Thursday, October 29, 2015

Exclamation Mark!

We are continuing to have a great time celebrating The Global Read Aloud with Mrs. Proudman's class.  Our week four activity included reading the book Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  But first, we needed to check in with our friends at other schools who are also reading the same books.

Ms. Satov's class from the Mabin School in Toronto, Ontario answered our questions we posted on the padlet!  We learning many interesting things about their weather (they use Celsius instead of Fahrenheit), where they shop for food, and living in an urban area.  They had many questions for our group and each student took a turn answering a question.  We'll continue to answer more of their questions during the next library visit.

While on the padlet, we noticed that another class, fourth graders from the Lockhart School on Long Island, left notes for us too!  It was interesting to learn about their thoughts on Duck! Rabbit!

We were then able to read Exclamation Mark!  This book talked about how an exclamation mark was feeling out of place because it didn't look like all of the periods.  One day, the exclamation mark meets a new friend - a question mark.  After the question mark asks too many questions, the exclamation mark learns he has a new skill - he can YELL and add emphasis to the end of a sentence!  Once the exclamation mark learns of his new powers, he can't help but add pizzazz to the end of many phrases.  This story showed us that it is ok to be unique and that all of us possess special skills.  Mrs. Proudman's students especially loved YELLING along with the exclamation mark!

As we moved into our next activity, I was happy to share another special surprise with Mrs. Proudman's group.  We received postcards from Mrs. Drew's class at Heritage Elementary in Wake Forest, North Carolina!  We learned that their school is in the same county as Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina.
Our postcards from Mrs. Drew's class.
We discussed that it is polite to respond whenever we receive mail.  Students spent the rest of the class working on postcards for Mrs. Drew's students.  We are not quite ready to send these out, but we will be sending them out as soon as possible.
Working on postcards.

Extreme focus while writing!

The (almost) finished products.
Next week, we are looking forward to reading The OK Book and learning more from our friends worldwide.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Library Clubs Begin

The school is a busy place during the school day, but once clubs begin to meet, the library is busy after school as well!  Our library is home to First LEGO League, Maker Club, Newspaper Club, and the newly-formed Coin Collectors Club.  Students from all grade levels are welcome to attend these events.

Pioneer Middle's First LEGO League team meets on Mondays after school until 5:00pm.  This activity requires a little more dedication that a regular club because the team members are preparing for a competition.  First Lego League team members are preparing for a robotics competition, a science presentation offering solutions to problems involving trash removal, and a core values task where students demonstrate their ability to work as a team.
Students from the Pioneer LEGO League Green Team begin project preparations.

The Pioneer White team starts brainstorming solutions to problems involving trash.
Sadly, First LEGO League will come to a close shortly.  Our teams' regional competition will take place on Saturday, November 14th at Houghton College.  The students are looking forward to completing preparations and testing their skills against other students in the region.

Perhaps the most highly-anticipated event for the beginning of the year was the return of Maker Club on Wednesdays.  Even on the first day of school, students were asking when Maker Club would begin!  We had our biggest group for Maker Club yet and continue to add new members as the weeks go along.  We even added a new advisor, Ms. McKenzie, to our club as well.
Our first meeting of Maker Club. Students gathered to learn about the club's guidelines and expectations.
Enjoying the Lego bin during Maker Club.
 Students have already begun work on a variety of creative projects during Wednesday Maker Club.  An exciting addition to our maker offerings this year is the creation of "Super Maker Thursday."  This is a time where all participants will work with a leader (either a student or adult) to create a specific  project.  Our first Super Maker Thursday will take place on Thursday, October 29th where a student, Carol, will lead students in creating Halloween cards.  We are looking forward to learning with Carol!

