Examining the Work of Ashley Bryan

Our fabulous art teacher, Ms. Foretich, is always looking for opportunities to take our students to art experiences outside our school.  Last year, she attended a workshop at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and learned that the Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan exhibit was on the way for this school year.  We did a quick brainstorm on a grade level we might do a project with and she applied for the Art Access grant which supports transportation and admission to the museum.

Second grade was the grade we decided to work with and their field trip was planned for 2 days to accommodate all the students. Before the trip, every class came to the library for an introductory lesson and experience planned by me and Ms. Foretich.  We made a Google doc and planned out 4 centers that students could rotate to with the goal of making it to at least 2 centers.  Ms. Foretich arranged each class into 4 groups.

Before we began the centers, we did a brief overview of the High Museum website and the life of Ashley Bryan.  We learned about his life experiences and how he wants to fill the world with as many stories and illustrations of African Americans as he can.

We listened to him read My People by Langston Hughes.

We also gave a brief overview of each center since all students wouldn’t visit all centers.  Then, students went to their first center and got started.

Center 1: Ashley Bryan’s Puppets

Students began by watching a video of Ashley Bryan’s puppets.  As they watched, we wanted them to consider what characters he created. We also wanted them to notice materials he used and how the puppets moved.

Then, students took a look at the book Ashley Bryan’s Puppets so they could take a closer look at the materials of the puppets.

Finally students used a short readers’ theater script along with my library puppets to act out a script.

Our hope is to eventually have students create their own puppets and scripts for a project in 2nd quarter.

Puppet show time #librariesofinstagram #puppets #ashleybryan

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Center 2: Beautiful Blackbird Collage

Students read the book Beautiful Blackbird and looked closely at the colors and collage work in the illustrations. Then, Ms. Foretich had stencils, construction paper, glue, and oil pastels so that students could create their own bird collage. Many of the students kept the book open while they worked so they could mimic some of Ashley Bryan’s style.

Center 3: Poetry & Illustration

Students began by looking at the many ways Ashley Bryan illustrates the poetic works of African American poets.  Some of the books included Freedom Over Me, Sail Away, and ABC of African American Poetry.  Each book had a different style of illustration. Then, students used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create their own poetry. An additional step could have been to craft an illustration, but it was hard to add that in the time frame we had.

Center 4: African American Spirituals

Students looked at Let It Shine and I’m Going to Sing which both include African American spirituals illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Their task was to look at the words of the spiritual and how he took song and turned it into illustration. Then, students listened to multiple African American spirituals from the books that I compiled on Symbaloo.

While they listened, they used various kinds of paper, oil pastels, and black markers to draw what they heard or draw what they felt.

Exploring the work of Ashley Bryan before a field trip to @highmuseumofart #art #illustration #illustrator

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The library was noisy and creative during the centers, and Ms. Foretich and I enjoyed walking between centers and facilitating conversations about what we noticed in the illustrations.

Field Trip

Now, all students have visited the High Museum to see the exhibit of Ashley Bryan and they carried all of these center experiences with them as they went.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the field trip with them so it will be important for me to gather their experiences and visit the exhibit through them so that I can support the next steps of our project.  In quarter 2, we will revisit the books of Ashley Bryan, think about storytelling, and create art and puppets to help us tell those stories.  I’m excited to see what they create.

Little Red & Rapunzel: A Skype with Bethan Woollvin

I’ve written about the magic of Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red a few times on the blog. It’s one of those books that captures an audience when it’s read aloud. The repeating lines, the bold color, the large scary wolf, the shocking images….all work together to speak to so many readers.

Our 2nd grade has been studying Bethan Woollvin’s work by reading Little Red, viewing some of Bethan’s art, and exploring some of the resources on All the Wonders. Students loved acting out scenes from the book using the story shapes from All the Wonders.

Students also loved putting the book over their face or using the cutouts to become the Wolf or Red.

Today, in celebration of her upcoming book Rapunzel, we skyped with Bethan to hear both stories and learn about her art and inspiration.

So fun to hear @bethanwoollvin read Little Red #author #illustrator #skype #childrensbooks @peachtreepublishers

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Rapunzel has some similar magic to Little Red.  There’s some repetition of the “snip, snip” of the scissors, and students love to put their scissor fingers up and snip along with the story.

Such a treat to hear Rapunzel. Coming soon from @bethanwoollvin @peachtreepublishers #author #illustrator #childrensbooks

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The witch and her polka dot underpants steal the show when the book is read aloud, and you just have to pause and give the students a moment to point and laugh.  Without giving anything away, I’ll also say that there are a few images that elicit that same shock from students that they have when reading Little Red.  I loved hearing Bethan read parts of both books that had something gruesome or shocking. Her bubbly personality paired with Grandma getting eaten by the wolf was delightful!

