Using Freedom Summer to Create Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry (14)In third grade, students learn about civil rights through the standard:

SS3H2 The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s
rights and freedoms in a democracy.

Students specifically learn about Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglas, and Thurgood Marshall.  When these students get to 5th grade, they will spend a larger amount of time studying the civil rights movement, but I thought this would be a good time to explore some text that connected with their current understanding of civil rights.

Students spent a small amount of time sharing what they currently understand about segregation and civil rights.  They brought up things like drinking from separate fountains, riding in the back of the bus, and holding boycotts of the transportation system.

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Then, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.  Students immediately noticed the connections to their own understanding of segregation as the 2 main characters could not do the same things together.  They were shocked when they got to the part in the story where the two boys couldn’t go to the pool because it was closed and filled in with asphalt.  The students used words like unfair, lunatics, and furious when describing their feelings and the idea of closing things rather than follow the law.

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After discussing the book, I showed them how some artists and poets use text that they find in the world and turn it into something new.  Austin Kleon, in Austin Texas, is one of these writers and artists.  We looked at a few of his poems called “blackout poems”.  He takes pages from newspapers or other texts and blacks out all of the words on the page except for the words in the poem.

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I gave the students one of three pages from Freedom Summer.  They spent time looking for words that stood out to them as a possible poem.  When they decided on the words of their poem, they circled them or drew boxes around them with a black marker.  Next, they used that same marker to blackout the rest of the words on the page.

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It was interesting to see how students interpreted the exact same page in a different way.

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We had students share their poems at the end, and it gave us a new understanding of what stood out on the page and in the story for students.  It was as if the poem helped us to look more closely at the meaning that we might all take from the text.  As usual, this was more difficult for some students than others, but we noticed that this kind of poetry did take away the barrier of spelling or deciding what to write.  We could instead focus on the meaning of the words on the page and use those words to interpret the story as a poem.

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Here are a few of the poems that students created.

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Digital Magnetic Poetry with the Word Mover App

IMG_3022We’ve been having a lot of fun with found poetry during poetry month.  We started with book spine poems, and we will try some blackout poems very soon.  Today we explored magnetic poetry.  When students were making book spine poems, there were several times that they really wanted to move one or two words around or there was one word that was missing that they really wanted to add.  Magnetic poetry gave them so much more flexibility in that aspect.

Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade was the first class to try this poetry this year.  We started by using the nature poetry on the magnetic poetry website.  I liked doing this type of poetry after book spine because students quickly saw that they really had to think about how to put groups of words together that made sense.  Books already had the words put together and students just had to decide which books and what order.  Magnetic poetry requires students to start with a bank of words and somehow make sense out of them.  We played around on the board trying to put groups of words together.  We knew that we could throw words back into the bank if we didn’t need them.  Students had many ideas of what should go together, which meant many disagreements as well.  This was a great type of poetry to do alone.

I showed students the Word Mover app on the iPad, which essentially is like magnetic poetry.  Word Mover has an iPad and android version and comes to us from Read Write Think.  There are a few options.  Students can choose a word bank or choose from several famous speeches and songs that can be remixed into a poem.  There is also an option to make your own words, but I discouraged students from starting with the “my own words” category since that would stray from the idea of found poetry.  What we all loved was that you could add any word no matter which word bank you chose.

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Once students selected their word bank, they started dragging words onto the work space and arranging them.  Any words could go into the trash can to put them back in the bank.  Students could shuffle the words in the word bank or even get a bank of new words.

The teacher and I wandered around the media center chatting with students about what they were thinking.  As with any kind of writing, some students were naturals at this kind of poetry while others had to start over a few times.  Some of the students who chose speeches and songs like America the Beautiful and I Have a Dream had a hard time remixing rather than just copying the original.

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Mrs. Ramseyer and I both noticed that students were writing their poetry as if it was one long sentence or paragraph.  Once students told us “I’m done”, we asked them to read their poem aloud.  As we heard them pause in their reading, we suggested that those pauses might be where their line breaks should go.  Students spent a bit of time rearranging their poem so that it was in lines that naturally flowed for the reader.

If time allowed, students chose a background and added a title to their poem.  Some students even figured out that you could change the color and font of the words.

