Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Newspaper of 2014-15

The first issue of Pioneer Middle School News was released this month.  We have a smaller group than normal for Newspaper Club, but they are certainly a mighty group! 

To see the latest newspaper, click here:

Congratulations to the newspaper staff on a job well done!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Speedbooking is back!

We are always looking for new ways to introduce students to library books that they might enjoy.  Although "speedbooking" is not a new activity for Pioneer, we have found that it is a great way to expose students to a wide variety of books that they might be interested in reading.

The premise of speedbooking is simple.  Students are given a few minutes to visit with a book.  After recording the title, author's name, and call number, students then write down their opinions of the book and decide if the book is something that they would be interested in reading.  The student then moves on to review the next book in the activity.  After speedbooking is over, students have a listing of lots of different books in the library that they might be interested in reading.

This year, Mrs. Asquith and Mrs. Rice brought down their fifth grade ELA students to participate in speedbooking as part of their nonfiction unit.  Students viewed many different nonfiction books about a variety of topics.

Extreme focus during speedbooking.

The Body Science book was very popular.

A happy speedbooking customer.

Students visiting with a wide variety of nonfiction books.

Students in Mrs. Rice's classes liked the book about China.
One of the most interesting parts about speedbooking is finding out which books and topics are most interesting to students.  This year, students really enjoyed the pop-up books about bugs and dinosaurs.  Body Science was a highly sought after title.  Lots of books about dogs, hunting, babysitting, and origami were also checked out during speedbooking.

Bugs was an extremely popular book!

Speedbooking is also a great chance for students to continue to hone their library skills.  After the speedbooking activity is over, students are then invited to check out a book from the nonfiction section of the library.  Speedbooking reinforces the concept that the call numbers correspond to particular subjects.  For instance, if a student enjoyed a dog book during speedbooking, their speedbooking packet would show them that all of the library's dog books would be located in the 636 section.
Students (and Mrs. Rice!) use library skills to find the books they are looking for.
After books were selected, students were able to curl up in a comfy spot and begin reading.  We're hoping to see a lot more of the fifth grade students as they continue their adventures in nonfiction!
The saucer chairs are a favorite reading spot in the library.

The book about states and capitals was a popular speedbooking selection, too.

Dogs are always an exciting topic!

Students enjoying the reading nook in the library.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dave the Potter

While at the New York Library Association (NYLA) conference in November, I was introduced to Bryan Collier, an artist and illustrator.  Mr. Collier's story was amazing.  He wanted to be an illustrator, but reaching his goal was not easy.  He met with publishers from different companies for SEVEN YEARS before he was offered a book deal.  His perseverance definitely paid off, as he is a well-known artist today.

One of the books that Mr. Collier illustrated is the picture book Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave.  The book is written by Laban Carrick Hill.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill
The book describes the true story of a slave named Dave that lived in South Carolina.  Miraculously, Dave was given the task of creating pottery.  Other slaves dug the clay which Dave used for his work.  Over the course of his lifetime, Dave produced hundreds (maybe even thousands) of pots.  Each pot was a unique work of art.  The pots were made more unique because Dave often adorned his pottery with symbols, his name, and even lines of his own poetry.  This was truly remarkable because slaves were not normally taught to read or write.

After reading the book with the amazing students in Mrs. Proudman's class, we then decided to design our own pottery.  Students first drew the type of pot they would like to make.  Then they came up with their own sayings that they would carve into their pot, just like Dave the Potter would do.

Drawing a pot, using the book as a reference.

Concentrating on drawing the perfect pot!
Although we were delayed many weeks due to snowstorms and November break, we were able to plan a very special treat for Mrs. Proudman's class.  I happen to know a real life potter who was willing to come in and show the class how to make pottery!  Coincidentally, my potter friend is named Dave!  Dave and I have been friends since elementary school.

Mr. Dave brought in lots of different tools in order to help us make perfect pots.  He was happy to answer any questions that students had about pottery.  He even brought in a pot that he made himself.  This pot was similar in style to the pots that Dave the Potter from the book created.

Mr. Dave shows us how to score the pots, which makes it easy to lay down the clay coils.

Mr. Dave demonstrates how to make a pinch pot.
Mrs. Proudman's class is certainly full of artists!  It took a long time to make the pots, but they sure look beautiful.  We applied a glaze to the pots and they will be going to the kiln shortly to be fired.

In this picture you can see the pot that Mr. Dave brought in for us to see.

You start making a pinch pot by poking a hole in the middle.

Listening to Mr. Dave while creating a pot.

Hard at work!

These pots are close to being finished.

As an added surprise, Mr. Dave showed us how to make a tile out of clay.  He brought a tool with which we were all able to write our names or initials in the clay.  This will be an amazing souvenir for us to remember this visit for years to come.  It will be hard to top this library class, but Mrs. Proudman and I are looking forward to more fun projects in 2015!

Hour of Code at Pioneer Middle School

This week, Pioneer Middle School students joined millions of people worldwide for the Hour of Code.  The Hour of Code is an event designed to expose people to computer programming.  There are many interesting jobs within the computer science field, yet many of these jobs go unfilled because people lack the computer skills needed to be successful in these jobs.  The Hour of Code helps to introduce the concept of computer coding in an extremely fun and engaging way.

Last year, about fifteen million people participated in the Hour of Code.  At the time I am writing this, over 69 million people have already participated!  Out of the 69 million participants, I am proud to say that 74 of those participants were Pioneer Middle School students.

The Pioneer Middle School Hour of Code event took place after school on Wednesday, December 10th.  Publicity for the event was provided by Panther Productions, a student-run group responsible for creating Pioneer's amazing video morning announcements.  Any student with permission to attend after school programs was welcome at the Hour of Code, but participation was completely voluntary.  Did I mention that 74 students participated?  SEVENTY-FOUR!