I always love Skyping with an author or illustrator because they usually have original art, notes, or other artifacts that they can reach over and grab.  Bethan showed us a few early versions of illustrations from Little Read so that we could see how much they changed in the final version of the book. I loved the reinforcement that artists revise just like writers revise.

We saw some panel sketches from Rapunzel.  Students immediately made a connection to our current study of panels in graphic novels, and we learned that Bethan thinks a lot in panels when she is working. She also showed us images from Rapunzel that didn’t make it into the book or images that slightly changed after feedback from the publisher.

Near the end of our Skype, students formed a line to step up and ask questions. This is always a special moment because it’s so personal for each student to get to speak directly to an author or illustrator.

When students talk directly to an author/illustrator, magic happens #author #illustrator #childrensbooks

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I loved that Bethan would often answer the questions and then direct it right back to the student to answer too.  For example, a student asked about what her favorite part of writing and illustrating was. After answering, Bethan asked the student what her favorite part of writing and illustrating in class was.  It reinforced that we are all working on our craft no matter what stage we are in. We have connections to one another.

At the close, Bethan talked to us a bit about how her books are published in the UK and US. Some of the words and illustrations change depending on the vocabulary or to help the flow of conversation. Since I had a copy of both books, we were able to take a close look while she shared this with us.

We are so excited to now have both Little Red and Rapunzel living in our library for readers.  Be on the lookout for Rapunzel coming from Peachtree Publishers on October 1!  Many thanks to Peachtree Publishers and Bethan Woollvin for making this Skype possible and to Avid Bookshop for our presales of books.

Celebrating Stories with Our Annual Storybook Parade

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The day before fall break is always a special day at our school.  It is our annual Storybook Celebration.  Organizing this day takes a tremendous amount of work, but the students have such a great day. Students and teachers are encouraged to dress as any storybook character.

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We spent about 2 weeks ahead of the event advertising various costume ideas on our morning broadcast.  I wanted to encourage students to think about how they could use things they already had around their house or things they could make in order to create an awesome costume.  Some of my BTV crew chose books and shared some simple ideas for creating an awesome costume.  An example was Max from Max the Brave where you could just dress in black and tie a red cape, blanket, sheet, or towel around your neck.

Students poured into the library for the past 2 weeks to ask for assistance finding a book for the parade and costume ideas.  We had students coming in right up until the parade actually started, which was definitely a little crazy without much help.

Also ahead of the event, I sent out a Google spreadsheet to all of our resource and specials teachers to offer special opportunities during the day for classes to have literature-focused activities and a chance for teachers to have a planning time.  Resource and specials teachers blacked out times that they weren’t available and teachers signed up for the rest.

My volunteer coordinator, Courtney Tobin, created a Signup Genius to recruit 2 guest readers for every classroom to kickoff the day. This was sent out to grade level parent representatives who encouraged people to sign up.  I also shared the link with my own list of past guest readers as well as CCSD board members and district leaders.  I also published it on our library Facebook page.  We didn’t quite reach our goal of 2 readers per class, but every class had someone to share a great story with them at the start of the day.  These readers gathered in the library, chose from a selection of books, took a photo, and were off to classes to read.

After guest readers, we gathered in the cafeteria for an assembly.  We broadcast students onto the big screen as they entered using Google Hangouts.

Evan Bush from the Athens Clarke County Public Library came and told several interactive fall stories to almost 600 students.  I loved how he took the energy of the crowd and got them all snapping, clapping, and sharing parts of the stories.  It kept them focused.  I reached out to Evan about 2 weeks before our event, and he graciously agreed to come.  I love that he gave our students a great storytelling experience and also one more connection to the public library and what it can offer.

After Evan, each class stood up twirled around to show off costumes, and sat facing the back of the cafeteria.  This prepared us to go out on our actual parade as well as gave students a chance to show one another their costumes.

It was during this time that I found out all my preparation for the parade route suddenly had to be changed.  I was so organized this year and provided maps of the parade route to families and community ahead of time.  However, Georgia Power had to do some work and closed part of the sidewalk on our route.  I had to make a last minute change, but it all worked out.

We took off into the community shouting “Read More Books!” and showing off our costumes.  It was fun to see community members, families, UGA students, construction workers, and more cheering us on along the way.  Our 1st-5th grade took a longer route and our Prek/K took a shorter route around the school.

