Kindness Rocks

Third grade studies rocks and minerals in science.  Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade Spectrum teacher, is always dreaming up ways to extend and enrich the study.  We have collaborated together many times, and I always love leaping into something new.  In the past, we’ve Skyped with a jewelry studio and designed our own jewelry.  We’ve thought about climbing wall design and how the hardness of different rocks and minerals would support the design. Students even 3D printed prototypes of their climbing walls.  This year we once again worked together to add a new layer to this science unit.

I’ve been watching lots of people getting involved in kindness rock projects locally and globally. The idea of these projects is to spread words of inspiration in the world through randomly placed rocks and inspire people to create good in the world.

Our local Athens Rock Project

I’ve found a few of these rocks myself and know that it gives you a bright moment in your day just to know that someone cared enough to create a piece of art intended for good.

Be light in a dark world #rockpoetry #rock #paintedrocks

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Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructor, and I have been brainstorming the idea of weaving this project into makerspace, but we held off this semester.  I passed the idea on to Ms. Hicks and we decided to give it a trial run.

We started by showing images of rocks and asking students if they had ever found a rock like these.  I was surprised at how many stories were already in our small group of 15 kids.  From a rock in a stream to a rock in the park, students had stories of words and images they had found on rocks.

Then we watched this video to consider the meaning of a project like this.

We also read an excerpt from If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. These books helped us think beyond a rock just being a rock but instead a symbol of something else.

Starting our rock project today with some 3rd graders #kindness #kindnessrocks #rock

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At tables, students used an index card to plan out their rock.  We wanted them to really take their time in planning so that they chose their words with purpose, so Ms. Hicks and I conferenced with students as they worked. They chose a word or phrase, wrote a short explanation of their choice, and sketched a design for their art.  Students also selected a rock. All of this took one class session.

In the next session, students used paint pens and paint to design their rock.  Most started by getting the word(s) onto the rock and then worked on design. If they finished early, they helped one another fan portions of rocks to get them dry enough to keep painting on.

Kindness rocks in progress #choosekind #rocks #kindnessrocks

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My wonderful computer technician, Allie, added layers of Mod Podge onto the rocks before our 3rd session. Here’s where this project is taking a different turn that many of the kindness rock projects.  We don’t really want to be random.  We want the person who finds our rock to know a bit more about it.

In our 3rd session, we used Flipgrid to record videos to tell the story of our rock.  Students talked about the reason they chose their word and even why they designed it the way they did.  We also brainstormed what someone would need to know in order to get to the video we recorded.

I took this brainstormed and turned it into an information card to put with our rocks.

Instead of randomly placing the rocks, we are putting them all in one container. We’ve talked with Avid Bookshop in Five Points and will be placing this container somewhere outside the shop.  Our hope is that people will select a rock, take an information card, watch the accompanying video, and hopefully leave a response video to the student.

It’s all a big experiment, and I’ve tried to be very open with students about that from the beginning.  Anything could happen.  We of course want every rock to be taken and for every person to leave a response, but we also know that might not happen.  Whatever happens, we’ll know that our rocks have gone into the world and caused at least one person to pause for just a moment and think about kindness.

Before our rocks go to Avid, we’re making a few more.  If your’e in the area, keep your eyes open in Five Points for a clear acrylic container near Avid Bookshop sometime this week!

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Poem in Your Pocket 2016 Day 1

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Day 1 of Poem In Your Pocket Day is a wrap. Fourteen classes came to the library for 20-30 minute sessions of poetry reading. Each student had an opportunity to step up to our open microphone and read an original or favorite poem. It is truly amazing to see some students step out of their comfort zone to speak in front of their peers for a very short amount of time. Poetry is so accessible to so many people. It opens opportunities for students that sometimes other kinds of writing can’t. As always, there were magical moments during the day.

A student folded his poem into a piece of origami.

An origami poem in a pocket. #pocketpoem #barrowpoems

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A student who wouldn’t read his poem on camera shared it with me instead, and it was a poem about me.

Ms. Kelly’s class created asemic writing and truly showed us what it means to perform and interpret poetry.

