A Rock Exploration: Researchers, Photographers, and Poets

Our 3rd graders study rocks every year as a part of their science curriculum. This year, we brainstormed some new ideas to support this study and scheduled two 45-minute sessions for each 3rd grade class.

Session one focused on facts and observations. To begin, I asked student to put themselves in the shoes of a researcher and consider what someone researching rocks might do. They named things such as reading books, talking to experts, doing experiments with rocks, going outside and looking for rocks, and visiting websites and videos. For this session, students rotated between 3 stations. Each station lasted for approximately 10 minutes.  I didn’t want them to be slowed down by writing down facts, so this day was just an exploration to mentally gather as many facts as they could. Some students still chose to write things down but most took my advice of making mental notes.

Center 1: Books

I gathered multiple books from our nature section of library. Prior to this center, I reminded students how they might dive in to multiple books without reading entire books. We reviewed the table of contents, index, and captions. As students explored this station, the teachers and I noticed students talking about photographs that caught their attention so we jumped in to the conversation by directing students to text or captions that supported the conversation. So often, I see students chat about photographs and forget to read the text, so we tried to gently intervene to make sure the conversation was based in fact rather than speculation.  One of the biggest hits at this stations was learning about birthstones and making a personal connection to gemstones.

Center 2: Rocks

When I was growing up, my grandmother and grandfather took me to Cherokee, North Carolina to visit ruby and gem mines. My grandmother would save her money all year and then buy multiple bags of dirt containing gems and we would spend hours sifting through the dirt in a water trough. I saved the rocks from all of those trips and now they have become a part of my educator collection.

At this station, students used this mix of rocks to make observations and sort rocks in different ways. I included to large circles that students could use as a Venn diagram and compare and contrast rocks based on texture, size, shine, and more. All students worked together to sort as many rocks as time allowed.

Center 3: Websites and Videos

Amethyst is February’s birthstone and also Georgia’s state gem. This station focused on exploring amethyst through websites and videos using a Symbaloo. One of our favorite sites is Gem Kids because it allows students to see gems under a microscope, on a map of the world, and see photos of gems with captions full of info. Students also loved watching the Jackson’s Crossroads video from Georgia to see what amethyst looks like when it is found.

Day 2 of our exploration focused on creativity. We read the book A Rock Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija. At the conclusion of this poetic book, it says “go a discover what else a rock can be”. This invitation brought us to our next explorations. This time rather than rotating every 10 minutes, students rotated as they finished each step.

Center 1: Artistic Creations

Students once again found boxes of rocks that they could observe. However, this time, their goal was to use the rocks to create something new. They could create a word, shape, object, or anything their creativity sparked. Once they made this creation, they used an iPad to snap a photograph.

This center was fun to watch because every student had a different way of making something. Some had an object in mind already like a football, and they used the rocks to make that shape. Others found one rock that inspired them and they used that rock to form what came to their mind. This was also the station where we saw so many students shine. I loved that whether a student had an English barrier, a reading challenge, etc, this was a visual station that allowed so many voices to be heard in a strong way.

Center 2: Poetry

As students finished photography, they moved to writing in another part of the library. If students had a poem already forming in their mind, they could use a blank piece of paper to create it. However, if students needed some extra support, they used A Rock Can Be… as a mentor text. I had a simple organizer with a structure already formed for them with “a rock can be” and some blanks to create two-word lines in their poem.

The teachers and I did a lot of conferencing at this station to help students focus on the photograph that they created. Most students had their photograph pulled up on their iPad as they wrote. Some chose to focus more on rocks in their poem while others focused on whatever shape they had created.

Center 3: Recording

Students moved to quiet space in the library to put all of their creativity together in Flipgrid. I setup our grid to have a guest code so that students could scan a QR code, enter their first/last name, and start recording. They could record their face on the video or flip the camera and record their poem. During the final step, students imported the photograph of their creation and then used the Flipgrid stickers to add another layer of artistic expression. This final step was tricky because it was tempting to add lots of the fun stickers. However, I encouraged the students to think about what stickers added to their photograph and brought their rock to life. I loved seeing what some of the students chose from the sticker assortment.

Going into these 2 days, I was really unsure of how it would all connect together, but once I saw the flow, I really like what happened. I especially enjoyed day 2 and the creativity that came from our students. I need to do a bit more thinking about day 1. I think it was a great mix of modalities, but I do wonder about what I could do to keep the students more focused in the centers, especially the reading center. It might be as simple as drawing out a card that says “pick a word from the index to read more about” or “flip to a random page and read a caption”.

All in all, I’m excited about the creations we made. I invite you to visit our Flipgrid and view and like the student poetry videos.

