A Rock Exploration: Researchers, Photographers, and Poets

Our 3rd graders study rocks every year as a part of their science curriculum. This year, we brainstormed some new ideas to support this study and scheduled two 45-minute sessions for each 3rd grade class.

Session one focused on facts and observations. To begin, I asked student to put themselves in the shoes of a researcher and consider what someone researching rocks might do. They named things such as reading books, talking to experts, doing experiments with rocks, going outside and looking for rocks, and visiting websites and videos. For this session, students rotated between 3 stations. Each station lasted for approximately 10 minutes.  I didn’t want them to be slowed down by writing down facts, so this day was just an exploration to mentally gather as many facts as they could. Some students still chose to write things down but most took my advice of making mental notes.

Center 1: Books

I gathered multiple books from our nature section of library. Prior to this center, I reminded students how they might dive in to multiple books without reading entire books. We reviewed the table of contents, index, and captions. As students explored this station, the teachers and I noticed students talking about photographs that caught their attention so we jumped in to the conversation by directing students to text or captions that supported the conversation. So often, I see students chat about photographs and forget to read the text, so we tried to gently intervene to make sure the conversation was based in fact rather than speculation.  One of the biggest hits at this stations was learning about birthstones and making a personal connection to gemstones.

Center 2: Rocks

When I was growing up, my grandmother and grandfather took me to Cherokee, North Carolina to visit ruby and gem mines. My grandmother would save her money all year and then buy multiple bags of dirt containing gems and we would spend hours sifting through the dirt in a water trough. I saved the rocks from all of those trips and now they have become a part of my educator collection.

At this station, students used this mix of rocks to make observations and sort rocks in different ways. I included to large circles that students could use as a Venn diagram and compare and contrast rocks based on texture, size, shine, and more. All students worked together to sort as many rocks as time allowed.

Center 3: Websites and Videos

Amethyst is February’s birthstone and also Georgia’s state gem. This station focused on exploring amethyst through websites and videos using a Symbaloo. One of our favorite sites is Gem Kids because it allows students to see gems under a microscope, on a map of the world, and see photos of gems with captions full of info. Students also loved watching the Jackson’s Crossroads video from Georgia to see what amethyst looks like when it is found.

Day 2 of our exploration focused on creativity. We read the book A Rock Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija. At the conclusion of this poetic book, it says “go a discover what else a rock can be”. This invitation brought us to our next explorations. This time rather than rotating every 10 minutes, students rotated as they finished each step.

Center 1: Artistic Creations

Students once again found boxes of rocks that they could observe. However, this time, their goal was to use the rocks to create something new. They could create a word, shape, object, or anything their creativity sparked. Once they made this creation, they used an iPad to snap a photograph.

This center was fun to watch because every student had a different way of making something. Some had an object in mind already like a football, and they used the rocks to make that shape. Others found one rock that inspired them and they used that rock to form what came to their mind. This was also the station where we saw so many students shine. I loved that whether a student had an English barrier, a reading challenge, etc, this was a visual station that allowed so many voices to be heard in a strong way.

Center 2: Poetry

As students finished photography, they moved to writing in another part of the library. If students had a poem already forming in their mind, they could use a blank piece of paper to create it. However, if students needed some extra support, they used A Rock Can Be… as a mentor text. I had a simple organizer with a structure already formed for them with “a rock can be” and some blanks to create two-word lines in their poem.

The teachers and I did a lot of conferencing at this station to help students focus on the photograph that they created. Most students had their photograph pulled up on their iPad as they wrote. Some chose to focus more on rocks in their poem while others focused on whatever shape they had created.

Center 3: Recording

Students moved to quiet space in the library to put all of their creativity together in Flipgrid. I setup our grid to have a guest code so that students could scan a QR code, enter their first/last name, and start recording. They could record their face on the video or flip the camera and record their poem. During the final step, students imported the photograph of their creation and then used the Flipgrid stickers to add another layer of artistic expression. This final step was tricky because it was tempting to add lots of the fun stickers. However, I encouraged the students to think about what stickers added to their photograph and brought their rock to life. I loved seeing what some of the students chose from the sticker assortment.

Going into these 2 days, I was really unsure of how it would all connect together, but once I saw the flow, I really like what happened. I especially enjoyed day 2 and the creativity that came from our students. I need to do a bit more thinking about day 1. I think it was a great mix of modalities, but I do wonder about what I could do to keep the students more focused in the centers, especially the reading center. It might be as simple as drawing out a card that says “pick a word from the index to read more about” or “flip to a random page and read a caption”.