Fridays are home to two different library clubs.  Newspaper Club will continue to meet on Fridays and students are already hard at work on articles and comics.  At our first meeting of Newspaper Club, students brainstormed different things they would like to see within the newspaper.  Our goal is to publish a newspaper each quarter.
Students get together at the first Newspaper Club meeting.
A newly-formed Friday group is the Coin Collectors Club.  This small group, began by a group of fifth grade students, meets to discuss coin collecting and specific coins.  They will be meeting on select Fridays to further discuss coins.
Coin collecting enthusiasts log in to the computers to research their favorite coins.
With the exception of First LEGO League (where our teams are already formed), students of all ages are welcomed and encouraged to join any of our after school clubs in the library.  We are always welcoming new members!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's Not Fair!

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, Mrs. Proudman's class met for the third time to work on projects related to the Global Read Aloud.  Before we read this week's book, we were able to check in with other schools participating in the Global Read Aloud.

Ms. Satov's first grade students at the Mabin School in Toronto, Ontario were interested in participating in a question and answer session with our students.  As a group, we brainstormed ten different questions for Ms. Satov's students.  We posted the questions on our padlet.  Some of the questions were about the books, and many of the questions were about what their school is like.
Our questions for Ms. Satov's students.
We then read this week's Global Read Aloud selection.  This book was called It's Not Fair.  While we read the story, there were many instances we could relate to.  Sometimes, life just isn't fair!  After reading the book, we agreed that even though things sometimes aren't fair, it's best to put a positive spin on any situation we are dealt.  We looked at specific scenes from the group and found ways to find the positives, even if something did not seem fair.  This was not a difficult task for Mrs. Proudman's students.  They are definitely a "glass half full" type of group - it was easy for them to find the positives!
Our reflections on being happy with what we have.
This week, students were very eager to check out books.  At this time, we allowed students to exchange their books for this week.  When students returned back from book checkout, they worked on a picture depicting something in their life that wasn't fair.

We are looking forward to next week's library visit.  Not only will we be reading another Amy Krouse Rosenthal book, but we will also learn the answers to our questions for Ms. Satov's class!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Duck! Rabbit!

We are now into week #2 of the Global Read Aloud with Mrs. Proudman's class.  On Wednesday, October 13th, we began by checking in with the other classes we are collaborating with for the Amy Krouse Rosenthal author study.

First, we viewed a padlet created by Mrs. Walterich's library students at Highland Elementary School in Derby, NY.  These students shared examples of what they like to do alone and what they like to do with a friend.  We were surprised to learn that we share many of the same interests!

Next, we looked at a padlet created by Ms. Moore's class at Jefferson Houston School in Virginia.  We thought it was really neat to be hearing from a classroom outside of New York!  Like Mrs. Proudman's class, the students in Ms. Moore's group are of multiple ages.  The students in this class are in kindergarten, first grade, and fourth grade.  We agreed with Ms. Moore's students when they said that the book had multiple meanings.  We believed that the book was about both friendship and learning how to be by yourself.

We then looked at a padlet that our group created.  We have been sharing our thoughts about the book and two other schools--both in Canada!--have been sharing their reflections as well.  Ms. Mabin's first graders live in Toronto, Ontario which is not too far away from our area in Western New York.  Her students believed that the chopsticks were very nice because the chopstick stayed with his friend while he was healing from the asparagus injury.  Mme Wray's group also weighed in on Chopsticks.  Her classroom is comprised of first and second graders in Lasalle, Ontario.  This classroom is unique because they participate in French immersion.  They will be reading our author study books in both English and French!  Mme Wray's students read Duck! Rabbit! first and will be reading Chopsticks this week.  We are looking forward to hearing their thoughts.

After we were finished checking the padlets, we moved on to read Duck! Rabbit! which was our next Amy Krouse Rosenthal book.  This story was based on an optical illusion.  An animal was present in the story, but it was hard to tell if the animal was a duck or a rabbit.  During the reading of the book, students were very giggly!  They definitely enjoyed hearing this silly story.

