Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble: A Visit with Nick Bruel

We’ve been purring with excitement for the past few weeks as we geared up for an author/illustrator visit with Nick Bruel. Nick is currently touring to promote his newest installment in the Bad Kitty series: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble.

Prior to his visit, we held an art contest in the library. Students in any grade could enter. Their task was to name a new Bad Kitty book and create a cover for that book. Winners in the contest received an autographed copy of Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble and honorable mentions received a blind bag Hatchimal.

Once again, students amazed us with their creativity in both titles and covers, so it was hard to narrow down to just a few top winners. All student artwork was displayed in the library windows to welcome Nick to our school.

Our 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade packed into the library to hear Nick talk about Bad Kitty. In the beginning, he introduced us to the newest book: Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble. He made the connection for students that it was inspired by the global issues around refugees and how we welcome them into our communities around the world (or not). Even though this Bad Kitty addresses a global topic, it is still a Bad Kitty book at heart with plenty of humor along the way.

Nick read aloud the first couple of chapters of the books, and it was fun to hear students chime in with the repeating lines that they quickly noticed.

Rather than go through his whole writing and creating process with students, Nick took a different approach. He made sure we divided the audience in half as they were being seated and he had each side think of pieces to an entirely new story. One side thought of a character, while the other side thought of an emotion. Then, he picked students to share their thoughts. Our story title became “The Happy Cockroach”.

With this title, Nick began asking questions to each side of the room. With each question, more of the story developed and more questions emerged. Why was the cockroach happy? ….because he was in a hotel full of food.  What problem might that cause?….he ate too much.

The questions and answers continued until we had created a story from beginning to end. Nick took time to retell the story from memory using every answer that students had given.

This brought us to the learn the secret of writing.

This was a perfect setup for students and teachers to take back to the classroom to continue writing workshop. Nick even gave them some activities they could try when they returned.

Students always love to see an illustrator draw, so Nick of course drew Bad Kitty for us. After that, he took time to reinforce the idea that simple changes to the same drawing can give your character different emotions. He did this by just drawing the eyes, nose, and mouth of Bad Kitty and making changes to show surprise, adorable, and crazy.

He finished up his time by letting students ask questions, and he even got some questions he had never been asked before. One of those questions came from a 4th grader: “On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you saw your writing and illustrating has improved since the first Bad Kitty?”  This question took some thought, and even though he didn’t have a number to assign, he did talk about how his work had grown both in writing and illustrating.

Before he left he signed pre-ordered books for students. Our PTA bought a copy of Kitten Trouble for each homeroom class library.  We also now have 6 copies in the library for checkout.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for bringing another author to our school to inspire our reader and creators. Thank you to MacMillan Kids for continuing to send authors on tour to bookshops and schools.

This was our 4th author/illustrator visit this year, and each one brings a new piece of learning and inspiration to us all.

These visits connect us with a real person that creates just like we do in our classrooms and homes. These visits build excitement for books that some students may not have engaged with yet, and they create a shared experience that we can all continue to talk about throughout this year and in the future.


Our Open Makerspace Featuring UGA Students

open makerspace (7)

Students have been eager to use our makerspace this year.  I’ve been incorporating making into collaborative projects with grade levels, small groups, and even individual students, but there is still a strong pull to come to the makerspace to dream, tinker, and create without the constraints of a grade level curriculum.

My struggle is finding the time to balance giving students open time to explore along with the classes that I teach each day and collaborative projects that I support.  I’ve been having a conversation about this with Gretchen Thomas, instructional technology instructor at UGA.  Here and there we have found times for some of her students to come and work with my students.  Gretchen has even come in herself to work with students in the makerspace.  However, I wanted something more consistent and dependable for students and teachers instead of random emails inviting them to use the space.

This semester, we are experimenting with something new called open makerspace.  Gretchen has several independent study students as well as a Maker Dawgs course.  The independent study students have each selected a day of the week to be here from 11-12:15.  Gretchen’s Maker Dawg class will take turns coming on Thursday from 11-12:15.  This means that every day is covered.  This time of day overlaps into 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade recess.  Students have the option of coming to the makerspace instead of going to recess, but one of the big requirements is that they can’t come every day.  We still want them to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with their friends, too.

The UGA students and I are trying to work out a routine.  During this first week of our experiment, it looks something like this:

  • I send periodic reminders to teachers that the makerspace is available every day from 11-12:15.
  • Students come at any time during that time frame.
  • They sign in with the UGA student and say what they hope to explore or work on.
  • Together with the UGA students, they setup areas around the library to work on things like littleBits, Sphero, etc.
  • The UGA student tinkers right alongside the students as well as moves between groups to make sure they are keeping materials safe and being productive.
  • Every so often, the UGA students do a time check since the students get lost in the making and forget the time.
  • Before students leave, the UGA student prompts them to clean up as much as they can, and then the UGA student straightens and organizes in between groups.
  • When there’s not a high traffic time, it’s a great time for the UGA student to organize the maker supply cart, the littleBits, or the robotics kits.

I won’t lie that this week has been chaotic and exhausting.  I think that the process is going to work, but each day this week I had a new UGA student, so that meant teaching this routine to someone new each day.  Gretchen came to help on 2 of the days.  Most days this week, I didn’t have a moment to stop and fully eat my own lunch since it falls within this 11-12:15 block.  This will change, though.  It takes some time to get a new routine up and running.

What did this week look like?  So many exciting things happened.  The biggest is that 54 students have used the space this week during that one-hour time block, and that’s not including Friday!

We also got to try out Google Cardboard, which was just a little bit exciting for some of our students!

And just for fun, here’s one of our UGA makerspace helpers!