Saturday, December 31, 2016

The "Gift of Reading" Tree

Over the Thankgiving break, I saw this post on Facebook and reposted it on my library Facebook page.
On of my teachers texted me and said I should do that in the library.  I loved the idea, but wasn't sure about the logistics of it.  I had a few days to think about it and talk it over with my assistant and a few teachers and decided to do it.  I borrowed a small tree from another teacher and set it up the in the library. My assistant and I pulled enough books from my stash of book fair purchases and freebies to give one student in each grade level a book for each of the school days in December - 90 books!  We wrapped them and put them under the tree.  I asked the teachers to each send me the names of 3 students in their class that either came from a book barren home or could use an extra gift this holiday season.  I put the names in envelopes by grade level and every day on the morning announcements I would call one student from each grade to come to the "Gift of Reading tree to choose a book.  

The students were so happy to get a book of their own to keep.  

Teachers told me that every day students would cross their fingers, hoping their name was called. We wanted the students to unwrap their books in the library so we could see what they got, but a lot wanted to wait and open the book back in the classroom with their teacher. 

This was a really fun way to celebrate reading during the holiday season. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Technology Tuesday: Coding with Kinder

My kinder students have seen the "big kids" using Dash in the library and they keep asking when they will get to play with it.  I talked with the kidner teachers and we decided that during December's Hour of Code would be a good time to introduce Dash to the students.  We had school for three weeks between our Thanksgiving and Winter breaks so I decided to do a progessive introduction for them.  We started the first week using the Kodable app on the iPad.

The second time they came I introduced them to Dash and the Wonder Path app where students could make Dash follow a path they traced on the ipad with their fingers.  They had such a blast with this. 

The third week, we tried using the Wonder Blockly app.  I showed them how they could use the words to make dash do different things and limited them to the Movement, Animation and Sound commands since most are nonreaders.  This was by far the most challenging for them because of the words, but they still enjoyed it.They loved finding new noises and animations for Dash. Their favorite was the burping sound and the kissing animation.  

Maker Monday: 1st Grade Make Toys

In December, my first graders research transportation, communication and recreation in Colonial Times.  You can read about that here.  This year, I deceided to kick it up a notch and invite the classes in for time in the makerspace for students to make their own toy.  We talked about how in the Colonial Times there were no factories to make toys, no plastic and no batteries.  The children had to make toys from what they had on hand.  I showed them some of the different materials in our makerspace and then let them have at it.  Once again, the creativity the children showed, amazed me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Technology Tuesday: New Makerspace Robots

I feel so far behind in my blogging.  So much has been happening in the library this year and I have failed miserably at documenting it. One of the most exciting things is that we have some new robot-y items for our makerspace that the students are LOVING! (Disclaimer: I really had not played with any of these things in depth before putting them into the hands of students.  I really have been saying "I have no idea how these things work, y'all will need to figure them out").

Wonder Dash and Dot: I have 6 of the Dash robots and we borrowed 3 of the Dots for a few weeks. The students love Dash because he has wheels and can move.  Dot, we don't really understand yet. There are free apps by Wonder that can be downloaded to the ipads to code or control the Dashes. The students at first just want to drive them around and race them, but now they have moved on to coding it to make it do anything.  We made some mazes using shower curtains from Dollar Tree and tape.

Even the teachers and principal love playing with Dash.

Sphero SPRK: Similar to Dash in that there are apps you can use to drive or code the sphero, but we had to do some troubleshooting for connectivity for these since they run on bluetooth.  I have 4 and students would end up controlling someone else's until I labeled each SPRK with their "name" on the bottom with clear tape.  The students like racing these and coding them around the mazes as well.

Cubelets: These are sets of different cubes each cube with a different function.  When you put the cubes together something happens.  We have been using the cards that come with the set to build so far.

Ozobots: Small robots that are coding from colored lines and dashes.  Students have been trying to have the ozobots trace their names in cursive and have been designing tracks for them to run on. 

All of these have been really fun additions to our makerspace area.  I am excited to see what the students will do with them as the year goes on.  Now if I could only find a way to keep them all charged.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Maker Monday: Kinder Halloween Makerspaces

When I started the makerspace at my school last year, I started it with 2nd-5th grades (you can read about that here). Thinking there was no way that I could run the makerspace the same way for kinders and 1st graders (if you read this blog consistently, you'll know about my panic attacks before each and every kinder class - haha) I decided I would see how it went the first year and try to figure out a way to give them opportunities the second year.

