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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Introducing the Research Process - with a Coding Twist!

We are diving into the research process in third grade!

I've played around a lot in the past with teaching the research process, and it can be tricky. In my school, most 3rd and 4th grade classes do research projects with their teachers, but they don't go through allllll the steps of the research process. I think it's important to at least have a picture of what the research process looks like, so we do a little researchin' in third grade library!

My lessons are all built around a six-step framework, loosely based on the Big 6 Research Model. I like how it spends a lot of time and steps around searching for and evaluating information, and the circular model is definitely important to me - I want students to know that you aren't done when you've turned in the paper or made the presentation! We can always be researching!

Before I describe this year's lesson, let me just say: I used to introduce the research process by modeling it with the question "How do you make the best s'more?" The kids went through the process of deciding on sources (yes, I did make sure we had a s'mores recipe in a cookbook specifically for this lesson!), finding the right information within each source and putting them all together to decide on a perfect combination, and then - of course - evaluating the product! It was great and the kids loved it. Now, our district is very strict about including food as part of a lesson because there are so many allergies. So I had to come up with another way to engage kids in the six steps!

Introducing: Ozzie, the Ozobot Researcher!

This year, I started walking kids through the idea of the research process by skimming a graphic novel biography of Henry Ford. Henry Ford is a very familiar historical figure in metro Detroit, so they're all pretty much familiar with his story already, but I put it in the lens of research. Henry Ford defined a problem - cars were way too expensive to make! - and he had to locate and use sources of information, synthesize everything he learned, and evaluate the product before starting all over again until he had the Model T! As I skim through the book, I flip through a quick PowerPoint of the six steps and how he went through all of them.

Finally I re-introduced them to Ozzie, the Ozobot! We LOOOOVE Ozobots in my library-  they're a fun, stress-free way to introduce coding and they can be incorporated into lots of different lessons. This time, I explained, Ozzie has a problem: He REALLY wants hot cocoa, but he's got a problem. Ozzie is a robot, and has never made hot cocoa before. So he has to go through all the steps in the research process to create the best hot cocoa ever. Kids had to code Ozzie so he went to each step in the correct order, as well as fill in some blanks to help him along. They loooved it!

Now to dive into each step individually.. hopefully they will stay just as excited! :)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Storybook STEM: Fly! by Mark Teague

This week we used Ozobots to solve a problem in one of our Mock Caldecott contenders: Fly!, by Mark Teague!

Image result for fly teague"Have you read "Fly!" yet?? It's hilarious and adorable and, in my opinion, one of the stronger Mock Caldecott picks we've got. It's also a wordless picture book, which fourth graders in my library don't get to see too much, so it was fun to read with them! We read most of the book, which shows through pictures and speech bubbles the battle between a baby bird and his mother when he falls out of the nest. His mother's insistence that he is unsafe because of owls and cats and dogs, as well as an argument that he needs to learn to fly so he can migrate to Florida for the winter, is met with comical suggestions for other methods of transportation: a snowboard jump, a convertible, a train. The kids loved it.

Then we posed our question: How can we help the baby bird get to Florida, if he doesn't learn to fly?

Because we're starting a Scratch project in the next few weeks, I wanted them to get more familiar with block coding. So, we pulled out the Ozobots - but not the markers! (This was VERY upsetting to them at first - the color coding is DEFINITELY preferred!) They used OzoBlockly to program the "baby bird" from his nest to Florida. I put a dog, cat, and owl in the way to be obstacles, but I learned from a previous lesson in OzoBlockly and didn't make it too tricky. The pictures were just photographs of pages of the book, printed out and taped on white butcher paper so Ozobot wouldn't get confused by the grains in the table.

The kids had a great time and were mostly able to get him from here to there! We did have to discuss the importance of including loops - I learned that lesson last time: The less code, the less time it takes to load!

After all that, the kids saw the last few pages of the story, in which the bird's mother leaves, causing him to panic and - gasp - fly! They pretty much agreed that going in an Ozobot is a preferable mode of travel.

Genre Study Part 2: Historical Fiction

Our second-grade genre exploration continues with: Historical Fiction!

