American Symbol Research in Kindergarten

Students in 2 Kindergarten classes have been hard at work researching American symbols as part of their social studies standards. Doing research projects with the youngest learners in our school doesn’t look like it does in the upper grades. We think about what some of the biggest barriers might be for our young creators and put pieces in places to support students in getting over those barriers.

First, students chose one of four American symbols to research: American flag, statue of liberty, liberty bell, and bald eagle.  In the library, we introduced students to a graphic organizer for collecting 3 facts about their chosen symbol. I learned from another Kindergarten teacher a few years ago during research to set an expectation that allows all students to succeed or exceed during the first research session. We asked students to have a goal of writing at least one fact during the first work session, but if they still had time, they should keep going.

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Students used Capstone’s PebbleGo for their research. We love this database for many reasons but mostly because it breaks information down into manageable pieces and reads the text in a human voice for students. I modeled for students how to listen to a portion of the text and then think about what they had learned by listening. Then, we talked about what we would write on our organizer. This modeling was done with a different American symbol than the one students were researching.

At tables, I setup computers for students to use in pairs. We chose pairs because it gave students one more source of support as they worked. Also at each table, we tried to place an adult for support. The teacher, classroom paraprofessional, and me all worked at tables. If a parent volunteer or student teacher was available, they stayed at the 4th table. Otherwise, the adults took turns checking between tables.  We found that we had to continue modeling for students how to listen, ponder, and then write rather than just copying a sentence off the screen. However, some students still chose a sentence to copy.  All students left with at least one fact but many left with 3 or more.

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After this initial work session, students continued their research in centers in the classroom.  Then, they returned to the library for another work session in small groups. Each group came for 15-20 minutes. We did a short tinkering session with Chatterpix Kids to see how you can take a picture of something, draw a mouth on it, and then record that picture talking. Ahead of time, I chose creative commons images of the symbols for kids to use for their pictures. Rather than having every student create their own Chatterpix, each group created one Chatterpix video with the iPads. Each student chose one fact from their research to read.

Before recording, students chose their fact. We decided the order students would read and practiced a few times. Students helped take the picture of the symbol and draw the mouth. Then, we pressed record and passed the iPad to record. If we needed to record a few times, we did. Then, we uploaded our videos to Youtube and created a playlist to share with the class, families, and you.  I hope you will take a moment to listen to their work.

I love building foundations of research in our early grades and seeing where these students end up by the time they are in 5th grade. We have a lot of work to do, but we celebrate the work of these Kindergarten students and what they have created.

Ms. Lauren’s American Symbols:

Ms. Boyle’s American Symbols:

Connecting with Capstone and the PebbleGo Team through Skype

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Our 2nd graders have been thrilled by all of the people voting for their Barrow Peace Prize project.  Voting will continue until February 17th, so there’s still time to take a look at their project and vote.

Today, we were fortunate to have a Skype session with the PebbleGo team at Capstone. PebbleGo is a set of databases with informational text focused on social studies, biographies, science, animals, and dinosaurs. The text is geared to students in lower elementary grades, but it is useful for students at all grades as a starting place for research. Our teachers love the accessibility of the text, how the text is broken into consistent  headings, and that it reads the text to students in a human voice. Our 2nd graders used PebbleGo as the first resource in their Barrow Peace Prize research on Jesse Owen, Bessie Coleman, Ruby Bridges, Charles Drew, Langston Hughes, and Wilma Rudolph.

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During our Skype, we connected with:

  • Tom Zemlin, Director of Software Development
  • Rachel Wallwork & Stephanie Miller, Senior Product Planning Managers
  • Amy Cox, Director of Library Marketing

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Before our session, we sent some questions to PebbleGo and they sent some questions to us.

For PebbleGo:

  • How are PebbleGo articles written?
  • What do you know about the number of people who use PebbleGo?
  • How do you decide what topics to include in PebbleGo?

For us, the Capstone team asked in advance:

  • What do you like about PebbleGo?
  • What do you wish were different?
  • What seems to be missing or what did you have trouble finding the answer to?

We opened our Skype by giving an update on the statistics from our Barrow Peace Prize Projects. At the time of our Skype, our work had been viewed in 121 different locations around the world, according to our Smore page.

The Capstone team introduced themselves and then launched into telling students the process that the team goes through to decide on and create articles. We learned that PebbleGo has been used by over 260,000,000 students around the world.

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Our students took turns lining up at the computer to offer answers to the questions from Capstone, and those comments and questions sparked additional conversation.

