Friday, January 29, 2016

Getting Ready for Seymour Simon's Visit

On Tuesday, March 1st, 2016, a literary celebrity is visiting Pioneer Middle School!  Seymour Simon, a former middle school science teacher and author of over 250 books for children, will be speaking to grades five through seven at Pioneer Middle.
I met Seymour Simon at a conference in 2014!
Mr. Simon's books are an easy sell for our middle school readers.  His books are about different topics (mainly concerning science).  The narrative nonfiction style of the books is highly engaging and feels almost conversational.  Instead of reading dry facts, Seymour Simon's books draw you right into the topic.  It is almost as if you are having a personal conversation with the author instead of reading a book.  Another amazing feature of these books is the beautiful, high quality photographs that accompany and enhance the text.  I'll be interested to hear how Mr. Simon acquires the photographs for his books.

In order to best prepare for the visit, we are spending time in the library introducing students to the many, MANY books written by Seymour Simon.  Different classes have stopped down to preview his materials, and many more classes are signed up for visits in February.

Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Mangino are right in the middle of studying nonfiction in fifth grade ELA.  Our yearly speedbooking activity gives students time to see the many nonfiction offerings we have at Pioneer Middle School.  During speedbooking, students have a short amount of time to visit with each book and decide if the book is one they are interested in reading.  At the end of the activity, students will have a listing of books in the library that they are hoping to read at some point.  We were sure to include books by Seymour Simon in our speedbooking activity.  These books flew off the shelves!
Fifth graders preview Seymour Simon books during speedbooking.
Ms. Farrell also brought her seventh grade science students in to hear about Seymour Simon.  I first showed Seymour Simon's website to the class.  They loved the science blog on the website and the ability to search the blog by the tags listed.  We then moved into a book browse activity.  I brought over all of the Seymour Simon books we had in the library.  Students leafed through the books and recorded some cool facts they were able to glean from the text and photographs.  The graphic organizer for this activity also contained a section for recording any questions students would like to ask Seymour Simon during his visit.
Students in Ms. Farrell's class loved previewing Seymour Simon's books.

A seventh grade student browsing through Seymour Simon's books.
At the end of Ms. Farrell's visit, I offered the students juice boxes and fruit snacks to munch on when we shared out some of the great facts we found in the books.  This is perhaps the only time in my career as a librarian where the students were more interested in the books than the snacks!  The students were content to continue to leaf through the books, so that is what we did.

Mrs. B. Smith's science classes took an in-depth look at the works of Seymour Simon.  During January, this class was immersed in an inquiry project about planets.  The students were divided into small groups and generated their own questions that they would like to answer about the planet they were researching.  After selecting their top questions and organizing them into topics, students used library resources (including Seymour Simon's print books and the materials located online via Starwalk Kids) to find answers to their research.  The groups then crafted detailed lesson plans and delivered their lessons to their classmates.  These students really knew their stuff!  Mrs. B. Smith's students are especially excited about the author visit, since they used his books extensively.
Mrs. B. Smith's students organizing their questions for the planet inquiry project.
Mrs. Proudman's students also heard about Seymour Simon during their weekly visit.  I had planned a detailed activity using the book Horses, but Mrs. Proudman's students were really enjoying browsing through Seymour Simon's books on their own!  We took a bit of time to visit with the books, then the students shared some facts that they thought were interesting.  Mrs. Proudman's students especially liked the books about animals.  Sharks was the favorite book from today's lesson.
A student in Mrs. Proudman's class previews Horses by Seymour Simon.
I think it is pretty clear that students (and teachers!) are anxiously awaiting Seymour Simon's visit to our school.  I'm looking forward to sharing his books with more groups of students prior to the March first visit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

T. Wrecks!

During the month of January, Mrs. Proudman's class reinforced the idea of fiction and nonfiction while in the library for class.  We looked at both a fiction and nonfiction selection about a particular topic, then noted the differences between the books.

We chose the topic of Tyrannosaurus Rex for our study.  On a previous visit, students viewed a nonfiction selection about the T. Rex and learned many interesting facts.  Click here to read about our nonfiction study.  On a subsequent visit, we looked at a wonderful fictional story called Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.  I had the good fortune to meet this author at the AASL Conference in November 2015.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book and introduce it to Mrs. Proudman's students!
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardan-Quallen.
This story talks about a young Tyrannosaurus whose behavior is a little destructive and inappropriate at first.  Over the course of the story, the Tyrannosaurus changes his behavior in order be a better friend to his other classmates.  This was a funny story, and students could truly relate to what the T. Rex was going through.

After reading the story, we then compared the fictional story to the nonfiction text we read the previous week.  We were able to understand the difference between a story that provided entertainment and a book that contained facts.  Students were also well aware of where the fiction and nonfiction books were housed within the library.

We then used some supplies in our library makerspace in order to create a neat dinosaur finger puppet.  Students used cut outs and a toilet paper tube to craft a dinosaur finger puppet.

Assembling the dinosaur finger puppet.

The finished product!
Our February library visits will continue to explore fiction and nonfiction.  We will pay special attention to the works of Seymour Simon, an author slated to visit our school on March 1st, 2016.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

T Rex, Nonfiction, and Augmented Reality

Students in Mrs. Proudman's class are exploring the differences between nonfiction and fiction.  Over the next two weeks, we will be reinforcing this concept by reading both fiction and nonfiction selections about the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  This week we read a nonfiction book titled Tyrannosaurus Rex by Aaron Carr.  This book is from the AV2 by Weigl collection.  We love these books for their great content, vivid illustrations, and their inclusion of multimedia materials designed to enhance learning.
Tyrannosaurus Rex by Aaron Carr
Before we began reading the book, we discussed what we already knew about the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Students knew some excellent facts about this legendary dinosaur!  We recorded our prior knowledge on chart paper.  After reading the book, we were then able to complete our chart with the new facts we had learned.  It is hard to believe that the Tyrannosaurus Rex could eat 500 pounds of meat in one single bite!
Tyrannosaurus Rex facts from students and our nonfiction text.
We then used an augmented reality tool in order to put what we learned into motion.  By using Quiver, a 3D coloring app, students were able to see a 3D representation of the Tyrannosaurus Rex in action.  Students completed a coloring sheet, then held an iPad loaded with the Quiver app over the drawing.  As if by magic, the picture began to move!
Coloring in the Quiver app dinosaur picture.

By using the Quiver app, the dinosaur and volcano appear in 3D!

By watching the 3D dinosaur, it was possible to truly visualize the way that the dinosaur might have looked and moved when it walked the Earth.  This was the perfect way to bring additional life to interesting nonfiction concepts.

Next week, we are looking forward to reading a story about a fictional Tyrannosaurus Rex.