As part of the participatory culture of the Barrow Media Center, we like to feature student art exhibits. We haven’t had as many this year due to our temporary space while our school is rebuilt. However, today one of my favorite displays returned. Ms. Foretich, our fabulous art teacher, setup the PreK Not a Box display. Students read the book Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and designed their own artistic creations out of boxes. This book always inspires creativity. One of the things I love about this display is how each design is accompanied by a digital photograph of the creation that is labeled so that visitors can understand what each box represents. In the future I could see this project evolving to include some QR codes to make the exhibit more interactive. There’s always something new and innovative that we could include. Time always creates some limitations on what we can do. If you happen to be near the Barrow Media Center, please stop by and take a look. If not, then take a look at the gallery below and feel free to leave comments for Ms. Foretich and her students.
Last week, I was sitting in a faculty meeting analyzing grade level math data with PreK. As I listened in, I heard them talk about students from the previous quarter who had not met the standard for counting to ten. They were making plans for new standards that were coming up in the current quarter, but also thinking about how to continue to support this group of students who needed to work on the previous quarter standards.
I pulled out my iPhone and searched the iTunes app store for counting apps, and found multiple free apps that we might try. Most of the free apps were limited versions of the larger paid versions, but for our purposes, the free versions were enough to try. I suggested that we might try some of these apps on our 10 iPads, and the teachers were eager to give it a go.
Today, the 2 teachers pulled together a group of students and brought them up. I gave very little whole group instruction on what to do other than introducing the iPad and how to touch the screen. I went around to each iPad and opened the app that students needed, and they started. As usual, I was amazed at how quickly students started interacting with the iPads. The teacher, a volunteer, and I went around to each student and prompted them to talk out loud because part of this lesson was to have the students practice counting. They touched objects on the screen, counted aloud, and the apps also counted aloud and wrote the number on each object as it was touched. I appreciated the ease of use of the iPads with PreK because the adults were able to focus on content instruction rather than having to instruct on how to use the technology. Students left feeling successful with using the technology and with counting, and the teacher left feeling like students had practiced multiple standards through a few apps and was eager to come back to use the iPads some more.
I started this year with a flexible plan for the iPads that the district is having me pilot. I’ve listened to teacher and student needs and searched for how the iPad might be a tool to support those needs. The excitement over the device is growing, and I have a feeling that our small cart of 10 iPad is going to be in high demand very soon.
Recently, I blogged about a collaborative project that I did with a Prek classroom creating shape poem. Over the past few days, these students have been coming to our BTV studio to record their poetry. Students practiced reading their poems before coming to the studio, but many chose to add additional words to their poems or even change the words when they read their poems. This is something that they try in their centers in the classroom. They have a center option of doing freestyle poetry. You can listen to Ms. Spurgeon’s introduction of the poetry project and the Prek poets by clicking the links below.
Today was lesson 2 in a 3-part collaboration with Ms. Spurgeon’s PreK class. Last week, we read multiple examples of shape poems and wrote a model poem as a class. Today, students focused on writing their own poems. To prepare, Ms. Spurgeon and her parapro, Ms. Melissa, drew large shapes for each student and cut them out. These shapes were the symbols that each student uses in class to label various belongings. Each symbol has come to have special meaning to each student. I pulled nonfiction and fiction books related to each symbol so that students could reference the books for words to put inside their shapes.
I opened today’s lesson by reading a poem from Joyce Sidman’s Meow, Ruff: A story in concrete poetry. I used this as a reminder to students that the words that go inside the shape must somehow represent the shape. Ms. Spurgeon and I found that it was a common mistake for students to want to put whatever words were in their heads instead of focusing on their shape. She reiterated my opening by sharing a poem that she wrote about chocolate and reminding students that all of her lines were about chocolate.
Next, students each received the books about their symbol and proceeded to 3 work spaces where the pre-cut symbols were already out at chairs. Ms. Spurgeon, Ms. Melissa, and I each went to these areas and sat with students as they worked. Students began by looking through their books for ideas from the pictures or reading the words with adult assistance. As they decided on words, students sounded out words and wrote their words inside the shapes with their best handwriting and spelling. Next, students read their lines to an adult and the adult wrote the correct spelling of each word in parentheses.