Historical fiction can be a tricky genre for second graders because a lot of the great historical fiction series are juuuuust out of their reach. I try to book-talk American Girl series, I Survived, the Dear America series, and then I end up doing a lot of stand-alone novels because historical fiction just doesn't tend to be too popular with the early chapter book set. If you know of any great series, PLEASE let me know - especially ones that feature diverse characters!

Our delve into historical fiction is a little shorter than our fantasy unit; here's what we did this year:

Week 1: Introduction to the Genre & Different Time Periods

Since this is only our second genre after fantasy, it takes a while to reintroduce the idea that there are lots of different types of fiction books. We have to point out that not every book in the fiction section has magic in it; there are lots of other kinds! I book-talk a bunch of historical fiction books without naming the genre, and write the word "fiction" on the board. Even though they are all fiction, they all have something else in common - can anyone figure out what it is?! Typically they're able to tell me that they take place a long time ago, and we define the word "history" before turning it into the word "historical."

Image result for winter days in the big woodsI took them on a picture walk of Winter Days in the Big Woods, an early reader/picture book version of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. We discussed what we saw in the pictures that made us think it happened in history, and was historical fiction; those pictures are full of great scenes like butter churns, wood-burning stoves, old dress, and log cabins. Another book I've used for this activity is Snowflake Bentley.

Then we explored different historical periods using the Magic Tree House Kids Mission Game on our Chromebooks. We practiced logging in to the Chromebooks (we've ALMOST all got it!), then each student had to choose a mission to complete. Each mission takes them to four different historical periods, which we discussed could all be the setting of a historical fiction book. We did have to discuss before we started, though, that Magic Tree House themselves are not historical fiction - they've got magic in the name, so they must be fantasy!

Week 2: Hour of Code with Ozobots & Elements of Historical Fiction

Because our Week 2 happened to coincide with Hour of Code week, it worked out perfectly that we were already planning an Ozobot exploration of elements of historical fiction! Each pair of students got an Ozobot, markers, and an "Elements of Historical Fiction" map. Their task was to use color codes to make the Ozobot pause next to things that would belong in a historical fiction scene (a covered wagon, World War I & II helmets, the past), and speed by things that would not belong in a historical fiction scene (aliens, dragons, flying cars). It was a HIT!


If you've never used Ozobots before, check them out! They are easily differentiated from very simple color coding to more complicated Block coding, and I find them to be a blast to integrate into a variety of different lessons.

Week 3: A Kahoot! Genre Review

The week before winter break is always an interesting one - energy is high and attendance is low! Instead of introducing a new topic this week, I like to do a review or a project so no one misses new material (this year I had a record - TEN absences in one kindergarten class!!). We reviewed our two genres using a Kahoot! interactive quiz. The second grade teachers don't tend to use Kahoot!, so this was new for them - and they! loved! it! You can create your own Kahoot or use mine!

Historical fiction is in the bag! We're moving on after break to my favorite: mystery!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Turkey Time! Thanksgiving STEM in the Library

The last week before Thanksgiving break, we took some time for some turkey-related activities in fourth grade! All classes did some AWESOME work creating a turkey on Google Draw, and one class got some storybook STEM with How to Catch a Turkey!

Make a Turkey with Google Draw

We've been exploring Google Draw in preparation for creating characters for our upcoming Choose Your Own Adventure books. Previously, students had to practice completing a Google Classroom assignment by drawing a self-portrait using Scribble on Google Draw, but that's been their only prior experience with the program. 

Luckily, it turns out a turkey is easy to make out of different shapes! I forbade them from using Scribble - they could only create their turkeys using shapes. And they. Were. AMAZING! I led them through creating a circle for the body and an elongated circle for a feather, as well as a reminder on how to copy and paste to quickly create a lot of feathers, and the kids ran with it. Check out these A-MAZ-ING turkeys!

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM: How to Catch a Turkey with Ozobots!

Our storybook STEM activity this month was all about Ozobots and turkeys!

