Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Summer Reading Roundup

Before we get too far into the school year, I wanted to highlight some of the AMAZING reads that I found this summer.  Although summer always seems to go by too quickly, I was able to fit in time to read/listen to many great books this summer.  I will highlight these books in the order in which I read them (it is impossible to play favorites with this bunch).

A selection of books I read this summer. 
I couldn't get them all in the picture because so many are already checked out!

When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
I have heard so many great things about Jason Reynolds.  This is the first book of his that I have read.  This story discusses the fate of three young boys growing up in New York City.  The boys have previously done a decent job of staying out of trouble, but all of that changes after they attend a party one fateful night.  What I like best about this story is the characterization.  By the end of the story, you really feel like you know all of these characters personally!  It is great to see friendships evolve and people change as the book progresses.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
This is also the first book I have read by author Natalie Lloyd, although we have many of her books in our library.  A Snicker of Magic is a perfect read for those that enjoy fantasy and quirky characters.  At the heart of this book is the story of a family, but it is so much more.  Throughout the book, the Pickle family looks to make the mysterious Midnight Gulch their home.  Along the way, they encounter magic, humor, and so many unforgettable people.

The War that Saved by Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Historical fiction tends to be one of my favorite genres.  There is something wonderful about having a book transport you back in time!  This book is set in England during World War II.  In this story, a disabled girl and her younger brother live in the city with their abusive mother.  The city officials decide that the war has made it too dangerous to live in the city, so children are sent to live with new families in the countryside.  When the children leave their abusive setting, their lives begin to change for the better--but with a war going on, it won't be easy.

The Living by Matt de la Pena
I loved reading The Last Stop on Market Street, so I was happy to get another chance to read a book by Matt de la Pena.  This book was not what I expected, but it did not disappoint!  Shy, the book's main character, is an employee on board a cruise ship when a natural disaster strikes.  Just when you think things can't get any worse, the story takes an unexpected and chilling turn.  This book is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
I am a big fan of Jennifer L. Holm's novels, so I was interested to read one of her graphic novels.  This book describes a summer in the life of a girl named Sunny.  One summer, Sunny is shipped off to Florida to stay with her grandfather.  Although she is initially excited to stay in Florida, she quickly finds out that living in a retirement community isn't the adventure she was hoping for.  At the end of the story, the reason for her trip to Florida is finally revealed.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
The Global Read Aloud will be beginning in October and Pax is one of this year's selections.  The books picked by The Global Read Aloud committee are always top-notch and Pax is no exception.  This story talks about a boy and his pet fox, Pax.  Pax and his boy are separated.  They spend the rest of the story going through many difficult feats in order to be reunited.  This is a must-read for animal lovers!

Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin
Nightingale's Nest is truly one of the most unique books I have ever read.  Although the book is realistic fiction, it contains many elements also associated with fantasy or even fairy tales.  The main character, Little John, is trying to cope with the death of his younger sister.  A foster child with a beautiful voice moves to Little John's neighborhood.  He does the best he can to protect her, but will he succeed?

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
While on vacation in Saratoga Springs, NY, I was able to stop at one of my favorite bookstores and pick up a copy of The Seventh Wish.  Although it had already been ordered for the library, I couldn't wait until fall to read it!  Charlie, the book's protagonist, lives in New York State and enjoys ice fishing.  While ice fishing one day, Charlie catches a magical fish that is capable of granting wishes.  As the story progresses, Charlie learns that her sister is struggling with a problem.  She is hopeful that the fish can help with the problem.

George by Alex Gino
A young student named George is facing a large struggle.  Although the world sees him as a boy, George knows that he's really a girl.  To make matters even worse, George's teacher won't allow him to try out for the role of Charlotte in Charlotte's Web, the classroom play.  With the help of a spunky and trusted friend, George hatches a daring plan.  This is a kind and accessible story dealing with an important topic.