Once the book was complete, we polled the students in order to see if they thought the animal was a duck or a rabbit.  The students had very convincing reasons to support their choices!  We had a lively, yet respectful, debate about the animal in the book.
The results of our class poll: Duck - 4 votes, Rabbit - 1 vote.
 Students then used their artistic skills to draw their own animal.  Using a piece of paper with only the head of the animal presented in the book, students drew and colored in either a duck or rabbit body.  They then composed a sentence providing the reason behind their choice of animal.  The finished products were lovely!

Next week, our library class will meet on Monday.  We are looking forward to hearing what other classrooms have been working on and reading the next story in our Amy Krouse Rosenthal author study.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Coding and STEM Careers in FACS

The students in Mrs. LoBianco's fifth grade FACS classes are working diligently on their Career Awareness unit.  Mrs. LoBianco wanted some additional emphasis placed on STEM careers and 21st Century Skills.  This was a perfect time to bring students down to the library to learn how to code.  Computer coding is a skill necessary for many careers within the STEM field.

Prior to arriving in the library, Mrs. LoBianco shared many different videos outlining what STEM careers are and the skills needed to enter the field.  Students paid special attention to the 21st Century Skills needed to be successful in today's job market.  Some of these skills included showing independent initiative, learning from mistakes, demonstrating originality, and keeping an open mind.

On day one of coding in the library, students were reintroduced to the concept of 21st Century Skills.  They were then given the opportunity to hone these skills by participating in coding activities on Kodable, a coding app for iPad.  Kodable allows students to learn coding skills and directionality by navigating "fuzz balls" through various mazes.  As the levels progress, the coding skills needed get more complex.  The only guideline that students were given is that they were not able to ask adults for help.  If they were stuck on a level, their options were to work through it or ask a classmate for help.
Students found a comfortable spot to work on Kodable.

Some students chose to work together as a large group.
After students were given ample time to delve into Kodable, it was time to come back as a group and tie our activity back to our conversation about 21st Century Skills.  As a group, we talked about the different skills needed in order to be successful at Kodable.  Students were able to see that Kodable, although fun and engaging, was actually preparing them for skills they will need for their future careers!

Students completed a short reflection based on their experience.  We were curious to hear what students enjoyed about Kodable, what they found to be difficult, and their top three 21st Century Skills used during Kodable time.
This student believes using a variety of techniques is important for coding.

This student was creative and thought of many different ideas to tackle the coding challenge.

From reading the reflections, we observed that students used many skills during Kodable.  Some of the skills used included generating ideas, using information, showing independent initiative, learning from mistakes, and using a variety of techniques.  The majority of students enjoyed using Kodable and many students liked tackling the challenge presented by coding.

For a blind student in the class, Kodable was not going to be a great option.  Instead, he was able to use homemade arrows (made from rulers and popsicle sticks).  With the help of his teaching assistant, they used the arrows to create coding sequences for navigating to different points in the library.  He says that coding involves good listening skills.
Homemade arrows for physical coding.

A reflection for the physical coding activity. Concentration and good listening were key!
For the second day of the coding activity, we chose to use a different type of coding device - the Bee Bots.  Bee Bots are a tool where students can manually punch in directions.  The Bee Bot will then follow the code to a desired point on the Bee Bot mat.  Students were first introduced to how to program the Bee Bot.  Next, students created their own coding sequences.

As an additional challenge, we had Bee Bot mats set at an increasing level of difficulty.  The first mat contained a start square and a stop square without any other obstacles.  For students looking for a more difficult task, we introduced the lava mat.  There were numerous squares which contained "lava" - it was necessary to program the Bee Bot to avoid all of the lava squares.

Before students could test their hand at the Bee Bots, they first needed to record their coding sequences.  Here is an example of two different coding sequences through the lava mat:
Two different coding sequences.
Once students created their coding sequences, they were invited up to the mats in order to test their code.  Some students created successful codes, while other students were able to see the errors in their code.
Programming the coding sequence into the Bee Bot.