All in all, I’m excited about the creations we made. I invite you to visit our Flipgrid and view and like the student poetry videos.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Weather Reports

Back at the beginning of the year, I worked with first grade on weather reports using our green screen.  They learn lots of weather vocabulary, look at meteorologist reports, and create their own weather reports. When we were planning that idea, we talked about how it would be fun to look for books that feature some type of weather that kids could report on. Our minds were first on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but my mind continued to think of other books we could use as well. We ran out of time during quarter 1 to incorporate this idea, but the first grade team continued it into quarter 2.

The teachers decided to focus on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Students created images featuring the weather of Chew and Swallow. Then, they wrote out a weather report for what was falling from the sky. In class, they practiced reading over their work before they came to the library to film.

My preference would be to film in small groups, but our limited time before the holidays prevented that from happening. Each class scheduled a 30-minute block. A collaborating teacher came with the class so that we could split the class up. I pulled 5 students at a time to take to the other side of the library to the green screen while the collaborating teacher read aloud some stories with the remainder of the class. As I finished with one group, the classroom teacher helped transition kids from green screen to storytime and bring a new green screen group.

Our first step at green screen was to take a picture of each student’s artwork so that it could become the background image for the weather report. Next, students took turns coming to the green screen. We put their image as the background and faced the iPad toward them so they could see where various pieces of food appeared in their image.

They had practiced pointing to the parts of the weather as they reported, but some students forgot this piece while they were filming. We used the Do Ink green screen app on the iPad to film everything. Students left their piece of art with me so that I could use it to more easily add their names to the videos.

I plugged the iPad into the computer and uploaded each video to my Youtube page. I made a playlist for each class so that teachers could easily share the videos with families.

We have lots of room for improvement.  I would love to work more on the quality of the videos so students could be heard better. If we weren’t so rushed to film, then students could do a practice round and then film so that they could point to more parts of their images. I would also love to incorporate more books with weather instead of just focusing on one book. I’m so glad that the 1st grade team tried this out this year, and I can’t wait to see what we can add on next year.

 

Kindness Rocks

Third grade studies rocks and minerals in science.  Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade Spectrum teacher, is always dreaming up ways to extend and enrich the study.  We have collaborated together many times, and I always love leaping into something new.  In the past, we’ve Skyped with a jewelry studio and designed our own jewelry.  We’ve thought about climbing wall design and how the hardness of different rocks and minerals would support the design. Students even 3D printed prototypes of their climbing walls.  This year we once again worked together to add a new layer to this science unit.

I’ve been watching lots of people getting involved in kindness rock projects locally and globally. The idea of these projects is to spread words of inspiration in the world through randomly placed rocks and inspire people to create good in the world.

Our local Athens Rock Project

I’ve found a few of these rocks myself and know that it gives you a bright moment in your day just to know that someone cared enough to create a piece of art intended for good.

Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructor, and I have been brainstorming the idea of weaving this project into makerspace, but we held off this semester.  I passed the idea on to Ms. Hicks and we decided to give it a trial run.

We started by showing images of rocks and asking students if they had ever found a rock like these.  I was surprised at how many stories were already in our small group of 15 kids.  From a rock in a stream to a rock in the park, students had stories of words and images they had found on rocks.

Then we watched this video to consider the meaning of a project like this.

We also read an excerpt from If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. These books helped us think beyond a rock just being a rock but instead a symbol of something else.

At tables, students used an index card to plan out their rock.  We wanted them to really take their time in planning so that they chose their words with purpose, so Ms. Hicks and I conferenced with students as they worked. They chose a word or phrase, wrote a short explanation of their choice, and sketched a design for their art.  Students also selected a rock. All of this took one class session.

In the next session, students used paint pens and paint to design their rock.  Most started by getting the word(s) onto the rock and then worked on design. If they finished early, they helped one another fan portions of rocks to get them dry enough to keep painting on.

My wonderful computer technician, Allie, added layers of Mod Podge onto the rocks before our 3rd session. Here’s where this project is taking a different turn that many of the kindness rock projects.  We don’t really want to be random.  We want the person who finds our rock to know a bit more about it.

In our 3rd session, we used Flipgrid to record videos to tell the story of our rock.  Students talked about the reason they chose their word and even why they designed it the way they did.  We also brainstormed what someone would need to know in order to get to the video we recorded.

I took this brainstormed and turned it into an information card to put with our rocks.

Instead of randomly placing the rocks, we are putting them all in one container. We’ve talked with Avid Bookshop in Five Points and will be placing this container somewhere outside the shop.  Our hope is that people will select a rock, take an information card, watch the accompanying video, and hopefully leave a response video to the student.

