King Alice: A Visit with Matthew Cordell

I love collaborating with our local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Each year, we get amazing authors and illustrators who visit our schools and share their expertise with our kids. Our first visit of this year was Caldecott-medalist Matthew Cordell.  He won the Caldecott for his story of bravery and kindness called Wolf in the Snow.  Now, he is touring for his newest book King Alice.  His visit to our school was made possible by his publisher MacMillan Kids and Avid Bookshop.

I’ve followed Matthew’s work for several years. His book,  Hello Hello, is a favorite book that I love to use as we ponder how we balance our digital lives and real lives.  Even though it is a few years old, it continues to be relevant.

When I found out he was coming to our school, I began collaborating with Rita Foretich, our art teacher.  I scheduled read alouds with every class in K-2.  During every class, we read Wolf in the Snow. First grade also read Dream. Second grade also read Hello Hello.

In art, Ms. Foretich focused on 1 book per grade. Kindergarten made art inspired by Wolf in the Snow. They considered a time they were kind or brave and illustrated that moment. First grade made art inspired by Dream. They considered what they dreamed to be and illustrated that dream.  Second grade made art inspired by Hello Hello. They considered what they like to do in their free time and how they balance digital/real life and illustrated those thoughts.

Each piece of art was mounted on black construction paper to create a gallery in the front halls of our school.

For the visit, we transformed the entrance to the library to look like a castle wall. My talented high school intern, Andrea Aramburo, created a hand-lettered banner that said “Welcome Kings”. Every class received paper crowns from the publisher to wear to the visit. All of this was in honor of King Alice.

During Matthew’s visit, he shared a little of his childhood leading up to where he is now. Then, we got to see inside his messy studio. He talked about how he purposefully took a picture of the studio in action because he wanted students to see that art wasn’t a neat and clean process.  This became one of the favorite moments of the talk for some students.

Before Matthew read King Alice, he told some stories from his family. One example was how his daughter suggested things for them to do together like throw a pie in dad’s face or put on dad’s makeup. I loved hearing these real-life examples because it showed all of us that ideas are truly all around us.  King Alice is about a dad and daughter doing things together on a snow day. The dad doesn’t always want to do everything Alice suggests, but when she suggests making a book, the dad is all on board. We loved learning that Matthew’s daughter even got to collaborate on parts of the book.  King Alice has many laugh-out-loud moments that students were still talking about after the visit, and I heard more than one student shout out “Idea!” just like Alice did when she thought of additions to her story.

Students always love seeing an illustrator draw. Matthew drew King Alice and narrated every step of the drawing process. Seeing the blank page transform into the stoic King Alice was incredible and inspiring. I always see students go back to class after these moments and try to draw the characters themselves.

Before Matthew left, he chatted with several students including one student who presented him with a book that he wrote just for Matthew.

He also took time to tour the gallery of student art and get to know our many creators throughout K-2.

 

Thanks to our PTA, every classroom teacher received a copy of King Alice.  I’m sure it will be heavily used as a mentor text in writing workshop. It brings up some many important ideas of storytelling from ideas to revision to illustrating.

If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I encourage you to go to your local independent bookshop and make a purchase. I’m sure there’s even a few signed copies still left at Avid Bookshop if you want to order one online.

Thank you, Matthew Cordell, for sharing your wisdom with our students, teachers, and families. Thank you MacMillan Publishers for making our city one of the stops on the tour. Thank you Avid Bookshop for collaborating with our school to make this visit possible and for supporting all of our book sales.

 

 

Love Projects: 4th Grade Family

After 4th graders finished reading the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I asked them to think about the love that exists in their families outside of school. The book shows many ways that families show love to one another.  We had several powerful conversations about images in the book such as the dad and daughter dancing on the trailer, the mom & dad fighting, the older sibling taking care of the younger sibling, and the new parents huddled over the crib.  Each student had a different reason that a particular image resonated with him or her.

