could teach other students in our school and other schools about ways text can be organized.

We decided to use Flipgrid for this task.  I created 5 separate questions: one for each type of text structure.  Then, I linked them all on a Symbaloo that Ms. Freeman could share with her students via Google Classroom.

In class, Ms. Freeman introduced each kind of text structure and students started exploring books on Tumblebooks for each structure.

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Each class came to the library for a 50-minute session.  We did a quick mini-lesson to review the structures, show how to use Flipgrid, and share what we hoped students would include in their video. This included things like the book title, author, text structure, and a concrete example from the text to justify the structure chosen.  We also setup the idea that these videos could be a teaching tool for the rest of 5th grade, the school, and other schools.

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I spread the books out at tables and students worked in partners to browse the tables for a book to start with. As they discovered one of the 5 text structures, they prepared to make a video.  Students used their own computers to record a Flipgrid, and then continued exploring for their next book example.

Ms. Freeman, Ms. Mullins (gifted teacher), and I all walked around and chatted with students as they searched through books.  One of our immediate noticings was that students were guessing the structure simply based on the title, topic, or cover of the book.

They weren’t even opening the book to read the text.  While this was a great predictor of what kind of structure might be inside, students were missing the point about looking at the organization. We clarified this in conferences and adjusted our mini-lesson with each class to put a stronger emphasis on explaining.

To close each class, we showed a few of the videos and had student offer noticings about what they heard. I love that in the new Flipgrid, you can actually respond to each video response.  I showed students how the comments they were making could actually be added right onto our Flipgrid.  I also encouraged each person who made a video to think about how they might add to their original video by posting a new video as a response.

The plan is for students to continue using these Flipgrids in class to post additional examples and respond to one another. We hope that eventually there will be some strong examples that can be shared with other classes in our school as well as with schools we collaborate with.

In the meantime, it’s a work in progress.

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Preparing and Reflecting on Our Immigration Simulation Via Flipgrid

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Each year, our 5th grade studies immigration and Ellis Island as a part of their social studies standards. For these standards, the teachers work together to prepare students for an Ellis Island simulation experience that takes place across the first half of a school day. A lot of preparation goes into this event, and I’m excited that the library was able to be a part of the project.

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Before the actual simulation, each student was assigned an immigrant to become for the day. They received a folder with a short description of where their person was coming from, what he/she was bringing, and possibly a bit about why this person was traveling to America. This was all prepared by the Social Studies teacher, Ms. Olin.

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The teachers and I shared a Google Doc where we started putting links to sites that we thought would be helpful for students as they researched the immigrant experience for immigrants coming to America from their assigned country. I took these links and made a research Symbaloo for students to use.

In the library, I introduced students to this Symbaloo and they each received their folder from Ms. Olin. The Symbaloo link was shared with all students in Google Classroom so that they could easily find it again. In addition to a few details about the immigrant, the folder contained a graphic organizer with some details that students needed to gather in order to construct a letter of introduction for Ellis Island. Students used the organizer and Symbaloo for an hour in the library and then continued their research in social studies and language arts.

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In writing, students constructed their letters of introduction and Ms. Olin printed a copy of each letter to put in student folders. Students returned to the library a couple of days before the simulation. They had time to finish letters, and when they were ready, they  used Flipgrid to practice reading their letters. In the past, we’ve found that some students were a bit nervous on the day of the simulation or took some time to get into their character. Our hope was that the Flipgrid would give students a chance to get comfortable with their character and practice speaking from that perspective before being thrown into the simulation. The Flipgrid also gave them a chance to listen to one another’s stories and research since they don’t have a lot of time to do that on the simulation day.

Here’s a look at how their practice turned out:

On the day of the simulation students rotated through many experiences to take on the role of an immigrant coming to America. Many dressed in costume, carried props, and practiced talking in an accent. They carried their folders that we had worked on throughout the project. Parent and community volunteers came in to help lead the stations so that students were able to go through health inspections, written tests, and legal inspections. Many were questioned multiple times about their health or documents. Many students were sent away to search for missing pieces of their documentation or were held in quarantine for various reasons.

When students finally passed through all of the experiences, they took an oath and had a meager celebration of bread and cheese. During this time of eating, students once again used Flipgrid. We brought them back into this century and asked them to think about their experience. They didn’t have a script for this. We just wanted their initial reaction after completing the simulation. There are some interesting stories of how it felt to be questioned so much or be detained.  You can see their reactions here.

The addition of Flipgrid this  year really helped to prepare students for the simulation, to learn from one another’s stories, and also for us to hear a student perspective of going through the simulation that we might not normally here. Each student had a chance to share his/her voice and many spoke up when they might not have spoken up in front of the whole class.  I keep thinking of new ways to use Flipgrid in my teaching. I love how versatile it is and want to continue to push the limits of how the tool is used.