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.

 

Barrow Oral History Project: An Update

Back in 2009, the 5th grade classes, teachers, and I worked on an oral history project to try to capture some of the stories of Barrow’s history.  Our school was originally built in 1923, so there are many stories through the decades that could be told.

That year, the teachers and I participated in virtual professional learning with the Library of Congress. We engaged students in centers to explore primary documents from Barrow’s past, how to use laptops and microphones to record, interview etiquette, and how to craft the best interview questions to spark conversation.

Each student worked with a partner to interview a guest from Barrow’s past.  Those histories were recorded in Audacity and uploaded to our school website.  Since then, I have transferred those files into Youtube.  They can all be heard at our Barrow Oral History page.

This year, our school celebrated its 95th anniversary and our PTA planned a big celebration.  Since hundreds of guests would be in our building, I thought it was the perfect time to capture a few more Barrow memories.  This time, I used Flipgrid to capture the memories since it automatically uploads the video.  Our past interviews lasted 20-30 minutes, but I knew people wouldn’t have that much time to give during the anniversary.  Flipgrid limited the responses to 5 minutes or less.  Rather than ask a series of questions, I simply asked people to share their name, when they attended Barrow, and a special Barrow memory.

Some of this year’s 5th graders served as hosts in the library.  Some stood in the hall to welcome people in to record. Others went with each storyteller into my office, the makerspace, or other quiet parts of the library to assist with recording.

Flipgrid has gone through several changes that have been frustrating to me when it comes to events like this one.  One of those changes is requiring people to login to their email in order to record.  To bypass this step, I had each storyteller “register” with me.  They simply filled out their first and last name.  I went into the administration side of Flipgrid and added their name to the Oral History grid. Then, I assigned them a unique password. When they went to the iPad, they simply typed in the password, and Flipgrid knew who they were. This allowed them to just focus on recording.  Since this event, Flipgrid has added a “guest mode” feature that allows you  to record without logging in.

The 95th anniversary was jam-packed with activities, so we didn’t record as many videos as I had hoped. However, I do want to try to continue this grid and add additional memories each time we have an opportunity to share some memories. It could even become something that 5th graders do before they leave our school so that we have an ongoing addition of current memories of our school.

In order to make the Flipgrid videos viewable, I added them to what Flipgrid now calls a “mixtape”. You can enjoy all of the 95th anniversary memories by viewing our mixtape of videos: https://flipgrid.com/+barroworalhistory 

If you are a former Barrow student or teacher who would like to record a memory, you can email me at plemmonsa@clarke.k12.ga.us and I can get you info for how to record on your own device.

 

It’s Time to Vote for the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize: Who Will Win?

Our 2nd graders have been hard at work learning about 4 civil rights leaders and preparing a project that has become known as the Barrow Peace Prize.

A few details about what has happened before the final products you now see:

  • After learning about people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, students brainstormed a list of character traits that are needed in order to win the Barrow Peace Prize.
  • Students researched 1 of 4 civil rights leaders using a Google doc from Google Classroom, Pebble Go, Encyclopedia Britannica, Destiny Discover, and books.  All research was done in the library.
  • In art, students created a watercolor image of their civil rights leader.

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Barrow Peace Prize works of art are finishing up.

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  • In writing, students crafted a persuasive essay about why their civil rights leaders should win the Barrow Peace Prize (named after our school).
  • Using Flipgrid, students recorded their essays and art.

Now, the students are ready for you!  They need you to visit their videos, listen to & like their work, and most importantly vote on which of the 4 civil rights leaders should win the 2018 Barrow Peace Prize.  In late February, we will connect with Flipgrid via Skype and announce the winner.

Please share this project far and wide so that we can get as many votes as possible.  All videos and the voting form are linked together on this Smore:

https://www.smore.com/dk4z8-2018-barrow-peace-prize

Voting ends on February 23, 2018 at 12PM EST!

 

 

The 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

Our 5th annual Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 30th.  This year’s smackdown featured students in 3 states along with author & illustrator Deborah Freedman.

Every year we love to close out Picture Book Month with an hour-long Google Hangout where we book talk as many picture books as possible across one hour.

In Georgia, I had students in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades who shared their favorite picture books and why picture books matter. In Vermont, Donna MacDonald had 1st graders and 4th graders who were reading buddies.  Each pair of students shared a favorite picture book.  In Texas, Julee Murphy had 6th graders who shared favorite picture books and some 3rd graders who came in to watch.

We kicked off our Google Hangout by dedicating our time to the late Dianne de las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  Her enthusiastic spirit was definitely with us and we missed having her with us in person this year.