The Bee Bot avoids the lava squares!
At the end of this activity, the students again worked on a short reflection.  We were eager to learn if the students coded the Bee Bot successful.  If not, we wanted to hear about what could be improved upon for next time.  We were also interested in hearing why students thought coding was an important skill.  Lastly, we wanted students to leave any tips or thoughts for students that may want to try coding in the future.  The students shared excellent observations during this reflection.  It was nice to hear that students enjoyed using the Bee Bots, even though the activity was challenging!
This student shared that there are many job openings for people that know how to code.

This student shares that perseverance is the key to coding!
Mrs. LoBianco's students showed a high level of perseverance and engagement throughout this activity.  We were happy to be able to introduce coding concepts to students.  We hope to see many fifth grade faces at Maker Club so they may continue to work on their 21st Century Skills!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chopsticks and the Global Read Aloud

Wednesday, October 8th marked our first day of the Global Read Aloud in Mrs. Proudman's class.  We were excited to read more great books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and are eager to share our experiences with students in other schools.

Chopsticks, our book of the week, told the story of two chopsticks.  The chopsticks were used to doing EVERYTHING together, until one of the chopsticks was injured in an unfortunate incident involving asparagus.  While the injured chopstick was resting, the healthy chopstick went out and experienced life without his best friend.

By the end of the story, both chopsticks learned that it is ok to spend some time apart.  In fact, time apart for friends is often a great thing.  When friends come back together, they will have lots of different experiences and stories to share. 

We then brainstormed different activities we like to do alone and activities we like to do with others.
It was now time to test our skills using chopsticks.  Even though most students in Mrs. Proudman's class have never used chopsticks before, the students were ready to tackle a new challenge. 

Using their chopsticks, students moved fruit snacks from their napkin to a cup.  Some students were so quick with chopsticks that they moved the fruit snacks back and forth from the napkin to the cup several times!
Getting the hang of using chopsticks.

Learning how to hold chopsticks was difficult.

Using the chopsticks to pick up fruit snacks.

Enjoying a treat!
Of course, the best part of the chopstick activity was getting to eat the fruit snacks.  Some of Mrs. Proudman's students enjoyed using chopsticks so much that they brought their chopsticks to snack time and lunch that day!

We are looking forward to reading Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflections from World Maker Faire

On Saturday, September 26th, 2015, a great group of Pioneer teachers had the privilege of attending World Maker Faire at the NY Hall of Science in Queens, NY.  To say that this was a wonderful experience would be an understatement.  We left with many great ideas to bring back to the district and our middle school Maker Club.
Mrs. Hogan, Mr. LoBianco, me, and Ms. McKenzie on our 5:45 AM flight to NYC.
After a quick breakfast (and coffee!) stop, we were ready to tackle the day.
When we entered the Maker Faire area, we were greeted by men playing musical instruments while walking on stilts, a metal robot shooting flames from his palms, and an adult-sized cardboard velociraptor.  This was overwhelming, in the best way possible!

Our feeling of being overwhelmed continued throughout the day.  There were so many things to see and do, it was dizzying.  There were certain aspects of World Maker Faire (WMF) that stuck with us, so I will share those items below.

Probably our favorite takeaway from WMF was finding KitRex, a company dedicated to creating dinosaur puzzle crafts.  We were able to speak to Lisa Glover, the inventor behind KitRex.  The idea began as a college project turned Halloween costume.  Lisa created a 15-foot velociraptor costume using industrial origami techniques.  Others saw the promise in this creation and she then began marketing smaller dinosaur kits for craft purposes.  We bought two small velociraptor kits to use during Maker Club this year.  We hope the students will love KitRex as much as we do!
Our group posing with Mouse, the original Kit Rex design.

Tucking our velociraptor kits away for safe keeping.
While we're on the subject of dinosaurs, another sweet WMF find was Woolbuddy, a company owned by Jackie Huang.  Jackie was looking for safe, unique toys for his newborn.  After coming up empty-handed, he began creating toys by using a needle felting technique.  I was particularly interested in this because my mother is an avid spinner and crafter.  My favorite Woolbuddy creations were, of course, the dinosaurs!  At a future Maker Club meeting, we would love to introduce needle felting to our students.
A wool dinosaur from Woolbuddy.

