Travel the world and Never Leave Home

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My students and I  traveled around 30,000 miles today and we never had to get on an airplane thanks to Skype and the 2016 Skype-a-Thon!

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This is year two of Skype-a-Thon and by the end of day one, not thousands, but 3 million miles were traveled by students and teachers across the globe.

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My day started at 5:15 in the morning with fellow librarian Karey Killian and a group of 3rd graders asking questions about our Books to Africa program. She tried to have our partner teacher Thejane Malakane in Lesotho Skype with us,but he unfortunately had internet issues.

cybypx0usaeea2wThis call was followed by a quick connection with fellow MIE Phuti Ragophala in Polokwane, South Africa. When you see friends online, it’s almost as good as being there in person!

cybxypbviaazxiOnce school began, we had calls throughout the day. We tried to call Phuti again, and reached her, but again, couldn’t hold that call. So, almost as good, we left a video message asking her some questions.

Then it was a Mystery Skype session with a group of 5th graders and Sarah Loomis. The students played Mystery Skype and had to ask her through a series of yes or no questions where she was located. After hearing her American accent, they launched a series of USA oriented questions, but we had a trick up our sleeve. While she is American, Bryce figured out she was actually calling us from the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany!

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After that I had a chance to play Mystery Skype by myself with Melanie LeJeune’s high school students in Louisiana. We worked hard to figure out the state, city and school where we were both calling from!

cydk8wjvqaepwcjWith some lunch to refuel, we were at it again all afternoon! My 3rd graders Skyped with Tammy Dunbar’s students in California. Tammy knows how to spark lots of fun into a Skype session.

tammyFor the very first time for both my second grade students and myself, we played Mystery Number. Using a 100’s chart, the students had to guess each other’s special number.

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Talk about developing critical thinking skills! My first class narrowed the number down in SIX questions –Wow! Thank you to Karina Bailey in Georgia and Hillary Chandler in Washington for playing with us.

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img_22091The first graders ended our day with a fun game of Mystery Animal with Ipec Tunca, a special visitor from Microsoft in California.

img_22161The children loved guessing her Mystery Animal was the turkey, not because of Thanksgiving, but because she was born in the country of Turkey!

By 3:00 we had logged a bit more than 35,000 miles in one day. That does not count the terrific Author Skype call we had yesterday with Tara Lazar. She and her special assistant read The Monstore to us. We found out being an author can mean you get to go to work in your home and wear your PJs.

img_21621The week isn’t even over, and we have connected three continents, and many children across the globe.

A few days ago we also Skyped with Blair Smith and his students in Australia for our first international mystery Skype. Because of the time differences, we played after school in Washington while it was morning in Australia.

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With more sessions later in the week, I know this won’t be a week we will soon forget. Learning about geography, math, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship, keyword searches and research ins ENGAGING and FUN with Skype in the Classroom!

Want to learn more? Visit the microsoft in education website and see how you can join in on the fun for FREE! Connect your students with the world and never leave your classroom. https://education.microsoft.com

 

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Author Amazes Students

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Iain Reading, author of The Dragon of the Month Club and the Kittyhawk series visited our school this week for a much anticipated visit with our 5th grade students.

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He talked to the students about the power of ideas and books. As a writer you never know where an idea might take you. He explained what he meant with the story of how he thought of the idea for The Dragon of the Month Club. It started with something he saw on television when a character on an English show  received a Sausage of the Month gift as a joke. Thinking about the concept, made him wonder the question, “what if there was a dragon of the month club?” Within two years, his book was written, published and he was talking to us at our school!

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His visit was the direct result of some 5th grade students who inspired by the book, created their own dragons.I wrote about the experience in the post When Magic Happens. The last paragraph of the post read:

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I didn’t know what kind of doors those words would open at the time. Like Iain, as a writer you just don’t know the path you might be led down. In our case, that post was shared on social media and Mary Grigg, the  5th grade teacher who had been reading his book to her students, tracked down Iain’s contact information and shared the link with him.

When he wrote to us and asked if he could visit our school we were thrilled! I can assure you when Mary and I  read our  emails, we had a fabulous day!

