The 2018 Barrow Storybook Celebration

This year, I shook things up by moving our annual storybook parade and celebration to the week of Read Across America.  Traditions are hard to change, but it’s fun to try something new every now and then to see what we can learn from it.

The storybook parade has always been a favorite activity at our school.  It’s a day to dress up as a favorite book character and celebrate that book for all to see.

We begin our day with 2 guest readers in every classroom.  These are organized by amazing parent volunteer, Kim Ness.  I pull a variety of books for them to choose from or they are welcome to bring their own. Students escort the readers to classrooms.  We love having these community readers in our school.  Many are parents, athletes, and leaders in our community.

Next, we have our storybook assembly. I try to keep this brief but meaningful.  Sometimes we have a storyteller, skit, or shared reading. This year, I was listening to Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast, and heard the authors of the book Festival of Colors talk about the Indian celebration of Holi.

I loved the themes of this celebration where hate goes out and love comes in. This year Holi was on the same day as our storybook celebration, so I knew it was the perfect fit for our assembly.  Our ESOL teacher, Ms. Childs, helped me reach out to families in our school who celebrate Holi to see if they would be part of our celebration.  Two families agreed to help.

One family read the book and shared examples of the powders used in Holi. Another family, including a Barrow student, spoke about how they celebrate Holi here in Athens and the many meanings behind the festival.

I loved that we were able to learn from families right here in our school and discover a festival that many of us don’t celebrate or know about.

Following this, we formed into a line and marched down the sidewalk, around the school, and around the UGA practice facilities chanting “Read more books” while we showed off our costumes and books. Our 5th graders enjoyed some lemonade in the Dooley Garden across the street.

Many teachers in the school including gifted, early intervention, and specials all offered literacy-focused sessions for teachers to sign up.

I can’t wait to hear feedback from students, teachers, and families about the new time of year for storybook celebration. We’ll use this feedback to make decisions about next year.

What remained the same was that it was a day filled with celebrating stories in their many forms.  Hooray for books.

The 2018 Barrow Peace Prize Goes To…

Our 2nd graders have been working on our annual Barrow Peace Prize project since January, and for the past few weeks you have been voting on which person from history will win the award.

On February 28, we all gathered in the library for the big announcement.  Prior to this day, students researched a civil rights leader, wrote a persuasive piece of writing, created artwork to accompany their writing, and recorded themselves in Flipgrid. We asked people around the world to view and vote on which civil rights leader should win.

People in 160 different locations around the world cast their votes.

During the Barrow Peace Prize Ceremony, we connected with Flipgrid via Skype. Brad Hosack set the stage for our ceremony by reminding us of the history of this project that has gone on for many years since Flipgrid was an emerging edtech tool.

Then, we launched into student recognitions. Each teacher selected 3 students to recognize for Prolific Persuader, Outstanding Opener, and Dynamic Designer.

A member of the Flipgrid team announced the winners in each category and I handed out certificates to rounds of applause.

Next, we recognized our Barrow Peace Prize designers. A few years ago, a student said that we needed an actual prize for the peace prize. Since then, a group of students designs the peace prize using Tinkercad and we 3D print it.  Every student who researches the winning civil rights leader receives a medal.

Finally, it was the moment we had been waiting for. Nate from Flipgrid announced the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize winner………………Martin Luther King Jr. The votes were super close and this was the first year that MLK was one of our finalists for the peace prize.  Every student who researched him received their peace prize medal and we also gave a medal to each classroom to share with all students in 2nd grade.

This ceremony really is a celebration of the collective work of 2nd grade. Yes, several students hear their names called, but we all celebrate knowing that our work has reached well beyond the walls of our school to inspire others.

Thank you to every person who watched the student videos, voted, and shared this project. It means the world to the students to know that their videos have been seen.

 

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.

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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.

Flipgrid Rolled Out the Red Carpet for the Barrow Peace Prize

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For the past 2 weeks, people from around the world have been viewing and voting on our 2nd graders’ Barrow Peace Prize project. Across the course of the project, students have:

  • researched one of 6 people from history using PebbleGo, Encyclopedia Britannica, books, and other resources
  • developed criteria for a peace prize
  • written a persuasive piece about why someone should vote for their person from history
  • created a piece of art to accompany their writing
  • recorded their writing using Flipgrid
  • skyped with the creators of PebbleGo to learn about how this important research tool was made

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All of the student work was pulled together onto a Smore so that it could easily be shared with the world, and people voted for the Barrow Peace Prize via a Google form.  Across 2 weeks, the student videos had 3,413 views, 1,161 likes, and visits from over 165 different locations around the world.

