Thursday, May 25, 2017

March 2017 Highlights

Keeping with the "better late than never trend" I started earlier this month, it's now time to highlight some of the interesting, collaborative projects that took place in the Pioneer Middle School Library during March 2017.  Even though we lost some time due to snow days, this month was packed with fun visits from a variety of grade levels.

Eighth Grade ELA Holocaust Project
One of the month's larger projects involved a multi-day inquiry project about the Holocaust.  During eighth grade ELA with Mr. Colaiacovo and Mrs. Wood, students read both the play version of Diary of Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel.  To provide students with some working knowledge of this time in history, the unit begins with a research project.  Student groups completed a KWL chart in order to narrow down their research focus into a manageable topic about the Holocaust.  Next, students individually brainstormed questions they would like to have answered about their topic.  The student groups collectively chose the questions they would use to guide their research.  Using library resources such as books and databases, student groups then found the answers to their personal research questions.  Students were sure to use MLA note sheets in order to properly cite their sources.

The groups then compiled their findings into a poster presentation.  They stayed in the library and presented their projects to their eighth grade peers.  The facts found through this research experience were eye-opening to say the least.

A group presents about the Battle of the Bulge.

Students present their research about Auschwitz.

This group studied methods of execution used during the Holocaust.
Because students were allowed to choose their own topics and create their own research questions, they displayed greater interest and engagement throughout the project.  The knowledge gained through research helped students tackle the literature presented throughout the rest of the ELA unit.  It's always wonderful to have 8th grade ELA visit the library!

Seventh Grade Spanish Coding Project
Personally, this project with Ms. McKenzie's students is one of my favorites of the year.  This project takes place during the students' unit on community and neighborhood vocabulary.  In order to learn the vocabulary more fully, students program the Bee Bots to move around a mat labeled with pictures of their community vocabulary words.  Once students have a firm grasp of this vocabulary, the difficulty level of the classwork is increased.  The pictures on the mat are replaced with Spanish words.  Students then code the Bee Bot to create questions and answers in Spanish.  These questions and answers provide students with directions to locations one would find within a community.

An example of the Bee Bot and mat (equipped with Spanish vocabulary).

Throughout the project, students are challenged to consider the following:
1. What is coding?
2. What is the relationship between languages and coding?
3. How can coding and world languages be helpful in your future?

Students were assessed on their knowledge of Spanish vocabulary during a Kahoot! quiz at the end of the project.  They were also able to reflect upon the teamwork and Habits of Mind utilized in order to meet the project's challenges with success.  As an added bonus, we are able to put in a plug for our after school Maker Club which meets in the library on Wednesday afternoons.  Students who enjoyed working with the Bee Bots would also enjoy the after school time devoted to exploring additional coding projects.

Eighth Grade Spanish "Walking Tour"
Mrs. Pidsadnick brought her eighth grade Spanish students to the library in order to take a "walking tour" of points of interest in Spanish-speaking areas of the world.  To facilitate the tour, videos of the destinations were loaded into iPads using the Aurasma app.  Students traveled around the library to find pictures of the destinations.  By holding the iPad up to the pictures, the video of the destination was played.  This led students to a greater understanding of the innovations found within other areas of the world.

Mrs. Leavoy's Weekly Library Visits
The students in Mrs. Leavoy's class continued to visit the library each Wednesday.  During the month of March, we read a variety of books and worked on activities related to each book.  One of our lessons involved reading Animalia, a story by Graeme Base.  This is one of my favorite stories from childhood (my grandparents read it to me), so it is always special and meaningful to share it with students.

Animalia by Graeme Base
Each page within Animalia is devoted to a letter of the alphabet.  The pages contain illustrations and alliterative language corresponding to the letter of the page.  The illustrations are very detailed--each page gives you so much to take in!

Mrs. Leavoy's students then chose a letter of the alphabet and illustrated it in the style of Animalia.  The finished products were lovely.

S is for Slappy!

Brainstorming words that begin with the letter L.

An assortment of words beginning with C.

More projects to come from April 2017! Stay tuned...

