Friday, December 2, 2016

Global Read Aloud 2016

This fall was an exciting time in our library!  We had many classes participate in The Global Read Aloud.  This is a movement designed to have students around the globe read the same book at the same time.  There were a handful of designated Global Read Aloud books designed for different ages, interests, and reading level (the titles change each year).  By reading the same story, students have the opportunity to connect with other students around the world.  The reading groups at Pioneer Middle School used a variety of methods to share their experiences with students in other areas.

Here are some highlights from the participating classes:

Mrs. Proudman's Class - Lauren Castillo Book Study
Mrs. Proudman's students are frequent library customers!  We spent six weeks on the Global Read Aloud by reading the books of Lauren Castillo.  Ms. Castillo is both an author and an illustrator.  The class looked at six different Lauren Castillo books, including Twenty Yawns, Nana in the City, and City Cat.

Mrs. Proudman's class (and me!) posing with our homemade hats inspired by the book The Troublemaker.

The students used Padlet, an online sharing tool, to connect with Mrs. Jerabek's students in Carol Stream, Illinois.  Using Padlet, students posted "About Me" documents which gave us some insight into the students that were reading along with us.  It was especially interesting to learn about the different foods that Mrs. Jerabek's students enjoy!

A peek at the Padlet page we used to communicate with Mrs. Jerabek's class.

In addition to using Padlet, students also took the time to share information about our area and their own thoughts about the books by sending each other friendly letters.

Students were eager to write letters for their pen pals.

Mrs. Leavoy's Sixth Grade ELA Class - Book Study of The BFG by Roald Dahl
Mrs. Leavoy's sixth grade ELA students were so excited to read The BFG!  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  Much like Mrs. Proudman's group, these students used Padlet and wrote letters to communicate with other classes.  They were able to connect with Ms. Yandell's class in Wichita Falls, Texas and students at the Algonquin Public School in Woodstock, Ontario.

Mrs. Leavoy's class read The BFG for The Global Read Aloud.

At the beginning of The Global Read Aloud, students posed for pictures around the Pioneer campus.  These pictures, as well as personal book recommendations from each student, were compiled as a welcome video.  The video was shared with other classrooms reading The BFG.

Students also communicated with Ms. Yandell's class via a Skype visit.  This was a fun and interactive way to speak with other students about the book!

Mrs. Leavoy's students Skype with a classroom from Texas.

Mrs. Asquith's Fifth Grade Enrichment Group - Book Study of The BFG by Roald Dahl
 I was approached by our school's administrators about offering an enrichment option for select fifth grade students.  I could think of no better project than The Global Read Aloud!  This class enjoyed the audiobook version of The BFG and communicated with Mrs. Jenkins' students in St. Augustine, FL.  At the beginning of the book study, the students used items in our library makerspace to make gifts for Mrs. Jenkins' students.

Mrs. Asquith's enrichment students with their homemade gifts for our partner class.

Students shared information about our school and community.

Mrs. Asquith's group used Padlet and Skype to communicate with the St. Augustine classroom.  One item the students shared via Padlet was their own illustrated "dream jars" inspired by the plot of The BFG.

Working on "dream jar" illustrations.
An example of a completed dream jar.

The students also had the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout session with a class in a mystery location!  After asking yes or no questions and getting some help from an atlas, our students discovered that they were speaking with a class from Ontario, Canada.  They shared some information about what life is like in Canada.

Participating in a "Mystery Google Hangout" session.
Students used an atlas to hone in on the other school's location.
Since Mrs. Asquith's group only meets for enrichment on two days out of a six day rotation, we are a bit behind!  We plan to finish reading the book in the coming days.

Mrs. Kamats and Mrs. Kline's Fifth Grade Enrichment Group - Book Study of The BFG by Roald Dahl
Mrs. Kamats and Mrs. Kline were also kind enough to send some stellar students to the library to participate in The Global Read Aloud.  This group worked on many of the same projects as Mrs. Asquith's class, with a few notable differences.  They prepared homemade gifts for Ms. Wismer's class in Omaha, Nebraska.

Students made "reading hats" for the Nebraska students!
The enrichment group used supplies from our makerspace to make gifts.
Students typed letters to our partner school in Nebraska.
A letter for the students in Nebraska.
Another completed letter for the Nebraska reading group.