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles
I had the great pleasure of meeting author Jo Knowles at the Rochester Teen Book Festival a few years ago.  Her book See You at Harry's is a great read.  Read Between the Lines is an interesting story told from the multiple perspectives of people living in a small town.  At first, it seems as though the stories are not related.  By the end of the book, all of the story lines come together in an intriguing way.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Get the tissues out!  This book had me tearing up at multiple points throughout the story.  Orbiting Jupiter, another Global Read Aloud book pick, discusses Joseph, a foster child living with Jack and his family.  Joseph is labeled a "bad kid," which is an unfair assessment.  As Jack and Joseph begin to get to know each other, Jack learns that there are events from the past that Joseph is determined to resolve.  Jack finds himself on a mission to help Joseph at all costs.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
This book came highly recommended by other librarians.  I was glad to add it to my summer reading list.  The story follows the lives of Lily and Dunkin, two very different middle schoolers who are facing some difficult problems.  For reasons that are revealed during the course of the story, Lily and Dunkin are both carrying secrets.  Although rocky, their friendship is the strength that they need to overcome their obstacles and experience true acceptance.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
While I was reading the rest of the summer selections, I was listening to the audiobook version of How It Went Down in my car.  I usually love audiobooks, but I was particularly pleased with this recording.  This story follows the aftermath of the shooting of Tariq Johnson.  Each chapter of this book was told from the perspective of someone who was involved by the shooting.  The audiobook really lent itself well to hearing the distinct voices of the book's many characters.  This is a powerful story that is sure to get you thinking.

As classes have begun to visit the library for book selection, I am happy to have so many exciting titles to add to my arsenal of recommendations.  I am looking forward to getting these books in the hands of our Pioneer Middle School readers and am anxiously awaiting their feedback on these titles!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Trailers: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Mrs. Proudman's students certainly have a reason to be PROUD!  For the last several library classes, students participated in an extensive book trailer project.  During their time in the classroom, students listened to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.  This 2010 Newbery Honor Book is set in China.  Minli, the book's protagonist, embarks on a journey to see if she can achieve good fortune for her family.  The book melds together tradition, fantasy, history, and family values into a beautifully crafted and wonderfully illustrated story.

While in library class, students were introduced to the concept of a book trailer.  Much like a movie trailer, book trailers are designed to generate interest around the book in question.  Students were very excited to get the opportunity to promote Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  It was their favorite read aloud from this school year!

We then looked at other student-generated book trailers for inspiration.  Mrs. Rice's fifth grade students had already completed a book trailer project, so we viewed their trailers before beginning.

The students also learned that lots of planning goes into the creation of book trailers.  You certainly can't "wing it" - all groups needed to be prepared with a script and storyboard prior to recording.  Students spent many library visits working on their book trailer scripts.  As part of the script, students sketched ideas for the artwork they would want to include within their book trailers.

A graphic organizer that students used to prepare for the project.

On the last slide, students gave their recommendations of the book.

Mrs. Proudman's class is full of creative students.  In order to best flex their creative muscles, it was decided that all of the book trailers would contain original artwork created by the students.  To get an idea of different styles of art, Mrs. Proudman took her students on an art walk through the building.  Students learned about different artistic styles and used this information to decide which style to use for the book trailer.  The groups decided to use paint, watercolors/sketching, and clay sculptures.

Now the fun really began!  Students used the rough sketches from their scripts as the basis for book trailers' art pieces.  Since all of the book trailers contain five slides of information, each group was responsible for making five works of art.

The class made a supply list so they remembered what they needed to bring to the library.

Play Doh was perfect for modeling clay sculptures.

The artists in action!

Many different artistic styles were used.

It was very interesting to see the wide variety of art pieces made by the students.  The finished pieces were all unique and extremely well done.  Here are some examples of artwork:

Minli and the Man in the Moon (watercolor).

Minli's village (clay).

Dragons and Minli (tempera paint).

We then uploaded all of the artwork into Voicethread.  The Voicethread software is provided through CA BOCES.  It allows students to upload images then record their own voice over the images.  Students were able to record over and over again until they were happy with the way their recordings sounded.

A group finds a quiet corner in which to record.

A Braille script was helpful for recording the audio for the book trailers.

The completed book trailers were nothing short of amazing!  It was wonderful to see the artwork and hear each student. View all three completed book trailers by clicking here.