Friday, May 19, 2017

February 2017 Highlights

The 2016-2017 school year is flying by with amazing speed!  Even though I'm a few months behind with blog updates, it is still worth mentioning the special library visits and projects we had during the month of February 2017.

Diversity Month
As mentioned in a previous post, Pioneer Middle School Library was the recipient of a grant from James Patterson.  This funded a bookmark contest and the purchase of a Kwame Alexander book for each student in the school.  In addition to this, the library also hosted lessons centering upon diversity.

One such lesson was delivered to the eighth grade ELA students of Mrs. Wood and Mr. Colaiacovo.  During February 2017, immigration, refugees, and the advent of "fake news" were hot topics.  This also coincided with the completion of the class book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, which is based on Ms. Lai's experiences coming to the United States during the Vietnam War era.  Students participated in a Kahoot! activity to test their knowledge of refugee issues.  Through a slideshow and video clips, they then learned facts about refugees from reputable agencies such as the United Nations.  We then discussed the validity of news sources and how to evaluate websites before they are used.  It was a great opportunity to combine timely topics with classroom reading.

Mrs. Leavoy's Library Visits
Mrs. Leavoy's weekly library classes involved read alouds and activities based on diverse themes.  One week we read The Case for Loving, a book by Selina Alko about the fight for interracial marriage.  We used coloring sheets to create own people.  Using the Quiver app, these pictures came alive!

The Case for Loving by Selina Alko

The Quiver app is always a big hit!

During our next visit, we discussed the life of Louis Braille by reading Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jennifer Bryant.  This book gave us some insight into the life of Louis Braille and how he was able to create what is now known as the Braille alphabet.  We tried our hand at using Braille, too.

Six Dots by Jen Bryant

We learned how to write words using Braille patterns.

Finally, we took a look at the life of one of the world's first computer programmers: a woman named Ada Lovelace.  We then sampled a bit of computer coding through use of the Bee Bots.  Mrs. Leavoy's students are natural coders!

Ada's Ideas by Fiona Robinson

Enjoying a library visit with Mrs. Leavoy's class.

Using the Bee Bots to try out some computer coding skills.

French 8 Community and Neighborhood Project
The eighth grade French students came to the library to complete a very hands-on project to assist with learning community and neighborhood vocabulary.  Using paper cut outs and art supplies, student groups were responsible for creating 3D neighborhoods.

Once the neighborhoods were built, students used their knowledge of new French vocabulary to give directions to get from place to place within the neighborhood.  The activity concluded with a Nearpod activity where students were able to reflect upon their teamwork and learning.

Students used a variety of resources to create their neighborhoods.

An example of a finished product.

Another view of a completed neighborhood.

Historical Fiction Kickoff
The students in Mr. Zabaldo and Mrs. Irizarry's class visited in order to get some recommendations on great historical fiction titles in the library.  Students were introduced to prominent historical fiction authors and were provided with search terms to use in the OPAC for finding historical fiction about specific time periods.  Students were eager to get their hands on these books.  This made for a very busy day in the library - 243 books were checked out!

We enjoyed many interesting class visits in the month of February.  This, coupled with the special Diversity Month offerings, made February 2017 a very memorable month.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

We Received the #PattersonPledge!

February 2017 was a particularly exciting time in the Pioneer Middle School library!  First of all, this is the month where our school observes Diversity Month.  This month celebrated the achievements of different groups and individuals.  It also challenged us to think about what we can do within our own lives to be kind, caring, and accepting to others.

As usual, we displayed books by diverse authors.  The website was very helpful in gathering some amazing books for display!

Our regular offerings for Diversity Month received a serious boost thanks to James Patterson and the Scholastic Reading Club.  In March 2016, Patterson announced that he would donate $1.75 million to save school libraries nationwide in the second installment of his School Library Campaign.  As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, selected school libraries would receive grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.  Since the grant program's launch in 2015, Patterson has donated $3.5 million to school libraries nationwide, with all funds being personally donated by Patterson.  This is extraordinarily generous!

Pioneer Middle School Library applied for the grant and was one of the lucky recipients.  Our school library receive $8,750 to spend during Diversity Month.  With this funding, we decided to purchase books for each student in our school and host a bookmark making contest.