A very special ceremony was held at our school to announce the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize winner. We typically Skype with the Flipgrid team to announce he winners, but this year when I called to plan our Skype, I was surprised to learn that the Flipgrid team had much bigger plans for this year’s ceremony.  Charlie Miller and Brad Hosack, the creators of Flipgrid, flew down from Minnesota to join the celebration. They wanted the celebration to be like a mini Academy Awards. They rented a red carpet to roll out at the entrance to the library. They also bought enough pizza and drinks for all the kids, teachers, and families. In addition to the Barrow Peace Prize, we handed out special certificates to students which were chosen by teachers. The Flipgrid team also designed their own 3D printed award and gave it to 5 students chose by the entire Flipgrid team.

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Ahead of the event, the teachers sent out an RSVP invite to families so that we could get an estimate for chairs and pizza. We didn’t tell the kids very much about the ceremony except that they might want to dress up. The teachers all decided that they would dress for the Academy Awards, so I of course had to pull out my tux and red vest for the event.  I printed out all of the certificates to hand to students and shared the doc with the Flipgrid team so that they could announce the winners. The day before the event, Charlie and Brad flew down. They took care of the red carpet, balloons, pizza, and drinks.  Mr. Jordan, our student support technician, and I prepped the library.  When Charlie and Brad arrived, we setup the red carpet with some spotlights and put out the balloons.

The ceremony was the most special ceremony I’ve ever been a part of. The teachers, students, and families entered the library with movie theme music playing and took time to strike a pose on the red carpet for pictures. We also had many other special guests including Carol Williams for the CCSD Board of Education and Gretchen Thomas from UGA.

We connected with the Flipgrid team in Minnesota via Skype so that they could be a part of the entire ceremony. I gave a quick overview of the project for families to hear, and then we launched into awards.  Our awards were presented by two very special Minion guests, since Charlie and Brad weren’t quite ready 🙂

The Flipgrid team gave students all of the statistics of their videos so that they heard the impact that their work was having around the world. Team members took turns announcing student winners in 5 categories, and students came up to receive their awards from the Minions with the help of my wife, Denise Plemmons.

  • Outstanding Opener: For creating an opening statement that hooks your audience into your writing. Congratulations to Daly, Makenzie, Penn, Martavius, and Morgan
  • Prolific Persuader: For using multiple strategies to persuade your audience to vote for your person from history. Congratulations to Joshua, Ben, Kate, Copeland, and Cara.
  • Radical Researcher: For combing through multiple resources to find the most accurate facts to include in your writing. Congratulations to Isobel, KP, Kenderrious, Josie, and Terry
  • Dynamic  Designer: For creating a dynamic image to represent your person from history and engage your audience. Congratulations to Janae, Julian, Tad, Katherine, and Jeffrey
  • Powerful Presenter: For speaking confidently and powerfully as you shared your person from history with the world. Congratulations to Oriana, Ava, JD, Huda, and Blake

The Flipgrid Team handed out their unique 3D printed awards to Eli, Maggie, Iayah, and Zykurea.

The thing that I loved the most is how excited kids were for one another as they received an award. Each winning name brought on a round of cheers and applause almost to the point that we couldn’t hear the next name being read. I love that this project brings students from multiple classrooms together through the common goal of celebrating a person from history. That teamwork that was a part of the entire project, we still evident as we celebrated one another at the ceremony.

Students had a chance to ask the Flipgrid team questions. I always cherish this chance for students to step up to the camera and speak directly to the people who created the tools that they use. Students had such awesome questions such as “How do the videos we record get onto Flipgrid?” and “What are all of the jobs at Flipgrid?” The team took time to fully answer each question in the most personal and age-appropriate way.

Jim Leslie, co-founder of Vidku, talked to the kids about how they were all as much a part of Flipgrid as the people who created it. He stressed the importance of student voice and how much of an impact these students have had on the people who work at Vidku and Flipgrid.

