Beginning Our Winter Around the World Projects

Winter 002

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.

Winter 001

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.

beatlab (1)

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.






Kindergarten Authors: Empowering Voice Through Informational Ebooks

Planet Research (4)Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class has done it again.  They have once again ventured out to try something that no other class has tried and inspired other classes and projects with their work.  In small groups, they each chose a planet to research.  We used PebbleGo, TrueFlix, and books to search for facts in the library and in class.   Then, in the library and in class, students worked on sequencing their facts.

Planet Research (11) Planet Research (9)

Over the past week, Ms. Kelly checked out iPads each day for students to use to publish their work using Storykit.  I love how she encouraged them to take pictures of objects in the school and then use the drawing feature in Storykit to enhance those pictures.

Take a look at their finished products below.  If you click on each picture, it will take you to the student book.  If you have comments for our students, please leave them here on the blog and I will be sure to pass them along to our authors.  If you would like to learn more about Storykit, I’m sure these Kindergarten experts would be willing to Skype or Google Hangout with your students to share their expertise.


Mercury by Dominik, James, and Jakaris



Uranus by Olivia and Lizzie



Jupiter by Ben and Tia


Mars by Macie and Taeden


Venus by Blessing and Janie


Saturn by Bryah, Yehun, and Charlie



Neptune by Eni and Talia



Earth by Jayden, Miracle, and Wendy


The Sun

The Sun by Scarlett, Casper, and Sammy

Empowering Student Voice Through Individual Projects: A Kindergarten Research Project


My library uses a flexible schedule.  This means that I don’t see classes at a set time every week.  Instead, I collaborate with teachers and schedule lessons and projects as they fit into the curriculum each week.  This flexibility allows me to work with more than just homeroom classes to include classes like art and music, gifted, special education, and extended learning time groups.  It also allows me to work with small groups of students or even individuals.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working with Mick, a Kindergarten student.  He is an avid reader and is very curious about so many things.  Mick discovers a topic and wants to know all there is to know about it.  Our recent exploration has been around seahorses, which was sparked by a book that he read in his class.

Over several sessions, Mick came to the library for research.  We developed questions together on a Google doc.  He did all of the talking, and I did the typing.

Seahorse doc

Once we had a good list of questions, we started exploring PebbleGo, a Capstone Interactive ebook on seahorses, and Encyclopedia Britannica in our Galileo database.  We listened to the read aloud feature or I read the text aloud if it was too difficult for him to read on his own.  We paused often to see if any facts had answered our questions.  If Mick pulled out a fact, we put it into his own words and I added it to the doc.

After each session, I printed our notes for him to take back to class in case he did more research on his own or at home.  Once Mick felt like he had enough facts, I asked him what he wanted to do with his information.

He really wanted to “make a book using the computer”.  There are several tools we could use to do this, but we decided to use an iPad and the Storykit app.  This app lets you create multiple pages, type text, record audio, draw, take pictures, and import pictures.  I’ve seen other Kindergarten students use it, so I felt like it was the right tool for the job.

Mick’s first steps were to find some creative commons pictures of seahorses.  He used the camera on the iPad to take pictures of the pictures and put one picture on each page.

During another session, we went through Mick’s facts and selected an order for the information.  He read the facts he wanted, and I typed them onto the iPad.  I originally had him typing, but it was taking longer than we had time for.

In our final session, Mick recorded his voice reading each page.

The Storykit app lets you upload the book to the Storykit server and then you get a link to the work to share.

I invite you to take a look and a listen to Mick’s informational story on Seahorses.  I love it when student’s voices are empowered through projects in the library.  If you have comments for Mick, please leave them in the comments.

Mick's Seahorses (1)

Interactive Ebook Station

interactive screenWe finally have another piece of our new library put together.  Our touchscreen computer was just setup in our display case just inside the doors of the library.  This screen can be used for multiple functions, but our primary function is to allow it to be a space where students browse our Capstone Interactive Ebook Collection.  When you purchase Capstone Interactive Ebooks, you get a direct link to the ebooks that automatically logs you in.  This is in addition to a unique username and password for the whole school to use.  The home screen of this computer will be directed to that specific link.  Students can spend time listening or reading an entire book at this station or they can browse the collection for books that they might read later.  Also, when students are asking for specific kinds of books, I can easily show them the ebooks that fit their requests without having to pull up the ebooks on a computer where students are also trying to look for books in Destiny.

Tomorrow on our morning broadcast, students will get to see a video advertising this new feature.  I look forward to seeing how students use this new feature in our library.



Student E-book Creation

Some third graders have been exploring how they can make their own ebooks.  This group was a big exploration.  We really didn’t know what we were doing when we started, and we gave ourselves permission to just try things, problem solve, and be at peace if something just didn’t work.

We decided to try Barnes and Noble’s Tikatok first.  It’s free and can either be done with a parent account with children added or can be done with a teacher account with students added.  Students can use a gallery of photos or import their own.  Most students chose to search for creative commons photos to use in their book.  One student even did her own photography.  Some students started with a written story and made their pages and images match their story.  Others started with interesting images and tried to weave those into a story or collection of poems.

The free version of Tikatok only allows you to use photos and text.  If you want to include audio, you have to pay to upgrade your account.  Also, we learned that a parent account allows the books to be shared exactly as they are created, while a teacher account only allows the books to be shared with the word “tikatok” spread across each page.  Ultimately, this is a tool for Barnes and Noble to make money through the purchase of the ebook version or the printed version.  However, we found that it was useful enough and easy enough to use that we would try it again and only use the features that were free.

Another group will begin exploring in a couple of weeks.  This group is probably going to try out a different tool called SimpleBooklet.  There are many more features in this tool such as embedding Google docs, video, and audio.  The feel of the book is more like a slideshow than the turning of pages in Tikatok, but the features may prove to support more creativity and transmedia experiences for students.  Our hope is that these 2 exploration groups will work out some of the kinks for future groups and inspire whole grade levels to try this out.

You can preview 3 of the books that these students created here.