Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.

Love Projects: Kindergarten & 1st Grade Hearts

When, Kindergarten finished reading Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, they took time to design heart symbols of love. Ms. Foretich gave them several options for drawing a heart.  They could freehand their drawing or they could use one of many heart stencils. She modeled how to trace as well as how to use crayons to fill in all of the space with color.  She also gave them examples of how to design their hearts. They could fill the heart with patters or draw things that they love inside.

Students began these hearts in the library. Ms. Foretich and I walked around and talked with students about their designs and helped students think about designs, drawings, or colors.

They continued this process in the art room until the hearts were complete.

We displayed the hearts in 3 x 3 blocks on the windows of the library.

In first grade, students studied the work of pop artist Jim Dine after reading Love.  I was unfamiliar with this artist, so it was fun for me to go online and see some of his work. 

First graders created hearts inspired by the work of Jim Dine in the art room.  We took all of these hearts and pieced them together into a backdrop to hang in the library.  This space will be a photo booth for students, teachers, families, and guests to take their picture.  I posted photo booth instructions along with an iPad so that photos can be taken over the next few weeks.

One of the things I love about these 2 grade levels is how their work is created individually but it comes together to create larger collaborative pieces that make an eye-catching impact on each person that sees them.

Stop by and take your picture sometime soon!

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?

Kindergarten Makerspace Exploration

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Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11-12:30, we have an open makerspace time for students to sign up to explore the world of making.  This time supports students from many of our grades, but it doesn’t support all students.  In addition to weaving makerspace into projects, I’ve been trying to host times for grades who can’t come at our normal makerspace hours to come and explore

Kindergarten is one of these grades. The Kindergarten teachers came to a maker professional learning session I did in the new year, and they really wanted to work out times for small groups of students to come to makerspace. We made a plan to have a couple of days each week where 3 students from each class came for a 30-minute maker time.  That equals 12 students.  For now, the students are different each time until we see the students who really get hooked into some of the maker tools. That means I have to offer the same experience multiple times so that all students get to try it.

The first day, we made kazoos out of rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and straws. This is an activity straight from Aaron & Colleen Graves’s Big Book of Makerspace Projects.  It honestly wasn’t the best experience for this age or maybe just this group.  The fine motor skills in the group had a hard time putting the pieces of the kazoo together, and tears flowed if the kazoos didn’t make a sound. Even with some growth mindset reminders and walking through how to back up and try again, there were still students who just gave up.  The students also needed a lot more assistance with this project than what I wanted for makerspace.  We still had fun and hosted a mini-parade around the library with kazoo.  We also had a great conversation about what we might try if we made our own adjustments to the kazoos.

I decided to abandon that project with the next group and try something new.

Next, we tried stop motion videos and Lego construction.  Magic started to happen with this experience.  We started by looking at a 4th grade stop motion project from last year and seeing what we noticed.

I have a box of Lego mini-figure pieces, so I pulled that out and asked students to construct one mini-figure and put it on a base plate.

In a matter of moments, they not only created the mini-figures, but they also started adding accessories that really started to create a story right before our eyes.

Next, I asked students to take their mini-figure and place it at an iPad I had setup at tables around the library.  Then they came back to me at the building table.  I demonstrated the Stop Motion Studio app on the iPad and used a mini-figure to show how to keep the iPad and base plate still while making small movements with the mini-figure.

Finally, students went to their tables and gave it a try.  It was magical to look around and see such engagement. Every student was focused. Every student was creating a story.  Every student was eager to keep going even when I said time was up.

Now I’ll be  honest that the quality of the stop motion created has a lot of room for improvement.  The fine motor skills still got in our way, but I’m really thinking about how I can help students keep their plates and iPads still while only moving their figures.  They really tried hard not to move things around, but they just couldn’t help it sometimes.

At the end, I asked them if they would continue working on this type of project and all students in 2 separate groups of 12 said yes.  We talked about how you would need more time and how you would create more elements of a narrative story.  The engagement was high, and it has my wheels turning about how this can be done with more students and how I can support the students in creating higher quality projects in the end.  There is great potential for storytelling projects in the future.  For a 30-minute session, it was a great start.

If you have stop motion tips for our earliest learners, please leave a comment.

Exploring Chefs and Food Trucks with Cantata Learning’s Harmony Project

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We love getting involved in global projects that connect us with different careers, cultures, and people. Last year, we shared what winter is like in our community of Athens, Georgia by contributing to an interactive ebook.

This fall, Cantata Learning’s Harmony Project is called “Give a Shout Out to Your Community“.  It will feature live connections with several community helpers such as chefs, authors, doctors, and farmers.  As students learn from these live connections, they are encouraged to explore their own communities and create videos that showcase their communities.

Students can also get involved in a service learning project in their community.  All of these products can be shared with Cantata Learning on their Harmony Project page so that they can be shared with the world and we can all learn about one another’s communities.

Today, Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class connected with Jason De Baca who is a chef and owner of a food truck in Denver, CO.  Through a Google Hangout facilitated by Shannon McClintock Miller, we were able to go inside the food truck, see a recipe prepared, and learn how a food truck works.

Ms. Kelly’s class also got to ask questions which was a very special part of our connection.  Students asked about how to become a chef, where to get recipes, where ingredients come from, what tools are used in cooking, who drives the food truck, and how much it costs to get started with a food truck business.