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What we didn’t expect is how he would spoil us when he came all the way from Holland! Talk about a treat! In addition to telling us about his writing process, and sharing the pain of rejection letter, he brought very special give aways. Everyone received a bracelet, pin and Dragon of the month card. He also gave away dragon pendants.

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Then 20 students received a special Cougar Ridge edition of his book. There are special “cookies” throughout the book that refer to Bellevue and our school, as well as a custom cover.

dsc04490Iain and Ms. Grigg had fun trying to find the special places in the book that are customized!

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When his presentation was over, each lucky student had their copy autographed by Iain.

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Iain explained that after his visit he was going to Vancouver to the Comic Con Convention where he always has a wishing tree. To get the tree started, each student could write a wish and put it on the tree. It would then be on display at the convention for others to add on to it.

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While all these details were absolutely fantastic, the ultimate part of the day, was a special lunch Iain shared with a small group of students. The five girls who made the original dragons, plus others who applied to have lunch with him shared an extended visit where they had the chance to ask questions about the book in more detail. One of the girls joined us via Skype from her new school. Everyone laughed and talked about their favorite dragons, plots twists and when the sequel would be available.

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We had a “Dragon” dessert, which we showed our friend on Skype before we cut into it! Two of the girls had also made a Candy Dragon which Iain took with him to Canada for the Comic Con Convention!

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Then Iain shared the ultimate surprise. He brought out five custom copies of the Dragon of the Month Club with the girls’ dragons on the cover! Screams and cries filled the air as the girls scanned the pages looking for their names hidden inside the book!

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I’ve had a lot of author visits, but I have to say, this one certainly had a huge impact on a lot of children at our school. From all of the 5th graders and their teachers, we shout a loud and boisterous, Thank you Iain! You are the best!

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Iain’s book The Dragon of the Month Club, as well as The Kitty Hawk mystery series are available through Amazon in book and Kindle versions.

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Hip Hop Makes Learning Sweet

There are just some lessons in the library that can be drier than sun burnt mud no matter how much I have tried to make them interesting. Librarians you know what it’s like. You have to teach THAT LESSON, but 3 minutes into it, the kids are picking at the carpet, staring off at the corners of the room or waving their hands and pointing at  the cobweb they found in the art installation. Trying to ignore it all (and secretly hoping full chaos doesn’t start) you keep going because it’s the required curriculum topic.

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We all have those lessons. My struggle has been helping students understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction in a fun way. The lessons have been okay. Nothing great. Certainly not newsworthy. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t part of the conversation at the dinner table when the kids tell their parents about the best part of their day.

I had some extra time yesterday and was searching AGAIN for a quick mini-lesson to go along with an author/illustrator study emphasizing that Lauren Castillo’s books are fiction, not non-fiction. I admit, my effort was a bit lackluster. I was scrolling through my browser on one screen and deleting old email on the other. Then I came upon my reminder email about my subscription to Flocabulary. Flobaculary teaches concepts through hip-hop music

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I’d signed up in September, but hadn’t tried anything out yet. I was supposed to do a review, but I hadn’t done that either. Okay I thought, I wonder if there’s a video on fiction and non-fiction in Flocabulary? Sure enough, the first video in the Reading and Writing section, was one on Fiction vs Non-Fiction.

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Could it be my lucky day? Fridays are notoriously NOT lucky days, so I admit, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. I pushed play and the next thing I knew I was rockin’ in my school chair. (thanks Pete the Cat). I liked it. Now, the question was would the kids AND would the info stick in their brains?

Four Friday afternoon grades 1-3 classes later, I can say yes, the music video worked! Hurrah! I pushed play at the minute they sat down and they were engaged from the first beat. If there was ever a lesson we could learn from Sesame Street or any other children’s show, is the combination of music and learning works. Make that music hip-hop and these 21st century learners are ready, engaged and learning.

Later when we finished reading Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo, I had a sea of hands to choose from when I asked,  “What kind of book is this, and how do you know?”

Thanks Flocabulary for turning what is usually the dreaded lesson into, “Can we watch that again next week?” 