Celebrating International Dot Day with Google Drawing and Cells

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We love Dot Day at our school.  We connect with classrooms around the country across the whole week.  Our students love reading stories and creating dots in creative ways.

This year, our 5th graders are studying cells in science at about the same time as Dot Day, so we decided to connect the two.  Each class came to the library and we spent some time talking about “making our mark” and what that really means.  We gave examples of students who are already making their mark this school year.  I tried to emphasize that a big part of this is trying new things and just seeing where it goes.  We never know when we try something new if it is going to lead us to something awesome.

After this quick mini-lesson, students had a chance to tinker with Google Drawing.  I showed them where it was within Google Drive, but really gave no instruction on how to use it.  They had about 15-20 minutes just to click on everything they could find and see what it did.  Some students found a groove and actually created something they were excited about while others gave themselves permission not to worry about what the page looked like and just get messy clicking buttons.

During the tinkering time, there was a group of students who suddenly started using Google Drawing to make their own emoji.  When I started asking them about their work, they were a bit shy at first because they thought they were in trouble.  However, I told them that new emoji are being created all the time, and they never know when their ideas and creations might lead to the next emoji on our phones.  They were eager to carry on with their work.  I saw other students designing their own jewelry and another creating a building design.

Mrs. Freeman, the reading teacher, and I transitioned students from tinkering into using Google Drawing to make a cell for Dot Day.  We pulled up some examples of animal and plant cells and then students referenced those as they drew and labeled their cells.

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One of the things I loved was walking around and seeing how unique each student made his/her cell.  One student talked about how the organelles looked like bacon so he actually imported a picture of bacon into his cell drawing.  Awesome!

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As we neared the end of our time, we took a moment to highlight various student work.  It was selected for many reasons, not just because it had all of the parts of a cell labeled.

We closed by once again revisiting the idea that by trying a new tool, we are opening up possibilities for future projects and creations that might lead us to making our mark on the world in some fantastic way.

Happy Dot Week!

 

Honoring Our Veterans with The Poppy Lady, Padlet, and Flipgrid

Last year, we were honored to have Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady, visit our school and share her book about Moina Michael’s vision for honoring veterans with the poppy.  Now, last year’s fourth graders that attended that visit are in the 5th grade.   They are about to host several veterans at our school for Veteran’s Day on Tuesday.

British use poppies to commemorate WWI

To prepare for our luncheon, the 5th grade classes each came to the library.  We read The Poppy Lady again.  We also watched a video from CBS news.  The video gave the students some great context on why the poppy is so important and what it really symbolizes.  This paired nicely with the advocacy story of Moina Michael.

We also had a great discussion about the importance of honoring veterans and what students might ask when they sit at a table with a veteran.  They brainstormed questions/statements like: “Tell me more about your time of service”, “What division of the military did you serve in”, “What were some of your biggest challenges in the military”, etc.

Then, students took time to visit 2 centers in the library.  I setup multiple iPads as a Flipgrid recording station.  With Flipgrid, students reflected on how we could continue to honor veterans just like the poppy lady did.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

 

The 2nd station was a padlet where students could send messages to author Barbara Walsh about their appreciation for honoring the work of Moina Michael.  I pulled the site up on both projection screens and three other computers in the library for students to visit.

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Now the 5th graders will continue to work on poems, artwork, letters, and speeches for Tuesday’s luncheon.  During the luncheon, they will sit with veterans and have meaningful conversations.  I hope that they will take time to bring up the Poppy Lady while they talk.

 

 

Barriers to Bridges: Using Tripline to Document the Civil War

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I love using Google tools.  Our district is a Google Apps for Education district. We have numerous kinds of devices in student hands from Asus netbooks to Samsung Chromebooks to HP laptops to Lenovo Thinkpads. Each of our 3rd-5th grade has their own device supplied by the district and in 5th grade these devices are predominantly Chromebooks and HP laptops. We mix devices in grade levels for 2 reasons. We don’t have enough of one devices to give one grade level the same device and not all of our programs run on all of the devices. This causes problems for us from time to time, but a big part of my philosophy is that when you come to a barrier you have to build a bridge to get over it.  Roadblocks are a nuisance and they slow down productivity, but they aren’t reason for giving up.

Recently, I had a great planning session with Ms. Shelley Olin in 5th grade to plan a Civil War project with her students. She wanted a way for students to remember the many events of the war as well as visualize where all of the events took place.  I’ve used Google Tour Builder several times to document virtual connections with classrooms around the world. I love that you automatically have an account if you have a Google account and that you can easily integrate your Youtube videos and Google drive photos into the tour.  I used this tool last year to document the 36 connections we made during World Read Aloud week and it is so nice to see all of the connections and play through the summary of where we traveled each day. I thought this would be a perfect tool for Ms. Olin.  Students already had an account through their Google apps accounts.  Our plan was for Ms. Olin to use this tool in her closing of her lesson each day.  Students would visit their Google tour and add new locations to a Civil War tour.  They would write summaries of each location or event and search for images on public domain sites such as the National Archives or Library of Congress.