Well, in May last year, I decided to experiment and see if my kinder teachers wanted to come as a class to the makerspace to try a challenge.   You can read "5 Things I Learned From Kinder Makerspace" here.  I really liked this format so that is how I wanted to continue this year with them.

I found some Halloween STEM challenges on pinterest that I liked and couldn't narrow down which one I wanted to try so I decided to do 4, one each week in October (I know, I get crazier and crazier). I got the ideas from this blog and this one.  

Week 1: Build the tallest tower to hold a pumpkin.

Week 2: Make a monster bookmark (the bookmark folding was direct teach, but then they could decorate however they wanted)

Week 3: Make a Paper Bat Fly

Week 4: Design a Candy Tosser

The teachers and I had so many "Wow" moments watching the students these 4 weeks.  Like this student who was using pipe cleaners to hold 4-5 empty boxes together to make his tower for the pumpkin.

And I wish I had video of the last student in the bat video above when he asked me if he could tape a pencil to his bat.  When I said yes, his face was priceless.  Totally did not believe me and said, "I mean this pencil... can I tape it to my bat?" I said yes again and he still stood there.  Hilarious!

While kinders exhaust me, I am always amazed at what they can do, think about, design, invent and make and I am always glad that I give them the opportunity to do those things. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

You Can't Read That!

Go get a different book.
That book is too hard for you.
You can't read that.
That book is not on your level.
You need an easier book.

I must (sadly) admit as a previous classroom teacher of 12 years, I probably uttered one or more of these phrases to any given student thinking that I was helping them make a better choice that would further their reading.  But instead, what I probably did was make that child like reading a little less.  

Today I had the pleasure of hearing the one and only Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) speak in my district about Voice and Choice in Reading.  She spoke for 2 wonderful hours and gave information, personal anecdotes and research about students and reading and choice.  But this one quote, mentioned very early on, is what has stuck with me for the rest of the day.

So instead of building the student into a better reader by making them choose a book "on their level", what I did, was tell them they were not good enough or able enough to read "that" book.  

What could I have done instead? 

 *Maybe ask them to sit and read a page or two with me and see if they change their mind once they read a few pages.

*Have a "preview stack" of books ready for a child that continuously chooses challenging books and say "Take a look at these books I thought you might like!" 

*Ask "Are you and your mom/dad/grandma going to read that together?"

*Check to see if there is an audio version of the book and let them download that to a device to read along.

And then the unthinkable... let them check it out anyway!  

Maybe they have a desire to persevere and read through the book,  Maybe they hide a "baby book" in the pages of the bigger book so no one knows what they are reading. Maybe they just want to be like the other kids.  Maybe choosing a book in the library is the only choice they have control over that day.  

Maybe I need to find a way to support them and help them like reading because as Donalyn said, "If not us, then who?"

What key phrases or techniques do you use to help a student choose books?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Technology Tuesday: Dot Day Aurasmas

Last week for Dot Day, my 4th graders thought about their goals for the year and how they were going to make their mark.  In class, they wrote out a script and colored a dot and then brought them to the library to make aurasma videos of themselves reading their goals using their dots as the trigger. We are planning to hang the dots in the hallways for other students to watch.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

What Was I Thinking?

For the last few years to promote my Bluebonnet  program, I have offered 3 raffle prizes for students who read more than 5 books. For each book over 5 they earn a raffle ticket and can place it in the box of their choice. Each of the 3 prizes connects or represents one or more of the books in some way. I have raffled things like Spurs jerseys when "Mathlete vs Althlete" was on the list. When "The One and Only Ivan" was nominated I had a giant stuffed gorilla. This year, when brainstorming with my fellow partner in crime, Natalie Watts (@readdancetweet), she came up with the idea to raffle a hamster- not a stuffed one, but a real, live one!

So what do all good friends do? Copy their friend's great ideas. So I spoke with my principal to see if she was ok with us keeping a hamster in the library until January and then raffling it off to a student that had parent permission to win the hamster. 

We got the hamster and cage last week and he/she has been a huge hit! 

I don't have a name yet, so the students have been suggesting ideas on butcher paper.
We have gotten names like Eyeball, Snowflake, Olaf and Caitlin from Kinder. And Fluffy, Dump Truck, Hammy and Rider from other grades. I will pick a name and announce it on the announcements on Wednesday. 

While he has caused quite a commotion this week, it has been really fun to see the excitement and wonder of all the students as they come to check out books and watch the hamster for a few minutes. Even when he is sleeping, they talk to it and ask questions about it. 