Image result for how to catch a turkeyWe started by reading the majority of the silly rhythmic How to Catch a Turkey by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton. It's narrated by a stage-shy turkey who's about to be forced to star in the Thanksgiving pageant. To avoid the stage, he runs through the whole school - the science classroom, cafeteria, playground, hallway, and on and on. We stopped after he ran through the hallway and introduced our problem: Let's catch this turkey! 

I had set up each table with a white sheet of paper that had all the different scenes from the book taped on in the order the turkey visited them. The kids' task was to guide an Ozobot through all the sites, in hopes of catching that turkey!

If you haven't used an Ozobot before, there are two main ways to program them: You can use their line-following functionality, or write a program using a Blocks-type code on the OzoBlockly app or website.

The line-following functionality is great, and offers a more "unplugged" version of coding, because the code is really just sequences of colors and lines. Ozobots will follow any line, and will do certain tricks and moves if it sees certain colors. If this is your students' first time using Ozobots, I would recommend starting with this!

This was not my fourth graders' first time with Ozobots, though, so I had them using Blockly! I wanted them to get a tiny introduction to Blocks, and this was perfect. They did get a little frustrated because they had to wait a while between each tweak of their program to re-send the program to the bot, but the looks on their faces says it all! They did a great job!

If I were to do this again, the biggest edit I would probably make would be to cut out some of the rooms the turkey ran through. None of the groups were able to catch him by getting through the whole story!

After we worked for a while getting to as many rooms as we could, we reconvened to find out whether they did, in fact, catch the turkey, or how their problem was solved. You'll have to read it and find out! :)

Coding Unplugged: Getting First Graders Ready to Code!

I LOVE teaching first graders the basics of coding. They get so psyched, and there are so many cool things you can do with it! Our district uses the amazing Kodable curriculum (which is free! Check it out!) and I think the student lessons are amazing, but I like to integrate some more literacy into my introduction lessons!

Week 1: What is Code?

Image result for drawn together minh leWe started out by introducing the word code. I read the first few pages of Drawn Together by Minh Le, which tells the story of a boy and his grandfather who are having trouble communicating because they speak different languages. I stop while they are still unable to communicate, and we talk about how difficult it can be to understand someone if you aren't speaking the same language. Then I show them our code word card: the language computers speak. We discuss how computers can't understand us if we speak English, because they speak code, not English! (Thankfully no one brought up Alexa or voice-activated technology....I could see that being a bigger issue down the road!) In pairs, students had to interpret a message written in code, using the code translator on the paper to decipher the message. I just found a cute fall decoding freebie on TpT!


Week 2: Commands and Programs

Next we read Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit and worked to write a program to get our "robot" Clifford through the events of his story. I bought some giant puzzle pieces that I arranged into a sort of maze and placed different locations from the story on it. Any story would work for this - I like this one because it has a very clear and linear sequence of events!

I introduced Clifford the "robot" by telling them that, since he's a robot, he only speaks in code, and his code only has four words in it, which we call commands. I drew those four commands on the whiteboard: four arrows, one facing each direction! In preparation for next week's independent work lesson, I had printed out arrows on label paper, and we used those to write a program for Clifford. We paused between every 3-5 commands so a student could test out the code by guiding Clifford through the maze, following only our instructions.

Week 3: Be a Programmer

Our last unplugged coding activity is for students to complete in pairs! We read The Very Stuffed Turkey, another very linear story with a clear sequence, and made a list of Turkey's barnyard friends in the order he visited them. Then each pair got a third of a label sheet of commands (Turkey speaks the same code Clifford did!) and a paper with a map of Turkey's friends and space for the program.

Centers & Looking Ahead

Our centers this week were Scratch Jr. on the iPad, ABCYA Mouse practice on the Chromebooks, and for the writing center, we've had the opportunity to make our own secret code using another freebie!

Next up? Introducing sequences, loops, and conditions through Kodable!

Genre Study Part 1: Fantasy!

Our first genre of our months-long introduction to fiction genres: Fantasy!

I love starting with fantasy because it's so easily recognizable, and also because it's so popular in middle grade fiction! A lot of my second graders are already getting into Harry Potter (I know - it seems young!) and they're super excited to learn about fantasy books. I started each one of these lessons with some fantasy book talks so they could try out some different series!

Here's an outline of our 4-week genre exploration:

Week 1: What is Fantasy?