Take a look at some of the magical moments from today.

Also, take a look at Instagram and Twitter and search the hashtag #barrowpoems to see even more. We had several special posts and messages from people all over.

Finally, take some time to listen back to some of these amazing poets.

Connecting with Capstone and the PebbleGo Team through Skype

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Our 2nd graders have been thrilled by all of the people voting for their Barrow Peace Prize project.  Voting will continue until February 17th, so there’s still time to take a look at their project and vote.

Today, we were fortunate to have a Skype session with the PebbleGo team at Capstone. PebbleGo is a set of databases with informational text focused on social studies, biographies, science, animals, and dinosaurs. The text is geared to students in lower elementary grades, but it is useful for students at all grades as a starting place for research. Our teachers love the accessibility of the text, how the text is broken into consistent  headings, and that it reads the text to students in a human voice. Our 2nd graders used PebbleGo as the first resource in their Barrow Peace Prize research on Jesse Owen, Bessie Coleman, Ruby Bridges, Charles Drew, Langston Hughes, and Wilma Rudolph.

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During our Skype, we connected with:

  • Tom Zemlin, Director of Software Development
  • Rachel Wallwork & Stephanie Miller, Senior Product Planning Managers
  • Amy Cox, Director of Library Marketing

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Before our session, we sent some questions to PebbleGo and they sent some questions to us.

For PebbleGo:

  • How are PebbleGo articles written?
  • What do you know about the number of people who use PebbleGo?
  • How do you decide what topics to include in PebbleGo?

For us, the Capstone team asked in advance:

  • What do you like about PebbleGo?
  • What do you wish were different?
  • What seems to be missing or what did you have trouble finding the answer to?

We opened our Skype by giving an update on the statistics from our Barrow Peace Prize Projects. At the time of our Skype, our work had been viewed in 121 different locations around the world, according to our Smore page.

The Capstone team introduced themselves and then launched into telling students the process that the team goes through to decide on and create articles. We learned that PebbleGo has been used by over 260,000,000 students around the world.

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Our students took turns lining up at the computer to offer answers to the questions from Capstone, and those comments and questions sparked additional conversation.

Our students expressed their love for how PebbleGo reads to them, has videos, is broken up into sections, and has info on lots of people.

Some of the wishes they had were to have a comprehension check at the end of an article and to include information on character traits for the people in biographies. The character trait comment launched an additional conversation with the Capstone team. We told them how our social studies curriculum includes a study of character traits woven into the people in history. This was hard for our research because we felt like character traits were a bit of an opinion based on facts. The Capstone team had great wonderings for us. They wanted to know if we thought character traits should be separate articles in PebbleGo or if they should be embedded in the biography articles. Our students overwhelmingly responded that they wanted them embedded.

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This then took us to the question about what Capstone does with all of the wishes that it gets from its users. We learned about how they keep lists of wishes and start to notice patterns of requests. When something is requested enough, it might be put into PebbleGo or it might even come up for a vote from PebbleGo users. Within this conversation, we learned that it takes several months for an article to go from an idea to the final piece we see in PebbleGo and the work happens in multiple locations including New York and India.

I loved how the Capstone team listened to our students and how flexible the conversation was with over 100 students. We were well prepared with our student comments and questions, but there was plenty of space to find tangents that revealed more information for our students.

One of the things that I heard from Capstone is that they go through the same kind of research that we are asking our students to go through. They gather their information from multiple sources, create many drafts, and review their work before it is sent out to an audience. It was important for our students to hear this from a major company and see the connections to what we are doing in school.

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Thank you so much to Amy Cox and the Capstone team for making this Skype happen for our students today. It was a wonderful addition to a project that has meant a lot to our students.

2015 Poem In Your Pocket Day (Part 1)

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Each year, Poem In Your Pocket Day morphs into something just a little bit new.  It’s always a day to come to the library and share poems into our open microphone, but we like to mix things up a bit each year.  This year, I put out soft seating instead of tables.  It allowed students to be a bit closer to the speaker and hopefully felt a bit more cozy.

