Remembering September 11th and Moving Forward

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Each year, our 5th graders learn about September 11th as a part of their social studies standards.  They have to know about the events of the day as well as how that act of terrorism has impacted our lives today.  It’s a scary topic for an elementary student who has no memories of this event.  For them, it’s really just a part of history that doesn’t resonate in the same way as it does for adults.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t explore this tough subject.

We look at the day from multiple angles and see what we can discover about terrorism but also the heroism of the day.  We’ve used this tragedy to think about how we respond to sadness, how we memorialize those who mean so much to us, and how we create good in the world.

We spread our learning across an entire day.  Each teacher leads a different part of the day and students rotate through several experiences.

With me, students use a Symbaloo to explore online content.  I love Symbaloo because I can group the links together in a meaningful way.  I split the links into 4 areas: looking back & reflecting, the events of the day, rebuilding, and remembering.  When students came in, I used our Flipgrid responses from last year to talk about how we have to rely on people’s memories and what has been left behind in order to learn about and learn from history.

Last year’s Flipgrid

We also talked about how different the documentation of 9/11 would be if it happened today.  It happened at a time when smart phones, instagram, Twitter, and Facebook didn’t exist.  We also talked about our comfort level with tragedy.  I labeled several of the links “graphic” so that students could decide if they really wanted to click on that area.  Students could stop at any point and take a break in the hallway or with the counselor.

Our 9/11 pathfinder

At the close of my session, students had a chance to talk about what they heard and saw.

With Ms. Mullins, students looked at the first responders of 9/11, including the rescue dogs.  They used the information they learned to write haikus in response to the heroism.

With Ms. Selleck, students read 14 Cows for America and talked about how other countries responded to our tragedy.  We saw September 11 as a time when other countries felt our pain and reached out to help us.  Students responded by creating artwork to symbolize a response to tragedy.

With Ms. Olin, students read Fireboat and talked about how everyone pulled together on September 11 to help one another regardless of jobs or beliefs.  We were all Americans.

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After lunch, we had a guest speaker.  Bob Hart has created a 9/11 memorial trail right here in Athens, and he came to tell the students about how he got the idea, what each part of the trail represents, and answer questions from the students

Bob Hart’s 9/11 Memorial Trail in Athens, GA

This was a new piece to our 9/11 remembrance day and it was powerful.  Bob had so many touching tributes to the victims, and each part of  his memorial was thoughtful and created with love and respect.  His trail is open to the public, so I’m sure many students will want to visit.

We even found out that his trail is featured in a Weird Georgia book which we have in the library!

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At the close of our day, students used Flipgrid to record their haikus, artwork, and reflections.  Three volunteers came in to help me facilitate the recording so that students had a quiet space.  You simply have to listen to their voices!

Students shared art, poetry, and reflections about 9/11 on a Flipgrid

While this day is tragic, it is a day that I cherish each year because our kids take so much away from the day about heroism, response to tragedy, and the pride of being an American.

Social Studies Character Traits: Historical Figures and Personal Connections

IMG_4902This year our school has been creating space for vertical alignment meetings for each subject area.  In these meetings, a representative from each grade level talks about the standards for each quarter and we start to look for ways that we might collaborate across grade levels or move curriculum around the better serve our students.  One of the conversations that keeps coming up in the social studies meeting is character traits and historical figures.  Every grade has a list of historical figures that they have to cover along with a list of character traits that each person represents.  Students really have to understand both the historical figure and the character trait in order to connect the two.  We’ve discussed looking for themes in character traits across the school curriculum so that we might feature specific traits each month with both historical figures, current figures, and ourselves.

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Third grade just tried something new with their standards.  They learn about Mary Mcleod Bethune, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass and how these figures demonstrate leadership, diligence, cooperation, and courage.  Wow!  That’s a lot to understand.  I love how the 3rd grade approached this.  They spent two weeks  really going in depth with each historical figure.  They read informational text, used the PebbleGo database, and other online resources to know the main contributions of each historical figure.  Along the way, students gathered facts about each historical figure.