It’s all a big experiment, and I’ve tried to be very open with students about that from the beginning.  Anything could happen.  We of course want every rock to be taken and for every person to leave a response, but we also know that might not happen.  Whatever happens, we’ll know that our rocks have gone into the world and caused at least one person to pause for just a moment and think about kindness.

Before our rocks go to Avid, we’re making a few more.  If your’e in the area, keep your eyes open in Five Points for a clear acrylic container near Avid Bookshop sometime this week!

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Share Your #Eclipse2017 Stories on This Flipgrid

The Great Eclipse 2017 is coming on Monday August 21, 2017.  It’s going to be epic.  It’s an event we are sharing all across North America.  I made a space that we can all use to share our observations, learning, projects, stories, or really anything eclipse-related.

Before, during, and after eclipse, this Flipgrid is a space we can connect student, teacher, and family voices to share this event. Even if you aren’t in school yet, this Flipgrid can be a place you can find out what your students did while they weren’t in school.

Simply share this link with anyone and everyone.  https://flipgrid.com/f8fc0d 

If you have the most updated version of Flipgrid on your mobile device or tablet, you can also just scan this QR code to instantly go to the topic.

Scan here with Flipgrid to share your eclipse story.

I also made a Google doc that you can print and give to classrooms to scan if they have devices available.

Click to access an easy Google doc

Once you are on the topic, simply touch the + and follow the prompts to record your voice and take a selfie.  Don’t forget to tell us where you are recording from.  I hope we can all learn from one another as we experience this unique event together.  See you on the grid.

 

 

 

Earth Day Environmental Centers

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Our school is a green school, so we do a lot as a whole school to learn about caring for our Earth throughout the year. Our third grade has some specific science standards that explore pollution and effects of humans on the environment. They are beginning a unit on this during science, and the opportunity aligned to allow us to explore the topic during the week of Earth Day. Each class came to the library for a 45-minute exploration of 5 centers. Students began on the carpet for a quick intro to the 5 centers. Students did not have to make it to all of the centers. Instead, I told them to prioritize which ones interested them the most and do their best to make it to those and save the others in case centers were full or they had extra time.

The classroom teacher, gifted teacher, and I all walked around and talked with individual students as they worked to see what they were discovering and assisting them if they had a question. Here’s a look at the 5 centers they explored:

 

Center 1: Books

I pulled multiple books from our collection about the environment, energy, recycling, water conservation, and more. Students were encouraged to find a book that caught their eye and spend a few minutes reading parts of that book or parts of several books.

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Center 2: Flipgrid

I created a list of authentic environmental problems that exist in our school. These included things like printing to copiers and never picking up the copies, throwing away recyclables, and trash in our parking lot after a UGA football game. Students were encouraged to pick an issue from my list or come up with their own observation. Using Flipgrid, they recorded a brief video identifying the problem and naming possible solutions.

 

Center 3: Observation and Poetry

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This center included multiple books by Joyce Sidman. She is a master of making observations in the natural world, researching those observations, and then turning them into poetry. Many of her books feature side-by-side poetry and the information that inspired the poem. Students were encouraged pick a book, find a poem, and see how the factual information that Sidman researched made its way into her poetry.

 

Center 4: Environmental Blackout Poetry

This center was modeled after the blackout poetry of Austin Kleon. It is  kind of found poetry where you find words in magazines, newspaper, websites, or books to arrange into a poem and you blackout the rest of the words on the page. I copied multiple selections from books about the environment and students chose one of those pages to create a blackout poem. It’s always interesting to see how students boil the words down to the ones that stand out the most in the article or page. This year, I made sure that we did our blackout poetry on top of a table cover so that they black crayon and marker didn’t make its way onto our tables.

 

Center 5: Environmental Online Resources

Using Symbaloo, I pulled together ebooks, websites, interactive sites, and videos about the environment. Students spent time on a few of the sites before moving on to other centers.

Now the students will use the topics and ideas that they discovered in this exploration as they continue to study these topics back in the classroom.

 

Using Makerspace to Extend Curriculum: A Geology Project

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Third grade studies rocks and minerals as a part of their science standards. In Ms. Hicks class, they have been extending their research of rocks and minerals to create their own Blendspace lessons to teach others facts about rocks and minerals. They are even including pre-tests and post-tests in their lessons. As a part of this Blendspace project, students started thinking about how they might design their own climbing wall for our school based on their research.

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Ms. Hicks asked me what tool we might use to design and prototype of a climbing wall, and I immediately thought of Tinkercad. We have used Tinkercad for other projects and have found it to be one of the better tools for 3d design at the elementary level. Students came to the library to learn a bit about how Tinkercad works.