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In the past, I’ve used Adobe Connect to broadcast our day.  While it is a great tool, it has some drawbacks.  I love that it is one room that our online guests can stay in all day long and I can communicate with them via chat.  However, I don’t love the way the archive is created.  I have to setup and name each recording right as I’m starting the recording.  It doesn’t take long, but it’s one more step I have to do.  Also, once all of the archives are done, I have to go in, change them to public, and copy the link to share in order for people to view them.

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This year, I decided to try Google Hangouts on Air.  We use this every day for our morning broadcast, so I’m very familiar with using it.  Ahead of our event, I setup a Google Hangout on Air for each session on our schedule.  Then, I opened each hangout and copied the Youtube link where the video would stream live.  I embedded these videos on one big Google site so that they were easily accessible in one spot.

Click to visit our Google Site

As each group came in, I opened the hangout, tested the sound, and pressed start.  Our guests could watch online, but as soon as I pressed stop the video was instantly archived on that same Google site.  It saved me the hassle of having to go back and find all of the videos in order to share them.  While it’s not huge, any amount of time I can save is valuable to me.

This year, to make up for the chat feature being taken away, we decided to use Twitter to talk about our poems.  We encourage our online guests and future viewers of our content to tweet using the hashtag #barrowpoems I used Tweet Beam to display the tweet on our projection board for students to see.  It was fun to see how this populated throughout the day and how much students smiled when they saw a tweet mentioning their poem.  Teachers even pulled out their phones and helped document the day through pictures, videos, and comments on Twitter.

Also, here’s a little look at what it’s like to be in the room.

This event always amazes me because pretty much every student in the school gets up in front of an audience and speaks.  It’s a small amount of speaking, but I love seeing students get used to speaking to an audience and seeing what that feels like.  This is a very positive and supportive atmosphere, so most students leave the reading feeling validated for their work.

I encourage you to listen to some of our archives and continue to tweet about #barrowpoems

Continue watching us live on April 10th!

 

Black History Month Research and Persuasive Commercials in 2nd Grade

IMG_1815Second grade has been working on a big research project.  Each student selected one of five African Americans to research.  Rather than write a traditional informational paper on their person, the 2nd grade teachers and I decided to weave persuasive writing into the project.  Students would think about which historical figure should be on a next US postage stamp and would create a persuasive commercial to convince an authentic audience to vote for their historical figure.

We actually began our project with persuasion.  Students spent time talking with one another about what it means to persuade.  They mentioned things like:

  • convince someone to do something
  • get someone to get something for you
  • make someone change their mind

Anytime I teach persuasive writing, I want kids to leave with an understanding that persuasive writing isn’t just about getting someone to get something for you.  It’s one of the most powerful kinds of writing that can bring about change.  However, many kids connect with the idea of commercials and convincing their families to buy something for them, so we often start there and expand.

We watched a commercial of one of this year’s hot holiday toys, the Flutterbye Fairy.

IMG_1814We used this commercial to think about a structure for persuasion.  Students first noticed what we called a hook at the beginning.  “Can you keep a secret?” was a phrase that hooked our attention to want to watch the rest of the commercial.  We noticed that the rest of the commercial showed us just how easy it is to use the fairy, so this was like giving the facts about what you are writing about.  Finally, we noticed the closing line “the magic is in your hands”.  This was a phrase that would stick with us long after we watched the commercial.  In fact, I told the students that my own daughter uttered this phrase the first time she flew her own Flutterbye fairy, so I knew it was a phrase that stuck in your head.

To continue our exploration of persuasion, we read Melanie Watt’s Have I Got a Book For You.  This book uses just about every persuasive technique that you can think of.  We noticed these techniques along the way and folded them in to our noticings from the fairy commercial.

After this initial exploration of persuasion, students worked some in their classrooms.  They selected the African American they would research and got a graphic organizer to located some basic facts about their person.  We referenced the fairy video and how important facts are when you are persuading.

IMG_1813Students spent time in class and in the library using several tools to research.  I did a quick mini-lesson on using PebbleGo, Galileo’s SIRS Discoverer, and Galileo’s Britannica.  All of these tools had text to speech features to support learners of all reading levels.  During this mini-lesson, I also stressed how research is never really “done”.   You just reach a point where you feel like you have enough to tell your story.  Adults circulated and conferenced with students on their progress as they researched.  I loved that not many said “I’m done”, but when they did, we gently reminded them that research is never really done.