Once poems were done, students saved them to the camera roll on the iPads so that you could enjoy them here.

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Participating in World Book Night 2014

Last year was the first year that the Barrow Media Center participated in World Book Night.  It was such a fun and rewarding experience, that I knew we had to do it again.  On World Book Night, each “giver” receives 20 copies of a certain book to hand out in the community.  The process is really simple.  A few months before April, applications open.  You submit an simple application explaining how you will hand out the books.  If your application is approved, you select where you will pickup your books.  I always pick mine up at our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  They hold an event where givers can meet one another and exchange of ideas of how to hand out the books in the community.  Then, on April 23, you hand out your books.

Here’s a little more from the World Book Night website,

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in our mission. Successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2012.

This year, my book was Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon.  I was so happy that this was the book I was selected to give because it’s a book that I’ve hoped many of our students would pick up.  Rather than randomly hand the book out in our community, I decided to target specific students in our school.  Teachers in 4th and 5th grade helped me select 20 students via a Google doc.  Each student was chosen for various reasons.  There was no set in stone way to choose a student other than we wanted to put the book in the hands of a student who could use a new book in their home library and who would enjoy reading this book.

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At 1:00, all of the students came to the library.  I told them about World Book Night and we visited the World Book Night website.   I told them about being a giver and picking up my books at Avid Bookshop.  Then, I showed them the book.  We visited the Candlewick site where we could watch a trailer for Zora and Me.  I read the back of the book to all of the students.

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Then, I got to say the words I was so excited to say…”I’m giving a copy of Zora and Me to all of you.  Every single student was so excited.  Some of them jumped up to help pass them out to the group.  I loved watching them immediately open the book and start reading it.  I also gave them all a bookmark.

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I told them that my hope is that they would read the entire book, share it with their families, tell me what they thought of, and cherish the book as a part of their home libraries.  I look forward to hearing from them very soon.  One student told me she would probably have it finished by tomorrow!

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World Book Night is an amazing experience.  It seems small when you first sign up, but you are filled with emotion when you put your book in someone’s hand with the wish that they will read it and love it.

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Our Student Book Budget Order from Capstone Has Arrived!

IMG_3014Each year when students participate in the student book budget group, the most exciting day for them is the day that we unpack the boxes when they arrive.  It’s the day that all of their hard work and tough decisions pays off.  After surveying almost the entire school, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating wish lists, cutting books from the lists to fit the budget, and placing the order, the students finally get to hold books  in their hands.

Today our order from Capstone came.  We love buying books from Capstone each year for many reasons.  One reason is that their books are popular with our students.  We also love their customer service.  Our sales representative, Jim Boon, always comes in and helps students with the book selection process.  We also love how Capstone stretches our budget.  This year’s order from Capstone was $1750, and with Capstone’s current promotion, we earned an additional $525 in books.  When we were unpacking the order today, a student said, “Capstone Rewards sure does help us get a lot of extra books.”  I love that this project really pushes students each year to think about fiscal responsibility and how to stretch a dollar.

Just like every other step of the way, the students are involved in every step of unpacking the books.  We basically form an assembly line.

Some students pull books out of the boxes and inspect them for any damage.  There’s usually not any, but we always check.

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Another student takes these books and highlights each one on the packing slip to make sure they are all accounted for.  Today, I helped with the highlighting process because there were so many books to take through the entire process in only 45 minutes.

These books then go to a student who stamps them with our library stamp.

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From there, a group of students takes pictures of the covers to put into an Animoto to show on our morning broadcast.

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When all pictures are taken, the pictures are uploaded to Animoto by another group of students.

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Then, all of the students work on setting up a display at the front of the library.

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The students all got to check out one of the books before they were really revealed to the rest of the school.

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Then they watched their Animoto and had a little dance party to celebrate new books.

Usually, students start coming in to check out the books before we even get them all setup.  Today was no different.  Some of the DC comics and sports immediately got checked out by 2 eager boys.  I love how one student’s shirt says, “best day ever”.  It sure feels like a great day when we see so many smiling faces for books.

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It was also a little sad to see our project for the year come to an end.  These students have been so dedicated by coming in during their recess time to work.  I smiled when one of them said, “I think I want to grow up to become a library media specialist”.  Other students said, “Please let us do this again next year.”