First, the books!  We were particularly interested in purchasing books by Kwame Alexander, an African American author and a 2015 Newbery Medal recipient for The Crossover, a novel in verse.  His books are engaging, exciting, and promote the power of reading.  Additionally, his books fly off the library shelves!  We knew that Mr. Alexander's titles would be a popular choice for our Pioneer readers.

Because our students have a variety of interests, they were given a choice of the following titles: The Crossover, Booked, Surf's Up!, Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in this Game Called Life.  What was even more exciting is that Playbook was recently released during this time!  This means that Pioneer students were some of the first people in the world to receive this book.

Once the books were ordered, they were organized and distributed through homerooms and ELA classes.  We have over 720 students at Pioneer Middle.  There were a TON of books to distribute!

Books ready to be distributed to sixth grade!

The books for our 5th, 7th, and 8th grade students.

After the books were distributed to the students, we heard some great reviews.  There were a number of students who read their book in ONE NIGHT and came back to the library for more of Kwame Alexander's titles.  It was wonderful to see this enthusiasm about reading.

Ms. Gates' class was thrilled to receive their books!
Mrs. Scheer's students got right into reading.
In addition to the wonderful books, the Patterson Grant also covered funding a Diversity Month bookmark making contest.  This contest was open to all students and prizes were involved.  The winning bookmarks would be professionally printed by the Warsaw Pennysaver (a local, woman-owned business) and distributed to students.

This was the design contest entry form that was distributed to all students.
The amount of amazing bookmark design entries was overwhelming!  It was impossible to choose just one design, so we chose eight winners.

Our winners from the Diversity Month bookmark contest.
When you see these entries, you'll understand how it was impossible just to choose one.  These students certainly were able to harness their artistic abilities and capture the spirit of Diversity Month.  Check out the winning bookmarks below:

Bookmark by Cortnee

Bookmark by Renee

Bookmark by Brady

Bookmark by Colin

Bookmark by Theresa

Bookmark by Cameron

Bookmark by Payeton

Bookmark by Ty

Nearing the end of Diversity Month, our students wanted to show their appreciation both to James Patterson (for supplying funding) and to Kwame Alexander (for writing such wonderful books).  Just a small sample of these thank you notes can be found below.  These notes will be passed along to Mr. Patterson and Mr. Alexander.

Pioneer Middle School certainly had an enlightening and engaging month of reading due to the generosity of James Patterson and the Scholastic Reading Club.  We look forward to celebrating Diversity Month again in 2018, but this one will be hard to beat!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Mrs. Leavoy's class has been busy learning about weather during their science classes.  In order to extend their learning on these topics, we spent the last two library visits looking at some wild weather: tornadoes!

We began our first visit by watching short video clips about tornadoes and storm chasers.  It was interesting to see tornadoes up close, but we all agreed that storm chasing looked like dangerous work!  After watching the videos, we then turned to Do Tornadoes Really Twist?, a nonfiction selection about tornadoes written by Melvin and Gilda Berger.  This nonfiction book was organized as a series of questions and answers.  The organization of the book made it perfect for students to browse through and focus on the questions they believed were most interesting.

Students got to work looking for some tornado facts from our book.

Reading through Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Once students found an interesting fact, they recorded it on their organizer.  Students made sure to find a great fact to write down because we were later going to share these facts with our classmates.

Finding tornado facts using nonfiction.

Students then illustrated what they would hope to find within their own tornado!

Illustrating tornadoes.
On the class's next library visit, students picked up where they left off.  Many students still needed to finish recording their fact or finalizing their illustration.  While we waited for everyone to finish, other students checked out library books and began reading.

The students then sharpened their public speaking skills by sharing their facts with their classmates.  All students did an excellent job explaining the fact they recorded.

Students shared their tornado facts with their classmates.

Here are the beautiful finished products.  Mrs. Leavoy's class did wonderful work on this short research project!

Tornado research by Logan

Tornado research by Vincent

Tornado research by David

Tornado research by Nick

Tornado research by Jasmine

Tornado research by Hannah

Tornado research by Evan

Here are the students posing with their completed work:

The students with their finished products!

Next week we will be continuing our weather discussion with a very silly story: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!