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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yard Sale

Week Five of the Global Read Aloud with Mrs. Proudman's students began with happy birthday wishes to Vincent, one of the students in our class!  It was exciting to be able to celebrate his birthday today at school.  Our fifth book was Yard Sale, a book written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo.

Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo.

This book told the story of a yard sale taking place at Callie's old house.  Due to money issues, Callie and her parents would be moving from their house and into a smaller apartment.  Because they are moving to a smaller home, Callie's family must get rid of many items that held sentimental value to them.  In the end, Callie's family would have each other and that is what is most important.

We all agreed that this was a sad, but hopeful book.  Any change is difficult and moving is no exception.  Some students in our class have moved several times while other students have always lived in the same place.  We have all also been to yard sales and found some great treasures!

After finishing the book, we discussed some items that we would NEVER put in a yard sale.  Although all of the adults mentioned family photographs as their treasured items, the students had some different, creative ideas:

Items Mrs. Proudman's students would NOT put in a yard sale.

From this list, it was clear to see the items that were most important to the students in the class.  This gave us some additional insight into what students find to be most cherished in their lives.

After students selected their library books to take home, they then focused on illustrating the item they discussed in our reflection. The students did a great job illustrating their items!

Illustrating our cherished items.

We used colored pencils to color in our illustrations.

Everyone had a different item to share.

The students' finished illustrations are pictured below:

Hannah wouldn't put her Skylanders characters in a yard sale.

Nick wouldn't put his Florida pin collection in a yard sale.

Vincent wouldn't put Slappy in a yard sale.

Logan wouldn't put his Scooby-Doo collection in a yard sale.

Next week, we will be reading City Cat.  It is hard to believe that this year's Global Read Aloud is coming to an end so soon!