Examining the Work of Ashley Bryan

Our fabulous art teacher, Ms. Foretich, is always looking for opportunities to take our students to art experiences outside our school.  Last year, she attended a workshop at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and learned that the Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan exhibit was on the way for this school year.  We did a quick brainstorm on a grade level we might do a project with and she applied for the Art Access grant which supports transportation and admission to the museum.

Second grade was the grade we decided to work with and their field trip was planned for 2 days to accommodate all the students. Before the trip, every class came to the library for an introductory lesson and experience planned by me and Ms. Foretich.  We made a Google doc and planned out 4 centers that students could rotate to with the goal of making it to at least 2 centers.  Ms. Foretich arranged each class into 4 groups.

Before we began the centers, we did a brief overview of the High Museum website and the life of Ashley Bryan.  We learned about his life experiences and how he wants to fill the world with as many stories and illustrations of African Americans as he can.

We listened to him read My People by Langston Hughes.

We also gave a brief overview of each center since all students wouldn’t visit all centers.  Then, students went to their first center and got started.

Center 1: Ashley Bryan’s Puppets

Students began by watching a video of Ashley Bryan’s puppets.  As they watched, we wanted them to consider what characters he created. We also wanted them to notice materials he used and how the puppets moved.

Then, students took a look at the book Ashley Bryan’s Puppets so they could take a closer look at the materials of the puppets.

Finally students used a short readers’ theater script along with my library puppets to act out a script.

Our hope is to eventually have students create their own puppets and scripts for a project in 2nd quarter.

Center 2: Beautiful Blackbird Collage

Students read the book Beautiful Blackbird and looked closely at the colors and collage work in the illustrations. Then, Ms. Foretich had stencils, construction paper, glue, and oil pastels so that students could create their own bird collage. Many of the students kept the book open while they worked so they could mimic some of Ashley Bryan’s style.

Center 3: Poetry & Illustration

Students began by looking at the many ways Ashley Bryan illustrates the poetic works of African American poets.  Some of the books included Freedom Over Me, Sail Away, and ABC of African American Poetry.  Each book had a different style of illustration. Then, students used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create their own poetry. An additional step could have been to craft an illustration, but it was hard to add that in the time frame we had.

Center 4: African American Spirituals

Students looked at Let It Shine and I’m Going to Sing which both include African American spirituals illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Their task was to look at the words of the spiritual and how he took song and turned it into illustration. Then, students listened to multiple African American spirituals from the books that I compiled on Symbaloo.

While they listened, they used various kinds of paper, oil pastels, and black markers to draw what they heard or draw what they felt.

The library was noisy and creative during the centers, and Ms. Foretich and I enjoyed walking between centers and facilitating conversations about what we noticed in the illustrations.

Field Trip

Now, all students have visited the High Museum to see the exhibit of Ashley Bryan and they carried all of these center experiences with them as they went.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the field trip with them so it will be important for me to gather their experiences and visit the exhibit through them so that I can support the next steps of our project.  In quarter 2, we will revisit the books of Ashley Bryan, think about storytelling, and create art and puppets to help us tell those stories.  I’m excited to see what they create.

Seriously Silly: A Visit to the High Museum to See the Mo Willems Exhibit

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Third grade has been hard at work on a Mo Willems art and writing project.  Since there is a Mo Willems exhibit at the High Museum of Art, we decided to use Mo Willems as an author/illustrator study to take a close look at how illustrators show emotion through their characters as well as how authors many times have a moral or lesson that we learn from their stories.

In the library in collaboration with Rita Foretich (art teacher), we took a close look at the whole Mo Willems collection of books.  We wanted students to spend time looking at the illustration and noticing similarities and differences across series as well as how he creates simple illustrations that show a range of emotions.  I pulled all of our library books for this as well as brought my whole collection from home.

In art, students have been working on characters and settings for their own stories which will include a moral of some kind.  In writing workshop, students are working on the text of their stories.  They will eventually come back to the library to use all of these pieces with the Puppet Pals app on the iPad to tell their stories.

