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.
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!
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!
Students in third through fifth grade are book reviewers! They began this project by looking at examples of book reviews and figuring out what should be included in a good book review. They decided a good book review should include an interesting introduction, a summary of the story but NOT the ending, and a recommendation. Good spelling, punctuation, and grammar are important, too. They chose a book that they wanted to recommend and wrote a draft of the review. When completed, they were able to type the review into Biblionasium, which is a book recommendation site (like Goodreads) for students.
When the reviews were complete, students looked at each others' reviews and found new books that they were eager to read and add to their bookshelves. Students have their own login and password and can use this great website at home.
For the past couple of months, several Lawrence students enjoyed an after school book club. The kids are still enthralled with Ivy and Bean and chose the first book in the series to read with the club. Each meeting was a lot of fun. During snack time, we shared great books we were reading with our club members. We took turns reading aloud from the book. We wrote down questions we had about the story and discussed them together. Readers' theater was a highlight for many club members. For this, we took passages from the book and reenacted them with club members pretending to be different characters. At our last meeting, we created our very first podcast and shared what we liked about the book. To hear it, click on the link below. We were all sad when the club ended and look forward to enjoying more great books together in the future!
We have wrapped up our Mock Caldecott unit for 2016! To begin the unit, second and third graders took a quick look at twenty books and voted on which ones they wanted to read together as a group. Eventually we narrowed it down to four:
After hearing each story, students discussed and rated each book based on the following criteria, which are adapted from the official Caldecott criteria:
Illustrator’s artistic skill
Appropriate art style for the story
Pictures help tell the story
Kids like it.
Kids discussed these things with a partner and as a whole group. After hearing all the stories, students voted for the book they thought should win the Caldecott Medal. They picked a book and explained why they thought it should win.
We held an award ceremony to announce the winners. Students read descriptions of the books and then the winners were announced.
The envelope, please!
Third place was Waiting
Second place was Shark Detective
First place was Finding Winnie.
The following week, we watched a video of the ALA Youth Media Awards (Caldecott is announced around 55 minutes), and the kids were very excited to recognize some of the winners.
Here’s what the kids had to say about Mock Caldecott:
In their regular classrooms, first graders have been studying how other children live in other parts of the world. To supplement this unit, during library class we connected with other students from Athens, Greece; Shanghai, China; and Cuenca, Spain using a website called ePals. After reading a book about kids in other countries, the first graders sat with a partner and came up with questions they had about kids living in other places. Then they chose one and shared it with the class. We emailed these questions to their buddy classrooms.
1K class's questions
1N class's questions
1W clas's questions
The class from Greece told us that they were sending a slide show about their school, so we decided to create our own presentation to share. Students worked with a partner to decide what was important to teach them about our school. Then, each pair of students was responsible for writing details and a closing sentence for their topic.
Students took pictures around the school, and we added it all into Little Bird Tales, a digital publishing tool. Students then read and recorded what they had written. You can watch each presentation below.
In the meantime, some classes received answers to our questions from our buddy classrooms. Our friends in Greece also created a slide show and video for us, which you can find here. The first graders then worked with their partner to answer questions from our buddies, if they sent any. It has been fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences between their schools and ours!