Blogger note –

I did not get paid for this review. Nobody made me write it. I like Flocabulary because it worked for me. If you would like to learn more, you can sign up for a free trial on the Flocabulary website. They have songs & videos for the major content areas, plus the Week-in-Rap videos that summarize the major news stories for the week. The teacher handouts have the CCSS listed, quizzes, handouts, lessons – the basics you need to supplement your lesson. Check it out. Rock on….

 

 

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Flattening the Walls with Skype

I love Skype so much that earlier this year I submitted this Sway to apply for the Skype Master Teacher Program.

In September when I received this email I was thrilled by the news!

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So what does Skype do for my library classroom? It flattens the walls. In the past, classrooms have been limited by the literal space where you teach or opened by neighboring classrooms within your school. Teachers taught with the doors closed from the beginning of the day to the end. Occasionally a guest might come into class or the group would go on a yearly field trip. However, for the most part, the education of that room of students was essentially closed.

For any teachers who use Skype (or other connection capabilities GoogleHangouts, Seesaw, Edmodo, etc) have seen those walls crumble and the outside world come in. My first experience in 2011 was with Mrs. Linda Yollis’ class in Southern California. We played Mystery Skype – a game where each group of students tries to guess where the other classroom is located through a series of yes or no questions.

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The game requires students to use critical thinking skills, map reading skills, problem-solving skills, cooperative learning and communication skills as well as practicing proper digital citizenship and etiquette. The lessons are powerful and fun. Students who are experienced and know how to carefully craft their questions, can generally guess where the other classroom is out of all 50 states in less than 10 questions. Sometimes they can do it in only 5 questions!

In the years since we have Skyped with paleontologists, scuba divers, authors, and students in Africa, Europe, all over the US. As a Skype Master teacher my goal this year is to give every one of my classes the opportunity to Skype at least once during the school year. We have played Mystery Skype twice already. We have Tara Lazar scheduled for a Halloween author Skype visit. I also have some international experiences planned!

This week, for GlobalMakeDay on October 25th, we Skyped with Karey Killian’s class in Pennsylvania. We tried something completely new and my students taught her students how to fold an origami dog by explaining the directions via Skype. It wasn’t easy to just have a small camera as the only way to communicate, but it worked!

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However, my biggest point is that anyone can use Skype to flatten the walls of their library or classroom. Teachers can join for FREE the Microsoft Educator Community where they have access to Skype in the Community, an online community that enables thousands of teachers to inspire the next generation of global citizens through transformative learning over Skype.

Teachers can bring the world of Skype into their rooms with lessons, mystery skype, virtual field trips and guest speakers. There are numerous lessons available and if you are an expert in your field, ways to share your expertise with others via Skype.

With the youngest students you can play mystery animal or mystery number and guess which special animal the other class has been studying. Really, age doesn’t matter when it comes to these games. there is literally something for everyone from grades 5-12!

If you have never used Skype before and have no idea how to get started, the introduction video will make each step easier than you ever realized.

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So, in the days of dwindling budgets, you don’t have to lament the fact that you can no longer afford to bring guest authors inside your classroom or take your students on those beloved field trips. Take them to Mt Everest instead or talk to a favorite author on the computer. It might not be the same as what you’ve always done in the past, but it very likely might be much better!

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What Do You Call Your Grandmother?

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Before reading book number 1 in the Global Read Aloud Lauren Castillo book study, we talked about this question. I asked students in grades 1 and 2, “What do you call your grandmother?” Because we have students from countries all over the world, the answers were varied.

The names  Grammie, Grammy, Grandma, Nana,  Gram, and Grannie were some of the common American nicknames students suggested.

Then we asked students who speak other languages what they call their grandmother and we had some of these answers. Grandmere – French, Oma – German, Nonna – Italian, Sobo – Japanese, Lola – Tagalog, Abuela – Spain/Mexico/Peru, South Korean – Halmoni, Russian – Babushka, Portuguese – Avo, and India – Awa.

We learned that in Chinese, you say one name for the mother of your mother, and a different name for the mother of your father. Thanks to one of our parents, we learned what the name looks like in Chinese characters. We even Tweeted it out on our CRReads library Twitter account.

