Max and the MidKnights: A Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We’ve been building excitement for weeks to get ready for an author/illustrator visit with Lincoln Peirce. Many people know Lincoln from his bestselling series Big Nate, but he has an equally fantastic new book out called Max and the Midknights. This new book is a spoof on the Sword in the Stone and other medieval stories. It is filled with surprises, adventure, a wicked king, an evil sorceress, unlikely knights, a dragon, a few zombies, and plenty of humor. (And the best part is that there are more Max books in the works).

Prior to Lincoln’s visit with 3rd-5th grade, we held a one-page comic contest and used those comics to fill our windows of the media center to welcome him. When he arrived, he was so impressed by how many of our students expressed their creativity through comic art.

Lincoln arrived a little bit early so he took time to sign the many books that we pre-sold through our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. He also had one adoring fan spending recess time in the library, and Lincoln took time to chat with this student who has read all of the Big Nate comics. This student even drew a comic for Lincoln using Big Nate and his other favorite topic, the Titanic.

Before his chat with all of the students, Lincoln had just enough time to create a special Max drawing for our library. I’ve made it a habit now of framing an illustration from each illustrator who visits and is willing to leave behind an image. With 3 author/illustrator visits just this year, our walls are becoming a mini-museum.

A few lucky students arrived early and got to see Lincoln create the drawing.

In his presentation, he of course acknowledged Big Nate at the beginning because that’s what he’s famous for. I loved how when he showed each character from Big Nate, the kids shouted out their names. These illustrated novels have made quite an impact on many readers.

Lincoln then backed up and showed us where a lot of his inspiration has come from. He referenced books he read as a kid and many comics that inspired him. I’m always impressed when an author/illustrator shows things that they kept from their childhood, and it reminds me the importance of holding on to at least a few things from my own children each year.  He had drawings of Peanuts characters that he created and super heroes based on his love of Batman.

Lincoln took students up to the point where he created the Big Nate comic strip for newspapers and how it became wildly popular. We were all surprised when an image of another famous author made its way into Lincoln’s presentation because Jeff Kinney was a key player in how the comic strip turned into an illustrated novel series.

It was very evident that Lincoln has had a lot of fun moving away from the Big Nate novels to a new series. He’s coming up with so many new, fun characters that are based in medieval tales he’s read or watched in the past.  Students loved seeing how he took some small ideas and eventually turned them into a much longer story. He introduced them to all of these key players in the book without giving away any of the fun secrets from the book.

One of the most fun parts of Lincoln’s presentation was seeing him draw. He emphasized to students that the smallest lines and symbols convey big messages to the reader. A simple letter z tells you someone is sleeping. A slanted eyebrow can change a character’s emotion.

He drew one character on our whiteboard and then erased and drew over and over to show how small changes can make a big difference in the message you are sending to the reader. This was so helpful to our young artists and I can’t wait to see how this impacts the images, comics, and stories that they create.

After Lincoln’s visit, we rushed all of the signed copies to classrooms. Students immediately started opening them up to read. Students came in the next day buzzing about what they had read.

Our 6 copies of Max and the Midknights immediately got checked out and a “hold” list started to develop throughout the day. Every signed copy of Big Nate was also checked out right away. I started to get messages from parents whose kids came home and wouldn’t stop reading the book and stories of kids who went home and made their own comics. I heard stories from teachers who had students begging to have the book read aloud in class or to the be the first student to read the class copy of the book.

This is what an author visit does. It inspires students to create. It creates a buzz of conversation. It encourages readers to read and readers who haven’t found the right book yet try something new. Thank you to all publishers who send authors and illustrators to schools and bookstores. For this visit, thank you to Random House Kids & Crown Books for Young Readers for sending Lincoln Peirce to our school. Thank you to Avid Bookshop for advocating for this visit and for taking care of all of our presales of books. Finally, thank you to our amazing PTA who made sure every class in 2nd-5th grade received a copy of Max and the Midknights for their class library.  These books will make an impact for years to come.

 

Enriching Rocks with Blendspace, Tinkercad, Research, Thinglink, and Painting

Third grade studies rocks as a part of their science curriculum. Each year Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade spectrum teacher, finds so many ways to enrich the study with her students. She collaborates with me in the library on several pieces of the project.

Blendspace

Early in the project, students come to the library to learn about a tool called Blendspace. This tool has gone through many changes and names. It allows users to create a lesson made up of tiles. The tiles can include quizes, images with descriptions, links to websites, embedded Google docs, and more. The goal for the students is to use Blendspace throughout the study of rocks to capture their learning and present in a way that might teach someone new what they have learned.

I show the students how to login with Google and we explore the features together. Ms. Hicks shares a folder with students in Google drive that is filled with images for them to pull from. The images feature work the students have done in class during their study of rocks and the Mohs hardness scale.