IMG_1812Now students are pulling their facts together, creating hooks, and coming up with a great closing like “the magic is in your hands”.  Once they have these scripts written, we will move forward with the next part of this project which will involve recording commercials in Flipgrid and creating a Google form for voting on which commercials are the most persuasive.  I’m compiling all of this onto a Smore which will populate with information in the coming days.

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Using KidBlog with 2nd Grade

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Last year our 2nd grade teachers collaborated with me on a blogging project using KidBlog.  Our blog was  a way to connect our students with students in Van Meter, Iowa while at the same time showcasing different kinds of writing.  This year, the teachers wanted to start blogging much earlier in the year.

kidblog (3)Each teacher setup her students on KidBlog by uploading a simple excel spreadsheet with names and passwords.  In class, students wrote out their first “post”.  This post was very simple.  Students have been studying important people from Georgia’s history so each student wrote one sentence about one of these Georgians on an index card.  They brought these cards with them to the library to learn about blogging and do their first post.

During our mini lesson, I asked students how many had heard of a blog, and all hands went up.  Then, I ask them who could define what a blog is, and almost all hands went down.  Our first question of exploration was “What is a blog?”  We watched a common craft video on blogging.  I paused along the way and asked students what news they might report on as a 2nd graders.  They mentioned things like:

  • what we do in our classroom
  • math problems that people could solve
  • what we did on vacation
  • books that we are reading
  • and more

Next, I showed them the media center blog.  We looked at the map of readers, tags, how posts are from most recent to oldest, and talked about my audience.

Finally, I showed them Kidblog and how they would login to do their posts.  I stressed the idea that once you click “publish”, your work is instantly connected with an audience.  Students brainstormed what they might need to do before clicking publish.  They said things like:

  • triple check your work
  • check spelling
  • revise and edit
  • read for understanding
  • ask an adult to check your work
  • make sure you said things the way you wanted to say them
  • check that it’s appropriate

Students dispersed to iPads and laptops and began logging in.  Adults circulated and helped students as needed, but students also helped one another to find buttons, login, and any other technical questions they had.  In about an hour, most students were able to learn about blogs & their purpose, make their first post, and go back to class very eager to write more.  The report back from the teachers was that these students are already asking when they will be able to post again.

You can see the beginnings of their work at the following links:

http://kidblog.org/MrsYawnsClassBlog/

http://kidblog.org/MrsRamseyersClassBlog/

http://kidblog.org/MrsWrightsClassBlog/

http://kidblog.org/MrsBrinksClassBlog/

Poem In Your Pocket Days 2013 (Part 2)

IMG_0498Yesterday, we had a great day celebrating poetry in our poetry cafe.  It is truly amazing that almost every student in the school takes the time to get up in front of their peers (and the world) and read an original or favorite poem.  Also, more amazing things happened today.  Students volunteered to read poems for students who were too nervous to get up.  A group of students logged into our Adobe Connect from their own devices and started leaving encouraging comments for peers.  A student read  a poem from a cell phone.  A student made up a poem on the spot about not having a poem in his pocket.  It was so much fun!

We had guests joining us online from:  Athens GA, Valdosta GA, Randolph OH, Milton FL, Tucson AZ, Indiana, Richmond VA, Lexington KY, Kirkland WA, Belvidere IL, Fremont IA, Lawrenceville GA, Germany, Blue Ridge GA, Jasper GA, New London WI, Tampa FL, Vermont, Baton Rouge LA, New Mexico, and more.

You can enjoy all of the poetry sessions again by viewing the recordings below.

Today’s Recordings:

Cross 5th grade

Carney Kindergarten

Boyle Kindergarten

Li Kindergarten

Doneda PreK

Spurgeon 3rd grade

Olin 4th grade

Vertus Kindergarten

Slongo 5th grade

Clarke PreK

Ramseyer 2nd grade

Griffith 3rd grade