So I'm not really sure what I was thinking when I decided to bring a hamster into my library, but I can't wait to see what other opportunities it sparks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Technology Tuesday: Summer Twitter Challenge for Teachers

This summer I challenged my teachers to explore twitter.  I wanted them to have a relaxed time to figure things out at their own pace.  I knew the first thing they would say is "I don't know what to tweet about!" So I tied in Donalyn Miller's #bookaday hashtag.  I told the teachers to tweet a picture of ANYTHING  they read during the summer.  It could be a picture book, a grown-up book, a young adult book, a magazine, a blog post... anything. They just needed to put the #bookaday with the tweet. We talked about how they could write a little bit about the book if  it was a picture book or chapter book they might use with their class.

It was really fun!  About 15 teachers participated.  

On the first teacher day back in August when we met as a faculty, I handed out Twitter Badges and a gift certificate for our Fall book fair - the $ amount was the amount of books they read... they ranged from $5-$50!!!).  

Now those teachers that participated are more familiar with tweeting and are starting to tweet things about their class this year.  It will be fun to have more connected educators on my campus.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Happened to Summer?

I am not sure what happened to summer.  I feel like I spent most of it in my car.  I have an incoming Junior in high school and an incoming 8th grader, bith boys who play baseball.  So my whole summer felt like I was either taking them to practice, lessons or heading out of town for tournaments.  I did manage to get 2 weeks at my favorite place in the world, Fish Creek Wisconsin.  Otherwise I really would not have felt like I had a summer.

The good thing about all that baseball is that I got a lot of books read.  I am talking 35-40 chapter book. Bluebonnets, young adult, grown-up and professional books.  I got some of everything.  Here are a few of my favorites.

#1 Professional Book:  Kids Deserve It!
A perfect summer book written by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.  A great reminder about why most of us got into the teaching profession... because Kids Deserve It.  With uplifting stories and humorous ancedotes, these two principals have started a revolution of educators who are in it to do what's best for kids.  I loved this book!  As a matter of fact, one of my teachers saw my tweet about it and asked if she could borrow it.  Then another one asked to borrow, and another and... now at least 9 of my teachers have read it and more are on the "waiting list".  We even gave it to our new principal as a welcome gift on her first day, signed by those of us who had read it over the summer. 

#1 Young Adult Book: Serpent King

I just love YA books.  Almost enough to make me want to be a middle school librarian... not!  But I really do love to read them.  Three high school seniors all trying to deal with their last year together in a small town.  One dying to get out, one content to stay and one who thinks he can never escape.  Told from all three points of view, but interwoven into an unforgettable coming of age story.  

#1 Bluebonnnet Book: Echo
I am afraid the sheer size of this book will scare off a lot of readers (over 500 pages) which will be such a shame because it is a wonderful story of three children brought together by a magical harmonica that comes in and out of their lives at the perfect time.  I could not put this book down. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Real World 3D Print: Part 2

So when Part 1 left off, our technology coordinator and I had spent 3 hours trying out different processes to print Braille keychains with students.  At first, we thought that each one could make a letter of the alphabet to start and then they could use each other's letters to make the key chains. Too involved! We finally decided that the easiest thing would be to have them copy the original braille cell I made and remove the dots, just as I did.

I had spoken to a 5th grade teacher about doing it with her math class of about 20 kids.  She was super excited.  The kids came to the library and I had Michelle explain a little bit about what Ivan had been going through.

She also brought some Braille shapes on paper so the students could feel what it was like.  She told the students that Ivan was at a school in Austin learning how to adapt to being blind. I then explained about the original keychain that I had made and how we wanted to make more for the other students at the school.

We brainstormed a list of positive, encouraging words that we could put on the keychains (I forgot to take a picture of that).  Word like: smile, hope, joy, just do it, cheerful, love, shine, etc.  The students picked a word and planned out what the word would look like in Braille.

Once the teacher or I checked their Braille, they could begin using Tinkercad to design the keychain.

When they were finished, the teacher or I checked their work to maker sure the keychain was the right thickness, no shapes were poking through the bottom, the hole went all the way through and that the dots were raised to the right height.  The students then wrote the title of their design on a list so I could begin printing them.  

After they were printed, I sent them home with Michelle one weekend so Ivan could "proof-read" them for us to maker sure the keychain said what it was supposed to say.  She was kind enough to record a video for the students...

