American Symbol Research in Kindergarten

Students in 2 Kindergarten classes have been hard at work researching American symbols as part of their social studies standards. Doing research projects with the youngest learners in our school doesn’t look like it does in the upper grades. We think about what some of the biggest barriers might be for our young creators and put pieces in places to support students in getting over those barriers.

First, students chose one of four American symbols to research: American flag, statue of liberty, liberty bell, and bald eagle.  In the library, we introduced students to a graphic organizer for collecting 3 facts about their chosen symbol. I learned from another Kindergarten teacher a few years ago during research to set an expectation that allows all students to succeed or exceed during the first research session. We asked students to have a goal of writing at least one fact during the first work session, but if they still had time, they should keep going.

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Students used Capstone’s PebbleGo for their research. We love this database for many reasons but mostly because it breaks information down into manageable pieces and reads the text in a human voice for students. I modeled for students how to listen to a portion of the text and then think about what they had learned by listening. Then, we talked about what we would write on our organizer. This modeling was done with a different American symbol than the one students were researching.

At tables, I setup computers for students to use in pairs. We chose pairs because it gave students one more source of support as they worked. Also at each table, we tried to place an adult for support. The teacher, classroom paraprofessional, and me all worked at tables. If a parent volunteer or student teacher was available, they stayed at the 4th table. Otherwise, the adults took turns checking between tables.  We found that we had to continue modeling for students how to listen, ponder, and then write rather than just copying a sentence off the screen. However, some students still chose a sentence to copy.  All students left with at least one fact but many left with 3 or more.

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After this initial work session, students continued their research in centers in the classroom.  Then, they returned to the library for another work session in small groups. Each group came for 15-20 minutes. We did a short tinkering session with Chatterpix Kids to see how you can take a picture of something, draw a mouth on it, and then record that picture talking. Ahead of time, I chose creative commons images of the symbols for kids to use for their pictures. Rather than having every student create their own Chatterpix, each group created one Chatterpix video with the iPads. Each student chose one fact from their research to read.

Before recording, students chose their fact. We decided the order students would read and practiced a few times. Students helped take the picture of the symbol and draw the mouth. Then, we pressed record and passed the iPad to record. If we needed to record a few times, we did. Then, we uploaded our videos to Youtube and created a playlist to share with the class, families, and you.  I hope you will take a moment to listen to their work.

I love building foundations of research in our early grades and seeing where these students end up by the time they are in 5th grade. We have a lot of work to do, but we celebrate the work of these Kindergarten students and what they have created.

Ms. Lauren’s American Symbols:

Ms. Boyle’s American Symbols:

The Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

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After almost two months of working on the 2015-2016 student book budget project, the books are rolling in to the library, and the excitement is brewing. This year’s budget was made possible thanks to a grant from James Patterson. Students had $5,000 to spend on books. They created a survey, surveyed the school, analyzed the results, set goals, met with vendors, compiled wish lists, cut lists to match our budget, and helped order the books.

Now the books are arriving, so students are meeting once again to go through the process of unpacking, inspecting, and marketing the books.

We have many more books than usual, so it is taking a bit longer to unpack the books. So far, we have books from Capstone and Gumdrop. Students came in by grade level for 30-minute shifts. Each company required a different process. This was mainly because we opted to not have full processing on Gumdrop books so that they would ship faster. I’m sort of regretting that decision, but it’s giving students an additional experience.

For Gumdrop, students had to apply the barcode, spine labels, and label protectors. This was tedious work for them to locate the correct labels for the correct books, and they passed this job off as often as they could since it was so time consuming. This process is still not complete, so no Gumdrop books have gone out to readers yet. We need to finish labels and check books off of the packing slip.

For Capstone, our books were already processed and ready to go. All students needed to do was unpack them, check them off the packing slip, and stamp them with the library stamp.

Additionally, Capstone let each book budget member choose one book that was their personal pick. They also sent us labels that could be put into the front of these books so that students could write their names to remind readers who selected those books.

The crew loved locating their books and applying the labels. As an added treat, they were the first to check out these books.

One student took it upon herself to start displaying the books while everyone else worked on all of the other tasks. Ajacea cleared out spaces in  the front of the library and started standing up books. If she didn’t like the way it looked, she took it all down and started over. I saw her do this more than once.

Finally, she had the idea of maximizing display space by putting books in the windows of the library facing out to the hall. There was room to put a top level and bottom level of books. She also used some of our library cushions, tables, and counter space.