We introduced the genre with some book talks and a short clip of Harry Potter (I like his first flying lesson as a quick, fun scene - I stop the video when the broom hits Ron in the face!). Some of the series I like to use as an introduction are The Fairy Bell Sisters, Whatever After, Dragon Slayers' Academy, and Rainbow Magic, since I feel like all of those are accessible to most second grade readers. After emphasizing the fantasy elements in all of those books, I tell the students that yes, they're all fiction; but they also have something else in common! I write the word fantasy on the board and ask them to discuss in pairs what words they heard repeated throughout the examples that might put the books in the same genre.

With enough prompting, when we come back together, most of my pairs have come up with the word "magic" (I make sure to say it in every explanation!) and, if I'm lucky, "unusual" or "magical creatures" like dragons, wizards, fairies, and giants. We make a list of some characters that we might find in fantasy books like these, or other books that we can come up with.

The students had to complete an assignment in Seesaw: draw a fantasy scene! They had to label at least one character using a text box (so that I knew what it was and whether or not it was actually a magical creature!). This allowed us to practice logging into and out of Seesaw as well as emphasizing our fantasy elements.

Week 2: A Collaborative Fantasy Concept Map

Okay, this one..... kind of failed. Kind of epically.

I had two goals for this lesson (besides emphasizing the characteristics of fantasy): I wanted kids to practice logging in to the Chromebooks, and I really wanted to give students an idea of what it's like to work on a collaborative document. The first goal I would say we met; the second..... meh.

The first day, I had big plans: Insert a fantasy picture into a slide that I had created, with the end goal being that there should be 20-25 fantasy creatures running around the slide! Um - NO. This was terrible. I'm not sure why I thought this would work, because of course everyone inserted a HUGE image and didn't know how to resize it. I was running around all class period explaining that no one had deleted their picture; they just couldn't see their picture because someone else (or four other someone elses) had put theirs on top of theirs. Yikes!

On Tuesday I had a different plan: Everyone type one fantasy word into a different cell on a table that I had input into a Google Doc. This worked MUCH better, but I'm still not sure I'd do it again because it didn't really teach them anything new about fantasy. Instead it turned into "How do you spell this?" We did have to get creative in thinking of fantasy words; most were magical creatures, but others were words like "castle" or "wand" or, of course, "magic." On the collaborative document side, though, it worked really well! We talked about how a colored cursor means someone else is typing in that cell, and that you should pick a different cell so you aren't typing over each other.

Week 3: Is This a Fantasy Book?

The following week, kids had to identify fantasy books and record them on this sheet, including a description of what makes it fantasy. I typically have them log in to Chromebooks and use Shelf Stuff to find covers that they think look like fantasy books. I love Shelf Stuff because it is engaging, constantly updated, and gets kids excited about new books that they probably haven't heard of before!

This year, though, this lesson fell during our school book fair, when my lessons are pretty crammed into our carpet meeting space in the corner. Since we didn't have the opportunity to spread out on the tables and use Chromebooks, I gave students two ways to find fantasy books: use the iPads to use Shelf Stuff (quicker because you don't have to log in!) or walk around the book fair and find fantasy covers! Any guess about which one they preferred?!

Week 4: Put Yourself in a Fantasy Scene

Our capstone was an introduction to using the green screen and the DoInk app! We started by brainstorming a list of characters and settings that would belong in the fantasy genre. Check out what it looked by the end of the week:

Then kids had to create an image using DoInk that included themselves, a fantasy character, and a fantasy setting. DoInk's Prop Library worked perfectly for this! We were able to find unicorns, dragons, fairies, castles - pretty much anything we wanted to include in our scenes. They turned out SUPER cute, so kids posted the pictures to Seesaw so we could share with their parents. It was the perfect capstone to the unit!

Next up: Historical Fiction!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

All About Authors & Illustrators in Kindergarten

We're just wrapping up a 4-week series on two very important words: author and illustrator. Our  kindergarteners are experts!

We broke the unit  up into four parts: an introduction to both roles, a day on authors, a day on illustrators, and a review of how they work together.