In the library, we gave students a chance to list out family members that they might be able to have a conversation with at home and what they might talk about in regards to how they show love to one another. Ms. Foretich setup a Flipgrid for families to record this conversation.  The link was shared in Class Dojo by classroom teachers and Ms. Foretich also sent a printed set of instructions home with students.  

A second piece of the 4th grade project was to also create an image of love.  This was very open to student interpretation. They could create symbols, scenes, words, or any combination that spoke to them.  These images were started in the 2nd session with 4th graders, and Ms. Foretich and I used this time to conference with each student about his/her plans for creating a recording with family members at home.  We were trying to make sure each student had a plan and also had access to the tools they needed to record. I always offered the library as an option for students and families to come in and record.

After this 2nd session, Ms. Foretich continued having students create their images, and we waited on students to film. We had some other teachers check in with specific students in order to encourage them to record at home.  In the final week before our author/illustrator visit, I noticed that many students had still not recorded, so I scheduled a session with each 4th grade class to come to the library and record their Flipgrid.  This option left out the “record with your family” aspect but at least it allowed each student’s voice to still be included in the project.  Students were able to talk about how their family shows love even if they weren’t with their family in the video.

Now, the 4th grade symbols of love are hanging at the entrance to our school, and our Flipgrid is continuing to come together.

Even as I write this post, I’m getting messages from parents asking if it’s too late to add their voice. I’m hopeful we’ll have more families add their voice even after our author visit occurs.

Please take a moment to listen to each family and student on this Flipgrid. You are welcome to leave comments for them on this post or react to their videos with the emoji reactions. If you find yourself at our school, take a look at 4th grades work as soon as you enter the building.

Two-Voice Poetry

5th grade spent two days reading and creating two voice poetry. This project came about after I met with Mrs. Freeman to brainstorm ideas for her ELA classes.  We were looking at this standard:

ELAGSE5RL6  Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

During our planning, we looked at books and poetry that featured multiple perspectives and decided that we would focus on poetry.  I found several books to serve as mentor texts.

  • Messing Around the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Lathan & Charles Waters
  • Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, & More by Carole Gerber
  • Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  • The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
  • This is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman

During the 2-day project, the students, Mrs. Freeman, and I read aloud examples of poems from each book and talked about the perspectives and style of the poem.  Some were funny.  Some were serious or about historical events. Some were sarcastic. We tried to showcase examples that would appeal to many different interests.  Then, we set students up for their work session.

In pairs, students continued to read mentor poems from the featured books to get more familiar with how two voices could work together from two different perspectives.

When they felt ready, they moved to a brainstorming sheet. On the sheet, they thought of possible topics along with what two perspectives could talk about that topic in the poem.  We encouraged students to choose two perspectives that would offer a different take on the chosen topic.  We tried not to give too many examples, but if students were stuck, we made suggestions that might spark their own ideas: hot cheetos/hot takis, cell phone/landline, nintendo/xbox, school/home, twitter/instagram, etc.

Once they decided on the topic and perspectives they liked, they started trying out some lines of their poem.  Many students looked back to the mentor poems for a structure or style of writing.  Others picked topics like politics, where they needed to do some additional research in order to truly take on the perspective they were attempting.

Mrs. Freeman, Mr. Kinnaird (student teacher), Mrs. Mullins (collaborative spectrum teacher), Mrs. Kelley (special education teacher) and I all walked around and conferenced with writing pairs.  We nudged them to expand their voice, use descriptive language, and practice their poem before publishing.

The work session spanned both days.  Once students were ready to publish, they used their computers to record their poem on Flipgrid.  This is a piece of the project that will continue in the coming days as students finish their poetry.

There were several moments where I paused and looked around at the whole group of students working. What amazed me was how engaged each pair of students was.  Yes, students worked at different paces and some needed more support than others, but no student sat back and did nothing. They were focused on the task, and it made me wonder about this particular experience and what made all students engaged.  Was it the choice? Was it the partnership? Was it the freedom of poetry? Was it interest? Was it the authentic audience on Flipgrid?  I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that I loved this experience and I hope I can continue to create these kinds of projects with teachers and students in the future.