Our 5th graders have a tradition of stopping along the parade route for a special treat, and for the past few years we have stopped at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education for hot chocolate.  Mimi, our family engagement specialist, organizes this piece for us by having the cafeteria prep the hot chocolate and taking the hot chocolate to setup.  Students have some time to just hangout, talk, and enjoy their treats before heading back to school.

Finally, back at school we go to our special classes as well as do more literature activities in class.  In the library, we focused on pirate stories since I was dressed as Captain Hook.  I also used the great pirate video from All the Wonders.

Students moved to tables and colored a pirate sheet or designed their own pirate using Chromville augmented reality.

Somehow in all the craziness, we also organized a big book giveaway.  In the back corner of the library, there were tables of books that had been donated or weeded out of various collections and needed a good home. Courtney Tobin and other volunteers helped get the books put out, and teachers brought classes or small groups of students to pick out new books.  It was fun to glance over and see so many students excited to add books to their home libraries.  We will keep these tables going next week since there are still books left.

It seems that each year something new comes along for storybook celebration that makes it a little more special.  This year I loved seeing so many creative costumes: Little Elliot, the Bird Woman from Circus Mirandus, Minecraft creepers, Martin Luther King, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more.

I loved seeing our reflection in the glass of the UGA coliseum.

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I also loved that our public library was involved in the day and I want to think even more about how community is represented on this day.

Until next year…

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Allen Say’s Kamishibai Man and Tinkering with Puppet Pals

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Third grade has been working on an Allen Say author study.  In class, they have read multiple books, compared and contrasted, and started identifying what marks a book as Allen Say’s work.  In the library, we also read a book by Allen Say to fold into this class conversation, but we used the library lesson for another purpose, too:  tinkering.

Our read aloud was Kamishibai Man, which tells the story of an old man who has retired from his work of traveling into the city to sell candy and tell stories.  A kamishibai uses a wooden box mounted on a bicycle to display beautiful paintings which inspire oral stories.  The stories are told in a series so that audience members want to come again and again.  At each storytelling session, the kamishibai man would sell homemade candies which was how he made his living.  During the story, we had great discussions about how technology has impacted our lives in positive and negative ways because in the story the kamishibai man has to quit his job because people would rather watch tv.

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Following the story, we practiced our own way of oral storytelling using puppet stages, characters, and backdrops in an iPad app called Puppet Pals.  This app allows you to select up to 8 characters and 5 scenes.  You can upload your own images for the characters and scenes or choose from the library of options.  Users can move their scenes and characters off stage when they are not in use.  With a record button, every movement and voice is recorded as long as it takes place in front of the backdrop.  Puppet Pals lets you record up to 2 minutes of audio which sets it apart from some other apps that only let you record for 30 seconds.

We did a quick demo on the board by having 2 students come up and make a quick story in the moment.  Then, students split into groups of 2 or 3 with an iPad and spread out throughout the library.  They quickly got to work figuring out how puppet pals worked.  Most groups made multiple stories because they would think about something else they wanted to try once they finished one story.  It was fun to step back and listen to all of the voices that students were creating for characters as well as how they were moving characters in and out of the set and making them larger and smaller on the screen.  The students were trying this app without fear of failure, and they were learning so much about how the app functioned.  Some of them even created some pretty decent videos in the short time that they had to tinker.

Our closing time was once of my favorite times.  I asked students to think for a moment about what they might want to do if they made a longer video and had a longer time to work on it.  They listed out several things that probably would have come from a teacher checklist or instructions, but the difference was that they came to the realization of why these checklist items were needed because of their tinkering.  It wasn’t just something the teacher or I was asking them to do.  Instead, the checklist served to improve their work and organize their product.  They named things like:

  • Write a script for the characters.
  • Include instructions about when to change the backdrop
  • Write notes about when to shrink or enlarge a character.
  • Pause the recording in order to switch out characters or scenes. Put this in the script too.
  • Practice before recording.
  • and much more.

Third grade is about to launch into a study of folktales.  I think Puppet Pals has great potential to be a part of this project, so I intentionally used this tool as part of our Allen Say project to have a purpose for tinkering but also to make sure that tinkering happened before we asked students to create a more polished product.  Now, I feel like the stage is set for all 3rd grade classes to create a folktale Puppet Pal project if they want to.  I want to think more about how tinkering opportunities can be built naturally into lessons prior to larger projects beginning.  This type of model takes knowledge of the upcoming curriculum and early conversations about the kinds of collaborative projects that will be taking place each quarter.  I love this new thinking that has potential for future planning with teachers and students.

