The 2018 Barrow Peace Prize Goes To…

Our 2nd graders have been working on our annual Barrow Peace Prize project since January, and for the past few weeks you have been voting on which person from history will win the award.

On February 28, we all gathered in the library for the big announcement.  Prior to this day, students researched a civil rights leader, wrote a persuasive piece of writing, created artwork to accompany their writing, and recorded themselves in Flipgrid. We asked people around the world to view and vote on which civil rights leader should win.

People in 160 different locations around the world cast their votes.

During the Barrow Peace Prize Ceremony, we connected with Flipgrid via Skype. Brad Hosack set the stage for our ceremony by reminding us of the history of this project that has gone on for many years since Flipgrid was an emerging edtech tool.

Then, we launched into student recognitions. Each teacher selected 3 students to recognize for Prolific Persuader, Outstanding Opener, and Dynamic Designer.

A member of the Flipgrid team announced the winners in each category and I handed out certificates to rounds of applause.

Awards are all ready for tomorrow’s Peace Prize announcement. #studentvoice

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Next, we recognized our Barrow Peace Prize designers. A few years ago, a student said that we needed an actual prize for the peace prize. Since then, a group of students designs the peace prize using Tinkercad and we 3D print it.  Every student who researches the winning civil rights leader receives a medal.

Finally, it was the moment we had been waiting for. Nate from Flipgrid announced the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize winner………………Martin Luther King Jr. The votes were super close and this was the first year that MLK was one of our finalists for the peace prize.  Every student who researched him received their peace prize medal and we also gave a medal to each classroom to share with all students in 2nd grade.

This ceremony really is a celebration of the collective work of 2nd grade. Yes, several students hear their names called, but we all celebrate knowing that our work has reached well beyond the walls of our school to inspire others.

Thank you to every person who watched the student videos, voted, and shared this project. It means the world to the students to know that their videos have been seen.


Love Projects: 3rd Grade Selfies

When Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I finished sharing Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long with our 3rd graders, we flipped back to one image in the book.

This image always surprised students when I read the book aloud.  It’s the only image in the book that is zoomed in so close.  There was always a collective gasp or audible reaction, and we often had to stop and talk about what this image was all about. I was so glad that Ms. Foretich chose to focus on this image with a whole grade level.

We paired this image with another book called The Best Part of Me.

This book features voices of children as they talk about the favorite parts of their body and why. Each poem/prose is accompanied by a black & white image.

In response to Love and The Best Part of Me, students brainstormed about their own bodies and what they love.  We encouraged students to think about body parts, favorite activities, and personality as they brainstormed.   By the end of class, we wanted students to focus in on a particular aspect of themselves that they could photograph and write about.

Ms. Foretich continued this project in class by having students use iPads to take selfies of the favorite parts of themselves.  Students also finished the writing and typed up their words.  Ms. Foretich printed all of these to mount on black paper.

They are now displayed in the rotunda of our school.  I love standing in the center of the rotunda and looking around at all of the student images and voices staring back at me.  To see what each student loves about himself/herself is reassuring in a world that can sometimes seem mean and chaotic.

If you find yourself in our school, I hope you’ll take time to see (and be inspired by) their work too.

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.

Brainstorming two voice poetry #writing #poetry #5thgrade #studentwork

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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.

Reading two voice poetry in 5th grade. #poetry #reading #writing #5thgrade

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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: 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.

"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

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"When someone is being teased, say 'Stop'." Tanner #thisislove

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

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"If someone is being mean, say 'Stop, that's not nice.'" Oskar #thisislove

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" Love is helping others when they get hurt." Bram #thisislove

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"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

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"Sharing with other people is love." Bess #thisislove

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"Love is caring for someone who needs to be cared for." Evie #thisislove

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

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"Love is families eating together and having fun." Shanti #thisislove. #artsed

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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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"Helping is Love." Asia #thisislove #studentwork #artsed

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"Kindness comes in many forms but love comes from the heart." #thisislove

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"Love is playing music" Ruby, 2nd grade #thisislove #artsed #studentwork

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"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

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"Giving is love" Martha 2nd Grade sends Love out into the world #thisislove #arted

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Top Elf: An Author Visit with Caleb Zane Huett

We have a magical bookshop in Athens called Avid Bookshoop, and in that bookshop works a talented author named Caleb Zane Huett.  Caleb’s new book, Top Elf, which is published by Scholastic, is the hilarious journey of a group of elves as they compete against one another to be the next Santa Claus.

It’s filled with a cast of characters that bring something for every reader, and numerous jokes fill the pages to keep you laughing along the way.

