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.

When Authors Connect: A Skype with Barbara O’Connor

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One of our amazing Barrow teachers, Ms. Spurgeon, is leading a book club with some 5th grade students.  To select their book, she read the summaries of several books as well as the first page of those books.  The members of the group unanimously chose Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog after hearing the opening line: “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.  They have been savoring every moment of reading the book since choosing it.  They’ve taken their time because a book like this one deserves some discussion, and Ms. Spurgeon has shared that some of that discussion has been hard.

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How to Steal a Dog is about Georgina Hayes and her brother who have been evicted from their apartment and now live out of their car with their mother.  They long for a place of their own, and a “lost dog” poster suddenly gives them an idea.  What if they stole a dog and then collected the reward money after giving the dog back to its owner?  The plan sounds brilliant, but even though it is well planned out by Georgina, the duo face some unexpected challenges that complicate their hopes.

Ms. Spurgeon’s group has had some tough discussions about homelessness, poverty, stealing, and family relationships, but the students have embraced those discussions and in turn stayed connected and engaged in the book. When she shared with me how powerful the discussions were, I really wanted Barbara O’Connor to hear about it.

I shared some of Ms. Spurgeon’s observations with Barbara and wondered if we might connect over Skype for just a few minutes when they were close to finished with the book.  Barbara enthusiastically said yes, and we set a date to connect for about 20 minutes.

Ms Spurgeon kept the Skype a surprise until the day of the connection, and the 5 students were shocked that they would actually talk to the “real author” of the book they were reading. They prepared some questions over lunch and came to the library to Skype.

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Meeting Barbara O'Connor #authorvisit #studentvoice

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It was a different kind of Skype because it was intimate. I pulled 5 chairs right up to the board so students could be close to Barbara on screen. Students each introduced themselves, and Ms. Spurgeon had a moment to talk to Barbara about their experience with the book.

Barbara took time to talk a bit about herself as a writer, how many books she has published, and where she lives. Then, it really became a conversation between the students and Barbara. I love author and illustrator visits, but often these visits are more presentation and less conversation because of the size of the groups we pack in for a visit. This type of visit built a connection between author and reader.

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Students asked about whether Barbara had experienced homelessness, why she wrote the book, how long it took, and more. Some students also came up with follow-up questions in the moment and because it was a small group, they could actually ask those.  We got to take a quick tour around Barbara’s house as she showed the students her dogs after they asked whether or not she had a dog of her own.

We closed our time by thinking about next reads. I had pulled the books from our library that weren’t checked out at the moment and asked Barbara if she would like to suggest any of her other books as a follow-up selection. She suggested The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis and showed students an example of a Yoohoo boat from the story. While she mentioned other books like Wish, one of the students reached out and grabbed Popeye and Elvis and started reading it. That’s one of the great rewards of an author visit whether it’s through Skype or in person.  The books come alive for the students and they can’t wait to read them all. Even though I can often recommend a book to a student and they will read it, the recommendation from the actual author is as good as gold.

When the students returned to their class, they continued to talk about the visit and how wonderful Barbara was to talk to.  Some of them said they couldn’t wait to read more of her books once they finish this one.  I know that Skype visits take time for authors, but it means the world to readers when they offer even a small amount of time to say hello, show off their dogs, and talk about the joys and challenges of writing and reading. Thank you for joining us today, Barbara O’Connor!

 

Student E-book Creation

Some third graders have been exploring how they can make their own ebooks.  This group was a big exploration.  We really didn’t know what we were doing when we started, and we gave ourselves permission to just try things, problem solve, and be at peace if something just didn’t work.

We decided to try Barnes and Noble’s Tikatok first.  It’s free and can either be done with a parent account with children added or can be done with a teacher account with students added.  Students can use a gallery of photos or import their own.  Most students chose to search for creative commons photos to use in their book.  One student even did her own photography.  Some students started with a written story and made their pages and images match their story.  Others started with interesting images and tried to weave those into a story or collection of poems.

The free version of Tikatok only allows you to use photos and text.  If you want to include audio, you have to pay to upgrade your account.  Also, we learned that a parent account allows the books to be shared exactly as they are created, while a teacher account only allows the books to be shared with the word “tikatok” spread across each page.  Ultimately, this is a tool for Barnes and Noble to make money through the purchase of the ebook version or the printed version.  However, we found that it was useful enough and easy enough to use that we would try it again and only use the features that were free.

Another group will begin exploring in a couple of weeks.  This group is probably going to try out a different tool called SimpleBooklet.  There are many more features in this tool such as embedding Google docs, video, and audio.  The feel of the book is more like a slideshow than the turning of pages in Tikatok, but the features may prove to support more creativity and transmedia experiences for students.  Our hope is that these 2 exploration groups will work out some of the kinks for future groups and inspire whole grade levels to try this out.

You can preview 3 of the books that these students created here.