On Wednesday, June 22nd, we will be holding a reception in the library to honor the great work done by Mrs. Proudman's students.  We're looking forward to many more library projects next year!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Maker Club End of Year Highlights

It is always bittersweet to reach the end of the school year.  It was especially hard to host the last session of Maker Club on June 9th, 2016.  The students have been working diligently on a variety of interesting projects.  Here are some highlights from the last few months of Maker Club:

1. We received a visit from Michael, a college engineering student from Rochester.  Michael talked to Maker Club students about his interests in science and robotics.  This visit was very inspiring, as many Maker Club students were eager to begin their own robotics projects after meeting Michael!

2. Students experimented with the LittleBits circuit kits.  It was fun learning how to build with the circuits.  A fifth grade student used LittleBits to power a Minecraft-inspired creation!

LittleBits powered a Minecraft creation.

The sword moves back and forth!

3. We were able to spend time working with the Hummingbird robotics kit.  It took some teamwork to get the circuit board assembled.  It was interesting to learn what all of the attachments could do.  The next step was learning the coding software.  Students used parts of our Lego kits in order to create a conveyor belt-type device.  The belt moved through the power of computer coding!

Students worked together to assemble the Hummingbird.

Learning how to code.

The finished product!

4. Students worked on a variety of creative craft projects during the spring Maker Club meetings.  The pictures below depict just a few examples of some of the excellent projects.

Lego builds are a staple of Maker Club!

"Teddy Bear Lane" - made with recycled materials.

A bird made out of modeling clay.

5. We had a visit from Alex Fernandez, an employee of Yahoo!  Mr. Fernandez shared some interesting projects with the group.  He brought a 3D printer, gave students projects on Tinkercad, and introduced students to an augmented reality book and virtual reality goggles.  Some students said that this was the most fun they have had in school EVER!

Mr. Fernandez had an excited audience of Maker Club students.

Accessing augmented reality content via books and iPads.

A group trying the Tinkercad challenge.

Another group tries their hand at Tinkercad.

Trying out the virtual reality goggles.

6. Mr. LoBianco has been working hard to get MinecraftEDU up and running here at Pioneer Middle.  For the last two sessions of Maker Club, Mr. LoBianco has offered MinecraftEDU as an activity choice.  Within the MinecraftEDU world, Mr. LoBianco gave students challenges which involved skill, strategy, and teamwork.  It was a big hit with the group!

Mr. LoBianco introduces students to MinecraftEDU.

Students needed to work together to succeed on the challenges.

Maker Club students enjoyed MinecraftEDU.

7. Many students who participated in Lego League now attend Maker Club.  These students have used some of their Maker Club time to continue building and coding with the EV3 Mindstorms resources.  They have completed some epic builds!

Working on "Iron Waffles," the robot.

A great build using the Mindstorms kit!

8. During the last day of Maker Club, my own mother, Laurie Muhlbauer, came to visit!  My mother is an accomplished crafter.  When it comes to weaving and spinning, there is nothing she can't handle.  She visited our club to show students how to complete their very own weaving projects.  The supplies for these projects were secured by Mrs. Okiec through the Needle Arts Mentoring Program.  The National NeedleArts Association donated yarn, weaving kits, and an instructional book for our students to use.  The supplies were useful and much appreciated.

Assisting students with weaving projects.

Works in progress!

Some of the finished weaving projects.

Mr. LoBianco, Ms. McKenzie, and I had a wonderful time advising Maker Club this year.  It was exciting to see new friendships, skills, and interests blossom over the course of the school year.  We look forward to resuming Maker Club in the fall!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sixth Grade Rome Inquiry

The sixth grade social studies students in Ms. Schaper, Mrs. Lindsley, and Mr. Guzzetta's classes spent time studying many ancient cultures this year.  With the end of the school year approaching, the students had the opportunity to use what they had learned in social studies all year long in order to teach their peers about ancient Rome.  This learning experience was facilitated through the use of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) as outlined by the Right Question Institute.  Earlier this year, the sixth grade students in Mrs. B. Smith's science class used QFT as the basis for their project about planets.