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They also spent time learning about diligence, leadership, courage, and cooperation. With these traits, they tried to think of real world examples of how each trait was used.

In the library, each class came for a 45 minute session to comb through all of the facts collected through the lens of a character trait.  Each student chose one character trait to focus on.  The goal was to look back through all of the facts about Susan B. Anthony, Mary Mcleod Bethune, and Frederick Douglass and pull out the facts that demonstrated that character trait.

To setup this time, I modeled the process by using another historical figure that wasn’t part of the social studies unit: Martin Luther King Jr.  We quickly reviewed the 4 character traits.  I thought students would better be able to pull out facts that demonstrated a character trait if they first had a personal connection to the trait.  I told a personal story about how I had shown courage.  When I was in high school, I was terrified of public speaking to the point that I would shake uncontrollably and get sick to my stomach.  By using courage, I have not eliminated this fear from my life, but I’ve learned to control it and now speak in front of many different groups of people.

After telling this personal story, we looked through lists of facts about Martin Luther King Jr and tried to pull out facts that matched each of the character traits.  Students turned to partners and talked about which facts matched which traits and why.

Then, students moved to tables and began their writing time by reflecting on themselves and their chosen character traits.  The teachers and I circulated to talk with students about this.  Then, they went through each of the 3 historical figures and pulled out facts that matched that character trait.

Back in class, students continued working on this process and then crafted their chosen facts into a script where they could explain how each of the historical figures demonstrated the chosen character trait.

Students returned to the library for 10-minute recording sessions.  They used Flipgrid to capture their thoughts.

I think that this was a big step toward thinking about how to make character traits and historical figures connect with our students’ worlds today.  I think we have more work to do, but I love that a new process has started.

I invite you to listen to all of the incredible 3rd grade videos about courage, diligence, leadership, and cooperation.

Leadership

Diligence

Courage

Cooperation

Keeping Project Momentum When the Schedule Gets in the Way: One Use of Google Hangouts

Barrow Peace Prize Criteria   Google Docs

Our 2nd grade is deep into their project on six people from Black History.  Most classes are finishing up their research for our Barrow Peace Prize Flipgrid project.  Before students begin the writing process, we want them to understand what the Nobel Peace Prize is and consider the character traits that someone might have who receives this award.  Every class needs the exact same lesson, but they need the lesson before students can really move forward with their writing.  Sometimes the library schedule can get in the way of these kinds of projects.  I don’t want the library schedule to cause a project to be delayed simply because we can’t fit everyone into 30 minute slots across a day or two.  This is the perfect time to use technology to maximize our time.

For the 2nd time, I did a Google hangout with an entire grade level in order to save time.  Before the hangout, I setup a Google Hangout on Air and sent the participation link to all of the teachers via email.  I also created a Google doc where we could do some brainstorming and invited all four of the 2nd grade teachers to be collaborators.  I made sure that the link to the doc was “view only” for anyone else with the link.

Before the hangout started, I opened the hangout, turned on my cam, and muted my microphone.  As the four classes joined, I could easily hear if their microphone and video was working or not.  Then, I could use the control room tool to mute each teacher’s microphone while we waited on all classes to join.  Periodically, I came back on the microphone to update the classes who were waiting and remind teachers to open our shared Google doc.

The purpose of the hangout was to help 2nd graders get familiar with Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize as well as to develop a list of characteristics for our own Barrow Peace Prize.  After a quick intro, I read the book Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Zachary Pullen.  Then, I told the students just a bit about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  We watched just the beginning of a CNN video of her acceptance.

Then, I invited each class to look a the shared Google doc and brainstorm the qualities that we hoped would represent the Barrow Peace Prize.  I muted all microphones while classes discussed and added to the doc.  While that was happening, I shared the viewable link to the doc on Twitter so that an audience could watch the list be constructed.

We immediately had multiple viewers of our work in progress.

