Thursday, October 27, 2016

If You Give a Librarian a New Book

        Today was our first Afternoon Reading Session of the year. A parent had donated a  If You Give a Mouse a Brownie Kit to the media center so I did some research and found out that Laura Numeroff's new book If You Give a Mouse a Brownie came out on October 18th. I knew I had to use this book.
         It is important to me to always make sure that the stations I plan are something that the parents can easily copy and do at home. So for this session the stations were about extending the story, creating a new story based on the story, sequencing, retelling, creative responses, and critical thinking. I added a game feel to the stations by giving the attendees a maze game board and a dice to use as they visited stations. They had to roll the dice to find out which station to go to. As they finished the station they colored in a spot on the maze. When they reached the end they were able to get a prize.
         As the parents and students came into the media center they signed in and received a handout from with grade level reading tips for them to use at home. Then they waited at the reading circle for our special visitor to come and read with them.
 The mouse from Laura Numeroff's books made an appearance. She talked and read the newest book that she is the star of.
         The students really enjoyed seeing me dressed up. The excitement in the students eyes was wonderful. One of my first graders looked at me and said I know it is really you Mrs. Mitchell.
After I finished reading with the students I explained the stations to them and told parents how it helps with reading and how they can do the same thing at home. The students found their parents grabbed their dice and game board and found their first station. 
        At the Beyond the Brownie station the students were able to draw a picture of what they think would happen next if the story had continued. This station worked on making predictions and extending the story. 

         Mouse memory found students testing their memory in two different ways. They played a classic game of memory with the scenes from the book then they had to put the pictures in order based on what happened in the story. 

         At the "You are the Author" station the students came up with such cute stories to share with others. We had the Mouse getting apples, oranges, cheese sandwiches, and even an iPod. The creative juices were flowing for sure.
        The puppet station is always a big hit for our students. They create a paper bag puppet so that they can use it to retell the story. We had some really cute mouse puppets this time.

         Knowing how much students love creating and making I decided to add a construction station this time. Students and parents worked together to build boats like the mouse did when it rained. Then they tested them out in the water to see if they floated. 


         The last station was a new station for most parents and students it was a mini-breakout session. They had to work together to solve two puzzles to unlock the brownies!! It was great to see parents and students solving problems together!

           The media center was buzzing with excitement for over an hour and half as the parents and students moved from station to station. I enjoyed watching the level of engagement at each station. One of the main reasons I started these afternoons was to provide a way for the students and their parents to connect over a great book. 
          As the parents were leaving this afternoon they thanked me for the afternoon session and said they were looking forward to the next one. I am already thinking ahead to January when I have my next afternoon. Some of the things I am working on include: reaching all grade levels instead f just PK-2nd grade, reaching more parents, inviting the public library again, and putting together take home reading packets for the students and parents.  I want to make sure that the students and parents always feel like they are getting what they need from these afternoons. 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Global Read Aloud 2016


 Every year in October there is a Global Read Aloud event. This is where people around the world read the same books and share ideas and activities with other classrooms. It is a great way to make global connections. This is the second year that Level Cross Elementary participated. Knowing that students are more engaged when they have an authentic audience to share with I created a Google Doc and shared it with others in the Global Read Aloud Community and on Twitter. I decided to try to make the activities as hands on and interactive as possible for the students.
            This week we have been busy making connection with students around the country. We read Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo and discussed what it means to be brave. Wanting to share our ideas with others we added our thoughts to a padlet.
             We also wrote letters to and tweeted with students around the globe to tell them about our town and school. The students were excited when we received our first post card from Calvin Coolridge Elementary in Massachusetts. We are eagerly waiting for more postcards from our new friends. 
             I also created a Global City Google Presentation for students and teachers to share their "city creations" with us. We had classes from as far away as Canada share with us. Wanting to make our last day of Nana in the City special I decided to do a K-5 project and have the students build a city. We started with our 5th graders researching City Planning on Wonderopolis and becoming City Planners, Engineers, Parks/Recreational Planners, Architects, and Department of Transportation workers. They designed and built the framework for the younger students to add to our city.
             As each class entered the media center I gave them the schematics that the 5th graders came up with and then they became builders and landscapers. They built with Legos,cereal boxes, toilet paper/paper towels holders, and construction paper. During each 45 minute session our town grew bigger and bigger until it was finally 4th grades time to draw the road for our Ozobots to travel down. 

               Today the theme of the media center was design thinking. They had a task to accomplish and they used ingenuity and problem solving to create the perfect city for our Ozobots to travel through. I am so proud of our students hard work and great attitude. It was a great way to conclude our week with Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo. Next week we will be reading The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Simple Reflective Blog

           This past year was one of the best years of my teaching career. I was privileged to be able to publish an article, present at a conference, and be named as the Media Specialist of Year for my county. However, as wonderful as that was, that is not what made this year so great. It was the connections that I made with the students, teachers, administrators, community, and other educators that made the difference.

