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).

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.

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?

Preparing for Mystery Skype with Centers

Our 3rd grade classrooms love to mystery Skype.  Have you tried it? In a mystery Skype, 2 classrooms connect with one another but don’t say where they are from.  The two organizers of course know, but the students don’t.  By asking a series of yes or no questions, students try to narrow down to a country, state, city, and even school if there is time.  Mystery Skypes work best when students are prepared in advance and every student has a job to do.  There are many example of jobs to assign in a mystery Skype such as greeter, researcher, questioner, scribe, and photographer.

Ms. Haley, a 3rd grade teacher, met with me to talk about some skills she hoped the students could work on in advance of a mystery Skype.  I started planning a series of 5 centers for students to rotate through.  Ms. Maher, our tech integration specialist, worked on scheduling mystery Skypes via Twitter and Skype in the Classroom so that all 3rd grade classes had a connection.

Two classes at a time came to the library to engage in the mystery Skype centers.  This meant that me, the two classroom teachers, my library intern, and a parent or collaborating teacher could run one center each.  This also meant hat about 8 students would be at each center for 10-ish minutes.  It was very fast-paced, but it introduced to students to many aspects of a mystery Skype and they continued the work in their classrooms throughout the week leading up to the connection.

 

I made a Google doc with all 5 centers and teachers shared the doc with their students through Google Classroom.  Each student had a copy to edit.  Here’s a look at what happened at each center:

Center 1 Question Writing

I reference Pernille Ripp’s great post on good mystery Skype questions.  Students read her examples and then worked on writing their own possible questions from narrow to more specific.  My intern worked with students to think carefully about the kinds of questions they were writing.

 

Center 2 Google Tour Builder

Ms. Haley wanted students to have a sense of where they were in relation with the rest of the world, so I had students start a Google Tour Builder at either their home address or our school address. Then, students built a tour of places they have lived, visited, or want to visit in the world.  This allowed them to be able to reference their current place in the world with other locations

Center 3 Georgia

A big part of a mystery Skype is sharing facts about your city and state with the connecting class.  Students of course love to learn that there are McDonald’s in multiple places in the world, but it’s also fun to share unique facts that make your state what it is.  A pulled a large stack of books about many aspects of our state from Weird Georgia to books about each region.  Students gathered facts that they could share with our connecting class at the end of the Skype.

Center 4 The United States

Ms Haley wanted us to review cardinal and intermediate directions.  I have a small set of National Geographic Kids Beginner’s United States Atlases.  The atlas divides the country up into regions such as northeast, southwest, etc. so I asked students to look at each region and count the number of states in each region, name some of the states, and pick out some facts about those states.  My hope was this would give them some familiarity with how the US is organized and lead to questions about specific regions or help them answer questions from our connecting class about the regions.

Center 5 Landmarks

Our 3rd graders study several important rivers and lakes as part of their social studies, so this center included books about all of those rivers and lakes as well as other landmarks around the country.  Students used these books to identify landmarks and then write questions that could be asked using those landmarks.  Example:  Is your school west of the Mississippi River?

This was my first try at doing this kind of preparation for a mystery Skype.  Each center was based on past experiences and skills that I saw a need for as well as the skills brought up by the 3rd grade teachers.  We will see how this translates into our connections this week.

Looking back, I wish we had more time at each center in the library, but it was also nice to quickly go through the centers to get an understanding of each one and then independently work on them back int he classroom over several days.

What have you done to prepare for a mystery Skype? Leave a comment!

 

Let’s All Connect for World Read Aloud Day 2017

It’s time for us all to start making plans and building excitement for World Read Aloud Day 2017 with Litworld.  This year, World Read Aloud Day takes place on February 16, 2017, but many of us will celebrate the entire week of February 13-17, 2017.

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World Read Aloud Day “calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  When we connect our students through Skype, Google Hangouts, or other web tools, they experience the power of the read aloud and realize that they are connected with a bigger world that is both the same and different from them.  By connecting our voices through reading aloud, we are reading on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

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Shannon McClintock Miller and I invite you to start posting your schedules on our shared Google Doc.

 

http://tinyurl.com/wrad17

 

When you share your schedule, be sure to include:

  • Your name
  • Your contact info such as social media, Skype, and/or email
  • Your role
  • Your school and grade levels
  • Your location
  • List your time zone when posting your available dates and times

wrad-map

After you post your own schedule, take a look at the other schedules and sign up on someone’s schedule to connect your students.  We’ve found that it doesn’t matter if same grade levels connect with one another. Often times, an older grade can read aloud to a younger grade or younger grades can find parts of a books that they can read aloud to an older grade.  There’s not just one way to connect.  Part of the fun is meeting new friends, planning your read alouds, and seeing what magical things happen during your connection that you weren’t even expecting.

We have many ideas from previous years on our blogs.  You can read more about previous World Read Aloud Day connections on Expect the Miraculous and The Library Voice.  Litworld also has several resources for you to use in your planning and connections including:

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Please let us know if you have any questions.  Happy connecting!