It was a prime time for setting up a display because many classes were leaving lunch and walking right by the library. I saw many conversations happening in the hall about the books, and it wasn’t long before those same students were rushing back to the library to checkout what they saw.

There were moments of frantic grabbing when a whole class ended up coming to check out. The books were only on display for a little more than an hour and I would say at least half of the displayed books were checked out.

Students will come once again tomorrow to finish the books we have, and then they will reconvene when our order from Avid Bookshop arrives. I’m always inspired by how proud students are when they see their hard work pay off on unpacking day. They realize that the time they sacrificed was worth it to add more books to the library. They love getting the first look at the books, and they are amazed when the books fly off the shelves.

Ajacea stopped by at the end of the day to see what happened to her display. She had told me earlier in the day that her job would be ongoing because she would need to refill the empty spots. Her mouth dropped when she saw just how empty the windows were at the end of the day.

Our friend Amy Cox with Capstone Press followed along with our day on Twitter, and Ajacea was so proud when Amy said that she would be a great marketing intern.

Ajacea’s response? “Tell her to call me.” I love the real world implications of this project and how many times it has given an opportunity to students to explore their interests and realize that their voice is heard and matters. Bravo student book budget team!

 

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: The Final Lists

 

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Since early November, a group of 30 students has been hard at work spending a student book budget.  This year’s budget was funded through a generous grant from James Patterson.  Students created a survey in Google forms, surveyed the school, analyzed the results, set goals, met with vendors, and created consideration lists.

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You can read more about their work in these posts:

Getting started

Meeting with Capstone

Meeting with Gumdrop

Meeting with Avid

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Over the past week, students have worked to narrow those consideration lists down until they had books that met our goals and were within our budget.  There were many tough decisions as usual.  Students had to consider how many of each kind of book to order.  Should we order more superhero books than anything else?  Should we order copies of books that we already have in the collection?  Should we include books that we knew students would like but didn’t actually meet one of the goals we set in the beginning?  Should we spend more money with a certain vendor in order to earn additional free books?  As usual, I saw students go to bat for a book because of something they heard other students ask for.  For example, there was a Frozen drawing book with Gumdrop Books.  One of the 5th grade boys said, “I don’t personally like Frozen, but I know a lot of students who do.  I think we should order another copy of this book so that more students can enjoy it.”  I’m always amazed by the conversations that surface during this project.

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After cutting books from the list, I sent the student choices to Avid Bookshop, Capstone, and Gumdrop books to give us final quotes.  They each emailed me a final list for students to see.  Students met for one final time before the holidays to give a stamp of approval to the final lists.  There were a few minor changes to the lists in the end.  We added an additional Wimpy Kid book and some additional books in series.

Now, all of the lists have been sent to the vendors.  We met our goal of finishing before the holidays and students spent the entire $5,000 James Patterson Grant and managed to stretch that budget to an additional $750 thanks to Capstone Rewards.  Now we wait.  The books should arrive in January.  At that time, we’ll meet again to unpack the books, market them to the school, and enjoy a first look and checkout before the rest of the school.

Capstone List

Gumdrop List

Avid List

Great work student book budget team!

Beginning Our Winter Around the World Projects

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I’m so excited about a current opportunity we have with classes around the world to think about winter where we live.  Shannon Miller and Cantata Learning recently invited schools to research winter in their areas and for students to work together around the globe to create a collaborative e-book filled with information, personal narratives, poems, illustrations, and songs.

All classes participating in the project started by reading and listening to the Cantata Learning book Winter the Coldest Season of All.

From there, different classes branched off to do different types of projects.  In Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class, we focused on winter in Athens, GA using notes from her husband Craig, who is studying to be a meteorologist.

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He gave us facts about the average temperatures and snowfall in Athens each winter.  I think we all think of snow for winter, but in reality, we really don’t get much snow or even cold here in Georgia.  We were trying to get students to think about that.

After gathering our facts, we had students reflect on their own experience since that is a big part of the research process, especially about your own community.  I had students turn and talk to a partner about a variety of winter topics: clothes, events, food, school, sounds.   Each time they talked, I ran around with the keyboard and typed the ideas into a shared doc that could be used for our project.