 

 

Digital Quilts

Each year, I do a lesson about Harriet Powers, a local famous American who created story quilts about the Bible.  I bring in a replica of her 1st Bible quilt, invite students to imagine the stories it might tell, share the story of Harriet Powers, read excerpts of the book Stitching Stars, and explain some of the panels of the quilt.  This year, I wondered how I might incorporate technology into the lesson, so I decided to try making a digital quilt.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students in the 1st grade class paired up and thought about what a quilt square might look like that told a story about Barrow School.  Then, they each got an iPad with the Glow Coloring app open.  They used the black background and glowing colors to quickly draw their square.  Finally, students placed their iPads on a table to make one large iPad digital quilt.

One of the funniest things that happened during this lesson was when a student drew on the iPad in glowing blue and then held up his finger to check to see if the blue paint was on his finger.  🙂

I really liked the end product, but I wish that I had more time for the lesson.  We didn’t really have time to finish the quilt squares.  I also would have liked for each student to tell the story of their square to another partner group.  We also could have looked at the collective quilt and thought about how it represented our school as a whole and what other stories might have been included.

All in all it was a good first attempt that I will definitely replicate and expand.

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Summarizing with Sock Puppets

Brainstorming for the script

I recently blogged for the Georgia Library Media Association about using the Sock Puppets app on the iPad.  Since that post, I introduced the app at a faculty meeting.  I recorded a quick, light-hearted puppet show to introduce our faculty meeting.  Then, a couple of teachers came up and did an impromptu puppet show to show how easy sock puppets is to use.  We finished by having teachers think about how this app might be used with their students.

During the faculty meeting, Mrs. Freeman emailed me to collaborate on a summarizing lesson using sock puppets.  Her 4th grade class has been working on summarizing skills during reading, and she thought that the 30-second time restraint of this app would encourage students to carefully think about how to summarize a story.

Checking in with Mrs. Freeman

We read Spork by Kyo Maclear.  Students worked with partners to fill out a graphic organizer to help them think about summarizing the story.  The organizer included setting, characters, beginning/middle/end, and conclusion.  On the back of the organizer, partners created a script for their sock puppets.  I encouraged them to be as creative as they wanted to with the script, but that the one thing that had to be in the script was a summary of the story.

Most groups wrote scripts that had the puppets talk back forth in this manner:

Sock puppet 1:  What are you reading?

Sock puppet 2:  Spork.

Sock puppet 1:  What’s it about?

Sock puppet 2:  It’s about….

Other groups had the puppets do a summary but then ended with the sock puppets getting into an argument or singing a song.  Other groups tried to get the sock puppets to become actual characters from the book and act out the events of the story.  Each group had their own take on how to weave in a summary while still being creative with their scripts.

Before each group could get an iPad to begin recording, students showed their script to an adult:  Me (the media specialist), Mrs. Freeman, our instructional coach, and two paraprofessionals.  Finally students recorded and saved their sock puppet stories.  While they were recording, I walked around and gave tips on features of the app that students were forgetting to use.

Recording the script

At the end, we sat in front of the smart board and used an adapter to display the puppet shows.  We had fun and laughed together, but we also pointed out things in the puppet shows that could be improved for next time.  Students noticed how background noise affected the recording and how the pitch of each student’s voice affected the way the sock puppet talked in the end.

All in all, I felt like it was a creative, successful lesson that we learned from for future lessons.  I loved that students were creators of new content and that their work had an immediate audience ready to give feedback.

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Stitching Stars Storytellers

As part of enrichment clusters this semester, I am working with a group of 9 kindergarten and first grade students to learn how to become storytellers.  This group has been fun, but it has come with many challenges as well.  Since most of these students are learning to read, they are unable to independently read most picture books or folktales.  They also began as a very shy group that was soft-spoken and quiet.

Here are some things that we have tried:

  • Watching videos of rambler storytellers from the Wren’s Nest and commenting on what we noticed that the storyteller did.
  • Listening to stories read aloud and discussing the kinds of expression that was used.
  • “Reading” a wordless picture book together very slowly and with great detail, and then working with partners to read other wordless books.
  • Modeling partner reading using Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie books and then practicing with a partner
  • Kim James from the Athens Public Library did a lap puppet show and an oral story with the students and then offered feedback as students practiced their own wordless picture book stories.

With all of these pieces, students are gaining confidence, and I’m noticing that they are developing their imagination, expression, and volume.  In the coming weeks, we will practice listening to stories and drawing pictures that will be cues to help us tell the stories.  In the end, the students have a goal of each telling a story at our enrichment fair in May.  Wish us luck!

 

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