Jason was happy to answer all of their questions.

After we disconnected, we were able to look at a map to learn where Denver, CO is and how long it would take to get there.

Another exciting thing that happened was that a student in Ms. Kelly’s class shared that his dad owns a food truck. We hope this might lead to an opportunity for us to actually go inside a food truck or sample some food truck food.  It was also a special connection to see how food trucks are a part of our community in Athens, Georgia and Denver, Colorado too.

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This connection also allowed me to highlight our cooking and food section of the library.  This section includes cookbooks as well as books on where food comes from and how kids can get involved in growing their food.

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Ms. Kelly’s class is always dreaming up something exciting, so I look forward to what they will dream up after exploring food trucks with Jason and Cantata Learning.

Take a look at our whole connection.

Kids Can Code with Osmo Coding

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We love using Osmo in our library for makerspace opportunities, centers, and lessons with multiple grades. We’ve had Osmo since it first came out. If you aren’t familiar, Osmo is an attachment for iPad that comes with a base and a mirror that attaches over the camera. There are 5 apps that are used with Osmo. Tangrams allows users to build figures with real tangrams that are recognized on the iPad app through the mirror attachment. Numbers allows users to use both numerals and dots to create different combinations that equal a set number. Masterpiece allows users to draw on paper outside the screen by following tracing lines on the screen. Words allows users to look at a picture and spell a word with letter tiles based on the image. Finally, Newton allows users to create angles to make falling balls bounce and hit a target.

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Recently, they released their coding set.

It’s summer for us, so I haven’t had a chance to use the set with a class of students. However, I was able to hand the set to my 6 year old daughter to see how well she could use it straight out of the box. It didn’t take her long at all to figure out how to snap the various coding pieces together in order to get Awbie, the strawberry-eating monster, to find his strawberries and earn seeds to plant.  Osmo coding has several built in tutorials in the beginning to show users which pieces to put together and as the game progresses, there are signs in the game that show how to add together more complex code. One thing I love is that there isn’t just one right answer. Kids can snap together small or large amounts of code to see what happens without being penalized. They can safely advance the character one space at a time or experiment with making Awbie move multiple spaces by snapping on a number.

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After a few sessions of using Osmo coding, Alora decided to make a quick video to show off the pieces and how they work.

I will say that Osmo Coding has some glitches to work out. Sometimes when you press the run button, Awbie does not do what you have in front of him. Sometimes he’ll only move one space even though you have multiple commands lined up. Other times, you press the run button multiple times and he doesn’t respond at all. However, even with these glitches that I’m sure will be worked out in future updates, the game is engaging and easy to use. It’s a tangible way to introduce block coding to our youngest learners, as well as older learners too, and build up to online coding in other block coding programs.

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I can’t wait to get more sets of coding and explore block coding with our earliest grades in the fall.

Osmo can be purchase at https://www.playosmo.com/en/ with prices ranging from $75-$145 per set.

The Magic of Poetry

I love reading poetry and creating poetry with kids. I’m always amazed at the freedom that many kids feel when they express themselves through poetry and give themselves permission to abandon some of the “rules” we must follow when we write in other forms.  While there are many “rules” in poetry too, I’ve noticed that many kids aren’t intimidated by writing a poem when they realize that poetry is painting a picture with words and not necessarily writing in a complete sentence.

I’m happy to work with students on poetry all year round, but we of course do our fair share of lessons in April for poetry month. Recently, Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten class came to the library for an introduction to poetry leading up to our annual Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe.

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Recycled vases ready for poetry flowers #barrowpoems

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Rather than read a bunch of poetry, I chose to read one poem that is a full length book called Black Magic by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.  The text is filled with vivid similes about the color black such as “black is loud like my best tap shoes making happy noise with every move.”

Prior to reading the book, I wrote “Green Magic” on the board and asked students to think of a list of things that they thought of when they thought of the color green.  Their list looked like this:

  • green flags
  • green leaves
  • green books
  • green beans
  • green stickers
  • green turtles

Then, we read the book.  We paused along the way and paid attention to the language.  I wasn’t specifically focusing on similes with them but instead just noticing the unusual descriptions or the vivid descriptions.

Following the book, we revisited our list.  I asked them, “How can we take each of these things in our list and make it more vivid or unusual?”  Students took turns offering suggestions.  Sometimes we went with the first thing a student said, and other times we listened to several suggestions before deciding what to add.  I let the students come up with the words, and I wrote them for us on the board.

To close our time, we read the poem twice. First, I read it aloud, and then we did a choral reading.

Green Magic

By Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten Class

Green flags waving in the sky

Green leaves falling from the trees

Green books sitting in the library

Green beans dancing in my mouth

Green stickers sleeping on my hand

Green turtles minding their own business

Now, many of these students want to go back into the classroom and try writing their own color poetry modeled after this one. This time of writing really seems like magic to me.  Students come in with a blank screen in front of them and we unite our minds and voices to create something together as a community that just seems to spark when it is spoken into the air. We did this without any fancy technology or bells and whistles.  It was just us, our imaginations, an inspiring text, and a dry erase board and marker.

What poetry magic have you created this month?