Ms. Ramseyer let students group themselves into groups of 4.  Each group needed 2 authors and 2 illustrators. They could decide what kind of text they wanted to write such as personal narrative, poetry, or informational.  They had to make a plan before they could start working.  I spread out materials for them to use such as white paper, pencils, and crayons.  It was a lot of fun to walk around to tables and talk with them about their decisions while they worked.  I often found myself asking the illustrators to check the text that the authors were creating so that their illustrations were matching or extending the text.  There were a few arguments along the way, but each quarrel was an opportunity for a connection back to how books are created.  As usual, there were unexpected moments that were priceless, such as when a student noticed that the illustrators were only drawing boys into the illustrations.  She called him out and said he needed to add some girls. We talked about diversity in illustration and what that might mean and why that might be important.  It was fascinating.  The priceless moment came when the second grader said:

Students will continue working on this project in writing workshop in the classroom before they come back to me to digitize the work and add it to the collaborative Google slide ebook.

Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class is planning to write a song about winter in Athens. She often uses ukuleles in her class and incorporates song writing.  After listening to the book, students explored a tool called Beatlab to tinker with creating a beat. They will use this tool to establish a beat for their song about winter.

In the library, we also explored the book Hip Hop Speaks to Children collected by Nikki Giovanni.  I selected a few poems from this book that had an established beat such as Things by Eloise Greenfield as well as poems that had actual music with them on the accompanying CD such as Ham N Eggs by A Tribe Called Quest.  For poems without music, we clapped or snapped along with the rhythm of the poem to see that there was in fact a beat there.  For the poems with music, we listened once and then closed our eyes and tried to focus on the various instruments we could hear layered over one another in the background and how they repeated.

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We even looked at a video by the famous Kishi Bashi, who is also a parent at our school.  He accompanies himself by recording a layer of beats live onstage and looping them with pedals.  He performed at our school last year, and the Clarke Central Odyssey crew filmed this song that we used for inspiration.

After the library visit, Ms. Kelly’s class used a Capstone Library book called Winter: Signs of the Season Around North America.  They gathered various winter words that might inspire their song.  Once the song is written, we will record in the library as well as perform at a school assembly.

I love how student voices from around the world are coming together around a common topic, and I can’t wait to learn about winter through the eyes of students.

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Student Book Budgets: The Final Steps

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This year’s student book budget group has been one of the largest groups, but one of the most thorough groups I’ve had.  To recap, our student book budget group is a group of 4th and 5th grade students who develop a reading interest survey, gather data from the whole school, analyze the data, set purchasing goals, meet with vendors, and spend a budget of approximately $2000.  I assist them, but the decisions are completely driven by students.

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This year, we got started a bit late, so we didn’t get all of our books until the very last week of school.  After a lot of debate, the students decided to prepare the books for checkout, enjoy looking at them, and then set them aside for the beginning of the school year next year.  It was a hard decision, but we think it will be so exciting to walk into the library on the first week of school with over 150 new books to choose from.

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On our final day together, some of the students gathered in the library for the big unpacking. We highlighted the books on our packing list, inspected them, stamped them with the library stamp, and started enjoying them.  One student said, “This needs to be your motto. Unpack, stamp, and enjoy.”

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We realized that several of the books were cataloged as fiction but were really graphic novels, so we took time to label all of those books with a graphic novel sticker so that they could be easily found with other graphic novels.

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Once the books were enjoyed by the students, we sorted them into stacks by type of book and took their pictures.  These pictures will be used next year to promote the books at the beginning of the year.  It was fun to see all of the books grouped together to actually see how we distributed the money between our goals.  I think some of us realized we may have been a bit heavy in some areas of our budget, but I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in these great selections.

We thank Capstone and Avid Bookshop who were huge supporters of this project.  We wish the books were checked out right now, but with only one day of school left, we will wait with anticipation for the big checkout day.  It will be a nice way to inform students about the project who might want to participate next year.  My plan is to start much earlier next year!

Unpacking Our Student Book Budget Books: Part 1

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Two parts of our 2015 student book budget arrived!  It’s always exciting when I can email the students and tell them that the books are here.  They’ve been asking me almost daily since we placed the order.

All of our books from Avid Bookshop arrived during our author visit with Sarah Weeks.  The first box of Capstone books arrived while our 5th graders were at Skidaway Island.  I emailed the whole book budget group and told them to come today at noon to unpack books.