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Nana in the City is book one in our six week Lauren Castillo author study. Lauren was chosen as the featured author/illustrator in the 2016 Global Read Aloud program. This project started October 3rd and will run for approximately 6 weeks.

The idea behind it is very simple; teachers around the world read the same book aloud to their students and then use technology to share the reading experience with these other classrooms. It is a free project and it fits perfectly into the standards we have to cover.

Our school is one of the red markers hovering over Washington.  Each week we will be reading one of the selected picture books and then connecting with other classrooms around the world via Twitter,Padlet and this blog. Students will get an authentic global experience by talking about books with other librarians and students. Our library Twitter account is @CRidgeLibrary  We only tweet with other classrooms and libraries on this account.

We also played at BreakoutEDU game at the end of the author study. Here are some photos from our librarians playing the game.

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Have you ever played a BreakoutEDU game? Are you participating in the Global Read Aloud this year?

 

 

 

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A Special Aussie Visitor

We had a very special visitor in the library last week. This person is from Australia and while we have been friends since 2011, we had never met face to face until last week. Who visited our library? The wonderful Miss Y from St. Martin’s Primary School near Melbourne, Australia.

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Miss Y and I met through blogging and common blogging buddies. In fact, I found the very first time Miss Y made a comment on our blog. It was in March 2011!

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Since then we have remained blogging buddies across the miles, sharing ideas for books, lessons and ways to integrate technology into the library. She wrote about our friendship on her blog here.

I was absolutely thrilled when I found out she was planning a trip to visit the US and would begin her trip in Seattle. Even better was that she would be able to visit our school. She shared some Australian geography lessons with students as they were quite surprised by how large the country and continent of Australia actually is.

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We shared book presents with each other. She left Seattle with a signed copy of The Honest Truth and the new Elephant and Piggie inspired series books.

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We are HUGE fans of Dan Gemeinhart’s books. Miss Y, some 5th graders and I had an interesting conversation about the differences between the American cover of The Honest Truth and the Australian cover of the same book. A few people were appalled that I preferred the Australian cover. Oops? Can I say that? I love Dan Gemeinhart’s books, I just think showing the mountain on the cover makes more sense.

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We also discovered that Santa Claus comes to Australia in the summer when it’s really hot in Australia. He usually arrives in shorts and often rides a sleigh pulled by six white kangeroos!

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One very special present Miss Y gave us is a copy of the book Pig the Pug and our own Pig the Pug. This character who needs to learn a lot about getting along well with others is a favorite at her school.

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In fact, they have two traveling Pig the Pugs who go home with students and have stories read to them. You can read about his Australian adventures here. Pig the Pug has had over 153 home adventures in 2016.

It sounded like so much fun, I have decided to have our Pig the Pug also be a traveling friend. Since we only have one plushy toy, the only students who will be able to take him home are third graders. Students who want to have a chance to take Pig the Pug home on an overnight reading adventure will fill out a raffle ticket. Each day I will pull a raffle ticket out of the box and deliver Pig the Pug to the lucky person in his special traveling suitcase.

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Pig the Pug in Australia

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A letter in his suitcase will explain that Pig the Pug is on a special overnight reading adventure and LOVES to have his picture taken with his reading buddy. I will post them on our #CRReads bulletin board and on his own page on this blog.

We are going to have some pug fun this fall thanks to Miss Y. Save travels to Miss Y as she continues her trip to Vancouver, Toronto, New York City and Washington, DC.

 

 

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When Magic Happens

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I am pretty sure that I was born to be a librarian. I read at all hours of the day and night. I can’t eat breakfast without reading something to keep me company. I read on vacation in really peculiar places.

I love also teaching, but we all know that even though you may have a dream job, every day in the classroom isn’t a perfect day. Some days are trickier than others. When you step through the front doors of the school, you can never be sure of what kind of day it will be. Will it be good, okay, or one of those you need to forget?

Today was one of those days. No, not the bad one. The kind where you sit back, smile, and pinch yourself that you are lucky to be a teacher. The magical kind of day.

