Monday, January 30, 2012

NCCBA 2012

Every year I read the NCCBA Picture Book nominees (or most of them) with my students. I am trying to build in some information and activities with them. The books chosen this year really group together well! I am doing I Didn't Do It and City Dog, Country Frog together and talking about both dogs and frogs. The kids have never-ending stories about dogs! I showed this short little song to introduce the topic. Then we talked about poetry with I Didn't Do It and how some poems don't have to rhyme, but how they are different from a regular story. City Dog Country Frog is a book that I used this activity for to talk about how different frogs make different sounds (they play a croaking game in the book.) This is a fun site also as it is a frog random picture generator. If there is time, we also talk about how frogs grow from a tadpole and watch this clip of the life cycle. 


In the next class, we will read Spoon, Willow, Sylvie, and Shark Vs Train. The first three are all about being yourself. Shark Vs. Train just needed to go somewhere so I thought it could still sort of fit that theme! For Willow, I am going to show students some different famous works of art. For Sylvie, we will discover Why Flamingos Are Pink on Wonderopolis. For Spoon, we will look at photos of different kinds of silverware and talk about the uses. (Ex. plastic, fancy, wooden, etc.) For Shark Vs. Train, Wonderopolis is again a source to find out How Many Sharks Are in the Ocean.


For the last session, we will read farm based books including Mr. Duck Means Business, What the Ladybug Heard, and Interrupting Chicken. The National Geographic Creature Feature on ladybugs and this video on baby ducks learning to swim will complement these books. We also get to VOTE! I love to see what the kids liked the most and they almost always surprise me with what they choose. So, stay tuned to see who wins this year! (It won't be announced until toward the end of the year.)

Which of these is your favorite book? I am torn between Sylvie and Shark Vs Train myself.       

Friday, January 27, 2012


When the fourth grade AG teacher told me she wanted to do a project on tessellations, I admit, I had to get a slight review to be sure I was talking about what I thought I was talking about.

tes·sel·lat·ed   /ˈtɛsəˌleɪtɪd/ Show Spelled[tes-uh-ley-tid]

1. of, pertaining to, or like a mosaic.
2. arranged in or having the appearance of a mosaic; checkered.

She wants the kids to do something on tessellations in nature. My first thought was this:

Bees On Honeycells
What was your first thought? After that I was stuck, but slowly starting thinking of things like:

Pineapple Skin  Large Snake  Cone On Advent Wreath

Spots  Corn  Sunflower Closeup

I still needed some other ideas so I turned to the internet. (Now I would probably turn to Twitter, but that is a post for another day! I am @nclibrarygal if you want to follow me.) I came across this site that gave me the rest of the ideas I needed. It even gave me some inspiration that I will get to in a second. Our project that we eventually settled on would be to crop in on a picture of a tessellation in nature, and have the students argue whether or not the shape is a polygon. Then on the next slide, show the whole picture along with information (and citations of course!). This was a great way to bring math, science, evaluation, and information skills together in one big bang. I don't expect it will take too long either. We are planning it for the end of February so I will post some examples of the final project when we get there.

Now, the inspiration the site gave me. You can take pictures of tessellations and submit them. Why not have students do a digital photo scavenger hunt and see what they can find on their own to submit?

What tessellations can you think of? Any other ideas on how to create a project around them?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Should you or shouldn't you?

I was recently asked by a 6th grade teacher to help her think of a topic for an argumentative paper for her kids that they could choose a side to argue. I thought about it for a while and wanted something that kids today might have a definite opinion about, but not know all the facts on. I settled on suggesting music sharing/downloading.

Copyright is something kids really don't get in this age of everything is free somehow on the internet. This site would be a great starter to help them better understand some of the ins and outs. They are always wanting to just go to Google images and take whatever they want for projects even though I try to point them in the direction of sites like Pics 4 Learning and other public domain sites like Creative Commons.  This would be a good lesson starting point.

Music is in the same category. If they are not selling it, they don't see the problem. They don't think about the other side issues. I found this site from the NY Times that features a discussion among students about the pros and cons. There is a presentation of the pros and cons in list form here. I would be really interested to hear students' arguments for or against it once they really looked at both sides. Do you have any suggestions for other sources or points to bring up with the students?
MacBook Pro and my headphones :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Big Huge Labs

Big Huge Labs is a site I have heard about for a while but didn't have a chance to look at much until today. I still get the feeling that I am just touching the surface of what I can do with it, but there are lots of ideas already popping into my head! For example, have students do a book 'report' by creating a movie poster or magazine cover. I just recently worked with a second grade class on researching life cycles in different animals and integrated text features into it by having them present the information as a page from a book complete with headings, bold words, pictures and captions, and a citation. The magazine cover would be a great addition to that. There are also trading cards available to create, this would be perfect for animal research or biographies. I might even try it out on a class that comes for Black History month research. Here is a quick two minute example I made of a clown fish trading card.