Our art teacher wrote a grant to fund a field trip for the entire 3rd grade to visit the High Museum in Atlanta.  Across 2 days, every student had a chance to visit the museum, tour the Mo Willems exhibit, see some additional pieces of art, and participate in an art workshop.  The grant funded tickets for all students as well as transportation.  We are so fortunate to have an art teacher who works tirelessly to increase access to art for our students.  For several students, it was their first time visiting Atlanta and seeing the massive skyscrapers.

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At the museum, we split up into two groups.  One group went to an art workshop and the other group split in half for a tour with a docent.  Our docent tour took us into the main exhibits to stop at key art pieces and consider materials the artist used, the story the piece was trying to tell, and to learn more about how to examine a piece of art in a safe and meaningful way.

We eventually made our way into the Mo Willems exhibit, and the docent took us to each collection of art and had students sit on the floor.  At the pigeon illustrations, we looked at the many expressions of the pigeon and how Mo Willems shows emotion through eye position, movement, and facial expressions.

Students took turns standing and acting out the emotions of the pigeon to see if they agreed with the choices that Mo Willems made.  She also pointed out how Mo Willems draws an illustration multiple times before doing the final illustration.  Some of the pieces on exhibit showed blue, red, and black lines to show he changes Mo Willems had made along the way.  Students loved looking at the final piece and seeing what changed from the original sketch.

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We continued to each collection of art doing similar activities to consider emotion and movement.  Students had a chance to share their favorite Mo Willems book or tell about the book that various pieces of art came from.  Along the way, we learned a bit more about Mo Willems and his work with Sesame Street.  Students also loved looking for the pigeons hidden throughout the museum.

In the workshop, students listened to the story Leonardo the Terrible Monster.  As they listened, the museum reader pointed out the expressions of the various monsters in the story and continued the theme of having students think about movement and emotion in illustration.

Following the story, students made their own monster out of construct paper, textured rubbings, and various craft supplies.  They were once again asked to think about emotion and how they were showing that through their monster.  I liked walking around and seeing students and teachers positioning their eyes, mouths, and other body parts to see how it changed the look and feel of the monster.  Students continued to add to their monsters right up until we packed up to leave.

It was a fabulous day at the museum and I can’t wait to see how this experience translates into the stories, characters, and settings that they are continuing to work on.

Kindergarten Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers using the StoryKit App

ICDL   International Children s Digital Library

Ms. Hocking is a Kindergarten teacher at our school who is always discovering new tools that she wants to try with her students.  She recently showed me the StoryKit app for iPhone.  This app uses some of the texts from the International Digital Children’s Library .  Readers can read the books as they are, but they can also edit them.

Ms. Hocking’s class has been reading multiple versions of the same folktales and stories this year, so this type of app was a great fit to extend their curiosities and noticings in reading into something that they could create.

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In class, she continued to have students read multiple versions of the same type of story such as The Gingerbread Boy and The Three Little Pigs.  In the library, students came for a whole hour of tinkering with the app.  Students started on the carpet, and I projected an iPad onto the screen.  I showed them the app and we started exploring the tools and menus together.  Then, students used an iPad to explore on their own.

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Through our modeling and tinkering, students discovered:

  • how to take a picture and add it to the story
  • how to draw on illustrations
  • how to delete text
  • how to add their own text
  • how to resize images inserted into the story
  • how to delete pages
  • how to find and add images already on the iPad camera roll

This tinkering was very important because it allowed students to figure out the workings of the app before they had to produce something.  In class, Ms. Hocking had them select one of the stories from the app and work in a collaborative group to brainstorm changes to the story.  These changes were written by Ms. Hocking or Ms. Rockholt, the parapro, onto a notecard.  Students also went in and deleted all of the text from the story in their classroom.

In the library, the groups came back for a work session.  Each adult worked with 2 groups.  Students took turns modifying the images in the story to match their plans for the story.  Then, some students wrote out new text for the story while other groups told their text to the adult in the group.  We tried to put as much control and creation into the hands of the students.