We also think about types of quizes and students create pre-test, midpoint checks, and post tests for their blendspace tiles. Each time they learn something new in class or create something new in the library, they add a tile to their blendspace.

Tinkercad

In another series of library blocks, students return to the library to explore a 3D design tool called Tinkercad. They use their knowledge of the Mohs hardness scale to design a climbing wall prototype. Each color they select represents a different rock or mineral that would work well in their wall. As students finish their design, they create screenshots and upload those to Blendspace.

Thinglink

When students have added several tiles to their Blendspace, they return to the library and add their link to a Thinglink image so that we can access every Blendspace in one location. This makes it easy to share with families and with other viewers around the world.

Research & Painting

This year, students were very interested in their birthstones. One birthstone in particular caught their attention more than others: opal. We had no idea how many kinds of opal there are in the world. Students spent a week in the library exploring 2 websites: Gem Kids and Geology.com

Each student narrowed down to one type of opal to research. Students added notes and images to a Google doc so that they could tell someone else about the type of opal they chose. Once they gathered enough information, students selected a river rock and used paints and paint pens to design the rock to resemble the opal they studied.

We sealed these with Mod Podge to give them the shiny play of color effect that opal has. Students added their Google docs to Blendspace and will get to take their painted rocks home.

It’s always fun each year to see what new directions this project takes. There are always pieces that we keep the same, but time and interests always lead us in new directions too.  Take a moment to look at some of the student work in Blendspace and see what you might learn about rocks.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Weather Reports

Back at the beginning of the year, I worked with first grade on weather reports using our green screen.  They learn lots of weather vocabulary, look at meteorologist reports, and create their own weather reports. When we were planning that idea, we talked about how it would be fun to look for books that feature some type of weather that kids could report on. Our minds were first on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but my mind continued to think of other books we could use as well. We ran out of time during quarter 1 to incorporate this idea, but the first grade team continued it into quarter 2.

The teachers decided to focus on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Students created images featuring the weather of Chew and Swallow. Then, they wrote out a weather report for what was falling from the sky. In class, they practiced reading over their work before they came to the library to film.

My preference would be to film in small groups, but our limited time before the holidays prevented that from happening. Each class scheduled a 30-minute block. A collaborating teacher came with the class so that we could split the class up. I pulled 5 students at a time to take to the other side of the library to the green screen while the collaborating teacher read aloud some stories with the remainder of the class. As I finished with one group, the classroom teacher helped transition kids from green screen to storytime and bring a new green screen group.

Our first step at green screen was to take a picture of each student’s artwork so that it could become the background image for the weather report. Next, students took turns coming to the green screen. We put their image as the background and faced the iPad toward them so they could see where various pieces of food appeared in their image.

They had practiced pointing to the parts of the weather as they reported, but some students forgot this piece while they were filming. We used the Do Ink green screen app on the iPad to film everything. Students left their piece of art with me so that I could use it to more easily add their names to the videos.

I plugged the iPad into the computer and uploaded each video to my Youtube page. I made a playlist for each class so that teachers could easily share the videos with families.

We have lots of room for improvement.  I would love to work more on the quality of the videos so students could be heard better. If we weren’t so rushed to film, then students could do a practice round and then film so that they could point to more parts of their images. I would also love to incorporate more books with weather instead of just focusing on one book. I’m so glad that the 1st grade team tried this out this year, and I can’t wait to see what we can add on next year.

 

Using Two Truths and a Lie to Encourage Thorough Research

We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an informational writing project. You ask students to search for information. They do a quick Google search, choose the first thing they find, and say, “I’m done”. It’s frustrating, but in an age where information is so fast to find, it’s understandable that they would want an instant answer and be done.

This year, ahead of 5th grade’s informational writing unit, we decided to do an exercise in research by using the book series Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson.  Each chapter in the book is made up of 3 stories.  Two are truths and one is a lie.  The books have a great opening that explains that all of the stories are pretty unbelievable and that it will be a challenge to figure out which is false. I chose a section out of each book to make a copy of.  I put them in groups of three so that every table would have two truths and a lie on the table.

For the opening of the lesson, I asked students if everything on the Internet was true.  They immediately said no, but I reminded them that even though we say that, so often, we fall victim to something that is actually false.  We looked at Jennifer LaGarde’s infographic about identifying fake news so that we could review the importance of knowing the author, domain, and especially triangulation.

I read the opening of Two Truths and a Lie and explained the task at hand.

  1. In pairs, students would choose one folder to sit at.
  2. Pairs would read the article in the folder.
  3. Pairs would use our trusted databases in Galileo as well as do an independent Google search to find evidence to prove that the article was a truth or a lie.
  4. When pairs felt like they had enough evidence, they could talk with me about what they found.

