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.

The Poppy Lady

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.



A Visit with Barbara Walsh: Author of The Poppy Lady

Barbara Walsh (19)Over the summer, I received an email from Carole Langley, wife of a Barrow alumni.  She introduced me to the incredible story of Moina Belle Michael, an Athens area woman who is credited with making the poppy the symbol of remembrance for soldiers.  The children’s book is called The Poppy Lady:  Moina Belle Michael and her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh.  Until this book, I really didn’t know the story of Moina and her ties to Athens, Georgia and the world, but I am so thankful that Carole introduced me to this book and I’m even more grateful to Barbara Walsh for creating it.

After that email, I contacted Barbara and her publisher and began a long collaborative journey to bring her to our school.  Luckily, Barbara was already going to be in Decatur for the Decatur Book Festival.  She graciously agreed to come to Athens and present her work to our 4th and 5th graders, but just like Moina, Barbara wanted to do more.  She offered to visit as many schools as she could while she was in Georgia.  I arranged for her to visit 7 other elementary schools in Clarke County and Carole Langley agreedto be her chauffeur.

Before her visit, I read the book to all 4th and 5th grade classes.  We also watched the book trailer:

And we watched the video from the Georgia Women of Achievement:

All of this information was fascinating to the students and was a great tie-in to the 5th grade Veteran’s Day Luncheon that they do every November.  The students couldn’t wait to hear Barbara talk.

Barrow was honored to be  Barbara’s first ever school visit, and she did an incredible job sharing Moina’s story and the long process it took to write a work on nonfiction.  In all, it took 7 years to bring this book into the printed copy that we hold into our hands today.  Barbara shared how she interviewed numerous people, dug through archives at UGA and Columbia University, and used Moina’s autobiography as a resource.  She shared how her editor wanted her to be extremely thorough in her research.  I loved having this information emphasized for students so that they could see how hard authors have to work to research their topic.  Having this at the front end of the year will allow this visit to inspire our work for the rest of the year.  Barbara also shared many pictures of artifacts and the story of her 99 year old father who has a personal connection with Moina.

Barbara Walsh (6)As students left, Barbara gave each student a poppy that was made by a veteran.  She also gave them each a bookmark from her book.  Avid Bookshop sold copies of her book and those will be autographed and delivered to students soon.Barbara Walsh (24)

In the spirit of Moina Michael, Barbara Walsh doesn’t keep a penny of the profits from her books.  She donates everything to Operation Purple, which benefits the children of those serving in the military.  Barbara’s passion for Moina Michael’s mission is evident in every conversation that you have with her.  She truly lives up to Moina’s own phrase:  “Whatsoever the hands find to do, do it with all your might.”  Thank you Barbara Walsh for giving this gift of a story to all children, and thank you for your generosity in coming to speak to our Barrow and CCSD students.

An Author Visit in the 1st Three Weeks of School….Why Not?: Our visit with Gennifer Choldenko

These books will all be gone tomorrow!

These books will all be gone tomorrow!

I love our local bookshop, Avid Bookshop.  Over the summer, they contacted me about a possible author visit prior to the Decatur Book Festival.  This book festival brings in some of the top authors from around the world for 2 days of book celebrations.  This festival is actually connecting us with  2 authors in the 1st three weeks of school since they will already be in Georgia!

Today, thanks to Avid, Gennifer Choldenko visited our 4th and 5th graders.  Gennifer is the Newbery Honor award-winning author of the Al Capone series, Notes from a Liar and Her Dog, No Passengers Beyond this Point, and more.  Before her visit, I held a session for all 4th and 5th graders to get familiar with her books as well as the book of our other visiting author, Barbara Walsh.  I used two different Blendspace (formally Edcanvas) links to share excerpts from books, book trailers, and biographies of the authors.  Students also had an opportunity to pre-order books for signing.

During her talk, Gennifer talked about:

  • her inspiration for the Al Capone books from her time as a docent on Alcatraz
  • her research of looking at the most notorious prisoners to see who would be the most fun character
  • details of what she learned about Al Capone while he was a prisoner.  Her photos of his prison experience with antique furniture was amazing!
  • photographs of convicts doing laundry on Alcatraz and how that came into her books
  • cockroaches helping to make exchanges between prisoners
  • convicts coming to brunch at her house and sharing their stories
  • how she keeps a notebook with her ideas, including kids’ names
  • how she writes other books in between the Alcatraz books
  • going to Alcatraz Alumni Day
  • what historical fiction is…..like can you include an iPhone in a story set on Alcatraz?
  • how many books she is in the process of writing.  She’s a busy person!
  • And so much more
Gennifer spent time before and after her talk chatting with students.  Love this!

Gennifer spent time before and after her talk chatting with students. Love this!

As always, the kids left this session pumped up about reading an author’s books.  I have no doubt that kids will be knocking on the door in the morning to get these stories.  I can’t thank Avid Bookshop enough for making this visit happen for us and for Chase Street Elementary.  Bringing in authors is always inspiring, but it’s also very expensive.  Having the support and connections of our local bookshop is fantastic!  Also, a huge thank you to Gennifer Choldenko for sharing her time and talents with our students.  They were so engaged and probably could have asked questions for another hour.