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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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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Singing with John Farrell

The singer/songwriter John Farrell entertained our kindergarten students this week with a fun program promoting peace, friendship, books, fun animals and caring.

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Everyone participated with hand movements and singing about ants, libraries, feelings and other fun topics. Here is a short video of his visit.

I am so grateful that John was able to visit our school and I could finally meet him face to face.John Farrell is also the founder of “Bridges of Peace and Hope,” an international, non-profit organization of teachers and students dedicated to promoting education and understanding through collaborative, creative arts exchanges and service learning projects. I joined the Bridges of Peace and Hope non-profit group in 2015, but hadn’t met John yet. When I went to Budapest, some other members and I visited a school also very involved with the program.

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Now I’m looking forward joining the “We Care Because We Care” book project. I think it would be an awesome addition to our Books to Africa project.

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John Farrell has fabulous school programs. If you would like to learn more, visit his website http://johnfarrell.net/ or the Bridges of Peace and Hope website. http://www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.info/

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Global Poetry Unites Project

Happy April! I am launching a brand new project today called the Global Poetry Unites Project. I hope you will join me in celebrating the wonder of poetry during the month of April and beyond.

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I’ve had the great fortune to attend three major conferences this year. In the fall, I went to our state librarian conference in Yakima, Washington. In February I attended the NCCE conference in Seattle. Then in March I had the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft E2 conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Some common themes emerged from all three conferences. From fellow teachers and librarians I learned that teachers need to:

  • Collaborate with other teachers beyond our classroom and building walls
  • Give our students a global voice to show them that their work matters
  • Provide opportunities for students to create while learning
  • Remind students that failure is really an opportunity to learn, not something to be feared

I was particularly struck by this slide at the E2 conference. It made me stop to think about how I could expand what I am doing in my library classroom to the next level.

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I believe the E2 conference gave me the final push to innovate in a different way. Inspired by global projects I’ve seen other teachers and librarians start, I decided it’s time to try something new with one of my favorite units – poetry.  I decided I would like to try a crowdsourced project. A project like this would help students meet both Common Core and American Association of School Librarian Standards (AASL), build connections and leverage technology to enhance my poetry unit.

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While I think I am a bit of a risk-taker, this new project is a gigantic step down a brand new tech road. I have never started a global, crowdsourced project. I was at the tulip fields this weekend and was intrigued by how stunning they are in these giant fields. As in the photo above, I don’t know if the project will be numerous teachers coming together to create something wonderful, or the empty trough dry and barren. I was so nervous at one point, that I had to reach out to some fellow teachers to get feedback on whether this idea had any merit at all. Thankfully they all encouraged me to take the leap.

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This Jamie Foxx quote is so appropriate. My greatest fear is that the project will be a complete flop and nobody will participate. And…the fear is all in my head. If this project flops, then so what? Nobody will be hurt. Also, if I am going to ask my students to take risks in their learning, then I need to make sure I take some big ones myself and remember what it feels like.  If the project succeeds, then a community of teachers and students will have a new way to share their love of writing and poetry.

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The Global Poetry Unites Project is a group project where teachers can publish their student poems. In the US, April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. I would love to see the celebration of poetry be a worldwide movement, hence the reason for launching this project in April. I understand that sometimes students and teachers are intimidated by writing poetry, so I have included some sample lessons for you to try in your own classroom. We are not analyzing anything. We are creating and sharing new ways to communicate through verse and technology.

Please join in the project. Spread the word. My goal is to have teachers from every continent participate! Access the Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote Notebook here. Teach some poetry lessons in April and share your student work in our OneNote Online Notebook. Give your students a voice and let us all celebrate! The Global Poetry Unites Project link will take you to our crowd sourced notebook.

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I have designed the project to be primarily for teachers within the Microsoft Educator Community because I am very involved with the group. However, if you are reading this post and wish to participate, feel free to do so. The project is built with OneNote Online and is cloud based. Anyone with internet can access the notebook with any device. All I ask is that you take care and respect one another’s work. The instructions are in the beginning of the notebook. If you have any questions, please ask them on the Feedback page. I’ve also created a #gpup16 hashtag to follow on social media.

Maybe when you see the work of students and teachers around the world, you will be inspired to join the Microsoft Educator Community. Click on this link to see how you can connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to participate and give your students a voice? As Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!” I hope you will give your students the opportunity to share their genius with us in our poetry project.

 

 

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Fun Animal Research

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To correlate with my library curriculum, Common Core Standards,  and our Books to Africa project, my second graders have been researching facts about land mammals in South Africa. We used our library iPads, the database PebbleGo (I LOVE PebbleGo!!!) and the app ChatterPix (aka ChatterKid).

I am thrilled with the results because the kids were highly engaged through each stage of the process, including the end where they got to record their mini-report on ChatterPix. I documented the process in this Sway.

If you are interested in making a Sway, check out this link. I love Sways because they are incredibly easy to make and embed in blogs without hassles.

This is my first experience with using iPads in the classroom and as with any project it came with its own set of problems because of my learning curve. I really wish there was a way to transfer files with a USB. After working out how to get files from five different iPads to my iPad (thank you Dropbox), I found one BIG area for improvement next year. I have five second grade classes and the video management quickly became very complicated. Next year I will definitely limit each class to an indepth study of one animal. Lesson learned!

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Hack the Classroom

On Saturday, January 30th, Mrs. Moynihan and I were very fortunate to be able to be part of the Hack the Classroom live studio audience on the Microsoft Redmond campus.

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During the event we had the opportunity to listen to Hadi Partovi (founder of Code.org), speak about his experiences with computers growing up and the importance of teaching students how to code as early as kindergarten. The same morning President Obama gave his support for coding in his morning address.

“In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly television and radio address. “I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science.”

When we think of programming, we often think of teenagers huddled over complicated script, but coding works with the younger children too as demonstrated by Canadian teacher Leah Obach. Leah teaches first grade and her students have been coding most of the year. Her class was chosen to be featured in the Hack the Classroom event. Here is her classroom in action.

Seeing how easily her students approach computer programming has inspired me to try more in my library classroom.

Another one of the speakers was Dale Dougherty, founder of Make Magazine and Maker Faires. He brought attention to the fact that our students need time to be creative in the classroom. They need time to make things because it helps them develop their critical thinking skills, perseverance and expand their creativity.

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Richard Snyder, a middle school librarian in the Lake Washington School District asked Dale what the role school libraries have with the maker space concept. The librarians in the audience were thrilled when he said, “My secret weapon in class is the school librarian.” Makerspace time is so important to bring into the libraries because we work with all the students.

Jeff Kash spoke about how he uses OneNote and OneNote ClassNotebook in his classes. Students using OneNote no longer lose all their papers or have trouble organizing themselves. OneNote stores everything digitally, so students and teachers can access anytime from any device.

Rafranz Davis explained how she uses Minecraft edu in her classes. I’m probably the last person on earth who hasn’t played Minecraft yet, but I am intrigued by the higher level thinking skills that are engaged when playing this game.

If you would like to watch the recording of the Hack the Classroom event, this link will take you to the website, where it will be available for about 90 days.

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