Day 1

Image result for room on the broom
I put up the word cards for author and illustrator and show the front cover of my read-aloud. Since I typically do this unit in the fall, my favorite to start with is Room on the Broom. I point to the two names on the front and tell them that Julia Donaldson is the author: she writes the words. I ask them if the words are important in the story. Of course, they say YES! I flip to the first page of the book and read it aloud - without showing them the picture. This is usually confusing for them, and I'm hearing a whisper of "Where are the pictures?" before I finish the page.

I ask them what could make the story better, and I invariably get, "PICTURES!" I point to the illustrator's name and tell them that Axel Scheffler is the illustrator: he draws the pictures. I flip to the second page and say, "Okay - what's going on on this page?" They have to interpret the picture to understand what's happening. I ask again what could make that story better, and I hear, "The WORDS!"

We talk about how we need both an author and an illustrator to make a great story, because we love both words and pictures. As the writing center for the week (and throughout this unit), kids can be both an author and an illustrator on a piece of paper through this freebie! 

Day 2: Authors

To really immerse ourselves into the study and discover what being an author is really like, we had to become authors for a week! I had uploaded 3 illustrations to Seesaw that I thought could spark a story:  a group of kids at recess, two bears in the woods, and a soccer game. I called kids up to be an author: record their voice telling a story about the picture. 4-6 kids recorded themselves before we went to centers and to check out books, and 4-6 again after. Not everyone did it, but I figured that was okay! I didn't want them to be on the devices themselves yet; this was our first time using Seesaw together, and I wanted to make sure to highlight using our "secret password" (which is a QR code very securely hidden on a bright pink index card with their teacher's name on it.... oops!) and the idea of logging out so no one else in the school could see what was on our class's private site.

Day 3: Illustrators

Turns out, they thought being illustrators was a heck of a lot more fun - you could hear a PIN drop during this lesson!!

We started with an illustration-heavy fall read-aloud: Too Many Pumpkins! This is a wordy story and would normally be way too long for K, but Megan Lloyd's illustrations are so vivid and descsriptive that I was able to read only every other page of text; on the alternating pages, I asked the kids to tell me the story based on what they saw in the illustrations! Talk about illustrators being important!
I demonstrated using our Drawing app: Doodle Buddy. I wanted a free app that gave kids the freedom to draw pretty much anything, but I'll tell you now - Doodle Buddy is not perfect! If you have suggestions for simple, free apps that allow kids to draw in different colors using their fingers, I'd love to hear them!

Despite the not-exactly-perfect-ness of Doodle Buddy, the kids were INTO this activity! This week, I got to be the author, and I told them simple stories - "Yesterday we had a fire drill!" "I'm going trick or treating tonight!" "The kindergarten classes went to the farm for a field trip!" The kids were the illustrators, and they had to draw a picture to go along with my story. Check out these super focused kindergarteners! They LOVED it!

What awesome illustrators!

Day 4: Being an Author and an Illustrator

Seesaw to the rescue again! Today the kindergarteners had their first Seesaw assignment. (Luckily, this was the week we were watching the book fair preview video, so I had a lot of time to log in each iPad to their class account and navigate to the assignment for them!) They had to be an author and an illustrator by drawing a picture on Seesaw and then recording their voice telling a story to go along with it. The parents loved this, and I was so impressed with how the kids did! We also got to practice logging out of Seesaw, which is an important skill.

Bonus Day: Authors & Illustrators, Part 2

Okay, so this bonus day was more because of poor planning on my part than anything else. Whoops!
We were supposed to move on to the first day of our author study, which involves using a mouse and Chromeboook.... buuuut this was our book fair week so Chromebooks were out of the question, since we were stuck on the carpet without our tables! Yikes!

We did a similar activity to last week's, but with a partner twist: Each partnership got one iPad, which the illustrator opened to Doodle Buddy. The author told a short story, which the illustrator then drew a picture of. They switched roles by switching nametags - most groups got to switch at least once, if not twice, as long as the pictures weren't too detailed! I didn't get any pictures of the kids engaged in this activity, but here are the nametags I used!

Now that we've got these two roles down pat, we're ready to move on to an author/illustrator study!