Connections within the School Community

          I was able to collaborate with more teachers this year which helped make my lessons relevant to what the students were learning in the classroom. I was also able to help show them new ways to  redesign lessons with technology that ignited a passion for learning.
          My Afternoon Family Reading sessions helped me connect with parents and the public library. Children need to see their parents excited about reading so I designed afternoons where parents and children could come and enjoy a good story and then create, play, and discover the joy of reading through centers.
          My main focus though was of course on the students. Education is about creating connections with students and then guiding them to discover who they are and what excites them about learning. To do this you have to let go of the control and give it back to the students. I discovered this especially the last half of this year with my Makerspaces, STEM projects, and Breakout Sessions. Once I gave the freedom to the students the collaboration, problem solving, creating, and engagement went through the roof.  I am already planning for next year and excited at the potential it holds for the students. I plan to continue to step out of my comfort zone, do what is best for students, and teach to reach each and every student.
Reflections of an Elementary Media Specialist
Connections outside the school
             Through technology tools such as Padlet I was able to help connect students with students around the globe on projects such as Global Reading Day and Read Across America Week. National Poetry Month we celebrated by creating a Padlet where we were able to share poems across the country. The students enjoyed seeing how far our Padlet reached. It was a great way to demonstrate that connections can occur no matter where you are in the world. I am really looking forward to doing some Mystery Skypes, Virtual Field trips, and more Padlets next year.
            Another thing that made this year different than any other was my Professional Learning Community (PLC) increased. Thanks to PLC meetings in my district and Twitter I was able to collaborate and learn from so many talented educators. If I could give advice to any new educator it would be to grow your PLC as much as possible. We are in a field that is constantly changing and reinventing itself. We need to work together so that we can give the students what they need. I wouldn't have been able to accomplish as much as I did without the support of my PLC.

Final thoughts

         The take-away from the year: build connections. There is truth in the saying, "Students may not remember what you taught them but they will remember how you made them feel." Teach them to believe in themselves, provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to reach their potential and watch them soar. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Discovering Breakout Edu

         Critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and student engagement are all benefits that come with introducing students to Breakout Education.  With Breakout Edu students work in groups to solve riddles and/or problems to get answers to unlock the "box" which leads to another locked box or code until they finally get to the last box. Breakout Edu can be completed with actual locks and boxes or digitally. This year I was fortunate enough to try both kinds with the fourth and fifth graders at my school. The results were amazing.

         My first experience was with 5th graders using a game that I created called "Breakout of Elementary Media" in honor of their last media class in elementary school. The students were engaged and focused like never before as they set forth to solve the first clue. The clues can be as simple or as complex as they need to be. For this game the students had to use riddles around the room and on a website to give them the answers to a survey which led them to the first locked box. Inside that first box was a decipher to get them to the next clue. This format continued until they reached the final box. Not only does Breakout Edu teach the aforementioned skills it also teaches perseverance and determination.  Frustration sometimes happens within a team as they stumble or fail at the clue, however it was great to see the teams work through it and solve the problems. The students were sprinting across the media center trying to find answers to the clues or riddles. As they unlocked the final box they were rewarded with a sweet treat of M&Ms and a bookmark to use for summer reading. The students left that day telling everyone that they "broke out" of the media center. They were greeted with puzzled faces since no one else at my school knows about Breakout Education. This problem will be resolved next year as I train the teachers on the benefits of Breakout Education.



         The last experience of this year was with fourth graders using a digital breakout called, "Saving North Carolina." I was excited that the fourth grade teachers were willing to collaborate with me on this.  The students had the task of saving North Carolina from a Zombie attack. The digital Breakout was much more in depth where they had to really work together to decipher the messages and the clues within the sentences to find the key to the locks.  I read on a Twitter feed that one student said, "To break out of the box we have to think outside the box." I loved that and created this game with that in mind.  I wanted them to have to make inferences and think critically about each clue. The students set forth on the task and the energy level in the classroom was wonderful to watch. The students were engaged, enthusiastic, and collaborating. Cheers went up around the room each time a group figured out one of the locks. One of the parents later told us that her child truly had fun with this activity. When students are so engaged that they go home and tell parents about what happened at school you know you have an activity that truly benefits the students. The fourth grade teachers are eager to learn more about Breakout Education and I am hoping that they can help me spark a school wide interest next year.