Back in class, Ms. Hocking is looking over their stories and they will continue to work before finalizing and sharing their work.

I loved seeing what Kindergartners could create.  I also loved the tinkering and creativity built into this project.


Writing Folktales with Puppet Pals

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A few weeks ago, I introduced the iPad app, Puppet Pals, to 3rd grade through a tinkering lesson connected with an author study.  After that lesson, the teachers and I started planning an extension of their folktale unit using this app.  Each class chose a folktale to read multiple version of such as Cinderella, Goldilocks, Three Little Pigs, etc.  Then, students wrote their own story using some of the elements that they had noticed in their study of folktales.  In art, students designed characters and settings for the stories that they wrote in writing time.


Puppet Pals HD is a free app, but if you upgrade the app for $4.99, you have access to so many more features.  My favorite feature is the ability to take photographs of anything and turn it into a character or a setting for your story.  Students used their artwork from art to create the characters and settings in the app.  From there, students took their script and recorded their folktales.  Some students had multiple characters and settings, so it was nice that they could pause the recording to switch out settings or characters.


Once the recordings were done, we exported them to the camera roll and uploaded them to Youtube.  The app does allow you to name each story, but it doesn’t transfer the name into the camera roll.  I wish we had done the Youtube upload as part of recording because I couldn’t tell which story belonged to which student.  For now, all of the stories are just called “Puppet Pals” in Youtube. We’ll go back later and add the student titles and names.

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3rd Grade Folktales Visual Interpretation Project

folktales (1)Back in October, our 3rd graders spent time studying the illustrations of Jerry Pinkney.  They paid close attention to how Pinkney told the story through his illustrations in preparation for a field trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to see the exhibit Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney.  You can read more about that here and here.

Over the past few weeks in art, students have been working with the text of a folktale to create their own visual interpretations of the text.  Mrs. Foretich, the art teacher, spent a lot of time exploring and researching the vocabulary within the stories with the students so that they would be able to paint an accurate interpretation.  Each class chose and different folktale and each student in the class was assigned a piece of text from the story.

folktales (4)Once the paintings were ready, Mrs. Foretich organized them in the order of the story and gave them to me.  Students came in small groups to record the text for each illustration on the iPad.  We used iMovie to put all of the clips together.

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This past week, third grade held a parent breakfast where families were able to come to a viewing of the final products.  They were also uploaded to Youtube for families who were unable to attend.

You can enjoy their visual interpretations below.  It was fun to watch the students take on an artists eye and think like a published illustrator thinks.  Often, illustrators receive the text to a story with no other feedback.  It is up to them to take these words and translate them into illustration.  This project gave students a better understanding of the fun and the challenges of this process.


A Visit to the High Museum of Art: Witness…The Art of Jerry Pinkney

high museum (31)Today was step 2 of our 3rd grade folktale project, and it was a big step.  We traveled to the High Museum of Art to see the exhibit Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney.  Prior to going, we spent time exploring all of Pinkney’s books in our library collection.  Mrs. Foretich, the art teacher, also did a lesson on museum etiquette.

On the way to the High, students explored Pinkney’s books some more.  As we neared our destination, I asked a few students to think about what they might like to tweet about the books or their excitement for the exhibit.  bus convo Our plan was to use twitter throughout the trip to document some of the things we saw and the things we learned.  We used our school hashtag #barrowbuddies to tag our posts.

After arriving, our groups  split in half.  Some toured the exhibit, whiles other ate lunch.  Then we switched.  Some of us were also able to explore some of the permanent collection before our tour began.

The tour of Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney was done by a docent.  We received a brief history of the museum before entering the exhibit.  Our docent had us sit in front of collections of paintings and told us about the stories that the paintings came from.  We saw paintings from historical books such as Minty and Black Cowboy Wild Horses, folktales such as Three Little KittensRikki Tikki Tavi, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Little Match Girl, and biblical stories such as Noah’s Ark.  Our docent had the kids work together to retell some of the familiar folktales as she pointed out things in the paintings.  We noticed how Pinkney set The Little Match Girl in New York City rather than in Europe where the tale came from.  We noticed how Pinkney set Little Red Riding Hood in a wintry woods so that it made sense for her to wear the kind of cloak she was wearing.  Along the way, we also learned about Pinkney’s childhood and how he always had access to a pencil and art supplies.  As we studied the watercolor paintings, we were reminded of the difficulty of working with this medium and the need to work quickly before the colors run together.  At the close of the exhibit, we looked at The Lion and the Mouse.  Along with looking at the paintings, students got to do some impromptu storytelling of their own using puppets.