Our students expressed their love for how PebbleGo reads to them, has videos, is broken up into sections, and has info on lots of people.

Some of the wishes they had were to have a comprehension check at the end of an article and to include information on character traits for the people in biographies. The character trait comment launched an additional conversation with the Capstone team. We told them how our social studies curriculum includes a study of character traits woven into the people in history. This was hard for our research because we felt like character traits were a bit of an opinion based on facts. The Capstone team had great wonderings for us. They wanted to know if we thought character traits should be separate articles in PebbleGo or if they should be embedded in the biography articles. Our students overwhelmingly responded that they wanted them embedded.

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This then took us to the question about what Capstone does with all of the wishes that it gets from its users. We learned about how they keep lists of wishes and start to notice patterns of requests. When something is requested enough, it might be put into PebbleGo or it might even come up for a vote from PebbleGo users. Within this conversation, we learned that it takes several months for an article to go from an idea to the final piece we see in PebbleGo and the work happens in multiple locations including New York and India.

I loved how the Capstone team listened to our students and how flexible the conversation was with over 100 students. We were well prepared with our student comments and questions, but there was plenty of space to find tangents that revealed more information for our students.

One of the things that I heard from Capstone is that they go through the same kind of research that we are asking our students to go through. They gather their information from multiple sources, create many drafts, and review their work before it is sent out to an audience. It was important for our students to hear this from a major company and see the connections to what we are doing in school.

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Thank you so much to Amy Cox and the Capstone team for making this Skype happen for our students today. It was a wonderful addition to a project that has meant a lot to our students.

Beginning the Barrow Peace Prize: A Flipgrid Project

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Each year, our 2nd grade takes on a big research project that has evolved into a project called the Barrow Peace Prize. Students research one of six people from black history, write a persuasive piece convincing people to vote for their person to win, and record their writing using Flipgrid. These videos are shared with the world along with a Google forms voting ballot. We celebrate the winner with the Flipgrid team via Skype.

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This year’s project is off to a great start, and I’m amazed by what these 2nd graders are doing with their technology, especially since they aren’t 1:1 in their classes.  With fewer devices to practice on, it takes these students a bit longer to navigate tools on the computer.

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To start, each student chose one of six people: Langston Hughes, Wilma Rudolph, Bessie Coleman, Jesse Owens, Charles Drew, and Ruby Bridges. Using Google Classroom, each teacher shared a Google doc graphic organizer with students. In the library, students brought class computers and I provided additional computers so each student had one. We did a review of how to login to Google and navigate to Classroom to get the doc. I also showed students how to click between tabs in Chrome, how to copy and paste facts, and where to look for information.

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Students started in 2 resources: PebbleGo and Encyclopedia Britannica. I love these sites because they have great information and both will read the content to students who need that extra support. I debated about teaching students how to copy and paste because I don’t want to set students up for just copying. However, we wanted students to have access to a collection of the best facts when they prepared to do their writing without having to weed through all of the articles. The writing workshop time would be the time to focus on taking those copied facts and put them into students’ own words.

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We did 3 hour-long sessions of research. Each session we saw students get more proficient at navigating the technology, and even in the frustration we faced, I reminded myself and the teachers to step back and really look at what 7-year olds were doing. Students were logging into email, accessing Google Classroom, finding a Google doc, visiting multiple resources, using ctrl C and ctrl V, keeping track of where facts came from, and leaning to use the research tool in a Google Doc. This list could definitely be added to because there was a lot more.

Once facts were gathered, teachers began writing workshops in their classrooms for students to start writing scripts for their videos. Prior to this, we held a Google Hangout where all classes tuned in from classrooms. The purpose of this was to establish a list of character traits that someone who is deserving of the Barrow Peace Prize might represent. We read about Alfred Nobel and looked at Malala and why she represented peace. Then, classes added to a Google Doc to create a list of these character traits. This list was displayed during writing times for all students to consider in their writing.

Now, students are continuing to fine tune their writing before recording takes place.  We can’t wait to share the videos with our school, families, and classrooms around the world.  Be on the lookout for a post in the next couple of weeks inviting you to view and vote for the 2016 Barrow Peace Prize.

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Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Planet Research (4)Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class is hard at work again.  They were so excited by what they discovered using the Storykit app, that they decided to continue their work by making their own nonfiction book.  Their last adventure was about creating their own versions of folktales.

You can read and listen to their folktales online:

Ms. Kelly’s class has been very curious about space, so they decided as a class that they would work on creating informational books about the planets and solar system.  Ms. Kelly put the students into groups of 2-3 and each group chose a planet or part of the solar system to research.