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I gave them a very quick tutorial which basically showed them things like adding a work plane, dragging over geometric shapes, resizing shapes, and building up.

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I created two generic accounts that students share rather than creating an account for every student. Half of them logged in with one account and half with the other. Their goal was to tinker during the first lesson to see what they could figure out, but their tinkering was a bit more focused than usual. Ms. Hicks really wanted them to already start envisioning their climbing wall as they were tinkering. Some of them latched onto the tool and really got a jumpstart on designing, while others tried something and started over several times.

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One student thought we was being a bit silly by trying to design a chicken instead of a climbing wall, but we turned this into a learning opportunity. I thought about the climbing wall that is at our own Omni Club here in Athens. It is shaped like a giant bulldog, so I pulled it up on the screen to show that he could in fact design his rock all to look like a chicken if he really thought about how people would climb a giant chicken. Instead of shutting him down, his wheels were turning about what he might try, and he is in fact now designing a penguin rock wall.

Other students started thinking about which rocks and minerals would be the best choices for the climbing wall based on their strength and also their color. They referenced their research and the Mohs hardness scale to choose rocks and minerals that would hold up a climber. As they did this, they changed the colors and shapes of the climbing pieces on their walls to represent their different choices. Not all students were ready for this level of thinking, but when we found students who were thinking in this way, we encouraged them to share what they were doing in the hopes of giving other students ideas.

 

One student even let me record a snippet of his thinking about his own rock wall choices.

The students have worked on these designs for 3 work sessions. As they finish, they are taking screen shots of their designs and adding them to Blendspace with an explanation of their design. In the future, we plan to export their designs as .stl files so that we can actually 3d print their prototypes when they are ready to present.

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I loved this real world application of rocks and minerals because it showed students that there are actually careers where you might consider some of the facts that they are learning in science. There was so much higher order thinking built into this project, especially this design piece. I had some great conversation with students as they referenced their research to find the specific rocks and minerals they wanted to use. One conversation involved a student specifically wanting a rock that was yellow. He kept Googling different rocks he knew to see if they came in yellow. When he finally found one of the feldspar family that was yellow, he noticed that the website description referenced Bob’s Rock Shop. We had a great conversation about the importance of digging into the website to really see where the information was coming from, and he found that the information actually did come from a reliable source within that site.

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I hope that we can find ways to share the work that this class is doing in the hopes of inspiring students at all levels to apply what they are doing to really world experiences. It would be fascinating to actually see this climbing wall come to life and have o

Winter Around the World and in Athens, GA: Original Songs and Personal Narratives

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For the past few weeks, 2 classes have been involved in exploring winter right here in Athens, Georgia.  Even though we might associate cold and snow with winter, it isn’t always like that where we live.  Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class and Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class both participated.  You can read about the beginnings of their projects here.  Our work is all coming together with classrooms from around the world on a collaborative Google slide presentation.

Ms. Kelly’s class has been busy in their classroom dividing into groups and building a song about winter.  As a class, they worked on the base beat using beatlab.  Then different groups worked on parts of the song.  Singers created the words and sang them. Clappers used their hands to add rhythm.  Ukuleles strummed chords for another layer.  Instruments such as coffee can drums added even another layer of rhythm.

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Ms. Kelly wrote the words up onto a big chart paper with plenty of visuals for students to follow.  She saved their class beat in beatlab and pulled it up on the library projector.  I used Screencastomatic to record the beat along with our webcam recording the student performers.  Ms. Kelly used dry erase markers to make notes on the beatlab beat for specific groups of students.  She also used a cowbell and her voice to help students know when to come in.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to record multiple times, but we just loved our first take!

Even though we were in love with that version, we decided to try one more time with just an iPad so that we could get some closeup shots of students performing.  We love this version too, but we are including the 1st one in our global winter project with classrooms around the world.

We had some fun shout outs while we were working on our song, including some retweets from Kishi Bashi who was one of our inspirations for our song.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class split into groups of 4.  Two students were author and two were illustrators.  After starting their work in the library, they continued to write and draw in class to tell about personal experience with winter in Athens.  They featured things like food, clothing, school, and events in winter.

Each group came to the library with their finished work.  We spread their pages out on tables and took digital pictures of each page.  We then took these and added them to the collaborative Google presentation.

In Youtube, we pulled up the feature where you can record straight into Youtube with your webcam.  We placed each page in front of the webcam and students read their winter personal narratives and facts.  These videos were also embedded on the Google slides.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the slides turn out as we learn about winter around the world!