The day actually started a couple weeks ago when one of the teachers at school walked in the library and asked if I had any recommendations for a read aloud for her class. She was hoping to start the year with fantasy, but didn’t want anything super long.

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It just so happened that I had just finished reading The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading. I handed the book over, with a brief overview and off she went. Periodically I would see her in the hall and she updated me on the book. Each time I heard the comments, my day would get a little brighter. Her students were LOVING it! I was thrilled that my suggestion was working out so perfectly. That, however, is not my story.

My story, my magical story happened this afternoon at about 1:30 in the afternoon. I was knee-deep in paperwork and trying to make sense of the mess that was my office when a group of girls ran in yelling, “Mrs. Hembree, Mrs. Hembree, you’ve got to come see our dragon!”

I stepped out of the room to see a group of giggling and ever so proud girls. They were tumbling their words over each other in their excitement to show me what they had made. In their hands was a brown cardboard dragon. More specifically, it was a Dell Technology Dragon made from the left over cardboard they found outside the computer lab. It had a wavy long tail with a wide point at the end. The mouth opened and closed. The body was made from the packing material covered with a wide set of wings.

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Inspired by the dragons in the book, they had decided to create their own Dragon of the Month. The magic of the story for me at least was to see a group of girls, take a book they so clearly love and make something original and creative. They made a made project, and NOBODY asked them to! It wasn’t a homework assignment. It wasn’t something they had to make for a book project. This was a dragon born from love of reading, a bunch of trash cardboard, and a big slice of creativity!

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I quickly grabbed my cell phone and captured photos of the designers and their Technology Dragon. I sent them back to their after school class and got back to work on my mess with a big smile on my face.

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At 4:00, I was still there (although the mess was manageable now) when the girls ran back inside the library again. This time, the dragon was decorated with brightly colored duct tape on the wings and a silvery tape for the body. They found hot pink tape for the tongue and while they only found one wiggly eye, they figured out how to craft another one that looked almost the same. This Dell Technology Dragon had bloomed into a vibrancy all its own. The girls were on cloud 9 too. They showed me the hand signals they created for the dragon (something from the book). They told me about their plans to write to the author and tell him about their dragon.

As they left the room, I was given the responsibility of Dragon-sitting for the evening. In the morning they would be back to bring the dragon to their classroom and show their teacher.

I have a feeling that she is going to have a magical day tomorrow…

iainI hope too, if Iain Reading ever reads this post and finds out how special these students think his book is, that he too will have a magical day as well.

This is the power of books. They can bring the magic out of students in ways you would never believe could happen.

 

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Breakout to Checkout

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Have you heard of BreakoutEDU? I hadn’t before I attended the Microsoft US Forum and ISTE conferences in Denver.

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Basically this is a game where participants try to break into a locked box using a series of clues. Sometimes the activity is to breakout of a locked room. In either instance, participants have a limited amount of time to solve the clues and open the locks. The game is heavy on problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.

At the Forum we experienced a BreakoutEDU activity. It was fun and extremely frustrating all at the same time. I remember getting so annoyed that I sat on the perimeter of my group because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Still I was intrigued by the possibilities enough that I joined the BreakoutEDU Facebook group and became a member of the BreakoutEDU beta group.

All summer I thought about how I could incorporate the breakout experience with an activity at the beginning of the library year.  I read on Library Media Tech Talk what Stony Evans was doing in high school library and thought I could try something similar at the elementary level. There are numerous outstanding games already written, but ultimately I decided to write my own and have the game be the library orientation for the 3rd-5th grade students.20160906_173500291_iOS

 

You can purchase a BreakoutEDU kit or use the open source list to assemble your own kit. I purchased my own box, locks and got to work designing the lesson. It went through numerous drafts as I needed to have a game for my fixed schedule of 30 minute 3rd grade classes and a different, yet similar one for the 4th and 5th graders. I have 5 classes of 3rd graders and 4 classes of both the 4th and 5th graders. I also have classes that are back-to-back with NO transition time.