Deborah Freedman shared a whole range of books in all shapes, sizes, and emotions before book talking Many Moons by James Thurber & Louis Slobodkin.  She then turned the smackdown over to students and several students in each state took turns sharing.

We were able to come back to author Deborah Freedman two more times for some more book talks and closing thoughts.

One of the things I always love about the smackdown is how many new books we see that we haven’t read yet. We also love seeing students and authors pick books that are also our own favorites.  It gives us a connection to one another.

I also love hearing students take a stand for picture books.  Their reasons range from picture books being for all readers to the necessity of picture books for people who are learning to read.

As we shared our books, I did my best to write down as many of the titles and put them into a Google doc for our reference.  We’ll be cleaning up this document in the coming days and trying to make sure all books are represented.

I loved seeing pictures from different perspectives.  Many thanks to Donna MacDonald for capturing some great moments at each school.

Since we broadcast our hangout through  Youtube, it was fun to know that other people were watching with classes.

Even if you didn’t watch live, you can still experience our smackdown via Youtube and consider hosting your own smackdown whether it’s with picture books, novels, poetry, or something else.

We already look forward to next year.  I thank Donna MacDonald, Julee Murphy, and their students for sharing their time with us. I also thank Deborah Freedman for time and enthusiasm as well.

 

Celebrating Poetry Through Book Spine Poems

book spine poem

One of our favorite kinds of poetry to create each year is book spine poetry. It is a kind of found poetry where the words found on the spines of books create the lines of a poem. Every 2nd grade class came to the library for a one-hour session to create book spine poems individually or in pairs.

To begin our time, I briefly explained found poetry and then told a story about how I created my own book spine poem. The story was meant to serve as a model for how students might craft their own poem, but they certainly didn’t have to go about the process the exact same way as me.

I started in the everybody section of the library and started reading the spines of all the books on the shelf from the beginning. I was looking for a title that jumped out at me as a starting place. I happened upon Quest and Journey by Aaron Becker. I loved how those two words sounded together and I decided to start looking for titles that seemed to go with those two words, which meant looking for titles that were about traveling in some way. I passed by many titles that didn’t fit, so I left them on the shelf without pulling them off. I continued this process until I had found I Took a Walk, In My Dreams I Can Fly, and Goin’ Someplace Special. I also had the book The Ride but I decided that I didn’t like the sound of those words with the others in my stack so I put that book back on the return cart. Next, I tried several ways of arranging the books until I had a sequence I was happy with. After practicing a few times, I recorded my poem with my phone and uploaded it online to share with the world.

After my short story, we went back through the steps and put them into a concise list on the board for students to reference. Then, students got to work. They wandered the shelves looking for that first book and then went from there. As was expected, some of them found their own strategies for creating the poems. Some struggled with finding that first book. Some wanted the support of someone walking with them to look for books. The teacher and I wandered around too and talked with individual students until they started reaching the recording phase.

Once students recorded using an iPad, they brought the iPad to me and we immediately plugged the iPad into my computer and uploaded to Youtube. They also went to the teacher to take a photograph of their book stack that could be printed and put into their poetry books they are creating in class. All books that were used went onto a cart parked in the middle of the library, and students were welcome to read those books while they waited on classmates to finish.

When students finished, I pulled all of their work into Youtube playlists which I emailed to teachers to share with families. We concluded our time by sitting together and snapping for each poem on our playlist. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to, enjoy, and snap for the poems from each 2nd grade class.

Get Ready for Picture Book Smackdown 2015! #pbsmkdwn

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For 3 years, I have organized an online picture book smackdown in honor of Picture Book Month.  Over those 3 years, our Google Hangout event has grown stronger thanks to the collaboration of librarians, students, and authors around the country.  We are busily planning this year’s event, but you can go ahead and put it on your calendar now!  It will be November 19th from 1:30-2:30PM EST.

We made a Smore to host all of the content of the event:

During the smackdown, you can expect to hear:

  • An introduction and welcome from Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas
  • Students from at least 5 states share favorite picture books and why picture books matter in a fast-paced format
  • Authors such as Laurie Ann Thompson share her favorite picture books along with our students
  • An ongoing doc of picture books that we share!

Everything will broadcast through a Youtube link:

We would love for you to watch the event with your students or share with classrooms.  You can even participate by tweet about the event or tweeting your own picture book recommendations during the event using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

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Even if you can’t join us, we hope you are inspired by our event and consider having your own Picture Book Smackdown online or in your own space.  Feel free to use our hashtag to connect our events together. Happy Picture Book Month!

P.S.  If you can’t wait for this year’s event, here’s a little taste of what we did last year: