"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Collaborating while Coding

These second graders learned not only about Hour of Code, they also learned about collaboration. Have a look and listen to them working through coding activities.

First graders choose their own learning adventure in the PebbleGo Encyclopedia

The first graders had the opportunity to explore the PebbleGo Encyclopedia. I reviewed how to access PebbleGo from my webpage and then how to navigate through the articles - using the "breadcrumb trail" at the top is VERY important. This took about five minutes. The remainder of the library time was spent reading and listening to articles. You have to watch this movie and listen to the students excitedly sharing their new knowledge.  One student came over to impart her new knowledge: "Dolphins live all over the world and the salt water keeps their skin soft." I love these information gatherers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wherein we learn about the color purple from Dan Santat

Today, we had a Skype visit with Dan Santat. It was phenomenal. Dan was engaging and thoughtful. He connected with the students right away, and along with valuable advice about writing and art, he shared stories that made that advice memorable. No students will forget the similarity between a banana and the color purple (you will have to watch the video for that experience).  What made the visit doubly fabulous was the fact that we were once again also connecting with our Library Pals in Minnesota! 
Prior to the visit
We read BEEKLE back in September when we were building our library community. The book was an instant hit. The community courage lesson is here. Two fifth grade students made a book trailer. The first graders shared their own imaginary friends.
Prior to this visit, we reread BEEKLE and looked at this Pen & Oink interview. (It is full of great insider information about Beekle.) We have also read and enjoyed Crankenstein, Bawk & Roll, and Three Ninja Pigs, to say nothing of the newly re-issued Ricky Ricotta books. Many students have also read Sidekicks, Dan's graphic novel. Needless to say, we were well-versed and ready!

I had students write questions on index cards. We got through a few, but we could have kept going all day! Here are just a few:

"Which book was the hardest to work on?"

"What does it mean when the palette is tight?"

"What would you do if you were no an author/illustrator?"

"How do you choose what you want to illustrate from a manuscript?"

"Do you like pandas? I have seen them in two of your books?"

"How do you think purple should be used?"

"How many authors have you worked with?"

"How did you get your passion for writing and illustrating books?"

"How do you start your graphic novels?"

During the visit
We connected the students in Minnesota and Newton first, and then brought Dan into the visit. 
It was a fast paced twenty minutes with questions and answers bouncing back and forth. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kindergarten students create a counting book inspired by Have You Seen My Dragon?

Have You Seen My Dragon? is a wonderful book that asks to be read over and over. Steve Light has provided a detailed urban setting for a magical adventure. After reading it and exploring it, the students and I were excited and inspired to create our own version.  
Here is one of the books we created:
What follows is a description of the unit along with the materials I used to introduce and scaffold the lesson. At the end you will find my version of "out takes," the things that I learned along the way.

Week One: 
We read and explored the book. See above: this was a great experience - we had much fun counting and discovering.

Week Two:
The students created sketches for their page. The students brainstormed places within our school for each page of our book, they then brainstormed objects within that space that could be counted. They then set about to sketch their page in pencil.

Here's is what I created to scaffold the lesson:

Here are the prompts that explained the steps and helped the students brainstorm. To begin the lesson, we spent a few minutes recalling the book and making the connection between the setting of Have You Seen My Dragon? and the setting of our book. The students added to this list of big places and little places within our school.
After brainstorming the places, the students thought about what could be counted within their chosen place.

The last part of this week's lesson involved sketching out their scene. (My apologies for the messiness of this prompt. I renumbered pages and misspelled scene - I will be fixing this.)

The four kindergarten classes come one right after the other, so I had already assigned a number to each child for each of the classes.
Here are a few examples of what they created from this lesson.

Week three:
The students went over their pencil sketches in sharpie and colored in the objects to be counted. In Have You Seen My Dragon? the objects that are to be counted on each page are in color. We spent some time looking at this element in the books and talking about it. I went back through the steps using my examples and showed them this final example:

You saw what they created in the book at the top of this post. They are much better at this than I! We have quite a few students out this week, so we'll have to finish this after the break, but when we do, I will mount, laminate, and bind the books and deliver them to the classrooms.
1. Lesson two should have been two lessons to allow the students enough time to focus on the details of the environment.

2. On the final art, the desire to add color is so strong, that I should have handed the students one sharpie and one marker of the color of their choice.

3. I try not to model too much as it can become too concrete for some students. There were many swings in each of the classes. I am thinking about how I can model this next time without leading students into one perspective.