When I asked them why they like being in the student book budget group, they said things like:

  • who wouldn’t want to buy books for the library
  • we loved making decisions
  • it was fun to spend money for the library
  • people are reading the books that we chose

This process is so empowering for students.  The project has proven again and again that students know how to buy books for other students.  Their books are checked out rapidly and stay among the most popular books in the library.

Thank you Capstone for supporting our project each year.  Your promotions, great selection of high interest books, and book swag gifts, made the students feel like rock stars.

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Book Spine Poetry with Tellagami (Day 4)

IMG_2914Today was my final day working with 2nd graders on Tellagami.  Mrs. Yawn’s class went through the same process as the other classes.  I’m really glad that I decided to do this in groups.  My original plan was to do individual book spine poems, but I think it would have been very hard to manage on the technology side of things.  Getting 7 poems created and recorded in one class period was an ideal number.

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Here’s a look at Mrs. Yawn’s poems.

 

Don’t forget to view the poems from:

Mrs. Brink’s Class

Mrs. Wright’s Class

Mrs. Ramseyer’s Class

Using Layar Augmented Reality App for a Digital Wax Museum

IMG_2902Our 4th grade team does a huge wax museum project each year for their study of the Colonial Period.  Kids get assigned a person from colonial times and spend several days researching their person and taking notes.  The notes get condensed into a short script that they memorize.  Then, they dress up as the character, stand in the halls of Barrow, and families and classes walk through and listen to the “wax figures” come to life and talk.

It’s a great project, but I’ve always wondered about bringing in some digital components for many reasons.  One reason is the fact that many families don’t get to come and listen to their child perform something that he or she has spent a lot of time working on.  Another reason is that many students are overwhelmed by the volumes of people walking up and waiting to hear a monologue.  Traditionally, boys have chosen males from the colonial period and girls have chosen females, but I’m sure that there are 4th graders who would love to research the other gender and not necessarily dress up as that character.

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We have a big project in the works to the end the year in 4th grade.  We’ve extended the wax museum to include the entire year’s social studies curriculum and revisit many of the famous people from history in the 4th grade standards.  We’ve also decided to give the students many choices about what they will create as their final product.  The art teacher is also working with us on this project and having kids research images of their chosen person and create new images or collages with the found images.  Whatever students decide to create, it will become digital through a video uploaded to youtube or a link to the project that they create online.

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Before I had even tried it, I suggested that the wax museum be a display of all of the pictures that students created or compiled and that we could use the augmented reality app Layar to link those images to the digital wax museum projects.  The teachers were thrilled and excited, but I was a little nervous trying something I have never done before.  A fantastic opportunity came up for me to try this same project on a much smaller scale with 12 third grade students in Ms. Spurgeon’s ELT class before doing the project with 70 4th graders.

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The third graders chose an African American to research, wrote a script, and filmed themselves or created a video using Tellagami or Chatterpix.  We uploaded those videos to Youtube.  Students searched online for images of their person.  We uploaded those to Layar and then linked the videos to each picture.  I published our “campaign” in Layar Creator.

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Layar is loaded onto all of our iPads.  Mrs. Spurgeon took the images we used in Layar and displayed them in the rotunda, library, and third grade hall.  Students and families can check out an iPad in the library to go and scan the images.  When they scan, the student videos pop up right on top of the picture on the wall and students and families can listen to the video about the person.  Here are a few of the videos that pop up through augmented reality:

I think it’s going to be a messy process to do this with the whole fourth grade with only 5 weeks of school left, but it will be fun and we will learn so much about continuing to upgrade this fantastic project into something that reaches a wider audience.

 

 

Book Spine Poetry with Tellagami (Day 3)

IMG_2896Today Mrs. Ramseyer’s class came to work on book spine poetry.  The past 2 days, I’ve had a graduate assistant and sometimes a special education teacher or other support teacher along with the teacher and I.  However, today it was just me and Mrs. Ramseyer.  It still worked great, but it was definitely a little more on our plates to manage with 6 groups roaming the library and working in about 5 different locations in the library.  We still had fun, and in the end, the kids still wrote some fantastic poetry.

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