When students came into the library, Mr. LoBianco and myself gave the students a very brief overview about coding and the activities appropriate for the Hour of Code.  Students were able to access the different coding activities through a Symbaloo organizer located on the library website.

Students were then given the option to work with a partner or independently on coding activities.  Since the library did not have enough desktop computers to accommodate the large group of students, many students grabbed laptops or iPads and found a comfy corner or table.

On the website, there were two beginner coding tutorials that students really enjoyed.  These tutorials included characters from Angry Birds and from the movie Frozen.

Mr. Weinberg from CA BOCES came to help!

Students tried many different coding activities.

Some students worked in pairs. This helped with difficult problems.

iPads, as well as computers, were used for this activity.

These sixth grade students are considering a career in computer coding!

No space at the library desktops!

Teamwork in action.

 The beginning coding problems were pretty easy, but the problems definitely got more difficult as the tutorials progressed.  It was great to see the teamwork that students displayed while persevering through the more difficult problems.

One of the greatest things to happen during our Hour of Code was to witness the fun that students had with this activity.  Computer coding might seem like a scary concept, but students genuinely enjoyed what they were learning.  This was evident by the huge smiles we witnessed during the event!

The student on the left celebrated his birthday at Hour of Code!


Although many students went home on the 3:15 bus, there was a great group of students that chose to stay and code with us until 5:00 PM.  These students had completed the initial tutorials and were working on creating more advanced projects.  Students created their own games and apps.

A student working on creating his own "Flappy Bird" game.

Completing work on the initial tutorials.

Students tried out the games created by their peers.
A sixth grade student uses Bitsbox to create her own app.

An eighth grade student using mad coding skills to create a tennis game.

Mr. LoBianco assists a student with Bitsbox.
Probably the best part was hearing about how students want to continue coding activities long after the Hour of Code is over.  Two sixth grade girls have plans to code professionally when they are older!  After the holiday break, the library will be offering additional time for coding both during and after school through the library's new makerspace.  Stay tuned for more information!

To continue with coding activities, visit the Symbaloo on the library homepage:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nonfiction Scavenger Hunt

Students in Mrs. Rice's fifth grade ELA classes visited the library this week in order to kick off their nonfiction unit.  Students came prepared with lots of nonfiction skills.  As it turns out, the majority of the students were already authors of nonfiction!  Many students wrote nonfiction books during their fourth grade year.

We chose to use nonfiction books about planets in order to locate important text features found within nonfiction books.  The students were very successful in using the text features to easily navigate the books and learn some new facts about space.

One of the most interesting facts we learned during this activity was about the big red spot located on Jupiter.  This spot is actually a giant storm that is taking place on the planet.  On a calm day, the storm is the size of Earth.  On a particularly stormy day, the red spot can actually become the size of three Earths!  It sounds like Jupiter might not be the nicest place to visit.

At the end of the activity, we wanted to see if students enjoyed reading these books and why.  For the most part, students found the books about space to be very interesting because of the cool facts and pictures found within the book.

Mrs. Rice's class will soon be returning to the library to explore the library's nonfiction section further.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Snowflakes Fall

Seeing as how our last library class was interrupted by a snowstorm, it seemed only fitting to read a winter book with Mrs. Proudman's class. 

The book that we read was very special.  Snowflakes Fall is a story written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  Pioneer is even lucky enough to have an autographed copy of the book! 

Snowflakes Fall is a wonderful written and beautifully illustrated book about the tragedy at Sandy Hook. One of the main themes of the book is that everything is unique, from people to snowflakes.

After having a discussion about our own uniqueness, we decided to put the snowflake theory to the test by creating our own paper snowflakes.  Would all of our snowflakes be unique?

As it turns out, all of the snowflakes created by Mrs. Proudman's students were unique - just like all of us!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fall Book Fair

After getting back on track after a MAJOR snow event in Western New York, it was time for the annual middle school fall book fair (although it felt more like a winter book fair!).

The arrival of the book fair, sadly, was delayed due to the storm.  We were hoping to have everything up and running for school on Monday, November 24th, but that didn't work out exactly as we had anticipated.  The book fair was set up by 12:30 PM that day, so there still was a little time to browse.

Over the next two days, the book fair was open during the parent/teacher conference times.  This was a great time to get a head start on holiday shopping.  The popular titles this year included Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul and the Minecraft handbooks.

Despite the snowy start, the book fair was very successful.  The fair raised $636.07 for our library.  This money will be used to purchase new books and supplies for the library makerspace. 

Thank you to all that supported the book fair!  If you are still interested in shopping, our online book fair is available through December 6th:
Happy shopping!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Regional Foods of the United States Research

Mrs. LoBianco's FACS classes visited the library again this month.  This time, the fifth grade classes visited instead of the seventh graders.  In order to support both literacy and social studies, Mrs. LoBianco created a project where students will learn about the food associated with the regions of the United States.

Prior to visiting the library, students located the different United States regions and shaded in their chosen region on a map.  When students came to the library, they received instruction on how to use the Kids InfoBits database in order to find information about the food within their region.

An important part of this project was beginning the discussion on finding credible sources and avoiding plagiarism.  Students learned about the benefits of using databases and about the importance of citing their sources.  The project required the use of a MLA-formatted research note sheet - the first of many that students will see during the course of their middle school research projects!

Students accessing Kids InfoBits, a Gale database.

This is the MLA notesheet for the project.  Students are learning how to properly cite their sources.
After reading through the material provided by Kids InfoBits, students will gain an understanding of how history, traditions, and geography have shaped the foods enjoyed in the different United States regions.  Mrs. LoBianco is offering extra credit to students who bring in food from the regions studied.  I am really hoping that students bring in lots of delicious food!