Each class had an opportunity to step the microphone and share just a bit of what they discussed.  I was in charge of calling on each classroom and muting and unmuting each teacher’s microphone.

Finally, I closed by reminding students to use their research as well as the character trait list when writing their piece about their person from Black History.

What would have taken 3-4 hours on the library calendar took only 30 minutes and now the 2nd grade can move forward with the writing process.  I want to check in with the 2nd grade teachers to see how things felt on the other side of the camera, but from my side, this seemed like a great model for whole grade lessons that lend themselves to a hangout.  I certainly wouldn’t want all lessons to be like this one, but this format felt right for this situation.

Collaborating Globally with Perspectives on Explorers: The Results are In!

Barrow Explorers

Two big library goals for this year are to give students time to dream, tinker, create, and share as well as collaborate globally.  Our fourth grade is wrapping up their explorers perspective project.  They considered six explorers and whether these explorers were in fact heroes or villains.  This project has spanned a few weeks and has involved research on six explorers in the social studies standards, persuasive writing, thinking from alternative perspectives, and creating persuasive Flipgrid videos.

You can read about how the project started here.

You can read about our videos and voting procedure here.

Students recorded their persuasive videos using Flipgrid.  We put all of those videos onto a Google site along with forms for voting whether or not each explorer was a villain or a hero.  Over the past few weeks, I have invited people around the world to interact with the project and vote.  I’ve shared through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus communities.  It has been amazing to see how many classrooms have viewed the projects and sent us positive tweets and messages about our students’ work.

After sharing their work with the world, the results are in.

Is Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?

Christopher Columbus   Google Forms


Is John Cabot a hero or a villain?

John Cabot   Google Forms

Is Vasco Nunez de Balboa a hero or a villain?

Vasco Nunez de Balboa   Google Forms

Is Juan Ponce de Leon a hero or a villain?

Juan Ponce de Leon   Google Forms

 

Is Henry Hudson a hero or a villain?

Henry Hudson   Google Forms

 

Is Jacques Cartier a hero or a villain?

Jacques Cartier   Google Forms

It looks like most of us look to the explorers as heroes with a big exception for Christopher Columbus.

In addition, our Flipgrid had some very interesting data.  As of this posting:

  • The Christopher Columbus question was viewed 530 times and had 186 likes
  • The Jacques Cartier question was viewed 148 times and had 65 likes
  • The Henry Hudson question was viewed 99 times and had 52 likes
  • The Juan Ponce de Leon question was viewed 139 times and had 68 likes
  • The Vasco Nunez de Balboa question was viewed 94 times and had 47 likes
  • The John Cabot question was viewed 120 times and had 45 likes

This has been such a special project.  I hope that we can do more work like this where classes are viewing one another’s projects, offering feedback, and considering different views.  We will end this project with a connection with the Flipgrid team very soon.

If you want to view the student projects, you can still visit their site.

 

We Need You to Vote on Whether these Explorers are Heroes or Villains!

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Fourth grade has been hard at work.  They have been researching multiple explorers in their social studies standards and considering whether those explorers are heroes or villains.  It all started with a lesson in the library using a video about Christopher Columbus, Encounter by Jane Yolen, and Tagxedo.

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After that, students selected an explorer and began their research.  They took their information and used that to write a persuasive piece convincing an audience that their explorer is a hero or villain.  They used Flipgrid to record themselves reading their persuasive piece.  All of the Flipgrid videos are housed on an Google Site for easy access and each explorer has a Google form voting tool to indicated whether that explorer is a hero or a villain.

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Now, this is where you come in!  We need you to watch our videos and vote on our heroes or villains.  You can choose an explorer and spend some time on that one explorer or you can watch them all!  You can share this project with other classrooms or educators and ask them to share.

If you choose to do this with a class, we would love to hear about it!  You can tweet pictures or comments to @plemmonsa  Most importantly we want you to vote and share.

 

Soon after our Thanksgiving break, we will take a look at the results and most likely connect with our friends at Flipgrid to talk about coding and our project’s reach.