The finale of our visit was getting to hear some of Pinkney’s folktales come to life through the storytelling talents of a rambler from the Wren’s Nest.  We heard 2 folktales, and the students were heavily involved in the performance.  He had them hanging on every word.

Our field trip allowed us time to do a brief second stop at the Georgia State Capitol rotunda.  Although students didn’t get to tour the entire Capitol, they at least got a frame of reference for the Capitol as we study it back at school.  We plan to use the Georgia Capitol Tour App on our iPads to do a more in-depth look at this landmark.

Once again on the way home, students took another look at Pinkney’s books with a new appreciation for the artwork that spans the pages of this books.  It was truly awesome to stand in a room surrounded by the collective work of Pinkney.  We did not have enough time to truly appreciate the years of work that went into this collection, but we will return to our school with a new appreciation of his art.

Our next steps will be to:

  • Continue reading folktales and studying their elements
  • Identify one folktale for each class to read without seeing the illustrations
  • Create the illustrations for the folktale in art
  • Put illustrations and text together with our iPads

Studying Illustrations with Jerry Pinkey

Pinkey art (8)Third grade is beginning a folktale project that is a collaboration between classroom teachers, the art teacher, and the media center.  This week, we kicked the project off with a lesson in the media center to explore the artwork of Jerry Pinkney, who writes and illustrates many folktales.

Students came to the library during art.  The purpose of this time was to get familiar with Pinkney’s illustrations before students take a field trip to the High Museum of Art  in Atlanta to see an exhibit of Jerry Pinkney’s art.  We wanted students to think about 2 questions.

  • What clues does the illustrator give us about the setting of the story?
  • What clues does the illustrator give us about what the characters are doing in the story?

We started with this video of Jerry Pinkney discussing The Lion and the Mouse.

After the video, I asked the students how Jerry Pinkney started working on the book and what he realized once he made those first steps.  This took our conversation to focus on the importance of illustrations and how they can tell the whole story or how they can work with the text to tell the story.

Next, we looked at this slideshare that showed Caldecott honor and medal winners along with the criteria used to decide the winners.

The purpose of this part was to highlight the many ways you can look at an illustration and how it interacts with the text or tells the story.  Jerry Pinkney has received several Caldecott Honor Awards along with the Caldecott Medal.

Pinkey art (10)Finally, we modeled how someone might study one illustration in a book very carefully and consider our 2 focusing questions.  I used We Give Books to display the book Big Red Lollipop.  Students in each class noticed things such as the red cross as a symbol for a hospital, an envelope on the side of a building to show a post office, the number of buildings close together to show a town, etc.  They also noticed how the character’s hair was blowing in the wind and how her leg was lifted high to show that she was running.  They noticed how she was carrying a letter and smiling to indicate that she was probably going home to show her family something she was excited about.

For the last part of the lesson, students split into groups of 4-5 students.  Each group received 4-5 books by Jerry Pinkney to examine.  Their job was to study the illustrations using the 2 questions just like we did in our model illustration.  As groups talked, the art teacher, art student teacher, and I walked around and chatted with students about what they saw in the illustrations.  We then asked groups to choose one illustration that they wanted to show to another group and discuss.  They used iPads to take a photograph of the illustration.  When they shared with another group, they could zoom in and out of the illustration on the iPads to show the fine details.

In art, students will now have a lesson on museum etiquette  where they will practice the skills it will take to visit a fine art museum.

On the trip to the High on October 23, we will tweet our observations using the hashtag #barrowbuddies.