The students were super excited about this product and really proud of themselves when they had their finished keychain in hand.  They knew they had done something special for the students at the school and felt good about that.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Few Things I've Learned While Using the 3D Printer

Just a few things I learned while making the Decade Coins with 5th grade.

1. Kids are WAY more creative and better at Tinkercad thank I am.  I have always had trouble visualizing things.  I can not picture how furniture should look in a room.  I actually have to see it in there or move it around.  I had a very difficult time making a sample coin to show 5th grade. I was worried how the kids would be able to connect the different shapes to create what they wanted or if they would get frustrated.  They were much faster and much better at combining the shapes than I was. 

2.  There are different kinds of filament.  Who knew?  Not me.  My 3D printer came with a role of filament and when I was running low, I emailed the vendor that the printer was purchased from and asked him for a quote on white filament for the Afinia printer.  He sent it and I bought it.  

3.  Different filaments have different settings on the printer. When I loaded it and printed for the first time the coin would NOT come off the raft.  It was stuck on there like super-glue.  I thought maybe I had messed up the calibration or the nozzle height so I reset those and printed again.  Still stuck. I emailed Afinia support - which is great by the way.  They sent back some instructions and still stuck.  I went through the whole set up one more time and happened to notice a drop down in front of ABS and remember seeing something about ABS filament.  I looked at the filament that I loaded and it said PLA.  I changed it in the drop down and presto-chango, worked like a charm. I really don't know what the difference is between the ABS and PLA but I found this article if you are interested.

4.  Different filaments take coloring differently.  After I made my sample coins, I tried coloring them with Sharpie marker.  Keep in mind this was on the ABS filament - no good.  The marker bled and looked horrible.  Crayons were no good either.
Colored pencils worked great on the ABS filament.

Colored Pencils

Once I loaded the accidently PLA filament, the Sharpie markers looked awesome!  The PLA is a little shinier and maybe seals better so the sharpie doesn't bleed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Technology Tuesday: Decade Research and 3D Coins

You know those crazy ideas that come to you in the middle of the night?  The ones that wake you up and then you can't go back to sleep because you are thinking about them?  Well, that is how this research product came about and boy was it fun.  I have just recently received a 3D printer and have been trying to figure out meaningful ways to use it with classrooms.  I woke up in the middle of the night one night after talking with a 5th grade teacher about the decade research made into an iMovie product that we have done for the last few years.  I also had 3D printing on my mind and I guess the two things just blended together and "Voila" the Decade Commemorative Coin was born.

The next day, I talked with the 5th grade teacher and explained my idea.  Students would do a decade "exploration" where they listed important events, people, inventions, famous firsts, ect from the decade and then choose one of those things to research more in depth and create an image on the top of a "coin" to represent the decade. Now this is the teacher that I have written about before (see this post).  She is slowly becoming more comfortable with technology, but I knew as long as we were in it together she would be on board.  I told her about the tinkercad website and that it was easy to use, but that I really had no idea what the students would come up with or be able to design (just keepin' it real).  Well, we were totally surprised by the creativity and outcome the students produced!

We spent one day doing the decade exploration using books that I borrowed from the middle schools. The next two days, the students chose their specific idea they would research more thoroughly using books, Britannica online and other websites that I had listed on my library webpage.

Then the fun part... I pulled them all together on the 4th day and briefly explained how tinkercad worked.  We were using chromebooks, so the students were able to loging to tinkercad with their google account.  I gave them the specifications of how big and think t make the coin and showed them how to group object and layer them on top of the coin. I also had them name their designs with their first name and the object and make it public so that I could find them and then print when they were finished.  We talked about the different shapes they could use and how they design couldn't be too detailed because of the small space we were working with.  

Then they set to work... As with any project, some students grasped using tinkercad right away and some needed a little more assistance but over all we were super pleased with their finished coins.  I was shocked at how detailed some of the students were able to get their coins and the things they figured out without me telling them. 

My filament is white, so I knew we were going to want to color them somehow.  We tested a few things and found that colored pencils worked best until I accidently ordered a different filament when I was getting low and then Sharpies worked better (see this post about things I learned).

Each coin took about an hour to print so as I finished a couple, I would take them down to the class where they waited anxiously to see if it was theirs'.  They colored the coin and wrote a little bit about the event pictured.


After printing the first couple, I realized that I was going to have to go in to each design and make sure they had layered properly and there were not spaces between the layers, layers coming through the bottom of the coin, or that the layers were not too tall.  That part was a little time consuming, but well worth it to the see the results.