The students also worked on contributing to numerous Padlets pertaining to The BFG.  They were excited to share what they were learning with other classrooms!  Like Mrs. Asquith's students, this group also created some amazing dream jars.

A dream jar that was posted to the class Padlet.

A pizza-inspired dream jar!
Students were dedicated to keeping the Padlet pages updated.

This group finished reading the book a bit earlier than Mrs. Asquith's group.  We still have some fun activities in store!  On December 6th, the students will participate in a Mystery Skype session with another class.  Meanwhile, the students are working on preparing "book trailers" about The BFG by using Voicethread.  These book trailers will include original artwork and voice recordings from the students.  The completed book trailers will be posted to the library website.

Mrs. Batt's  Seventh Grade Reading Class - Book Study of Pax by Sara Pennypacker
The seventh grade students in Mrs. Batt's reading class met bright and early during first period to listen to the audiobook version of Pax by Sara Pennypacker.  This is a wonderful book about a young boy named Peter who gets separated from Pax, his pet fox.  The story includes many powerful messages about family, growing up, and the effects of war.  Although there were some complex themes within the book, this led to some great discussions.  The students found ways to make powerful personal connections to the text.

First, the students sent an introductory video to other partnering classrooms.  This video introduced other classes to our school, what it is like to live in a rural area, and the reading preferences of the students in Mrs. Batt's class.

Mrs. Batt's class posing by a tractor made of hay bales.

Students sent letters to Ms. Taormina's students in Port Jefferson Station, NY and to Ms. Lidsky's students in Toronto, Ontario.  Both schools replied to our letters, which was very exciting!  It is always nice to hear from other people, but it was especially powerful to share our ideas about Pax.

Mrs. Batt designed wonderful activities surrounding this book.  Because the book included animals, students were invited to share their own stories about the animals in their lives.  Another portion of the story dealt with a sacred object found on a person during battle.  Mrs. Batt used this as an opportunity to discuss the concept of characterization within a text.  Students brought their own sacred objects into the library.  The classmates then visited the objects and practiced characterizing their peers by using words to describe the objects presented.  This activity helped students to understand the concept of characterization, while learning more about their peers.

The Pax reading group was also serious about keeping their Padlet updated!  This served as a space for the Pioneer students to communicate with the students from Port Jefferson Station.

A look at the Pax Padlet page.

Mrs. Batt's  Eighth Grade Reading Class - Book Study of Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Orbiting Jupiter was probably the most heart-wrenching of all of The Global Read Aloud books.  This book dealt with difficult subjects in a thoughtful and gentle way.  The story follows Joseph, a teenager who moves in with a foster family.  Joseph has had a difficult life, which included an abusive father and time in a juvenile detention facility.  Readers also learn that Joseph is a father to a baby named Jupiter, whom he has never met.  This story discusses trust, friendship, and what it means to be a family.  The book is beautifully written and allowed for some thought-provoking conversations.

Mrs. Batt's Orbiting Jupiter reading group.

The students created an introductory video to share with our partner schools.  We received an awesome video from Ms. Dupont's class at Richfield Middle School in Richfield, Minnesota!  It was wonderful to get a glimpse of the other students that would be reading Orbiting Jupiter.  Ms. Dupont's students frequently updated the Padlet page that we shared.

A look at the Orbiting Jupiter Padlet page.

Mrs. Batt came up with a great activity designed to get students to put themselves in the shoes of the book's characters.  Students divided into teams of two, with each group containing an interviewer and a character from the book.  Together, the students devised three sets of questions and answers relating to the character's involvement in the story.  It was great to see the students really think about the motivations of each character.  It was especially funny when a student took on the role of Rosie the cow!

This class also had the good fortune to Skype with another class reading Orbiting Jupiter!  This class was located in Arlington Heights, which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.  Students asked questions about the area in which we live, as well as questions about Orbiting Jupiter.

Mrs. Batt's students are ready to Skype with a class from Illinois.
The Orbiting Jupiter group also wrote and mailed out two sets of postcards to students in Richfield, Minnesota.  It was exciting to read their replies!

Reflections on The Global Read Aloud
Participating in The Global Read Aloud is one of my most highly-anticipated events each year.  There are so many benefits to taking part in this FREE event, but I will just focus on a few:

1. Students are exposed to amazing pieces of literature, which facilitates rich discussions.

2. Technology is used to communicate and produce, rather than consume.  Students are provided with concrete examples of how to use technology in productive and meaningful ways.