Please take time to listen to the many student voices on this Flipgrid.  You can leave students comments on this post or use the emoji reactions on each video to let them know how their poetry made you feel.

Love Projects: 5th grade Symbols of Love

After 5th grade spent time, reading the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, I silently turned back through each image in the book.  We had spent time talking about some of the images as well as listening to Matt’s powerful words, but Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I wanted them to have one more slow look at the images. Their goal in looking at the images for a 2nd time was to pick out an image that spoke to them in some way.

At tables, each 5th grader took a brainstorming sheet to reflect on some questions through writing or through sketching.  The purpose of this sheet was to help them think more about an image from the book and to imagine a new symbol of love. We wanted students to think beyond just a universal symbol of love like a heart, but we didn’t exclude hearts if that was what students were most connected with.

At the end of the brainstorm, students had to think of what materials they might need in order to make a 3D sculpture of their symbol. Ms. Foretich went through these and helped group students with the materials that they might need.

During the 2nd class, some students worked in the art classroom and others came to the library.  Students in the library worked on 3D design in tinkercad to prepare for 3d printing or they used materials from our makerspace such as duct tape and other crafting supplies.

In the art room, students used clay, paint, and other materials from Ms. Foretich’s supplies.

I took student Tinkercad files and put them into Makerware software for 3d printing. Over the course of a week, all files were printed.

All of the sculptures will be displayed in the collaborative space just outside the library.

We hope they will inspire people to think about the many forms that love takes and the many symbols of love that exist in the world.

Love Projects: 2nd Grade Tweets & Instagrams

Every class in our school has read the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long. In preparation for their visit later this month, every class has also created a piece of art in response to the book.  These projects began in the library and continued in the art classroom with Ms. Foretich.  I have loved the inspiration that the book has given her and the pieces of art that students have created with her.  I’ll be sharing much of this student work in the next few blog posts.

Today, I want to focus on 2nd grade.  Every 2nd grade class came to the library to hear Love before the holidays.  When we read the book, I invited students to listen to Matt’s words and look closely at Loren’s illustrations for as many examples of love as they could find. Similar noticings emerged in each class, but there were also unique observations made that other students didn’t catch. We always paused on the 2nd spread that shows a park image with a cab, a hot dog stand, and a man on a bench. Students always talked about the boy in the wheel chair giving the man a hot dog. Sometimes they noticed the people making eye contact and talking in the cab. Sometimes they talked about the color of the balloon being a symbol of love.  The important thing is that they always talked. Students were never silent on a page. They always found love even on pages that were hard like the one with the boy hiding under the piano. Even with all of the bad things happening in the picture, love was still there.

In the art room, we took apart the F&G version of Love and Ms. Foretich gave groups of students an image from the book to study more closely. Students were asked to think about what the image said about love. They had a brainstorming page to get some of their ideas down.  They used this process to reimagine the version of love into a new image that connected with them personally.

Over the next class, students turned this into a watercolor image.  Each student made a statement about their art that could be posted in a tweet or Instagram caption and wrote it onto their art.  What message of love could students send out into the world? I loved the student voice that Ms. Foretich was giving students as she asked them about a short message of love that they could actually send out to the world via social media. She has been taking time to post these images and captions to her Instagram & Twitter account.  If you don’t follow her, please take a moment to.  You will be inspired by the many examples of student work that she posts.

For now, I’ll let the student work speak for itself through this series of Instagrams.  Take a moment to leave students comments here on the blog or on Ms. Foretich’s Instagram posts.  The students would love to hear how their messages have connected with you.