Other Woolbuddy creations.
It was really interesting to see the large numbers of young makers exhibiting their creations.  We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Ahmed Mohamed, a Texas student garnering worldwide support for the clock he made.  It was great to see that Ahmed was getting celebrity treatment at WMF!
Ahmed posing for a photo with other Makers.
Another young maker we can't stop talking about is Alex.  Alex constructed an Arduino-controlled replica of Times Square, complete with a New Years Eve ball drop.  As the ball descends, the model is programmed to play Auld Lang Syne.  The work that went into this was incredible.  The design included woodworking, stained glass (for the ball), and computer coding.  Alex has graciously agreed to set up a virtual visit with our Maker Club later this year.  We hope that our makers will be inspired by Alex's work and creativity.
The Ball Drop Model.

Great display board outlining the project's craftsmanship and coding.
We came away from WMF with ideas to use within the classroom setting.  I especially liked the idea to use dioramas as prompts for storytelling.  Students could build a diorama, then other students could create stories to describe the action taking place inside the diorama.  This is a great way to combine making with written/verbal language.
An example of a diorama to be used in storytelling.
The FabNavi Team provided an interesting tool which may have a place in school instruction.  This Japan-based company shared their product, in which physical instructions are projected onto a workspace.  The invention allows for visual instructions to be sent to remote locations.  Creating visual instructions might be a fun project for our makers at Pioneer.  It would help students to hone their communication skills through pictures and diagrams, rather than just through words.
Working to assemble a monster by using the FabNavi visual instructions.
Of course, I couldn't leave WMF without thinking of the cool things we could replicate within the Pioneer Middle School library space.  Some of these ideas included cardboard pinball machines, a reading nook made out of chicken wire, a compact garden tended by LEDs, and a giant Connect Four game!  Who wouldn't want a giant game of Connect Four in the library?!
Working pinball machines made out of cardboard.

Chicken wire, wood, and fabric could be made into a cozy reading nook!

A compact garden powered with LEDs.

Giant Connect Four!
There were also many interesting techie takeaways from the day.  Many of these creations still have me in awe!  One of our favorites was a Plinko Poetry machine.  This device displayed recent news headlines.  When a person deposits a plinko chip into the top of the machine, it falls upon different words from the headlines.  The machine then prints out a copy of your poem.  We couldn't resist trying this out.
Plinko Poetry was a Pioneer favorite.
The Sandwriter Skryf was another amazing invention.  As sand was fed into the top of the machine, the device was programmed to write specific letters on the ground.  We watched in amazement as messages appeared right before our eyes.
The Sandwriter Skryf writing along a walkway.

Words left behind by the Sandwriter Skryf.
While inside the NY Hall of Science, we enjoyed visiting a virtual habitat.  Equipped with projectors and sensors, participants were invited to interact with the exhibit.  Any human interaction with the exhibit created a ripple effect, which meant consequences (both positive and negative) for other biome areas depicted in the exhibit space.  It was fun to participate in this activity, but even more interesting to try to figure out how it worked!
The virtual biome display inside the NY Hall of Science.

Any human interaction causes a ripple effect in the exhibit.
A relaxing portion of our day was spent outside at the Gamelatron.  This was a gamelon orchestra fully powered by robots.  The soothing sounds were exactly what we needed after a full day of learning.
The Gamelatron and beanbag chairs provided the perfect area for relaxation.
Last but not least, we ran into The Museum of Interesting Things on the way out of WMF.  This group collects and displays cool stuff.  We are thinking of having a "Maker" theme for this year's district-wide Pioneer Family Reading Night.  We will definitely be reaching out to this group about our event!
An example of the items displayed by The Museum of Interesting Things.
Our trip to WMF was nothing short of an amazing experience.  The best part, however, is yet to come.  We can't wait to share what we learned with our students and put many of these great ideas into practice at Pioneer.