Things got off to a great start. Pairs opened up folders and read their article.  However, when computers opened, things went downhill (at first). Hands started going up immediately because students had found an image that matched an image in the book or they found a video that matched their article. Those pieces of evidence alone were enough to prove something true in several students’ eyes.

It was a great teaching moment because I was able to go back to our infographic and repeat the questions about domain, author, and triangulation.  Students often didn’t know who made the video or where the picture came from, so we could dig around and look for that info. It was easier to send students back into our databases or Google because they simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove.  Many of them got serious after the conversations and started matching text in the article to text they found in sources. They began showing me that they weren’t just looking at Wikipedia as their only source and were instead using trusted news sites and museum sites.

By the end of our time, most groups had found enough evidence to make their case, and I revealed the truths and lies, which are found at the back of the book.  This is definitely not a one time lesson that will solve all of our research problems, but I loved that so many students were receptive to the idea of digging through multiple sources to prove something right or wrong. Now, my hope is that the momentum we gained from this experience will lead us into our informational writing.

 

Wolf in the Snow Puppets and Storytelling

In just 2 weeks, we will welcome author/illustrator Matthew Cordell to our school. Small groups of our Kindergarten students have been coming to the library to work on a special project. This project came about because our Kindergarten classes are unable to attend our regularly scheduled makerspace times. I wanted to offer them some special opportunities throughout the year because of this. Thankfully, I now have a high school intern, Andrea Arumburo, who is collaborating with me in the library most afternoons. Her focus is art, so I knew she would align perfectly with Kindergarten makerspace opportunities.

For this first round of classes, groups of 5 students from each Kindergarten class came to the library to create puppets based on Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.  We began by refreshing students’ memories on what happened in the story with a quick flip through the book. Then, Andrea talked with the students about creating characters on paper plate circles. She offered that they could replicate the characters in the story, or they could design a character that looked more like themselves.  She had several examples to show them.

Next, students moved to tables and sketched out their characters on paper plate circles and colored them. We placed examples on each table as well as a copy of the book. As students finished a puppet, they glued a tongue depressor stick onto the circle to create the puppet. Most students chose to make a 2nd character so that they had one human and one wolf.

Once students finished, we sent them to spots around the library to practice retelling the story. Kindergarten talks a lot about 3 ways to read a book: read the words, read the pictures, retell the story. This was a great opportunity to practice retelling.  Some students referred back to the book. Others remembered every detail. Others used their artistic license to completely change the story and make it their own.

After practicing, they found a partner and shared their puppet show story with a partner.  For many, this was the stopping point in our time limit of 40 minutes.  However, a few students were able to come over to the green screen and practice retelling their story in front of the camera.

In one session, we decided we didn’t have enough time to film anyone so instead, we all sat on the carpet with our puppets and we walked back through the pages of the book together. I told the story and students used their puppets to act out the story.  I loved watching them hide puppets behind their backs when that character wasn’t in a scene.  This unexpected closing was actually something I wish I had done with the other groups because it made a connection between the puppets and the story.  I think it would have helped students in making their own puppet shows.

Our hope is that Andrea and I can continue to offer these opportunities throughout the year. Some will be low-tech, high-tech, or a mix of it all.

Join Us for the 2018 Poem In Your Pocket Poetry Readings

Each year, we celebrate poetry month by hosting Poem In Your Pocket days in the library.  Across 2 days, every class comes to the library to read aloud original and favorite poems into an open microphone.  We broadcast these readings over Youtube Live so that families, community, and beyond can enjoy our poetry too.

Our readings will take place from 8:00AM-2:30PM EST on April 12 and 13, 2018.

All the links to the Youtube events can be found at our 2018 Poem In Your Pocket Smore. https://www.smore.com/p9qbk

You can also view the schedule here:

Thursday April 12

8:00 2nd – VanderWall
8:30 2nd – Woodring
9:00 2nd-  B. Douglas
9:30 3rd-Morman
10:00 1st-Cunningham
10:30 1st Skinner
11:00 PreK-Trina
11:20 PreK-Heather
12:00 Lunch
12:30 1st Stuckey
1:00 K-Clarke
1:30 4th Coleman
2:00 4th Weaver

 

Friday April 13

8:00 2nd – Brink
8:30 K-Hocking
9:00 2nd-Boyle
9:30 3rd-Thompson
10:00 5th grade class 1 Freeman
10:30 1st Wyatt
11:00 5th grade class 2 Freeman
11:30 3rd-Haley
12:00 3rd-Arnold
12:30 K- Sandifer
1:00 5th grade class 3 Freeman
1:30 K- Lauren
2:00 4th Monroe

If you choose to watch our videos live or watch the archives, we encourage you to tweet comments to our students using the hashtag #barrowpoems  We’ll share your comments with students as they come in.  Happy Poetry Month!