Our timeline has been a bit crunched this year.  We are almost out of school days and book check out is already coming to an end for the school year.  I need to do a better job next year of making sure this project doesn’t slip too far into the year.  Usually, we put all of the books out when they arrive and let the students start checking them out.  However, with only 8 days of school remaining, I handed this dilemma to the group.  There was a lot of debate about whether or not to have a special checkout of just book budget books or to wait until the opening of the library in the fall.  After a lot of discussion, the students decided that they wanted to wait and have these books be the first new books available to students in the fall.  It’s always nice to start the new school year with some exciting new books.

As we unpacked the books, we checked them off of our packing slips.  I had already cataloged the Avid books and uploaded the MARC records for Capstone, so the books were ready to go into circulation.  Once they were checked off the list.  Capstone sent us some special labels to put inside our books so that students could indicate books that they chose for the order.

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Each student chose a label, wrote his or her name on the label, and added it to the inside cover.  Students also stamped the books with our library stamp.

The excitement was high and it was so much fun to see the students immediately diving into the books.  They all tucked away around the library to read by themselves or with a partner.  Before they left, the book budget students did get to checkout a few of the books to read over the next few days.  They will return these books to the boxes so that they are ready for the next school year.

We are eagerly awaiting our final order from Capstone which should be arriving in the next few days.

Student Book Budgets: The Final Lists

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It has been a long road to the final book lists this year, but our student book budget group has done it!  They’ve taken over $4,000 worth of books and narrowed it down to our final order.  In the last moments, they chose to take advantage of Capstone’s incentive right now which is to spend $1750 and earn 30% in Capstone Rewards.  This stretched our budget to almost $2300 for Capstone and $250 for Avid Bookshop.  Our list from Avid was not quite as long for this first time working with them, so it was easier for students to decide to go with the Capstone incentive.

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After lots of debate, we narrowed the list down one book at a time until our dollar amount matched our budget and we felt like the books we included matched our goals.  We all got to take a deep breath because the hardest part was done.

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Next, I got to share some great news with the students.  Each year, Capstone is a huge supporter of our project.  We do lots of sharing of our work and it has inspired many other libraries to give this type of project a try.  In turn, Capstone loves to celebrate the work of the students and our willingness to share the work of our process.  This year, Amy Cox offered the students a tremendous opportunity.  Since they had made such tough decisions about books, she wanted them to each have a chance to pick a book for the library that they personally wanted to include on the list.  It didn’t have to match a goal; it just needed to be a book that mattered to that student.  You should have seen how fast they started flipping through catalogs when I shared the news!

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I made a separate list in Capstone for this order and we started adding in books.  We saw books come back onto the list that had to be cut as well as books that students had longed for as they looked at catalogs.  There were hilarious books such as the Space Penguins series but also prolific books such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  We can’t thank Capstone enough for this special surprise for our students and library.  It means so much.  We are even going to put special stickers inside to mark that the books were donated by the 2015 Student Book Budget group.

During our final meeting before ordering, we were able to Skype with Karyn Lewis in Houston, Texas.  She was inspired by our long-standing project to try this with her students.  She also worked with her Capstone representative.  It was fun to have our group who was about to place an order talk with her group who is still in the midst of making decisions.  The students were able to take turns telling about our work so far.  We immediately noticed the connections that our students had with the students in Texas.  Some of the same types of books were popular in both states, and graphic novels were high on the list.

Then, we did a screen share and showed them our list.  Many of Karyn’s students noticed that we had some of the same books on our list as they were including on theirs.  Both groups of students also got to ask questions to one another.  They asked about things like how the surveys were done.  The Texas students noted some trouble getting responses due to testing and other school events, and we shared that we experienced some of the same problems.  We were able to share some strategies we used for getting more responses such as going to lunch and surveying people while they ate.

After we disconnected, I showed the students what would happen with their order at this point.  Amy Cox at Capstone shared a great video with me that shows just what happens to that order when it reaches the warehouse.  It was fascinating for all of us to see so many books and how they fill an order.

When students left, I proceeded to send off their orders to the appropriate places.  Now, we get to take a breath and wait for the fun day when the books all come in.

Thank you so much to the Amy Cox, Jim Boon, and the whole Capstone team.

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Also, a huge thanks to Will Walton and Janet Geddis from Avid Bookshop.

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Our project would not be the same without all of this support.

I can’t wait to see how this project continues to grow and inspire other.  Just today a library in New Jersey shared how they are trying out the project too.  The students were so excited to consider themselves teachers of schools around the country.