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In the library, I pulled our books about space as well as checked out some books from the public library.  I also setup 2 computer areas.  One area was focused on PebbleGo and the other area focused on TrueFlix.  Even though the content of TrueFlix is written for older students, I felt like the read aloud function would support Kindergarten researchers.

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In class, students filled out a KWL chart to bring to the library.  When they came to the library with their questions, Ms. Kelly and I did a quick intro to the 3 areas available to them.  I loved how Ms. Kelly set a realistic goal for students in this big venture.  She said, “I want you to have at least one fact written down before you leave today”.  Of course, most groups wrote more than 1 fact, but every group left the library with a successful experience of meeting their expected goal.  To support students in their research, Ms. Kelly, a parent volunteer, and I rotated among the groups to help students with navigating the information in front of them.  Students continued this research for the next week in class.

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Next, the students came back to the library to work on prep for their book production.  Their KWL charts were filled with facts that they had discovered.  Ms. Kelly even shared that some groups had conflicting information about the order of the planets, so they had done some fact checking as a class before they came.  During this 2nd library session, we started in the floor again to establish our expectations for the day.  Every group had small squares of white paper, a long sheet of lined paper with room for illustrations, and a pencil.

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The task was to sort through the KWL chart and identify the facts that would go into the finished book.  One fact was written onto each piece of white paper.  The whole group worked on this part.  Ms. Kelly, the paraprofessional, and I circulated among the groups to assist with reading the KWL charts, correcting spelling, and searching for additional facts if needed.

Once 4-5 facts were identified, students sequenced the facts into an order that made sense.  Again, the adults helped students read aloud the facts that they identified and facilitated sorting the facts into different orders until a final order was chosen.  Then, the adults taped the papers to the larger lined paper.

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If students had time, they thought about what they could use in the school to photograph for each fact on the sheet.  They made notes or drew a picture to remind themselves what they talked about.  Ms. Kelly ad I encouraged students to stretch their brains to think about what they could creatively use to take a picture.  One group had a fact about the crust of their planet.  They decided they would take a picture of a piece of pizza in the cafeteria and draw an arrow to the crust.

Students will continue this process in class throughout this week.  Next week, they are checking out iPads to photograph things around the school as well as type their text into Storykit and publish their own ebooks.  I can’t wait to see how their work turns out.  I will most likely push into their class at some point next week to help, or they may schedule a time to come work with me again in the library as they finish their books.

Projects like this show me that it is completely possible for our youngest students to create amazing work that is based in real facts.  They can explore technology that no other class has attempted.  Some of the key factors in a successful project are plenty of time, realistic expectations, adult and peer support, and lots of encouragement.  I love how Ms. Kelly doesn’t rush a project of this size.  She understands that for quality work to be produced, we must give students the space, the support, and the time to make the work happen.

Read for the Record 2013

read for record (2)What fun!  Today we participated in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.   Since 2006, Jumpstart has been encouraging people around the world to break the record for the most people reading aloud the same book.  This year, the book was Otis by Loren Long.  We Give Books provided free access to this book for anyone who wanted to read it online.  At the same time you were reading for the record, you were also supporting book donations around the world.

Today, 4 classes at Barrow participated in the media center, while some others read the book in their own classrooms.  Each class was a bit different in what we did with the book.

Mrs. Clarke’s PreK class is studying cooperation.  We used Capstone’s PebbleGo Social Studies database to learn about the word cooperation.  Then, we gave examples from our own lives and classroom of how to cooperate.  As we read Otis aloud, we talked about how cooperation was shown in the book.  We also talked about how we were cooperating with people all around the world to read for the record.

Read for the Record through the years.

In Mrs. Watson’s 1st grade, we looked at the data  from Read for the Record through the years.  We also read about tornadoes on PebbleGo and made connections to Otis and the Tornado.  1st grade is studying weather along with their study of The Wizard of Oz so Otis and Otis and the Tornado were a perfect fit.

In Mrs. Wright’s 2nd grade class, we Skyped with Mrs. Lussier in Connecticut.  We had also connected with her 4th grade students during Talk Like a Pirate Day, so it was fun to reconnect.  We took turns reading pages in the book and then added to a friendship padlet.  Since October is bullying awareness month, we used Otis to talk about being kind and showing friendship rather than bullying.

Showing pictures to Mrs. Techman's students.

Showing pictures to Mrs. Techman’s students.

In Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class, we Skyped with Mrs. Techman in Charlottesville, VA.  I read the entire book to both classes and shared the pictures on the camera.  Our students stopped along the way and made predictions for one another.  We also took some time to tell about our own communities.  We looked at a map of how far away VA is and how long it would take to walk or drive.  Students wanted to know how long it would take to fly, so we pulled up a travel website and searched for a flight.  We also took time to add to the Padlet in this class, and Mrs. Techman’s class will add to it tomorrow.  Friendship Wall

While all of this was going on, I also tweeted the link to the padlet.  It was retweeted numerous times, so hopefully others will add to it.  Shawn Hinger and her students at Clarke Middle in Athens took time to add their own thoughts on friendship.  It was nice to have a middle school voice among the elementary ideas.  Andy Plemmons (plemmonsa) on Twitter

Once again, I was amazed by the power of connecting and how many standards can be woven into an event such as this.  I can’t wait to see what the record was set at today!

 

 

Exploring Culture

A sketch of how water is used in our lives

Today, first grade continued their exploration of culture, which is a part of their social studies standards.  In our first lesson, we thought about our day from the time we get up until the time we go to bed.  Then, we read the book One World, One Day.  We used the photographs and text to compare and contrast the day around the world with what a day is like in our own cultures.

Today’s lesson focused on water around the world.  Students began by drawing and writing how they use water in their own lives.  We move to the floor and read the introduction to Our World of Water: Children and Water Around the World.  Then, we moved to computers and used PebbleGo to explore all of the resources available in the earth database about water.  

I really liked the movement from drawing/writing to listening to using technology to read/listen.  These kinds of experiences are what I hope to repeat in many lessons this year as I try to provide transliterate experiences for the learners in our library.

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Kindergarten Research…so many firsts!

While the rest of the school is working on persuasive writing, our Kindergarten is working on informational writing.  The teachers and I met back in December to plan some goals that we had for student research of informational topics.  It was important to each of them that students have experience locating information in a variety of places, but to specifically look at content that matched their developmental and reading levels.  Our print collection in the media center already has a variety of texts on a variety of levels, so I felt like they would find enough resources in the nonfiction section that would meet the needs of several topics.

The challenge came with finding a digital resource that would meet their needs.  We have access to great databases such as Encyclopedia Britannica in our state Galileo database, but even Britannica didn’t seem to get at what we wanted.  Fortunately, we were able to get a one-month trial of PebbleGo from Capstone.  PebbleGo has three main databases: animals, earth and space, and biographies.  The content targets a K-2 audience, but I’ve found that the topics are appropriate for all of our grades and really match the reading needs of many of our readers.  The content is broken down into headings and students have the option of reading the content themselves or having a professional narration read to them.  There are also videos, charts, maps, timelines, and more within each heading.

Kindergarten chose to do a beginning stage of research by assigning all students similar topics within their science standards.  Some students learned about rocks while others learned about soil.  In our collaboration, we decided that they needed a very basic graphic organizer.  We chose a four square organizer with the topic in the middle surrounded by 4 questions that students would answer.  They could answer the questions with text or even draw pictures in the spaces.  Each teacher booked a one hour lesson.  I introduced PebbleGo and how research is all about asking questions.  Students generated some sample questions about rocks before I showed them the 4 questions they would explore.  I briefly clicked through the pieces of the site and showed the feature that would read the content to students.  We also looked at the 4 questions and thought about which tab would answer which question.

When students seemed too saturated with information, we moved to the computer lab where PebbleGo was already loaded on their screens.  I was immediately amazed at the level of engagement but also the number of firsts.  For so many students, it was the first time using a mouse, a keyboard, the internet, a graphic organizer with set questions, and more.  It was easy to get overwhelmed by the number of questions that students were asking, but when I stepped back and took a deep breath, I was amazed at how excited the students were.  I was amazed by what they were remembering from what they heard regardless of whether or not it made it onto the graphic organizer.  There were 4 adults helping students:  the teacher, student teacher, my paraprofessional, and me.  We knelt down beside students and had conversations about listening to information more than once, writing down keywords rather than complete sentences, using a graphic organizer, and more.  In the end, students left with several facts written down about rocks and soil, but they also left with excitement about coming back again to use the computer for research.  When we checked in with them at the end, every student said they wanted to come back for more.

The teacher commented to me that this lesson just made her want to use the computer lab even more and how this was all a process.  In order for students to get better at researching and using the computer, they have to do it more.  It can’t just be a single lesson in the lab.  Wow!  Even though the lesson exhausted me at the very beginning of the day, it energized me with possibilities.

Our four square graphic organizer