For an entire week, all three teachers brought their classes to the library to work on their projects.  This made for some busy periods, but the students did a great job focusing on what needed to be done!

The classes were divided into small groups.  Each group was given a topic about ancient Rome, such as architecture, daily life, religion, or the empire.  Using their topics as a focus, students individually brainstormed potential questions about their topic.

Students brainstormed potential questions for research.

Each group was given a specific area of focus.

Next, the students worked together in groups in order to eliminate questions that could not be answered through research (such as opinion questions) and questions that were duplicates.  This step helped to narrow down the questions that students would later choose to guide their research.

During this step, the elements of a good research question were discussed in detail.  Not only did the question need to pertain to the topic, it also needed to be multi-layered in order to make for interesting research.

Group members shared the questions they generated.

Student groups discussed their potential research questions.

Groups were directed to select 6-8 questions to guide their research.  Some of the questions initially generated through their research were combined, which yielded "meatier" questions for research. 

Students used different strategies to organize their questions.

Similar questions were grouped together, yielding multi-layered research questions.

Once the questions were selected, students then decided which group member would be responsible for finding the answer to each question.  Questions were transferred to a graphic organizer, which made it easy for students to keep track of their research and sources used.

Questions were transferred to a list and to graphic organizers designed for research.

Prior to researching, students received a refresher on research techniques and library resources.  Students used books, online databases, and websites to answer their questions about Rome.  Helpful websites were organized in a Symbaloo matrix for ease of use.

Symbaloo website matrix for research.

The books were a great choice for research.

The Britannica database provided a wealth of information!

With the research component completed, students then had the opportunity to present their findings in a lesson to their classmates. Students prepared a PowerPoint (complete with a slide for citations!) and created an assessment for their peers.  Each student was graded through use of a presentation rubric.

The Rome project rubric.

Student groups presented while their peers took notes.

There were successes as well as areas for improvement concerning this project.  Students did an excellent job creating and improving their research questions.  They also did great work putting together their PowerPoint presentations, assessments, and citations.  We learned that presenting in front of a class can be very difficult and requires practice!  Also, students may want to challenge themselves to dig deeper into the research sources to glean additional details and interesting facts about their topic.  Overall, this was a positive lesson in Roman history as well as teamwork.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Body Systems Research

It is always a treat to see Ms. Gates' science students in the library.  You may remember this wonderful group from the work they did on the Glory Be book trailers with Mrs. Rice.  For the last week, these students have been hard at work on a group project about body systems. 

Each group provided with a body system to research.  All members of the group were given specific pieces of information to find about their body system.  The information needed included definition/function of the body system, function of specific organs within the system, and diseases/disorders associated with the body system.

Prior to research, we discussed some helpful strategies.  We talked about how text features and the structure of nonfiction books help to make research possible.  The table of contents, glossary, index, bold words, pictures, captions, and subheadings are all useful tools in finding facts.  The class then had a great conversation about how to avoid plagiarism and stay organized through the use of MLA-formatted note sheets.

Students used both books and websites to complete their research.  Some of the books published by the AV2 company even contained links to helpful websites for this project.  Students accessed approved websites through a Symbaloo organizer located on the library webpage.  For each source used, students filled out a note sheet.

The books were a great source for research.

Many of the books provided an in-depth look into the body systems.

Students accessed websites by using a Symbaloo organizer posted on the library webpage.

Some websites provided detailed models of body systems and organs.

Even though students were only given a few days in the library to complete their research, they were able to accomplish great things!  Students understood that research is a process and is not meant to be easy.  They took their time and looked through many sources for information.  At the end of their time in the library, they completed a project planning sheet to bring back to the rest of their group members.

An example of a completed project planning sheet.

Once all group members completed their research, students met to discuss what they had learned and then focused on how they would present their learning to their classmates.  They had the option to present their information in a visual format (either through a poster or PowerPoint) or a written format (organized as a tour of the body system).

Groups met in order to decide how to present their findings.

There is a high level of creativity in Ms. Gates' classes, so I am certain that the final products will be thrilling!  All of the students deserve a round of applause for a job well done.