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"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

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"They are all being nice to each other." Jaiona

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"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

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"To love, you need to share." Patrick #thisislove

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"This is how I show love." Baylen #thisislove

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"Someone will be by your side." Deiondre

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"I love you guys." Dalilah #thisislove

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"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

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Student Voice: To Walk in the Dark

Today, I have a guest post from a student who wants to share her writing with the world.  This piece was created for the Young Georgia Author Competition.  While it didn’t win at the district level, it deserves an audience.  Jane is a 4th grader at our school and would love for you to read her writing and leave her some comments about her work.

I hope to have more guest posts from students in the coming year.

To Walk in the Dark

Scary things can happen in this world, maybe when you’re alive, maybe when you’re dead, or maybe when you’re between life or death. Cora Walkers was not an optimist nor a pessimist, she was a believer. A believer when there was doubt, or a believer when the worst was coming. In this town the amazing things could become bland with the blink of an eye. You need to master seeing the good things in the world, or else all that’s left is the bad.

We go to a bright sunny summer day in San Francisco, California where the richness of the sun makes you feel quite refreshed. Cora was walking into Alamo square where the Painted Ladies Victorian houses sat. She walked up to the front porch of the last one on the left which had a big potted plant in the front. Cora walked up the white steps and turned to face the door. She opened her black messenger bag and pulled out a key, in which had a key chain with a deep C emblazoned in the brown leather. Cora placed the key in the lock and turned it gently, She slowly opened the door to hear the familiar creak of the hinges that needed to be oiled.

When the door was fully open she pulled the key out of the rusty lock and waltzed into the main entrance of her house. The crystal chandelier welcomed Cora home as she strolled up the stairs. When she reached the second door to the right she opened the door and looked in at her bedroom. Her four poster bed was reflecting the light that was shining in from her bay window. Just as Cora was setting her bag down on her bed, she heard an ear splitting cry that made her jump.

She opened her bedroom door and walked into the hall swiftly trying to find the root of where the noise was coming from. Cora slowly turned to the left and opened the door opposite to her. She swung open the door to see her baby sister Samantha in her crib wailing. Samantha was only 1 month old, and since Cora was the second to oldest it took her sometime to remember there was someone else in the house. Cora heard a creak coming from the door as someone walked into the nursery. “Is the baby crying again?” Ella asked in a plain voice. She rested her back against the doorway of the nursery.

Ella was Cora’s younger sister and she didn’t like the thought of someone replacing her as the youngest in the family. “Ella, you’re 10. You should have gotten over the fact that there is someone else in the family now,” Cora said trying to sound reasonable. Cora could relate to how Ella felt even though Ella refused to think that. When Cora was 3 she also had to get over the fact that she wasn’t the baby in the family anymore. When Ella was just born and Cora’s older sister Rachel was acknowledging the fact that they now had a baby sister. Cora turned her back to the thought that she would be forgotten as the middle child . As Cora was placing down Samantha in her crib after she soothed she heard Ella groan and stomp out of the room. Cora rolled her eyes and walked out of the nursery. As Cora was on her way down to living room she suddenly heard her phone ringing. Cora came to halt and and pulled the phone from out of her pocket. Cora’s pink case shimmered as the sun hit the phone. She put the phone to her ear and before she could say “hi” a loud voice screamed 4 words into her ears making her ear drums ring. “SALE-AT-THE-MALL!” Cora jumped as she heard this.

It was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and Mindy was already screaming in her ears. “Okay, I’ll be right there,” Cora said. “No worries my mom is picking up all of our friends, so she can give you a ride too,” Mindy said plainly as if she didn’t just scream through Cora’s phone. “Okay that sounds–”Cora couldn’t even finish her sentence as Mindy interrupted her. “Awesome! Bye see soon,” Mindy said quickly. Cora didn’t even have time to say good-bye because Mindy hung up.

Cora turned and sprinted upstairs to get her bag when someone stopped her. “You can’t go to the mall,” Ella said in a sharp voice. “What do you mean? I can go to the mall if I want to go to mall,” Cora said looking Ella up and down. “First off, mom and dad aren’t home, and second all off, my friends are going to the mall but when I called mom she said I couldn’t go,” Ella said in a reasonable voice.