Ms. Spurgeon will continue this lesson by giving students time to finish their poem and add color to it. They will also practice reading their poems before part 3. The last part of this collaboration will be recording each student reading his/her poem on camera and sharing those videos on Teacher Tube.
I was surprised by how helpful having books about their symbols was for the students. Many got ideas from the pictures and several even used direct words from the text. For example, one girl wrote a poem about rabbits. In the picture, she got so excited when she saw that the rabbit’s ears were going down. This turned into a line in her poem that was actually written on the rabbit’s ear. Another student read her books about apples with Ms. Melissa. She took facts such as “apples can be made into applesauce” and “apples are mostly harvested in the fall” and used pieces of those lines in her apple shape.
I’ll be sharing more about our media center’s support of poetry writing in the coming days and weeks.
Ms. Kelly Hocking just made a page on her website about the PreK weather forecasters in her classroom. You can find more pictures of the project and a few of her own thoughts on what a great job these students did.
Over the past 2 months, Ms. Hocking’s PreK class has been studying weather. In collaboration with the media center, students have participated in several learning activities to prepare for giving their own weather forecast. Students have watched videos of meteorologists giving weather forecasts and made lists of words that the meteorologist used. They have studied various weather words and what they each mean. Students toured our broadcast room at school and learned about the different jobs that our 5th grade BTV crew performs each morning. They learned about producers, assistant producers, video mixers, audio technicians, anchors, and camera crew. Next, students worked with their teacher, paraprofessional, parent volunteers, and me (the media specialist) to write their own scripts for their weather forecast. After scripts were written, these same adults guided students in creating cue cards for their weather reports. Students then spent several days practicing their scripts and cue cards in class.
Finally, the big day arrived and the preK students came into the broadcast room buzzing with excitement. Each one assumed a role in the weather forecast: 2 anchors, producer, camera, and cue card holder. Each forecast was recorded and uploaded to Teacher Tube for the class to enjoy and share with the world. Please take time to enjoy their weather forecasts. What an amazing technology, science, and literacy project with such early learners!
I recently got an email from one of our preK teachers, Ms. Kelly, asking if I would join her class during small group time for a library lesson. She sensed that some of her students were feeling frustrated with reading books because they couldn’t read the words on the page. Like many teachers, she wanted to model doing a “picture walk” for her students so that they could read the story from the pictures. I happily agreed and the two of us did some ping pong collaboration via email where we batted our ideas back and forth until we had a plan.
Ms. Kelly’s observations made me start thinking about the many ways that we read, and I decided to open our lesson with these thoughts. We started by learning about oral traditions and how people tell stories aloud and others read the story by listening to the storyteller. We talked about reading the words in a book. We also looked at a book called The Black Book of Colors and thought about how someone who is blind might read a story by feeling the pages of a Braille book. We could have kept going and talked about e-readers and smart phones and more, but I left the ideas at that. I wanted students to know that there wasn’t just one way to read a story.
With this seed of reading planted in the students’ minds, they selected a book from a selection of books in my cart around the theme of families, which was the topic Ms. Kelly is focusing on right now with her students. They checked out with me at my laptop and returned to the floor.
Next was one of my favorite kinds of collaboration where each adult in the room takes a group of students and works with them in their own style using the same topic. Ms. Kelly, Ms. Clarke (the parapro), a parent volunteer, and myself each took a small group of students. Each of us shared picture walking in our own style. In my group, we used the book Chalk, a wordless picture book, and practiced reading the pictures very slowly until we gleaned every detail we could before turning the page. My hope was that students would notice this slow way of looking at the picture and replicate it in their own reading. I quickly learned that they did notice the slowness, but many still flew through the pages without pausing to “read” what was there. Next I worked with each student to picture walk slowly through a few pages of his or her book.
Ms. Kelly invited us all back to the floor and each group shared something that they noticed or learned about how to picture walk. It was so much fun to support our youngest learners in the school with a strategy for reading. It was also fun to get out of the library and interact with students in their own classroom environment. Finally, it was such a treat to work with three other adults with different ideas and expertise. I look forward to many other experiences where adults bring their expertise to support a classroom of students. Thank you Ms. Kelly for this great idea and finding such wonderful adult support for your students.