        Here is the link to the game, "Saving North Carolina" if you are interested in trying it out at your school.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Summer Reading Kickoff

        Every year our school presents a summer reading challenge to our students. If they meet this challenge they are able to participate in a celebration at the beginning of the next school year. While we talk this challenge up with our students we have never had a “Summer Reading Kick-Off” to get them excited about reading for the summer. So this year I planned our “Kick-Off” celebration after school to help give parents some ideas to promote summer reading through playing games.  I also wanted to make sure that we include the public library in this event to help promote their summer reading program. 
        Parents and students arrived in the media center eager to participate. I took a few minutes at the beginning to share resources on our web page that will help their child with reading over the summer and explained the games that were set up.  Then I introduced the public librarian from our local library.   She shared about their summer reading plan and also read "The Bear That Ate Your Sandwich" by Julia Sarcone-Roach and "Mother Bruce" by Ryan T. Higgens. After she finished reading the parents and students rotated through the stations. 
        One station was “Pictionary” where students drew the scene from the book to see if parents could tell what it was. This helps them recall characters and events in details from the story which helps with comprehension. They could also use our "Chalkboard Table cloth" to draw their favorite characters or scenes from the story. 
         Another station was the “Lego” build station.  Once again students focused on comprehension and recall skills as they build scenes from the story. This one was one of the most popular stations of today along with the book mark station. They were able to create their own book mark to use for all of the summer reading they plan on doing. 
          We also had a Boggle and a Hedbanz station where students could practice vocabulary skills. Each family left with an empty Boggle board and cards to use to play the game at home. The bag also included Scrabble cards. 
           At the Hedbanz station students put character traits on their head and had the parents give them hints to guess which trait they had. It was great to see the parents and students interacting together. 
           The last station was signing up for the reading program at our local public library. The librarians took the students pictures for their "Winner's Circle" wall. The students love going to the library and seeing their faces on the wall. I am so glad that they were able to attend this event. It wouldn't have been the same without them. 
            To see pictures and read more about the event check out our Flipbook.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Creating a Makerspace in the Elementary Media Center

     For the past two years I have wanted to create a Makerspace in the media center. While I don't technically have the "space" so to speak I decided to set up stations this week to make it happen. This week has been the most fun we have had in a while. I set up four stations for the students to rotate around, a Makey-Makey station, a Littlebits station, a Stikbot animation station, and a Chalkboard tabletop. This week I had 1st, 3rd, 5th, and a Life Skills class. Each class has left the media center all excited about the next time they will visit.  The collaborating and creating among the students made the journey to having a Makerspace well worth it. 
         The first station was the Makey-Makey.  The Makey-Makey website describes it as "an invention kit for the 21st century. You can turn everyday objects into touch pads and combine them with the Internet. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between." This is a great way to get your students creating new ways to interact with the computer. To start off I created a piano out of paper, tinfoil, and duct tape. This was my way of introducing it to the students. We have explored playing PAC-man, the bongos, piano, and even created a human piano this week.The students are looking forward to next time when they are going to be able to explore other ways to control the computer.


        The next station was a Littlebits station.  According to the website, Littlebits allows students to create inventions with easy to use electronic building blocks. The students have enjoyed creating everything from a buzzer, siren, a light switch, and even a prank handshake today.  Littlebits is perfect for collaboration, and problem solving. If the circuit didn't work they quickly set about trying to  discover how to fix it. The exploration of circuits and electronics is a great way to show your students how engineering and technology go hand in hand.

         After exploring at these two stations students had a chance to go "old school" so to speak. I purchased a Chalkboard Tablecloth for my students to use to create responses to books or research in the media today. I took advantage of the fact that it is National Poetry Month and had the students to research on Wonderopolis "What is a haiku?" Then the groups had to work together to write their own.

        Our last station was the Stikbots station; where the students used a simple digital camera and Stikbots to create a stop animation movie. This is a station that will take a couple of weeks to finish. Today the fifth graders had the bots doing the "Whip and Nae", climbing up walls, and more.



           Needless to say the Makerspace was a big hit with both the students and myself. I am looking forward to watching the students create, design, collaborate, and problem solve their way through each station. I am also planning to add a craft making station as soon as I collect enough supplies.  If you have been considering starting a Makerspace in your media center/library I would strongly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blackout Poetry in honor of National Poetry Month

         There are those activities that you start with your students that seem like such a great idea and then you try and they don't go as well. Then there are activities that you think - this might be over their heads but let's try anyway only to be blown away from the outcome.  This activity fits in the last category. I saw a great idea on Twitter called Blackout Poetry and had to try it. The premise is for students to take a page of a weeded book and then black out the words that they don't want to use for the poem.  The words not blacked out make the poem.
           Today's group did such a great job and you could really see the critical thinking that the students used for this activity. They were working on blacking out the words and kept going back and forth between what to use and what not to use and explaining their reasoning to each other. Then when we got to the end they needed a title. So one of the students looked at the words and said them out loud slowly: "stiff, look into her eyes, standing still". Then he had an "aha" moment and screamed, "MEDUSA! You turn stiff when you look at her."  It was a great moment of students analyzing their work and making connections to prior knowledge. Here is their poem and an image of the page that they use to create it.