We hope that our project makes you think about the many perspectives in our world’s history and that you enjoy hearing our voices.

Barrow Explorers

Click here to access our Explorer Google Site!  Tip:  If you are in Google Chrome, you will need to click on the shield in your address bar to load the “unsafe script”. This will show you the embedded grids.  Otherwise, just click on the link on each explorer’s name to access the Flipgrid on a separate page.  Feel free to “like” student videos by clicking the hearts, but don’t forget to vote on the Google forms on our site.

Honoring Our Veterans with The Poppy Lady, Padlet, and Flipgrid

Last year, we were honored to have Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady, visit our school and share her book about Moina Michael’s vision for honoring veterans with the poppy.  Now, last year’s fourth graders that attended that visit are in the 5th grade.   They are about to host several veterans at our school for Veteran’s Day on Tuesday.

British use poppies to commemorate WWI

To prepare for our luncheon, the 5th grade classes each came to the library.  We read The Poppy Lady again.  We also watched a video from CBS news.  The video gave the students some great context on why the poppy is so important and what it really symbolizes.  This paired nicely with the advocacy story of Moina Michael.

We also had a great discussion about the importance of honoring veterans and what students might ask when they sit at a table with a veteran.  They brainstormed questions/statements like: “Tell me more about your time of service”, “What division of the military did you serve in”, “What were some of your biggest challenges in the military”, etc.

Then, students took time to visit 2 centers in the library.  I setup multiple iPads as a Flipgrid recording station.  With Flipgrid, students reflected on how we could continue to honor veterans just like the poppy lady did.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

 

The 2nd station was a padlet where students could send messages to author Barbara Walsh about their appreciation for honoring the work of Moina Michael.  I pulled the site up on both projection screens and three other computers in the library for students to visit.

The Poppy Lady

Now the 5th graders will continue to work on poems, artwork, letters, and speeches for Tuesday’s luncheon.  During the luncheon, they will sit with veterans and have meaningful conversations.  I hope that they will take time to bring up the Poppy Lady while they talk.

 

 

Perspective on Explorers

I’m very excited about a project with our 4th graders this month.  This project is a spinoff of something we did last year with explorers and Native Americans.  This year, we are just focusing on explorers.

To kickoff the lesson, we did a very similar kickoff to last year’s project.  The entire fourth grade came, which was about 65 students.  We used a video from Biography.com about Christopher Columbus.  We only watched the first two minutes of the video.

http://www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209/videos/christopher-columbus-mini-biography-6831683604

Following the video, I asked students to tell me what words they would use to describe Columbus.  They turned and shared with a neighbor first and then I used Tagxedo to capture several of their words into an image.

columbus video

Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen.  I love pairing this book with what students are already thinking about Columbus because it typically flips their outlook on Columbus and explorers in general.  I asked them the same question about Columbus, to describe him based on the book they just heard.  Here’s how their words changed.

columbus encounter

 

This lesson was meant to setup the whole research process that students will now embark on.  They will each select one of the explorers from the 4th grade standards:

SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.

a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.

b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native
Americans

They will ask themselves, “Is this explorer a hero or a villain?”  Some teachers may even assign a perspective for students to take even if they disagree with that perspective.  I told them to think back to Columbus.  Even though many of us think he’s a villain after reading Encounter, we were still able to come up with all kinds of words to describe why he was a hero.  Students will use a Sqworl pathfinder along with other databases and print books to research. They will write a short persuasive piece convincing an audience to believe that their chosen explorer is a hero or a villain.

Barrow Explorers

We will use Flipgrid to create videos of all of these writing pieces.  I made one grid for each explorer so that we hear both perspectives in one place.  They will be stored on a Google site so that we can easily view all of the videos.  I also made a Google form so that viewers can easily vote for whether they think each explorer is a hero or a villain.

Our plan is to share this with our entire school as well as share on social media and this blog when we have everything ready to go.

Be on the lookout for your opportunity to give the students feedback on their work and participate in this project.