Ready for an elf visit. #author #authorvisit #avidinschools

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I was so excited when Caleb offered to visit our school this December.  Thanks to him and Avid Bookshop, our 3rd and 4th grade got to come to separate sessions to hear him speak.  He started each session with a reading of the first chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear him read, do it!  He brings every page to life with voices and movement and keeps the audience totally focused on every word.

After reading, Caleb facilitated the students in a collaborative story.  He wanted to model this story after some of his own thought process as he writes. Kids were raising hands and shouting out ideas all along the way, and Caleb masterfully wove their ideas together into a story that he told along the way.

Teachers were also excited because they knew that his mini writing workshop directly tied back to what they were doing in their classrooms and now students can go back to class and create their own stories using a similar process.

At the close, we heard a bit about how Top Elf followed this same type of process and students got to ask Caleb questions. I always love to hear students ask authors about how long it takes to write, how many times a book was rewritten, and what inspires them.  These become common questions but they make the author a real person to our readers.  It creates a connection between the author and the students because the process they go through is very similar.

I want to thank Caleb Zane Huett for taking time to visit our school. I also want to thank Avid Bookshop for this opportunity and the presales of books. Finally, I thank our wonderful PTA who makes sure that every classroom gets copies of the book to add to their classroom libraries.

I know we will now have many readers of Top Elf at Barrow, and I love that our readers can walk down the street and visit with Caleb if they want to share what they’ve discovered.

Let’s Talk Writing Process with Cassie & Kate Beasley

Our fourth grade is immersed in the writing process using Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop. They are looking at mentor texts. They are studying author’s craft and developing their own style of taking a story from an idea to a published piece of writing. During this exploration, the fourth grade team reached out to ask if there was any possibility of connecting with an author to talk about the narrative writing process.  I immediately thought of the dynamic sister duo from south Georgia, Kate and Cassie Beasley. Both of these talented authors have visited our school in the past for their books, so I reached out to them to consider the possibility of connecting for an informal chat about writing.

They enthusiastically said yes, and the whole fourth grade came to the library with writing journals and index card questions in hand.

Cassie Beasley is the author of Circus Mirandus and the recently released Tumble and Blue.  Kate Beasley is the author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and the upcoming Lions & Liars.  During our connection, they started out with an informal conversation about writing. They each took turns asking questions about writing process from the beginning to the end.  I loved how it was like a mini-interview conversation between the two of them and how we discovered that they both have different ways that they accomplish the same task of writing a story.

Cassie shared that she often starts with an idea for a story and Kate often starts with a character and tries to put that character into a setting and a problem.  Both sisters shared that they do a good bit of outlining when they are getting ready to write.  One of the most surprising things to all of us was the amount of writing that they do that never makes it into a novel.  Circus Mirandus, Tumble and Blue, and Gertie’s Leap to Greatness all went through multiple rewrites. Kate even shared that she thinks that about 75% of what she writes doesn’t get used.  After our connection, we spent a bit more time talking about this and came to the conclusion that even though that writing doesn’t make it into the novel it wasn’t wasted work. The 75% was what was needed in order to discover the best story that was hiding underneath everything else.


I’ve heard several authors talk about how much they rewrite, and it’s important for students to hear that too because it’s really hard to start over.  I casually asked Kate and Cassie how they feel when they have to start again. I asked if they scream or throw things.  I mostly asked because that’s a bit how I feel when I have to start over.  I think it’s important that students know that it’s not always the best feeling to start over even when you know it’s the right thing to do.  Kate and Cassie both talked about the frustration. They shared how it’s a moment of panic. Cassie relies on Kate to talk her through the frustration so she can start again. Some deep breaths are involved and maybe some chocolate too.

Students had a chance to line up and ask their own questions to support their writing. One of the questions was about “where”.  Where do you write?  Kate has a very specific place where she writes.  It’s a house that doesn’t have phone or internet so that she can stay away from distractions.  Cassie also writes in that place but she does writing just about everywhere: a coffee shop, the pool, outside.  It was an important reminder to us all that sometimes it’s tricky in the crowded classroom to find writing spaces that feel supportive. I hope we can think more about how to give students a space where they feel productive in their writing process.

Another student asked about how many books they hope to write, and it was so great to hear that they have many more ideas for stories that are waiting to be told or are in the process of being drafted. Even though writing takes time and has frustrating moments, it still comes down to that magic of escaping into someone else’s life or some other magical place on the page.  It was so refreshing at the end of our skype to hear students who were excited to go back to class and write after hearing from published authors.

Thank you Cassie & Kate Beasley for taking time out of your writing lives to share your wisdom with us.  We can’t wait to celebrate all your future stories.

To purchase their books, visit here:  Circus Mirandus, Tumble & Blue, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.

To learn more about Kate’s upcoming novel, click here.

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.