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Now after playing the game nine times with students, I can say I have no regrets about the amount of work it took because BreakoutEDU was amazingly successful in our library. I still have some classes to go, but this is what I did. The kids have been excited and I’ve received emails from parents sharing how their children went home and talked about the crazy game they played in the library. I also have had requests to share how I did my BreakoutEDU lesson, so here it goes. The photos aren’t fabulous, but I think you can get a good idea of what we did.

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In order to checkout, the students had to break out their check out cards from inside the 4 lock box. I divided the students into four groups of between 5-6 students each. As soon as they sat down I showed the introduction video

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As soon as I finished explaining the game, I started the countdown clock. The students had 30 minutes to complete the task. I gave them 1 hint card, but refused to give them a hint when they ran right up to me within a minute or two. Each group was required to rotate through four stations. At each one, they had to find their envelope, read the contents and then go to the next station on their list. They were instructed to bring the envelopes and contents back to their table once they had been to each station.

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At this point they had to use the clues and tools available (black light reader) to figure out the combination of their group’s lock. I did not tell them what tools were available. I started with 4 pens, one at each table, but when they were destroyed, I had a tool sign at the front of the room. Students had to share the one light with one another.

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I loved watching how each group dealt with the pen. I had written clues on the final clue paper with invisible ink, so when they shined the light on the paper, they could read the clue. However, that didn’t mean they used it. Quite often the students saw the pen, but ignored it. After they reached frustration level, there was always one person at one group who would discover the power of the light and then their group took off. The other groups would see how peers were using the pen and try it themselves.

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Once a lock was removed, I urged those students to split up and help other groups. The goal was very the entire class to succeed, so class teamwork was crucial. When all the locks were removed, I stopped the clock. We then talked about what they learned from this experience. I also had groups who didn’t open the locks in time. They didn’t check out and didn’t fuss or complain. They realized that their inability to think critically or work together was the reason they wouldn’t check out. The lessons they learned from the failure would contribute to success next time.

Because my 3rd graders only come for 30 minutes, I had a 13 minute breakout session. Their clue was at their table. They didn’t have to move around the room. I developed this plan after as a split second adaptation. I had two back to back classes with no transition time. I had the envelopes all set up for the second class hidden under a piece of paper. Well, they weren’t too hidden to one student who proceeded to walk around the library picking everything up and depositing them in a different place. AGH!!!

Even though the 3rd graders didn’t have to walk around the room, they didn’t sail through quickly. One class opened the box with only 18 seconds to spare! They simply had a hard time thinking and problem solving in a team. This is a sample clue letter for the 3rd grade teams.

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Will I try this again? Absolutely! I won’t do it every week obviously, but I think I will try to have a session at least once per quarter. The students were engaged in the lesson, learned some content, used critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as cooperative teamwork. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment. Please also share how you might use BreakoutEDU in your library classroom. Let’s learn from each other!

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Advertising Books Thru Media

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Since 2012, my 4th grade students have created book trailers for favorite novels.  In the past four years these student trailers have had thousands of views. Video is an amazing way to promote reading and advertise fabulous books to other students.

We’ve also had the ability to connect with students around the world. For the past two years, we’ve partnered with Angels Soriano in Valencia, Spain. This year her students made hand-drawn book trailers of local fairy tales in their native Catalan language. You can view them here.

Here are the latest book trailers we have published. The students made them on Photostory3, which is a Windows 7 program for the PC. I hope they inspire you to go to your local library this summer and check out these books for some fun summer reading!

Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

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City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

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Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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A Dog’s Way Home  by Bobbie Pyron

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If you would like to read more about the trailers we have completed in the past with Angels Soriano, this Sway showcases our program in the 2014-15 school year. You can also find our complete list of book trailers at the top of this website on the Book Trailers tab.

 

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A Year in Review

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It’s celebration time! Another year is over. The library is shut down and it’s time for some quiet. Before I forgot what I did this year, I made a Year in Review report using Sway. A friend of mine Sony Evans published his annual report using Sway. I also usually  make a report, and using Sway is a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration Stony!

I happened to finish my report almost a week after school ended, but a late report is better than no report at all.

Now I can concentrate on getting ready for the Microsoft US Forum and ISTE conference in Denver!

Happy summer reading!

Julie

 

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