3. Global Read Aloud projects can be student-driven and allow for creativity.  With the enrichment groups especially, students designed and implemented the projects they chose to share with their partner schools.  Students need to feel empowered to make choices.

4. The Global Read Aloud allows for a variety of modes of communication to be explored.  These modes include classroom discussion, writing friendly letters, exchanging ideas via Padlet, and participating in Skype/Google Hangout sessions.

5. The connections made during the course of the project help students to build empathy and attain a global mindset.  Although students learn about the differences in geographical places, they find out that the students in other areas are a lot like themselves!

Next Steps
This is the second year that Pioneer Middle School has participated in The Global Read Aloud.  During our first year, Mrs. Proudman's class was the only group involved.  This year, six different groups participated in the project!  I hope to add even more classes to this project next year.  I'll be looking for ways to incorporate Twitter slow chats and other student-driven technologies.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Healthy Ingredient Research

For the past two weeks, Mrs. Proudman's class has been performing research on healthy ingredients.  Beginning at the end of our last school year, the class worked hard to plant and care for a garden on the grounds of Pioneer Middle School.  Since then, the items harvested from the garden have been used to create tasty and healthy recipes.

Items grown in the garden included kale, sunflowers, and pumpkins.  Students learned about the healthy benefits of these items by conducting research using websites, databases, and books.

On November 30, 2016, we took time to specifically discuss pumpkins.  These items grew beautifully in the garden, so it was interesting to learn more about the life cycle of a pumpkin.  Using the book From Seed to Pumpkin by Jan Kottke, students were able to hone in on specific pumpkin facts that they found to be interesting.

From Seed to Pumpkin by Jan Kottke

Reading this book gave us a nice opportunity to talk about nonfiction books (there are many nonfiction fans in Mrs. Proudman's class!) and about the text features found within the book.  One feature that we did not need to utilize was the glossary.  Because of students' extensive prior knowledge about pumpkins, they already knew each word that appeared in the glossary!

After reading together, students each received their own copy of the book and started to work on gathering pumpkin facts.

Using the book to find pumpkin facts.

Each student completed a fact sheet about pumpkins.  These sheets will be used in the recipe book that Mrs. Proudman's students are compiling.  In addition to containing delicious recipes, the class book will also include information about the healthy ingredients grown in the garden.

The completed pumpkin sheets are pictured below:

Students were excited about researching because they knew their work will be included in a recipe book that many people will read and enjoy.  It is nice to end a class when everyone is all smiles!

Excited about the recipe project!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Be Light Like a Bird

I received an amazing surprise in the mail.  Monika Schröder, a children's author, sent me a copy of her new book!  The title of the book is Be Light Like a Bird and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder

Be Light Like a Bird follows the story of a young girl named Wren.  Not only is she dealing with the loss of her father in a tragic plane crash, she is also dealing with changes in her mother's behavior.  Her mother refuses to talk about the death of Wren's father, and even moves the family out of the home Wren has always known.

After temporarily settling into the town of Pyramid, Wren meets some "cool" girls that she hopes to win favor with.  This creates unexpected problems for Wren.  Meanwhile, Wren and another classmate discover a plan to turn a beloved bird-watching area into space for a landfill.  Will Wren be able to connect with her mother, navigate the troubles in school, and prevent her special area from becoming a landfill?

There are many elements of this book that I found to be truly enjoyable.  First, I liked how complex problems were not wrapped up with neat answers.  Life isn't like that, so it was great to see a realistic portrayal of the problems a family faces after a sudden death. 

The book also contains a vibrant and helpful librarian.  I may be a bit biased, but what's not to like about that? :)

Most importantly, there is an empowering message within Be Light Like a Bird.  Sometimes I believe that education includes a bit of ageism.  Teachers will ask students what they want to be when they grow up, rather than asking students what they can do right now in order to better their world.  Wren takes many steps within the book to make positive changes within her community.  All children should hear this message--everyone has the power to change things for the better!

I have not previously read any books by Ms. Schröder, but I was pleased to learn from her website that she has written more books.  These titles will definitely be on my radar.

