Monday, January 19, 2015

Hanging Out With an Illustrator

How much fun did we have with our Google Hangout with Debbie Ridpath Ohi? Tons!

During January, we have been talking about medals books can earn, and have specifically talked about the Caldecott medal with our younger students. Which made this a perfect time to connect with an illustrator! A librarian friend of mine, Jennifer Reed, had recently posted on Facebook about her Skype visit with Debbie, the illustrator of I'M BORED! Debbie mentioned that she was interested in connecting with other schools and to email if you were interested. Always looking for a way to connect our students, I emailed and we set up a virtual visit for mid January, with a practice connection a week or so before. It was during our practice Skype that I mentioned the idea of a Google Hangout (GHO). For some reason, in our district, the image during a Skype is a little blurry. It seems to be better during a GHO. So in the middle of our Skype, we tried a GHO! The really cool thing was she could demonstrate how she illustrates on her computer. I knew our students would love this part!

To prepare, even though I have read I'M BORED! to many of our students, I asked the 2nd grade teachers to read it to their classes. It is such a fun book, written by Michael Ian Black, about a child who is bored. Haven't we all heard a child utter those words? The little girl then meets a potato, who is also bored! She tries to come up with ideas to entertain the potato, which of course keeps her entertained! The illustrations are so fun, and of course the story has students giggling as they listen to it!

While we waited for all of the students to come into the library, Debbie entertained the students with drawings on the shared screen. It was amazing to see how quickly an illustration could appear. 

After everyone was settled, Debbie shared with us how she created the illustrations for I'M BORED. She talked about how the author and illustrated rarely talk or even meet during the creating of the book. Then students were treated to an interactive reading of NAKED, also written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Ohi. The students were able to read the word NAKED, which had them all howling with laughter!! (See first picture)

Students were able to ask questions like when Debbie began illustrating, and if she has written any books. 

They were excited to hear that she has written and illustrated a book that will be coming our May, 2015 called WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? We can't wait to add this to our library collection!

Our students were treated to another creation, this one with torn paper. They couldn't wait to share this technique with our new art teacher! I would not be surprised if we didn't have a few budding illustrators at Curtis!

I am always so appreciative of the kindness of authors and illustrators, such as Debbie, who will so freely give their time to share their passion with our students. It is a wonderful experience for our students, and it brings literature to life for them! Thank you, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, for a great time!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robotics, Coding & Beyond

The new year brought new members to our after school Robotics & Coding club. We had 30 students in the library for the first meeting of 2015. Thankfully, we also had two parents helping!

It was so fun to see the number of students who had received either a Sphero or an Ollie for Christmas! I encouraged them to bring their own Sphero & device, and they did!

The first thing we did was participate in a Google Hangout with a young man who has graduated with a degree in computer science and currently works as a programmer. Aaron happens to be friends with my oldest daughter and was kind enough to visit with our students about opportunities they might have if they learn computer coding.

He works in Austin, Texas for a start up company, but has also worked for Samsung. Aaron shared how he has people who approach him about jobs, having received an email just that day about a job opportunity. I wanted the students to know that although it is fun playing with the Sphero robotics balls, that it could lead to more. With House Bill 5, students will choose a focus in high school. One of the strands is STEM. Robotics and coding feed right into this, and I hope that through our after school club, students might decide that this is something they are interested in.

The students listened intently as Aaron shared that he did not do any coding until he got into college and how he was impressed that they were doing these things in elementary school. It was also very interesting to hear him say that the majority of the people he works with are men, but the few women he works with are very talented. We have quite a few girls in the club, and I saw smiles on their faces as he said this. It made me wonder how many of them might go into this field when they finish school.

After we finished visiting with Aaron, Dr. Keith talked to the students about an early form of coding-- Morse code. Some of the students were familiar with Morse code, and were excited to share what they knew. Dr. Keith talked to the students about using Morse code to program the Sphero balls. 

We are using the SPRK Education Program on the Sphero website. These lessons are a great way to extend the learning with Sphero. With these lessons, students learn to program Sphero and Ollie, instead of just driving them with an iPad app. 

Our after school club keeps growing and it will be exciting to see what all they learn this school year. I would love to hear from others who are using Sphero robotics balls and Ollies in the elementary school. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let the Research Begin!

After a wonderful Christmas break, we started the new year on Monday.

With research projects on the horizon in each grade level, it is important for the students to know HOW to find information and WHERE to find information. Our students have access to several different databases, but too often these are forgotten when research assignments are assigned. One way to make sure teachers don't forget about the paid databases is to go through the students. If I teach the students all of the databases then they will remind their teachers about it! 

One of the things that make accessing our databases so easy is MackinVia. This is what we use to house all of our e-resources. Students can access ebooks, online databases and audio books. With our recent update, students only need the User ID and the Password. There is no need to select a school.

Here students can easily locate our online databases without additional logins. Several of these databases also have read along capabilities which make them a great tool for Daily 5 time. 

We also looked at World Book online. This is our first year using this database. One aspect the students are really enjoying is the Dramatic Learning part. Here they can find plays and reader's theater  grouped by grade level, subject and title. 

We explored both World Book Kids and World Book Student. Students talked about the differences between the two, recognizing that sometimes it might be more effective to use one rather than the other.

Fifth graders are doing research on US regions, so that was our focus as we looked at World Book Online as well as TrueFlix. TrueFlix is a perfect tool for this, as there is an ebook for each region of focus.  Students can also easily find additional resources on TrueFlix, as well as a short video clip. Fifth graders will be presenting their research with either a Weebly website or a Thinglink.  Before Christmas break, students came to the library to learn about these two tools. I can't wait to see what they create!

Third graders have been enjoying PebbleGo Biographies, so we looked at the new PebbleGo Science and all it has to offer.  While looking at this, we talked about using key words to search for specific topics.  


In addition, we discussed the importance of citing sources while doing research. PebbleGo makes it easy for students to cite sources!

My hope with these lessons is to equip students with research skills that will enable them to get started on their assigned projects. As a classroom teacher, I remember it being difficult to teach research skills, assign a project and also have the time to actually have students complete the project. By teaching research skills to students before the classroom teacher assigns the project, it allows the teacher to focus more on the actual project. 

In future lessons, we will focus more on keyword searches and practice citing sources.