Last year, students loved listening to Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, written by Susan Hood, which we read as a COCBA nominee. I mentioned that we should try to make our own instruments out of recycled material. We didn't have time last year, and one student remembered and asked about it on the first day of school and continued to ask every month! We finally got around to it in March.
In the meantime, I brought it lots of recycled cardboard like cracker boxes, cereal boxes, cardboared tubes, egg cartons, etc. The elastic bands are from the daily mail delivery to the office, so the only thing I had to buy was masking tape.
Before we started, the students watched Brain Pop videos about music and sound and shared what they had learned about sound in music class. Then they got busy! Students also discussed and practiced learning dispositions that are essential to maker projects, such as persistence, creativity, and flexibility.
Students played a short concert and reflected on the experience. We loved it!
Second graders listened to The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game. After reading the book, students generated a list of questions they had related to the story.
Students sorted the questions into categories such as sign language, baseball, William Hoy, deafness, and miscellaneous. The categories weren’t always immediately clear, and students discussed and defended their choices.
Pairs of students were given questions to answer. They chose an information source which they thought would mostly likely help them answer their questions.
After finding answers, students shared their knowledge with their classmates. They reflected on their new learning, and of course they have new questions.
Fourth graders read the book One Plastic Bag, by Miranda Paul. This is the true story of a woman in the Gambia who was concerned with the many plastic bags that were littered throughout her village and were killing goats, ruining their gardens, and contributing to malaria outbreaks. She and a group of women began using the bags to crochet into purses. They cleaned up their village and earned money for food, health care, and education. This book is one of the current elementary Nutmeg Nominees.
After listening to the story, the students came up with many different questions.
Students consulted different sources to find answers to their questions. They reread the book and looked at the author's note and a timeline in the back of the book. They looked at the book's website and watched a video showing how the women made the bags into purses.
They searched Pebble Go Next and Britannica Online. We emailed the Connecticut State Library to find out how plastic bags got to the Gambia. A librarian promptly emailed us back with links to oil refineries and plastic bag manufacturers and videos showing plastic bags being manufactured and shipping containers being loaded. We weren't always able to get answers and had to think of different ways to find them.
We tweeted the author, Miranda Paul, to find out how long it took her to write the book. She answered us and invited us to video conference. Each group chose one question and had a chance to talk to the author. It was a real-life opportunity to practice digital citizenship. Ms. Paul was wonderful! She gave us very detailed answers to our questions.
Many of the questions from Mrs. Negrelli's class focused on the goats in the story. To answer their questions, we video conferenced with Amanda Thomson and two of her students from Middletown High's Vocational Agriculture program. We got to conference with the goats, too! What a great book and opportunity for the kids. A student commented, "I learned so much today." Yes!
Students reflected on the experience.
Summer vacation is almost here! I am so excited for vacation because now I will have even more time to read. This is a perfect time for you to catch up on all of your favorite books, too. Please visit the Russell Library or other public library many times this summer. Ask the librarians to help you find books that you love. Don’t forget to check out the summer reading program- Exercise Your Mind: Read! You can also get passes for free or reduced admission to area attractions like the Basketball Hall of Fame, KidCity, Mystic Aquarium, and more. Have a wonderful summer!
Kindergarten through third graders have enjoyed Pat Zietlow Miller's Sophie's Squash, one of the nominees for the Charter Oak Children's Book Award. In the story, Sophie's mom said that a squash could not be a friend. The students had a lively discussion about this, and one insightful student said it mostly depended on if you had enough imagination. Who knew a squash with a little face drawn on it could be so charming?
Each fourth grade class had two chances to Mystery Skype with other classes in the United States. During Mystery Skype, our class video conferences with another class. The classes ask each other yes/no questions to determine the other class’s location. Students use logic to formulate questions and listen to answers carefully. One class was from California, one was from Iowa, and two were from North Carolina. We learned some new questioning ideas from the other classes and improved our own questioning. We loved it!
Yay, it’s May, which means that kindergarten through third graders are joining other students throughout Connecticut in reading the Charter Oak Children’s Book Award nominees. After reading the eight books, students will have a chance to vote on their favorite. Dog Vs. Cat is the early-predicted winner, but Gaston has already converted some voters. Can’t wait to see the final winner!
Fourth graders have been studying regions in their regular classrooms. They will have a chance to put their new geographical knowledge to the test as they participate in Mystery Skype. In Mystery Skype, our class video conferences with another class. The classes ask each other yes/no questions to determine the other class’s location. Students use logic to formulate questions and listen to answers carefully. They are very excited.
Fifth graders are commemorating their years at Lawrence by creating a Google slide show of people and events that are meaningful to them. After brainstorming a list of ideas and filling out a planning template, they will type in the text, add images, and finally add special effects to their presentations. It is a bittersweet time for our oldest students.
Students are big fans of Steve Jenkins, who has written and illustrated many different books about animals. The unique thing about his books is that he uses beautifully detailed collages to create the illustrations. After reading several of his books, the first graders decided that they wanted to create their own animal book.
We began by looking at Steve Jenkins' website. He includes a narrative and video which explain how he creates his books. One thing we noticed about his books is that the body of the book focuses on one specific topic (superlatives, body parts, color, etc.) with general animal information included in the back. Each class brainstormed a list of possible topics and then voted on their favorite. Next we came up with a list of sources of information and decided to use Pebble Go, a database designed for beginning readers.
First graders practiced taking notes by writing only the most important words in each sentence.
Students used their notes to write the general information for their animal.
Next came almost everyone's favorite part, creating the illustrations! Our art teacher, Mrs. Kaye, gave suggestions about how to create the illustrations and also worked with one of the classes. Students added a sentence about their specific topic to the artwork.
We read the completed books this week. Students loved seeing their work and are proud to be authors and illustrators. Nice work, first grade!
We have so many opportunities to learn about great books in the library. Second through fifth graders have just finished voting for their favorite Nutmeg book. Winners will be announced in mid May. Kindergarten through third graders will start reading nominees for the Charter Oak Children’s Book Award, a reading program created by a Connecticut school librarian. Dog Vs. Cat is an early favorite.
Third through fifth graders are wrapping up their book reviews and have shared them on Biblionasium. This project gave students an opportunity to create an authentic product, use technology to produce and publish writing, and interact with others.
Happy birthday Beverly Cleary! In honor of Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday on April 12, I have put her books on display. Many books (including the Ramona series, one of my favorites) have been popular with kids for over 60 years. Check them out!