4. One idea that I am considering for next time is creating a map of the school first and then having the students create the art for each place along the map, such as: one school, two school buses, three doors, four backpacks, five classrooms, six tables, seven...I would also only go to a lower number and make two books, creating twenty one of any once object can be daunting!

*Food for thought - always, always, food for thought*

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The answer to this question is the BEST

So asked a kindergarten teacher...
...So answered the wise kindergarten student.

Beyond being a fabulous answer to a question, what makes this question and answer THE BEST is how it was shared. I heard it from the parent, who heard it from the teacher. From person to person, it was shared with such joy. It demonstrates the close knit nature of our community. 

Happy Saturday!

Tell it like it is: first graders explain about Rotting Log inhabitants

The first grade information consumers are now information producers! 

The first graders spent a few few weeks observing a rotting log habitat, learning about the food chain, and gathering information from print and electronic resources.  They produced reports, created observational drawings and labeled their art. 

Wanting to give them an additional way to express their new understanding (as well as practice producing digital content and all that that entails), the classroom teacher and I modeled how to use Explain Everything app and then sent them off in pairs to practice their reading. They then helped each other use the app to photograph and record their information. 

The classroom teacher and I are excited to bring this app back to the students, introduce more tools, and watch the students' skills grow.

Where did they get their knowledge?
Here are the students gathering information.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Inquiring minds want to know..."Why are the eyes topside?"

So asked an astute first grader.

We are not even into the animal adaptations unit, but given what I have heard this week, these first graders are going to be great researchers.

The students and I spent November exploring Steve Jenkins' books, which aligned with their nonfiction picture book month challenge. During this unit, we learned about our Wonder Wall (or nonfiction neighborhood).

Following this unit, the art teacher and I co-planned a Lois Ehlert lesson. I would book talk books and explore her work as an author and illustrator, while she would use her books and technique as inspiration for a winter birds collage project. I introduced Lois Ehlert's work by picture walking and reading snippets of her books.

The students and I then worked through a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Steve Jenkins and Lois Ehlert as authors and illustrators. The looked at the style of collage work, the materials used, and the subject matter.

I decided to tie the lesson back to our Wonder Wall unit by pointing out that all books make us stop and think and can inspire wondering questions.

I used this example from Lois Ehlert's book, Lots of Spots.

With just these four lines, the students generated wondering questions such as these:

''Do only the spots change colors?"

"How do they change color?"

"Where is its mouth?"

"In what ways does it look like a pancake?"

"Why are the eyes topside?"

How does the flounder see with its topside eyes?"

"Why to the fins look like fans?"

"How can it swim?"

"Who is it trying to hide from?"

That was week one.

Today when the students came I helped them recall last week's lesson and then reread those four lines.

The students recalled their wondering questions and added a few new ones.

The next part of the lesson was done in part to bring all the first graders up to speed as only two of the classes had used the library databases for the recent research projects. (We'll be diving into a new unit after the December break and I want them all ready.)

I demonstrated finding the databases on my Webpage and then demonstrated how to look for an article and navigate through it.

Sadly, there are no good articles on flounders in either database.

Luckily, I found a very cool video on National Geographic. I just showed the first minute. I reminded the students that they can take in information from multiple sources and to watch the movie and try to answer their wondering questions. I stopped the movie once to ask what migrate meant, and then played it to the same point (just after the flounder eats the shrimp).  **please note: The movie follows the predator/prey food chain, and an eagle comes along and swoops a flounder out of the ocean in the next part of the movie. Since I wanted to focus on answering our questions, I did not show them this part.

The students were able to answer most of their questions from the video footage and use examples from the movie to back up their answers - a valuable lesson about digital literacy and taking in information from multiple sources. #coolbeans.

Wherein we receive a visit from Louise Borden

The wonderful Louise Borden happened to be in my neck of the woods and was able to squeeze in a visit to our school. She met with our three fourth grade classrooms this morning.  It was much fun, and, as important, it was an informative and inspiring visit. 

Have a look:
The classroom teachers had the students think about questions for morning work.  Here are a few things the students wanted to know:

"Do you have a special way of organizing your notes when you research?"

"What is a favorite book that you have read?"

"Do you do a lot of note-taking before you write down a draft for your story?"

"What are good fiction and nonfiction writing strategies/"

"What resources do you use: books, websites, etc?"