“Well that’s because you’re only 10, and I’m 13,” Cora responded. “And plus, I’m just going to ask Rachel.” Cora could tell that Ella was getting frustrated. Ella groaned and flipped her long blonde braid as she trudged down stairs. Cora looked back at Ella then remembered that Mindy was picking her up in a matter of time. She ran up to the main hall where all four of their bedrooms were. She ran up to the third door on the left and knocked. Cora waited for over a minute then she heard footsteps coming, and then the doorknob turned.

Cora was suddenly blinded by pinkness as Rachel opened the door to her bedroom. “What do you want?” Rachel asked in a bored voice. “I’m going to the mall so when mom and dad come home can you tell them?” Cora replied. “Fine but who’s picking you up?” Rachel asked, her eyes on Cora. “Mindy is. And she supposed to pick me up any second now so if you’ll excuse me,” Cora slowly turned then strolled away.

She turned to the left and started walking down the hall then she turned the doorknob to her bedroom. Cora pulled open the door and when it was fully open, she headed straight for her closet. Cora opened her closet door and pulled out a beige colored purse, slung it over her shoulder and strutted out of the room. As Cora made it down stairs her phone started to ring. Cora opened her purse and pulled out her phone once again. “Cora, me Lola, Emma, and Abby are waiting outside. Where are you?” Mindy said sounding annoyed. “Sorry Mindy, I’m on my out of the house right now. See you soon.”

Cora hung up the phone and ran to the door. She ran to the main entrance and pulled on her white high tops. She opened the door to feel the familiar air blow against her skin. She witnessed a metallic MDX waiting for her. As Cora ran to the car, the window rolled down. “Come on, get in Cora!” Emma screamed as she opened the door. Cora squeezed in and they made their way down the street.

Now we go to Ella. Right after Cora left, Ella ran outside. She made sure to wait until Cora was gone or else she would suspect something. Ella’s friend Hannah was picking her up to go to the mall, but Ella knew that wouldn’t be possible if Cora was in the house. Ella was a smart and reasonable girl, but she was tired of living in her sister’s shadow and now that she had a younger sister everything revolved around Rachel, Cora, and the baby. Hannah said that she would meet her at Alamo Square park which was simple for Ella. All she had to do was cross 2 crosswalks and then she would be at the park. As Ella pressed the button to the crosswalk she pulled out her phone. She dialed Hannah’s number and waited for her pick up. “Hey Ella, me and my mom are almost there,” Hannah said. “Awesome, I’m crossing the street right now,” Ella replied  as with a grin spread across her face. Ella was entering the second crosswalk. The sign had the white walking man on it so Ella took the chance to go. Without warning the light flashed, and changed to a red hand. Something seemed to be wrong with the lights up top that told the cars to go because that flickered and turned green. Ella had no time to notice this as a speeding black Chevrolet was coming her way. Ella on the other hand was just saying good-bye to Hannah. The person in the car must have not noticed Ella either as the car got closer. There was no time for Ella to hang up the phone because in the second that seemed like a moment, and the moment that seemed like a minute, Ella noticed. And before she knew it… everything went black.

The car pulled up in the driveway and Cora emerged. She didn’t buy anything, but being with her friends cheered her up. There was no time to say thank you as the MDX pulled out of the driveway and drove out of sight. Cora smiled and was heading for her house when she looked over and saw firetrucks, police cars, and at least 3 ambulances. Cora was getting curious so she started for the overwhelmed crowd that was surrounding the street. Cora elbowed her way through the crowd, then she got a glimpse of a girl being loaded into an ambulance. She was wearing the same white jean shorts and pink tank top as Ella was wearing that day. The girl had an air mask on her face and a messily wrapped bandage around both of her legs that Cora could tell, blood was already seeping through. Cora was getting closer until she felt something pull her back. She looked up and saw Rachel, with her mascara smeared under her eyes. To Cora it looked as though she was crying. “Rachel, what happened?” Cora asked cautiously as an expression of fear crossed her face. “It’s Ella, she’s been hit by a car,” Rachel said sounding as though she was about to cry again. Cora looked at her with disbelief. The color drained from her face. Cora wanted to know how this happened. Ella was a smart girl and now she might be gone and no last words would ever be said except denial and hatred expressions. The only memory Cora had of the last words she had said to Ella was when she rudely said that she was going to the mall . Cora felt as though the darkness that she never thought would come emerged from her soul erupted. For the first time in years you could say, that Cora was walking in the dark.       

