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

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.