Thank you, Monika Schröder!  This was a wonderful book and I can't wait to recommend it to our students at Pioneer Middle School.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Careers and Coding

This fall, Mrs. LoBianco's fifth grade FACS classes worked through a very different type of career unit.  Mrs. LoBianco was looking for ways to introduce students to career options, computer coding, and the 21st-Century Skills needed for today's careers.  The result was a project which included career research and presentations created through use of code.

Students used approved resources in order to compile information about three careers that were of personal interest.  This research included education needed to enter the career, compensation, and facts about what happens while on the job.

An example of a completed career research graphic organizer.

Once students completed their research, they would then be using computer coding and application of 21st-Century Skills in order to present their findings.  Mrs. LoBianco's students were previously introduced to these concepts during a STEM career exploration day in the library involving use of the Kodable app.  This project would take these concepts a step further and require that students use computer coding in order to present their newly-gained career knowledge.

Scratch Jr., an iPad app, was to be used for students to present their career research.  Scratch Jr. allows students to create their own interactive stories through the use of block coding.  Mr. Maeder, Pioneer's technology integrator, visited the library in order to give students a tutorial on how to use Scratch Jr.  Students quickly picked up on how to use the coding blocks to create commands.

Scratch Jr. introduced students to block coding.

Students were then challenged to present their career research in the form of a story using Scratch Jr.  As required by the project rubric, students needed to include information about all three careers, utilize a variety of coding concepts, and exhibit 21st-Century Skills during the project.  These skills included problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.  With their research in hand, students worked hard to put their information into the form of a Scratch Jr. story.

Students used their research and coding concepts to create their finished products.

The block coding features allow students to be creative when displaying their research.

A difficulty that students were encountering was that Scratch Jr. was a little too fun!  This may not sound like a problem, but students needed to be reminded that the purpose of the project was to present research, and not necessarily to have perfect backgrounds or color combinations.  As we worked through the project, the focus became more clear and students were eager to complete their projects.

When the last day of the project came, students were instructed to fill out a project reflection sheet prior to sharing their projects out with a small group.  The reflection sheet required students to think about their own strengths that they utilized in order to be successful with this activity.  Students commented on what went well, what could be improved, and even included information on the 21st-Century Skills they used during the phases of this project.  Here are some of the reflections from the conclusion of the unit:

Sharing the career project after lots of hard work!

The students made many unique coding decisions when it came to presenting their career research.  The examples below show the wide range of projects received at the end of this unit.  The creativity displayed was amazing, but please excuse my poor recording quality!




After the project was over, Mrs. LoBianco and I reflected upon this project.  The computer coding skills displayed were definitely wonderful!  Students enjoyed using Scratch Jr. for their projects and came up with really creative ways to display their information.  In the future, we will be focusing more closely on spelling and the accuracy of the research information recorded.  If these areas are addressed, the projects will be even better next time!  Thank you to Mr. Maeder for all of his help with this project. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

City Cat

We can't believe that this was our last week of The Global Read Aloud!  Mrs. Proudman's group has enjoyed reading the books of Lauren Castillo, and today was no exception.  To conclude this project, we read City Cat, a book written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Lauren Castillo.

City Cat by Kate Banks

Throughout the story, City Cat embarks on an adventure across various countries and cities throughout Europe.  The beginning of the book included a detailed map of his journey.  It was amazing to see all of the places City Cat visited along the way!  This book invited many questions about Europe, and we may be using this story as a springboard for future research.

We enjoyed seeing where City Cat was hidden within the book's illustrations.

Once we were finished with the story, we then discussed the different places we would like to travel to with City Cat.  Mrs. Proudman's students picked some great spots!

Places Mrs. Proudman's students would like to visit with City Cat.

After book check out, we then took some time to illustrate the places we would like to travel to with City Cat.  Some students took inspiration from the book, while other students had some different ideas for travel destinations.

Using the book for inspiration.

Illustrating our travel destinations.

Evan would go to Texas with City Cat.

David would go to Texas with City Cat.

Vincent would go to Tornado Alley with City Cat.

Logan would go to Hollywood with City Cat.

Hannah would go to Venice with City Cat.

Although the Global Read Aloud is officially over for our class, we will definitely be seeking out other Lauren Castillo books.  It was a great experience to read these books alongside Mrs. Jerabek's class in Illinois.  We hope to find more ways to connect with others as we read.