The Forgotten Girl: A Visit with India Hill Brown

Thanks to Scholastic Book Fairs our fourth and fifth graders were introduced to debut author India Hill Brown.  Her new book The Forgotten Girl releases in November, but it is a featured book on Scholastic’s fall book fair allowing readers to enjoy it well in advance of release day.

The Forgotten Girl is about 2 friends, Iris and Daniel, who leave their home one night to play in the first snowfall of the year. They sneak away into the woods to get to some fresh snow and to be out of sight. Iris decides to make a snow angel, and when she gets up, she realizes she has just made a snow angel on top of a forgotten grave. This action awakens a ghost named Avery, who needs help being remembered. Iris and Daniel launch into a research project to remember the deceased members of the segregated African American cemetery and to have the area cleaned up. However, Iris is put in some dangerous situations due to her new ghostly friend.

Our local Athens history has some interesting connections with this book. We invited local expert, Fred Smith Sr, to speak to students ahead of our visit with India. He shared the history of segregated cemeteries in Athens, including the slave burial grounds at the University of Georgia. He also shared how UGA moved some of the remains as well as built on top of the burial sites. Fred Smith Sr has been active in the process of acknowledging and honoring the forgotten graves.

He then shared about our 2 black cemeteries in Athens that were created after slavery ended. The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is where Harriet Powers is buried. She is well known for her Bible story quilts which now hang in the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Art. I brought in my replica of her quilt for students to see.

Scholastic sent books for pre-ordering ahead of the event, so we were also able to read the first chapter before the visit.

Our library windows transformed into the cover of the book with a the title sign, trees, and tombstones representing some of our Athens graveyard residents.

India Hill Brown spoke for about 30 minutes to our 4th and 5th graders. She shared some of her favorite books as a child as well as her love of writing from an early age.  She also surprised us by sharing that she really doesn’t like scary stories. However, she said one way to get over your fear of something is by doing it or by turning it into art.

 

India showed us pictures of the cemetery in her own community that inspired her to write the book. She wanted to weave in the history of forgotten cemeteries with a ghost story. We always love it when authors share the creative process of a story, and India showed us how the story went through multiple revisions and edits to reach the final version. I loved how she explained the different kinds of changes she made from the content of the story to spelling mistakes. Students are always surprised how long the entire process takes. Even though the first draft was done in about a month, the entire process of creating the finished book took over a year.

Students had a chance to ask India lots of questions about writing and her favorite things in life.  I even got to ask a questions about any ghostly happenings she has encountered in her own life.  After her talk, India took time to greet students as they exited. I loved seeing students making connections with her and even doing chants and hand clapping games with her.

Many times when we host and author, they are in a hurry to get to their next event. We usually do signing without students and then deliver books. India wanted to greet her readers, so we had students wait in the library and get in line for greeting and signing. I loved watching students glow as they met her and shared their excitement about her book.

Now that the visit is over, we have 5 copies of the book in the library and all 5 have already been checked out. Every classroom also has a copy in the classroom thanks to our PTA. I have a feeling many students who missed out on pre-orders will want to purchase the book at our fall book fair.

Thank you Scholastic Book Fairs for bringing India to our school.  Thank you India Hill Brown for sharing your historically important story with our readers. I can’t wait to hear the conversations that take place as students read this book.

Barrow Oral History Project: An Update

Back in 2009, the 5th grade classes, teachers, and I worked on an oral history project to try to capture some of the stories of Barrow’s history.  Our school was originally built in 1923, so there are many stories through the decades that could be told.

That year, the teachers and I participated in virtual professional learning with the Library of Congress. We engaged students in centers to explore primary documents from Barrow’s past, how to use laptops and microphones to record, interview etiquette, and how to craft the best interview questions to spark conversation.

Each student worked with a partner to interview a guest from Barrow’s past.  Those histories were recorded in Audacity and uploaded to our school website.  Since then, I have transferred those files into Youtube.  They can all be heard at our Barrow Oral History page.

This year, our school celebrated its 95th anniversary and our PTA planned a big celebration.  Since hundreds of guests would be in our building, I thought it was the perfect time to capture a few more Barrow memories.  This time, I used Flipgrid to capture the memories since it automatically uploads the video.  Our past interviews lasted 20-30 minutes, but I knew people wouldn’t have that much time to give during the anniversary.  Flipgrid limited the responses to 5 minutes or less.  Rather than ask a series of questions, I simply asked people to share their name, when they attended Barrow, and a special Barrow memory.

Some of this year’s 5th graders served as hosts in the library.  Some stood in the hall to welcome people in to record. Others went with each storyteller into my office, the makerspace, or other quiet parts of the library to assist with recording.

Flipgrid has gone through several changes that have been frustrating to me when it comes to events like this one.  One of those changes is requiring people to login to their email in order to record.  To bypass this step, I had each storyteller “register” with me.  They simply filled out their first and last name.  I went into the administration side of Flipgrid and added their name to the Oral History grid. Then, I assigned them a unique password. When they went to the iPad, they simply typed in the password, and Flipgrid knew who they were. This allowed them to just focus on recording.  Since this event, Flipgrid has added a “guest mode” feature that allows you  to record without logging in.

The 95th anniversary was jam-packed with activities, so we didn’t record as many videos as I had hoped. However, I do want to try to continue this grid and add additional memories each time we have an opportunity to share some memories. It could even become something that 5th graders do before they leave our school so that we have an ongoing addition of current memories of our school.

In order to make the Flipgrid videos viewable, I added them to what Flipgrid now calls a “mixtape”. You can enjoy all of the 95th anniversary memories by viewing our mixtape of videos: https://flipgrid.com/+barroworalhistory 

If you are a former Barrow student or teacher who would like to record a memory, you can email me at plemmonsa@clarke.k12.ga.us and I can get you info for how to record on your own device.

 

2nd Grade’s Black History Flipgrid Project is Ready for Your Votes!

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Our Barrow 2nd graders have been hard at work creating this year’s Black History research project.  We built upon our momentum from last year, but added many new layers.

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During the project students

Over the past 2 weeks, students have been coming to the library in groups of 4 during blocks of 10-minute segments.  During each session, I put a sign on the library door to encourage people to enter quietly.

The teachers scheduled their students on a shared Google doc, so I knew who was coming at each 10-minute interval.  This was really helpful for me to know if students really had some extra time or if they needed to finish and hurry back to class.  recording sessions

I put out a helpful list of instructions by 4 iPad stations in the library with all of the codes that students would need to get to their questions.

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Students were focused and productive as they got their work ready for the world.

Now, the students are finished with their recording and they need your help.

jesse owens

They would like for you to visit their Google site and view videos about each of the 6 people.  Then, help us decide who should win the first Barrow Peace Prize.  Students decided that the person who wins should be someone who represents the following character traits:

  • Dependability
  • Kindness
  • Peaceful
  • Determined
  • Modest
  • Fairness
  • Bravery
  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Perseverance
  • Respectful
  • Helpful

In a couple of weeks, voting will close and we will announce the winner of this year’s Barrow Peace Prize.  Thank you for taking time to view the students’ work.  If you have any comments about specific videos feel free to leave a comment or a Tweet for me to share with the students.  Also, you are welcome to share this project with other educators you know and encourage them to view and vote, too!

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Click here to visit our Google Site and Vote!