My favorite week in December is Hour of Code week. Hour of Code is really supposed to be an hour of coding. However, in the library I extend it to an entire week, so all of my classes can experience coding.
Hour of Code is a week-long introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. Check out the tutorials and activities.
This grassroots campaign is supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide, including our school! We are one of those teeny dots on the world map. All of our K-5 classes participated this year. In primary we focused on the Moana tutorial.
According to the website, since 2014, The Walt Disney Company has worked with Code.org to build Hour of Code tutorials featuring Disney characters that inspire kids of all ages to try coding. “The new Disney Hour of Code tutorial uses a visual programming language using blocks where students simply drag and drop visual blocks to write code.
Visual programming is a fun and easily understood way to teach the logic of coding. Exposure to visual programming lays the foundation for text-based programming, a more complex activity. The tutorial is targeted for kids ages 8+ and those trying coding for the first time.
We have a significant number of students whose first language is not English. One of the significant strength of the Hour of Code tutorials is that they are available in 23 different languages. On Friday afternoon, we had students coding in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Russian. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they could read their own language was priceless.
All week long I repeatedly heard students cheering “I did it!” as they successfully figured out a command sequence. Remember, it’s not limited to school. Try coding at home too! Visit the Hour of Code website and try any of the tutorials at home.
The intermediate classes tried something completely different. I know the majority of these students have some coding experience, so I took their computer science exposure to a different level. With the Windows 10 app, Lifeliqe, we entered the world of virtual reality! Lifeliqe has over 1,000 3D interactive models of K-12 aligned with common core curriculum. Lifeliqe makes deep-learning fun!
In January, we will be combining the Lifeliqe models with database research to create an interactive, research project! I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Lifeliqe this year and experiment with how elementary aged students can benefit from learning with virtual reality 3D models.
During Hour of Code week it was fun to see students throughout the school participating. In music the students learned that a musical score, is much like computer coding.
The kindies learned that you don’t have to have a computer to learn coding basics. They did some unplugged learning with a parent volunteer!
Some FAQs about computer science:
Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path. See more stats here.
Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Code.org’s vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Code.org believes computer science should be part of core curriculum, alongside other courses such as biology, chemistry or algebra.
*All background facts are from the Hour of Code website.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.
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.
Iain and Ms. Grigg had fun trying to find the special places in the book that are customized!
When his presentation was over, each lucky student had their copy autographed by Iain.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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….
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.
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.
Have you ever played a BreakoutEDU game? Are you participating in the Global Read Aloud this year?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
I 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.
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
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Nest by Esther Ehrlich
A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron
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.
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!
Lately I’ve been feeling like this even though I am a librarian. I have a number of bilingual students who would really like to read stories in their native language occasionally. Who wouldn’t? The problem is when they ask ME for that book. There isn’t really a “bilingual section” in the library where I can send students to browse for that just right book. I’ve spent the last 8 months coming up with a whole lot of nothing to offer, except for a couple translated Dr. Seuss books.
Out of the blue, our ELL teacher asked me if it would be okay for her to purchase some bilingual books and donate them to the library. What? Was I hearing that right? She would spend her PTSA money and give us the books? I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Then last week I went searching for a favorite Cinderella book, only to find that the 398.2 section was a miserable mess. The next day, I took every fairy tale book off the shelves, did a fast and furious weeding of the most ugly and awful books, and re-shelved everything. It was four hours of singing the alphabet song through dust and stinky pages. Definitely not fun. At times I felt like I was buried in the stinky book muck.
What did I discover in the process? A whole bunch of bilingual fairy tale books! I was delighted by the news. Granted some kids don’t consider fairy tale books the top-tier of reading, but I had at least something more than Green Eggs and Ham to offer my bilingual students. Plus those new ones were arriving soon. Things were great, until they weren’t.
What would I do with them? Where would I put everybody and non-fiction bilingual fairy tales where they could be found together easily and logically by students? I decided to ask Mary Schroeder, my “Batwoman” a librarian friend who also ponders the answers to these types of questions. Her answer? Put them in the 400’s – the language section. That’s what she has been doing. Language dictionaries, children’s stories and fairy tales will be shelved together by language in the 400’s.
Easy. Problem solved. Whew! Is it June 16th yet?