Next steps will include:

  • Learning elements of folktales.
  • Reading multiple folktales and using a Google form to track the most common elements.
  • Choosing a folktale to read in class without seeing the illustrations.
  • In Art, developing illustrations for that folktale.
  • In the media center, put the illustrations and folktale version together with technology.
  • Share the new creation with the world

We can’t wait to see how this project develops and how Jerry Pinkney’s art inspires what the students create.

Stone Soup: A Folktale Follow-up

Ms. Spurgeon, a fabulous third grade teacher, does a Stone Soup folktale study with her students each year.  This is a part of the folktale study that third grade just kicked off.  She has her students study multiple versions of Stone Soup and consider how the characters, setting, and plot change based on where the story is taking place or which country the story comes from.  Students are quickly discovering that the basic themes of Stone Soup stay the same but characters, setting, and the ingredients in the soup change.

DSCF2366Today, we read Jon J. Muth’s version of Stone Soup.  We loved hearing the many different kinds of ingredients that were added to the soup such as pea pods, lily buds, taro root, winter melon, and more.

After we finished the story, we revisited our Google form of folktale elements to see how Stone Soup compared with other folktales we have read.  We noticed that the following elements appeared in all 4 folktales that we have read in 3rd grade:

  • flat characters
  • fantasy time
  • setting briefly described
  • plot full of action
  • repeated phrases

Classes will continue to fill out the form and make comparisons.

To conclude this lesson, we used Tagxedo to make our own digital bowl of Stone Soup.  I asked students to think about what ingredients they might add to a class stone soup if they were to go home right now and get something out of their cabinets, refrigerator, or from a neighbor.  While students were checking out books, they came up to me and told me 2-3 ingredients, which I typed into Tagxedo.  I selected a circle shape to represent the pot of soup, and here is what our soup looked like at the end of our time together.

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Folktales with Google Forms

Third grade just launched into a study of folktales.  As a kickoff, each class came to the library for an introduction to folktales.  We used a slideshare that listed many elements of folktales as well as kinds of folktales.

Then, I showed students a Google form with 3 questions. This form was displayed while I read a folktale aloud. Question 1 was the title of the book.  Question 2 was a list of checkboxes that listed out all of the elements from the slideshare.  Question 3 was about what kind of folktale.folktales

At the end of the story, students paired and discussed each of the checkboxes to decide if those elements were present in the story that we read.  Finally, we came back together and checked off the elements that were present in the story.  Students raised their hands as I called out the elements.  If we had a majority of hands, we automatically checked the box.  If it was less than half the class, we stopped and discussed and voted again.  If few people raised their hands, we left the box blank.

For the first class, this was the end of the lesson, but for the other two classes we looked at the summary of responses in Google forms to see what folktale elements were the most common in the stories we read.  I sent the form to the 3rd grade teachers and they are  going to share it with their students.  A next step will be for students to read folktales on their own and fill out the form.  Then, we’ll really be able to notice the trends of which folktale elements are most common in our library folktales.chart

One piece I didn’t incorporate into this, which would be really cool, is to insert a question about where the various folktales are from.  Then, I could have embedded a gadget to put a pin on  a world map (like I did in this lesson) to track where our folktales were from.  This might be an addition for next year.

Fourth Grade Folktale Collaboration

Each mask was created in art and is accompanied by a student-written story developed in class

As a part of 4th grade’s Native American unit, they studied folktales.  They spent weeks reading a variety of folktales from around the world as well as Native American folktales.  In the media center, they used Google Earth on the iPads to examine the regions of the United States where the Native Americans are found.  They noticed what landforms and water features were in each area.  Then, I told folktales from each tribe and they noticed how the land and regions came into each story.

In class, students continued to read folktales and examine the elements of each kind of folktale.  They began to develop their own story and implement these elements into the stories.

In art, the students designed masks that accompanied their tales.

The process was long and spread out over several months, but we are excited to finally have the finished products on display in our media center.  If you happen to be near Barrow Elementary in the coming weeks, feel free to stop in and read some of these stories and examine the beautiful masks.

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