 

3D Jewelry Artists in 1st Grade Using Blokify

art jewelry

In my latest collaboration with our superstar art teacher, Rita Foretich, we are crafting with 1st graders.  One of her art standards has to do with students creating a craft, which is defined as an art creation that serves a purpose.  Rita is always pushing herself as a teacher to try new things and stretch the boundaries of what kids have experiences with. Along with this standard she wanted students to work with technology and to design in 3D.  What resulted was an art project where 1st graders are designing pendants in a 3D design tool called Blokify, 3D printing those pendants, and then using them in art to create a functional necklace.

When Rita first told me about her ideas for this project, my first reaction was whether or not Blokify was the right tool.  I had made pendants and charms in other tools like Tinkercad, but I knew that Tinkercad would be very tricky to do with a 1st grade class in the time frame we had.  Blokify is very user-friendly for very early learners, but I had trouble envisioning a pendant.  I even tweeted out to ask other people what they thought.

What helped me in the end?  Tinkering.  During our book fair, I pulled out an iPad and just tinkered at making a charm.  I can’t say that I came up with anything brilliant, but I did come up with some examples to help students see. The most helpful thing was for them to be able to visualize what the hole for the string might look like.

Each 1st grade class came to the library during their art time.  Ms. Foretich started the lesson with a quick video of a Makerbot in action.

It was fun to hear students talk about what was happening in the video because at this point many of them knew that it was a 3D printer, which would not have been the case a few years ago. Then, we showed the students the Blokify program. I really didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I showed them how to zoom in and out, how to add a block, and how to change blocks.  Then, students had time to tinker at tables and get familiar with the Blokify program.

Ms. Foretich and I walked around to assist students who were getting frustrated as well as encourage students to try various parts of Blokify such as adding a row, deleting blocks, switching worlds, and switching blocks.  Tinkering looked very different this year than it has in previous years, and my hunch is that students have more experience with Minecraft now, so they make the connection to this very similar program. I saw students being much more intentional about block placement even in tinkering instead of just tapping all over the screen.

We invited students back to the carpet after their tinkering sessions and gave them the specific task of the day: to design a one-layer pendant. We showed the examples that I had made as well as samples from other classes that had already printed.

Then, students went back to iPads and started a fresh design.  They only had a short amount of work time to create their designs, and I was so impressed with what some of them came up with.  They were so much more creative than my own designs!  As each student finished we had to email the files to a central email.  I had the email account pulled up on the board so that we could see if the emails came through.  Many of them didn’t, so we were slowed down by errors.  We had to go into the outbox of the email on the iPad and resend most of the emails.  For students that we couldn’t email in time, we put post-its on the iPads so that we could email the files after they left.

On the library calendar, I blocked off time slots for me to specifically work on prepping all of the files for 3d printing.  When you are working with over 100 .stl files to print, it’s time consuming.  I was able to put about 8 pendants on each print plate.  Each plate takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how large I make the pendants.  I name each file “Pendant 1”, “Pendant 2”, etc.  Then, on a sheet of paper I write out the name and teacher of each individual pendant on the plate.  These names are also written onto Ziploc bags so that finished prints can go into the bags ready for the art teacher.

I can’t wait to see how the final necklaces turn out once they return to art class.  This has been an adventurous collaboration full of challenges, but there have been many rewards along the way too.  It was especially rewarding to see some students shine at using Blokify even when they might struggle in other subject areas.