"What are your favorite books to look in?"

"Where do you do your note taking?"

"What is your favorite genre to write?"

"What is your favorite genre to read"?

"What inspired you to be a writer and why was it mostly historical fiction and biographies?"

"What was your favorite book when you were a kid?"

"How do you get ideas for your books?"

Louise was full of great stories and advice. I took many notes:

She talked about liking to write about journeys and adventures and how the stories of the characters became her own stories,

Louise showed how ideas, experiences, people, and artifacts from her own life became threads and objects in her stories. Hearing that the idea for the polished Sunday-best shoes in Across the Blue Pacific came from a pair of shoes she wore as a child made the subsequent reading of that story all the more rich and meaningful. 

I was happy that Louise emphasized that each book is a team effort, and using a baseball analogy, she explained that she is just one player when she steps up to the plate with her idea. Hearing about real world collaboration and teaming reinforces the work that we do with students and students do with each other each day. 

When Louise spoke about writing biographies and finding connections with her subjects, their hobbies, and their accomplishments.

When talking about writing biographies, she encouraged the students to listen to: ask wondering questions; become a detective; and look at the details. When she noticed the mark on the canoe that one for the Wright Brothers had used as a pontoon on his aircraft, she researched the maker of the canoe and visited the place where the shop existed in New York City.

Louise's research for the book on Margaret and H.A. Rey was extensive. The students were amazed that she traveled around the world gathering information on the Rey's. The fact that many of these documents had not been looked at in many years was astounding to them, as was her quest to find the chateau that the Rey's lived in while in France.  The students also loved that the Rey's traveled to the United States with a dummy of the first Curious George book, although it was not titled that at that time. 

There is really too much to share, so I will stop with this last piece of advice that Louise received from a teacher and that I think is so apt. I can't quote it exactly, but it was something about recognizing that she enjoyed research and wishing her a bon voyage!

How fitting for Louise and the work she has done. What a wonderful encouragement for all learners...a wish for good travels in our hearts and in our minds.
It was a great morning!

Moving and Shaking with Hour of Code

An Hour of Code with fifth graders looks and sounds much different than it did with the kindergarten students. The productive din and full body re-enactments of the movements the students wanted the objects on the screen to make were proof enough of the value of this activity, as well as examples of the students building and practicing spacial relations, math, and critical thinking.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's HOUR OF CODE: Kindergarten Style

Have a look and listen at a kindergarten classroom engaged in an Hour of Code:

Reclaiming the library shelves

I spent about an hour trying to reclaim the library today. 
Circulating over 6,000 books from a collection of 11,000 and a student population of 468 results in messy shelves that look unappealing for browsing. 
When I had finished tidying, organizing, and straightening, I was feeling like we were starting to look pretty good again, so I took a few pictures, which led to creating an Animoto movie. I will definitely improve upon this movie tour of the library. I think there's relevance even this late in the year because we are always getting new students, and really, can't everyone use a refresher?

Happy Thursday!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tools for Teaching and Learning with the Mock Caldecott

I enjoy running a Mock Caldecott unit with my students. Each year, we review the criteria, read the books, and place our votes. 

The Books
You can find the six books we'll be reading and exploring on this blog post: The 2015 Mock Caldecott List.

The Criteria
Each year I would wrestle with language that I think will make the Caldecott Medal Criteria more accessible to my elementary students.  The task is daunting and I was never sure I got it right.  Until last year... I decided to take the five criteria and translate them into this:

"In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:"

a.   Excellence
b.   Appropriateness
c.   Importance
d.   Appeal

The Signage
I plan to create posters in the library similar to this:

And have questions like this near our reading rug:

Do these illustrations demonstrate excellence in the technique (collage, painting, wood carvings) employed? 

Is the technique employed a good match for the mood, tone and themes in the story?

Are the illustrations critical to the understanding of the story? 

Will the design of the book and the illustrations appeal to a child audience? 

The Tools
The students will be using a 
Google Form to evaluate each book.

The final vote will also be via Google Form.

As for how this will all occur before January 29th (when I leave for ALA Midwinter), well, that's what I'll be working out tomorrow night!

For those who want to know where I started, here's the official language:

"In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:

a.   Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
b.   Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or       
c.   Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or 
d.   Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or 
      information through the pictures;
e.   Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience."

[Adopted by the ALSC board, January 1978. Revised, Midwinter 1987. Revised, Annual 2008.]