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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Year in Books that Grew Minds and Hearts

Looking back over the last twelve months of books that my students and I have read together, there are those stories which stand out for the conversations they inspired -- conversations that grow hearts and minds. These are the books that my students still talk about and still ask for, books that get referenced in conversations. These are the books whose influence can be seen in how the students look at and think about the world around them and their place in it.

Here are the top fifteen from this year:

15. It Takes a Village

14. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya*

13. A Poem for Peter

12. Smoot

11. Give Me Back My Book!

10. Each Kindness

9. The Only Fish in the Sea

8. Little Fox in the Forest

7. We're All Wonders

6. Come With Me

5. Why Am I Me?

4. Book of Mistakes

3. Her Right Foot

2. Wolf in the Snow*

1. After the Fall

There are many books that the students and I read each year that I don't have the time to blog about. These books would rise to the top regardless because of the conversations they engendered.

*Some blog posts never got posted, but will soon! 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fourth Grade Geologists: "I learned that it is easier to classify rocks with a partner"

The fourth graders begin their Earth's Forces Unit with a Rocks and Minerals unit. Usually, I am unable to collaborate on Rocks and Minerals because I am prepping the students for Earth's Forces. This is crushing because I am a rockhound. I love rocks and collect them wherever I go. Crushed no more and I! This year the timing worked in my favor and I set to work designing a rocks and minerals library project with input from the classroom teachers. 

I designed a three week Rock Identification unit that would reinforce the learning in the classroom while requiring the students to delve into the databases and encyclopedias. The library project looped into the classroom unit after the students had had sufficient time to build up their knowledge of rocks and minerals, including their properties, type, and role in the rock cycle. Collaborating on Rocks and Minerals allowed me to reintroduce the students to the library resources, both electronic and print, resources they will be using frequently in the next few months. Here's the project:

Step One: 
Gather rocks 
I brought in rocks from my own collection.

Step Two: 
Explain the project, introduce the resources, 
begin the research

Students explored the rocks and chose one they wanted to identify.

We reviewed how to access the electronic resources and navigate through them.

I also set up a mini pathfinder to get students started.

We reviewed the note taking sheet.

The students got to work identifying their rocks.

Step Three: 
Finish up the rock identification and 
take what they learned to 
create a rock identification tag.

Step Four: 
The Rockhound Roundup

The rocks were placed on felt to make it look more like a museum. A few unidentified rocks were included to give students an opportunity to continue to use their new-found knowledge.

The Students took part in a gallery walk, 

where they left comments and questions on each other's work.

Some rocks received more comments, mainly due to their properties, but this is something to be aware of in the future - possibly reminding students to move along to another rock if one already has many comments. The students had shared what the comments should look like and sounds like prior to the activity.

Step Five: 
The students reflect on the project

The scale went from one indicating "yes" to three "not really." This shows me that a majority of the students were happy or moderately happy with their work.

Here was one of the major reasons for for this unit - building confidence accessing and using the library research resources - both electronic and print. The students will be engaged in more learning experiences to build upon this new understanding and confidence.

This response makes me happy. I just created this unit and already see ways to improve it, but I am excited to know I am on the right track.

Yes! This is data I can use to show the value of the learning happening in the school library. 

I asked the students one open ended question, "What did you learn?" I dropped the students open response answers into a word cloud generator. It gives me a good sense of the theme of their answers - hard to identify rocks and working with partners were both present in many responses. Their full responses are below.

I learned that...
I learned that it is better to have more people in your group
Some rocks can be really hard to identify.
That identify rocks is hard
I learned that it is hard to identify rocks and minerals.
There is all different kids of rocks
I learned that rocks may not be what they look like
That a lot of rocks are a lot like others so it may be harder to identify
I learned that it takes a long time to learn about rocks
Cool rocks can be the hardest to identify.
I learned that books can give you just as much information as websites can.
That the answer is right below the surface.
Some rocks can be very, very, very VERY hard to identify.
The rocks we had were to small
Kid Rex is a good sight
I learned that Brainpop is very helpful.
I learned that rocks are very interesting and there are so many different ones.
I learned about rocks
That computers are resourceful.
Books are good for research
I learned that I work well with a partner.
I learned that it is sometimes hard to find that rock that you are looking for
It is easier to identify rocks using websites than books.
That rocks have a lot of properties.
Affects happening on rocks can change the color.
I learned that rocks are harder than they seem to classify.
Even if it has a pattern it doesn't have to be a metamorphic rock
How to use library resources
It is hard to identify rocks and minerals
Rocks can be really really interesting!
How to use library resources
that rocks can be hard to identify
I found that it takes time to identify rocks.
There are many types of rocks some are really hard to identify
working with a partner can help.
I learned that working with a partner you can get work done faster.
Rocks are hard to identify
All rocks are different
I learned that with working with a partner can get things done more easily and quickly and I learned that there are so many different types of rocks just in the crust and never mind the the mantle,outer core and inner core. I am sure that there are thousands of rock that have not been identified or found. and I wonder what types will come next!!!
I learned how to identify rocks. I think I also learned how to work with a partner, and get better at working with a partner. I really enjoyed this project.
That it is easier to work alone
It is more easy with a partner
Working with a partner is better
Working with a partner is hard
How to find data bases
Working with a partner is fun.
it is easier to work with a partner
I learned that working with a partner is easier than on your own.
I learned that it is easier to classify rocks with a partner
Some rocks can be made from lava, the Earth's layers, and other stuff that makes Metamorphic, Igneous, and Sedimentary rocks. Or other rocks!
I learned that rocks are different
I learned that identifying rocks is a lot of work.
It was fun working with a partner
Working with a partner can be hard
I learned that there are tons of different types of rocks, and that working with certain partners can be hard.
It is sometimes hard to work with a partner.