Charlie Miller and Brad Hosack were able to arrive after the Minions left the building. Charlie talked to the kids about how tools like Flipgrid give every person an equal voice. He emphasized to students how many thousands of people had viewed their videos and they are only 7 or 8 years old. He stressed that if you can have that kind of impact at such an early age, then imagine the impact you can have as you grow. The messages shared by Charlie, Brad, Jim, and the whole team are something that I stress to our kids every single day, but it was so powerful for students, teachers, families, board members, and other special guests to be in the same room together hearing this message from a company who truly cares about its users.

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At the very end of our ceremony, we announced the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize. We would like to give a big congratulations to Ruby Bridges for winning the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize. The 18 students who researched her received a copy of a 3D printed medal that was designed by 3 second grade students. Each classroom also received a copy of the medal along with Charlie and Brad of Flipgrid.

Afterward, I had several families come up to me and say that they had no idea what to expect at this ceremony, but they were blown away by the generosity of Flipgrid and the work of the students. So many students were celebrated, and families and students couldn’t help but smile and get excited. We enjoyed celebrating the winning videos by eating pizza. Students returned to their classrooms to watch more of the winning videos, which Brad pulled onto one grid for us.

We can’t thank Charlie, Brad, and all of the Flipgrid and Vidku team for making our 2016 Barrow Peace Prize project the most memorable one so far. You are a company who listens to your users, celebrates their stories, and amplifies the impact students have on the world. Thank you.

 

 

Celebrating Reading and Learning Styles with Bookapalooza

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This year, the school library media specialists in our district decided to start a new reading competition called Bookapalooza. In the past, we have participated in Battle of the Books, where students read a set list of books and compete on teams to answer questions about specific details from the books. We had lots of discussion about trying a reading competition that offered students more choice in the books that they read as well as gave students a chance to show off their creativity and interests in a variety of categories rather than just answering factual questions about books.

A subcommittee of our group met to work out some logistics of how a new reading competition might work, and a new Bookapalooza website was created.

Students in 3rd-5th grade could compete in the competition. They could choose any book, author, or genre to read and create a project around. Five categories were created to give students a variety of choices to celebrate their own learning preferences: Art, Performance, Trifold, Writing, and Technology.

In the past, teams of students have worked together in Battle of the Books. Bookapalooza did allow for some collaboration but most projects were meant to be done by individuals. I had to think about organizing our school competition in a whole new way. I’m not sure that I really did the best job, but it definitely was a great first try. In November, I started sharing with students about what Bookapalooza was all about. Some teachers brought their whole class to the library while others just showed a short intro video.

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I created a Google form where students could sign up for Bookapalooza and indicate the category they were most likely going to enter along with the title of the book. This could of course change, but the form allowed me to get a good ideas of how many students were going to enter the contest and to make sure we had projects in all of the 5 categories. I was also able to make an email list from this form so that I could email the participants with updates on the competition.

In the past, I’ve held practices for Battle of the Books during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this type of competition really didn’t lend itself to that structure. Instead, I blocked off various times on the library calendar for Bookapalooza help sessions. Teachers could sign students up to come during these times or they were welcome to just drop by to ask questions or work. Some teachers chose to the do the competition with their whole class so they scheduled time on the library calendar specifically for their class.

I also contacted our collaborating teachers to ask if they would help each grade level with projects. Natalie Hicks, Jan Mullins, and Heather Carlson were instrumental in making sure that each grade level had representation in the competition.

As the deadline approached, I checked in via email with students and teachers and the projects started to come in. I cleared off the library shelves for projects to be displayed. As they came in, I numbered the projects for judging.  For digital projects, I created another Google form for students to submit links to projects. I put all of these links on a Google doc that could be displayed on each of our projection boards for viewing. The day after the deadline, we held our school competition, which meant that classes were welcome to come through and look at all of the projects and a team of 5 judges used rubrics to judge and rank the projects. We had to select one project from each category to move on to the district competition at the Athens Clarke County Library.

Some of our technology projects included:

Some of our performance projects included:

Some of our art projects included:

Some of our trifolds included:

Since we had so many outstanding projects, I asked judges to write notes about things that stood out about various projects and we awarded many special certificates and bookmarks to students who didn’t necessarily place “first” in their category.

Congratulations to the following projects for moving forward:

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Our school level winners moved on to the district competition at the Athens Clarke County library where we were able to enjoy projects from most of the elementary schools in our district. Our school technology project placed 3rd n the district and our school art project placed 1st in the district.  Congratulations to all of the students in Clarke County who took time to share their love of books, their personal talents, and their creativity through numerous Bookapalooza projects.  We look forward to growing this celebration next year.