Then, we faced a major road block.  Google Tour Builder requires a plugin that can only be installed on IOS or Windows.  Why was this a road block?  None of our Chromebooks could install the plugin.  How ridiculous that a Google computer couldn’t even use a Google tool!  Even though we were both frustrated, I didn’t want this one road block to keep us from carrying out our plan. I searched for another tool and stumbled upon Tripline.

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Tripline does many of the things that Google Tour Builder can do. You can create a map in a sequence of events, list specific dates and times, add summaries of what took place in each location, upload photos, and add links to other content.  It doesn’t integrate into Google apps, but it was the closest match that I could find.

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Ms. Olin scheduled each of her classes to come to the library to get started.  I did a quick demo on the board and then we got students setup with accounts.  Once they had accounts, each student created a tinker map.  This was a space for them to just mess around and explore all of the functions of Tripline.  Their map could be about anything and they could travel anywhere.  They would always have this map to come back to in order to tinker if they needed to during the course of their social studies project.

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It was fascinating to see what students decided to do during their tinkering time.  One student had moved to our school from Rome, GA. He located his old house and made a map of several important places to him while he lived there.  Another student made a dream vacation map and traveled to several countries that she only knew the names of.  She then pulled up a Google search to look for cities within those countries and added specific cities to her trip.  Each map was different but all students accomplished the same thing.  They got familiar with how Tripline functions.

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At the close of our time, we opened up a new map and got their Civil War map created and saved.  Now, they are ready to begin their study of the Civil War.  They will document major locations of the war through pinpoints on the map, pictures, and summaries of what happened at each location.  I can’t wait to see what they create.

 

Exploring Civil Rights through Blackout and Magnetic Poetry

IMG_30815th grade has a massive social studies curriculum.  It spans from the civil war all the way up to the present.  One of the things that they have been doing for the past 2 years that I love is using Christopher Paul Curtis’s books to tie in to the curriculum.  They start with Elijah of Buxton, move to Bud Not Buddy, and finish with the Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963.

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The civil rights movement is where they have been spending a lot of time recently, so the teacher emailed me to see what we might do in the library to focus on this time period in her language arts class. The standards they are working on are:

SS5H8 The student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975.

b. Explain the key events and people of the Civil Rights movement; include Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and civil rights activities of Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Since it’s poetry month, I wanted to pull poetry into our time together, and I knew that 5th graders would be able to handle some complex text and concepts.

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Just like with 3rd grade, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, but their background information was much deeper than what 3rd graders knew.  They had connections and stories to share about the riots and peaceful marches that took place during the civil rights movement.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to also pull in Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  This book doesn’t publish until May 27th, but I have an advance reader’s copy from the Texas Library Association Conference.  I was able to show them some of the speeches, music, advertisements, etc from the time period to accompany the picture book, Freedom Summer. 

 

For poetry, the 5th graders created 2 kinds of found poetry.  They used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create magnetic poetry.  The app has a word bank that is words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  They also used pages from Freedom Summer and a couple of pages from Revolution to create blackout poetry.

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This time for blackout poetry, we used the New York Times interactive site to create blackout poetry together.  The site makes it very easy to select & deselect words from articles to create 15-word blackout poems.  We did an example together on the board.  The teacher also helped demonstrate how to mark words on their own paper by putting boxes around words in the NY Times article on the board.

We found that a good first step for students in making blackout poetry is to read or skim the page and then put boxes around words or phrases that stand out.  Once you are sure of the words you want in your poem, then you blackout the rest of the page.  Modeling this on the board was important today.  We had very few students in 3 classes who needed to start over.

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I randomly gave students pages  from the books and they started the process.  For the most part, it was a very quiet process.  Students methodically chose their words and then quietly shared their work at their tables.  A few students paired up to help each other decide on words and phrases.

As students finished their blackout poems, they grabbed an iPad and created their Word Mover poems.  Just like with 2nd grade, most students arranged their words into solid sentences rather than shaping them up like a poem.  If time allowed, I conference with students and they went back into their poem to shape it into line breaks.

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Almost every poem was a reflective synthesis of student understanding about events of the civil rights movement and freedom summer.  Some students had some humorous twists to their poems, but most were solemn, serious, and reflective.

Take a look at their gallery.  Just like Revolution immerses us in the time period through story, music, advertisements, speeches, and other documentary pieces, the student poetry immersed us in the positive and negative feelings of the civil rights movement and freedom summer through multiple perspectives.

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