Shannon McClintock Miller @shannonmmiller & Andy Plemmons @plemmonsa

When Authors Connect: A Skype with Barbara O’Connor

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One of our amazing Barrow teachers, Ms. Spurgeon, is leading a book club with some 5th grade students.  To select their book, she read the summaries of several books as well as the first page of those books.  The members of the group unanimously chose Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog after hearing the opening line: “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.  They have been savoring every moment of reading the book since choosing it.  They’ve taken their time because a book like this one deserves some discussion, and Ms. Spurgeon has shared that some of that discussion has been hard.

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How to Steal a Dog is about Georgina Hayes and her brother who have been evicted from their apartment and now live out of their car with their mother.  They long for a place of their own, and a “lost dog” poster suddenly gives them an idea.  What if they stole a dog and then collected the reward money after giving the dog back to its owner?  The plan sounds brilliant, but even though it is well planned out by Georgina, the duo face some unexpected challenges that complicate their hopes.

Ms. Spurgeon’s group has had some tough discussions about homelessness, poverty, stealing, and family relationships, but the students have embraced those discussions and in turn stayed connected and engaged in the book. When she shared with me how powerful the discussions were, I really wanted Barbara O’Connor to hear about it.

I shared some of Ms. Spurgeon’s observations with Barbara and wondered if we might connect over Skype for just a few minutes when they were close to finished with the book.  Barbara enthusiastically said yes, and we set a date to connect for about 20 minutes.

Ms Spurgeon kept the Skype a surprise until the day of the connection, and the 5 students were shocked that they would actually talk to the “real author” of the book they were reading. They prepared some questions over lunch and came to the library to Skype.

Meeting Barbara O'Connor #authorvisit #studentvoice

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

It was a different kind of Skype because it was intimate. I pulled 5 chairs right up to the board so students could be close to Barbara on screen. Students each introduced themselves, and Ms. Spurgeon had a moment to talk to Barbara about their experience with the book.

Barbara took time to talk a bit about herself as a writer, how many books she has published, and where she lives. Then, it really became a conversation between the students and Barbara. I love author and illustrator visits, but often these visits are more presentation and less conversation because of the size of the groups we pack in for a visit. This type of visit built a connection between author and reader.

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Students asked about whether Barbara had experienced homelessness, why she wrote the book, how long it took, and more. Some students also came up with follow-up questions in the moment and because it was a small group, they could actually ask those.  We got to take a quick tour around Barbara’s house as she showed the students her dogs after they asked whether or not she had a dog of her own.

We closed our time by thinking about next reads. I had pulled the books from our library that weren’t checked out at the moment and asked Barbara if she would like to suggest any of her other books as a follow-up selection. She suggested The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis and showed students an example of a Yoohoo boat from the story. While she mentioned other books like Wish, one of the students reached out and grabbed Popeye and Elvis and started reading it. That’s one of the great rewards of an author visit whether it’s through Skype or in person.  The books come alive for the students and they can’t wait to read them all. Even though I can often recommend a book to a student and they will read it, the recommendation from the actual author is as good as gold.

When the students returned to their class, they continued to talk about the visit and how wonderful Barbara was to talk to.  Some of them said they couldn’t wait to read more of her books once they finish this one.  I know that Skype visits take time for authors, but it means the world to readers when they offer even a small amount of time to say hello, show off their dogs, and talk about the joys and challenges of writing and reading. Thank you for joining us today, Barbara O’Connor!

 

Celebrating Our Explorer Project with the Flipgrid Team

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Today our 4th graders had the chance to Skype with Charlie Miller and the rest of the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This was the conclusion of the explorers project that 4th grade students have worked on for the past few weeks.  As part of the project, we encouraged people around the world to watch our Flipgrid videos and vote on whether explorers were heroes or villains.

The team congratulated our students on their hard work on this project and also took questions and suggestions from students.  Several 4th graders stepped to the microphone and shared suggestions such as:

  • Extending the 90 second time limit by offering a choice of time limits
  • Allowing you to categorize your video with tags

Other students shared what they liked about Flipgrid such as:

  • the ability to watch other people’s videos before making your own
  • the like button
  • being able to film your video again if you weren’t happy with it

Since this Skype came the week after our hour of code lessons, it was also a great time to hear about how an app was developed.  It sounded like developing an app is a much longer process that developing a website because in one of the student questions we learned that the app took about 6 months to create while the website took 2 really long weekends.  We also heard how an app is never really done because you are always trying to make it better.  I loved how this connected both with our hour of code sessions but also to other areas such as writing instruction.  Students also learned about how the name Flipgrid was chosen since the videos are on a grid and they flip when you play them, but they also heard other considerations that go into a name such as web domain registration and what is actually available.

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One of the most fun parts of the Skype was the announcement of awards.  Several students received awards for Excellence in Writing, Shout-outs from authors, and Global Persuader awards.  I sent these names to the Flipgrid team and they took turns calling out student names as I handed out the certificates.  Students had fun giving silent cheers for their classmates as awards were handed out.

I also took time to share with the students the results of all of the voting that had taken place for their project.  It was interesting to see their reactions as they heard that Christopher Columbus was the only explorer voted to be a villain.

Just for fun, we closed out our Skype with a Christmas singalong of Rudolph.  Luke performed on the guitar and we belted out our best Rudolph even through the time delay on Skype.  It may not have sounded like it was together, but it was still fun.

Thank you to the entire Flipgrid team for creating a tool that has helped our student voices to reach a global audience, and thank you for taking time to celebrate with us.