 

Celebrating Stories with Our Annual Storybook Parade

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The day before fall break is always a special day at our school.  It is our annual Storybook Celebration.  Organizing this day takes a tremendous amount of work, but the students have such a great day. Students and teachers are encouraged to dress as any storybook character.

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We spent about 2 weeks ahead of the event advertising various costume ideas on our morning broadcast.  I wanted to encourage students to think about how they could use things they already had around their house or things they could make in order to create an awesome costume.  Some of my BTV crew chose books and shared some simple ideas for creating an awesome costume.  An example was Max from Max the Brave where you could just dress in black and tie a red cape, blanket, sheet, or towel around your neck.

Students poured into the library for the past 2 weeks to ask for assistance finding a book for the parade and costume ideas.  We had students coming in right up until the parade actually started, which was definitely a little crazy without much help.

Also ahead of the event, I sent out a Google spreadsheet to all of our resource and specials teachers to offer special opportunities during the day for classes to have literature-focused activities and a chance for teachers to have a planning time.  Resource and specials teachers blacked out times that they weren’t available and teachers signed up for the rest.

My volunteer coordinator, Courtney Tobin, created a Signup Genius to recruit 2 guest readers for every classroom to kickoff the day. This was sent out to grade level parent representatives who encouraged people to sign up.  I also shared the link with my own list of past guest readers as well as CCSD board members and district leaders.  I also published it on our library Facebook page.  We didn’t quite reach our goal of 2 readers per class, but every class had someone to share a great story with them at the start of the day.  These readers gathered in the library, chose from a selection of books, took a photo, and were off to classes to read.

After guest readers, we gathered in the cafeteria for an assembly.  We broadcast students onto the big screen as they entered using Google Hangouts.

Evan Bush from the Athens Clarke County Public Library came and told several interactive fall stories to almost 600 students.  I loved how he took the energy of the crowd and got them all snapping, clapping, and sharing parts of the stories.  It kept them focused.  I reached out to Evan about 2 weeks before our event, and he graciously agreed to come.  I love that he gave our students a great storytelling experience and also one more connection to the public library and what it can offer.

After Evan, each class stood up twirled around to show off costumes, and sat facing the back of the cafeteria.  This prepared us to go out on our actual parade as well as gave students a chance to show one another their costumes.

It was during this time that I found out all my preparation for the parade route suddenly had to be changed.  I was so organized this year and provided maps of the parade route to families and community ahead of time.  However, Georgia Power had to do some work and closed part of the sidewalk on our route.  I had to make a last minute change, but it all worked out.

We took off into the community shouting “Read More Books!” and showing off our costumes.  It was fun to see community members, families, UGA students, construction workers, and more cheering us on along the way.  Our 1st-5th grade took a longer route and our Prek/K took a shorter route around the school.

Our 5th graders have a tradition of stopping along the parade route for a special treat, and for the past few years we have stopped at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education for hot chocolate.  Mimi, our family engagement specialist, organizes this piece for us by having the cafeteria prep the hot chocolate and taking the hot chocolate to setup.  Students have some time to just hangout, talk, and enjoy their treats before heading back to school.

Finally, back at school we go to our special classes as well as do more literature activities in class.  In the library, we focused on pirate stories since I was dressed as Captain Hook.  I also used the great pirate video from All the Wonders.

Students moved to tables and colored a pirate sheet or designed their own pirate using Chromville augmented reality.

Somehow in all the craziness, we also organized a big book giveaway.  In the back corner of the library, there were tables of books that had been donated or weeded out of various collections and needed a good home. Courtney Tobin and other volunteers helped get the books put out, and teachers brought classes or small groups of students to pick out new books.  It was fun to glance over and see so many students excited to add books to their home libraries.  We will keep these tables going next week since there are still books left.

It seems that each year something new comes along for storybook celebration that makes it a little more special.  This year I loved seeing so many creative costumes: Little Elliot, the Bird Woman from Circus Mirandus, Minecraft creepers, Martin Luther King, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more.

I loved seeing our reflection in the glass of the UGA coliseum.

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I also loved that our public library was involved in the day and I want to think even more about how community is represented on this day.

Until next year…

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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.