Each one was standing alone,
looking stiff and angry, 
he had to pass them on the way.
He had to pass, 
didn't say anything. 
Just turned his head the other way.
They had the nerve to look at 
her in the eyes.

To read more check out our padlet:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

More Poems to celebrate National Poetry Month and NCCBA

Third graders composed this poem after reading "Gravity" by Jason Chin.


Gravity, Gravity
Gravity Saves the Day
If we didn't have Gravity
Everything would Float Away.
The moon and sun would float, float away.
Thank God we have Gravity!


Third grade poem inspired by "Who said Women Can't be Doctors" by Tanya Lee Stone

Women Doctors

Twenty-eight Nos
Twenty-nine Tries
One Yes!
Graduated 1849
Proved Them Wrong
First Woman Doctor


Monday, April 4, 2016

Celebrating Poetry Month with our North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominees

This month I decided to revisit a lesson with 1st grade that I did with Kindergarten using the book Blue on Blue by Dianne White. I shared the book and then gave each partner a letter. The partners had to come up with a word that started with that letter that went with the book. Here is the poem that today's first graders came up with. It is entitled, "Rainy Day."

Rainy Day

Loud, Noisy Thunder!
Drop, Drop, Drop,
Rain hits umbrella,
Wet mud forms! 
Sun come out,
Mud Dries Up!

                                    - 1st Grade Class

Stormy Day

Rain Thunder & Lightning
Mud, Mud, Mud!
Umbrella keeps us dry!
Sunny Weather comes
Then beautiful night!

                                   -1st Grade Class

With third grade I put them in groups and let them read the books in groups. They then had to write a poem that went with the book. Here is a poem created to go with "The Cart That Carried Martin" by Eve Bunting.

Martin's Funeral

Martin's Funeral,
Sad, Sad, Sad!
Cart Pulled by Mules,
Cry, Cry, Cry!
But . . .
Hope and Freedom Still Lives!

                                    - Third Grade Class

This Orq

Cave boy
Has friend Woma,
Mama says, "No Woma!"
Woma makes a mess!
Woma saves Orq!
Mama loves Woma!

                                     -Third Grade Class

I will be adding more as the week goes on. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Women's History Month in the Media Center

        What an exciting month it has been in our media center. We are celebrating Women's History Month by researching and reading about famous women.  Every grade level has participated in creating some type of artifact or project for our Women's History Museum.

Kindergarten and 2nd graders have listened to stories about famous women and then built a scene from the book using Legos. Kindergartners then recorded themselves telling about the project while 2nd graders wrote about why the built their design.


First grade students listened to stories about famous women and then filled their silhouettes up with character trait words. (See pictures above.)

3rd graders created a Google Slide presentation or a riddle about their famous women.

4th graders talked about how sometimes when you tour a museum you don’t learn from just looking; you have to interact with it. They created “Scavenger Hunt” type questions using Google Forms, in order for you to be interactive with our museum. Here are two examples. 

5th graders researched a famous woman and then created an artifact for the museum about that woman. 

The students have learned a lot through this process and really love seeing their work on display.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

STEM meets Dr. Seuss

 While I have some of these on my last post the students did such a great job I needed to create a new post just to share them all.

 Fourth graders took part in a STEM challenge after I read Ten Apples on Top. I gave each group a bag of building supplies (sugar cubes, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and straws) to build something that will hold at least one apple.  The first day all I gave them was the items in the bag. Here are some of the structures that they created.

Day 2 - Day 4 I changed the plans a little and they could ask for one more item to use to build their structure. Here are some of the results. 

The groups with Popsicle sticks asked for tape. For this groups I told them that they had to think outside the box and couldn't just use the sticks to build a house like base. The moans soon turned to excitement as they worked on each design. 


The groups with straws asked for tape also. The students were engaged and focused as they collaborated on how to build each structure.

All groups with pipe cleaners asked for tape, except one. They asked for note cards. While not all of the designs worked, the critical thinking and collaboration that went into each design was great.


With the sugar cubes the students were asked to be creative in designing the structure.


Quotes about this lesson:

 "Let's do this more often." - 4th grade girl
"This was the best media class ever!" - 4th grade boy
"Thank you for getting them to think critically and problem solve!" - 4th grade teacher