I think kids would love this! It is still the same learning process but having a more fun way to present the information gets them much more involved and fired up about the project. How have you used it in your classroom? What other ideas do you have for it?

Just for Kids - University of Illinois

Just for Kids is a site sponsored by the University of Illinois and features some great resources. I talked previously about the weather portion of the site here. There is such a variety of sources here for things from trees and forests to volcanoes to health and fitness. Most of them have a sound on or off option that reads the information to kids who may need that modification. Several of the resources are good for finding facts. For example, there is a section about river explorers, one about seasons, weather and wind, the secret life of trees, and other topics. Some of my favorites here include Forever Friends, Where Your Food Comes From, and A Walk in the Woods.

Forever Friends allows students to create a passport and visit other countries in Asia with a tour guide to learn more about what it is like in that country. There is a lot of information about each country. For example, the China section has 33 slides of information, some longer than others, and covered information like how to use chopsticks, customs, information about pandas, currency, their written language, population, and more.

Where Your Food Comes From is an interesting source because so many students don't know where their food comes from. (I suspect there are at least some foods we all eat that we don't know where they come from either.) This focuses more on countries and areas food comes from rather than something like what kind of animal or farm, etc. The intro includes things like coffee, tea, apples, oranges, and potatoes along with how trade routes in ancient times helped spread the use of certain crops. Besides learning about food, this is a great way to talk about supply and demand, trade routes, and how distribution works.

A Walk in the Woods is an opportunity to take a virtual trip to a nature trail. Not everyone has easy access to one at school or home and this is a way to go as a class without worrying about someone wandering into poison ivy! Information along with close-up photographs and questions as you travel through make it a fun experience that makes you almost able to smell the damp leaves. The Nature Notes section takes you through additional information where students can click on a topic and access a notebook of information and pictures about it. This would be a great start for a student project to have them research a topic and create something similar to make a class notebook.

There are more resources than I can cover in a post, so go and explore the site to see what you can find! Add a comment below about your favorite source or project ideas it sparked for you.

Loving Livebinders

At a district workshop last Monday, I had the chance to learn more about Livebinders. Basically, it is like a virtual three ring binder that you can add links, upload files, or add other types of virtual information. I have heard of it before, but never had the time to check it out. Now, I am a wee bit obsessed. My Destiny homepage has been on steroids for a while now with the number of links I had on there, but this allowed me to put the links in a more organized way. I added one link under several subject areas to my Livebinder, which also allowed me to then sort the links into tabs. I have not tried it with students yet, but I am hoping it will be more organized for them also! I am embedding a few of the binders I made already so you can check them out for yourself! (Of course, I will be editing and changing them over time I imagine as I find new sources or older ones change.) If you have suggestions for any resources for these Livebinders, please let me know!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Energy Kids

This site is a perfect resource for researching or learning more about different types of energy. It breaks them down by renewable or non-renewable, using and saving energy, history of energy including timelines and famous people involved with energy, and there is even a games section! There are science fair experiments which are perfect for this time of year, photo journals about Energy Ant's visits to various types of power plants, and even a printable scavenger hunt. Lesson plans and a teacher guide are also available on the site. A great way to introduce or research or compare different types of energy. A perfect follow-up from this site would be to play Power Up which I posted about here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Time Warp Trio Adventure

Time Warp Trio

The Time Warp Trio books are great for your students who like adventure, history, and fiction. This site is a way to introduce history in a fun way, get kids interested in the books, and excite the kids that already read them. They click on different eras of history, get a short paragraph about it plus a then and now segment. There are also fun games like this one that asks questions they need to open and read the Plentifax 487 to answer (AKA sneaky research skills). Interactive stories, poetry, and more are also featured.

Check it out and use it as a way to introduce research or the book series.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hearing Echoes of the Past

This site has the top 100 American speeches on mp3, so students can hear the speeches they learn about. For example, I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is available. It means so much more to hear the words in the voice and rhythm that is so famous along with the cheers from the crowd. I would suggest having the text available also but to listen to it one time and just close your eyes and imagine being there the first time you hear it. (The text is available on the site by the way.)

You could even go through the speeches and use them for literary feature examples and look for metaphors, similes, imagery, and so on. Talk about bringing history to life, this would also bring language arts to life while integrating history. Add a timeline of the different speeches as you use them and what other events were happening in history at the same time. What issues were we facing when each speech was given?

Some examples of other speeches include JFK's inaugural address, the Pearl Harbor address to the nation by FDR, the shuttle Challenger address, Lou Gehrig's Farewell to Baseball, and even Clarence Darrow's plea for mercy for Leopold and Loeb.

Students might be surprised to find quotes they have heard before but didn't know where they came from in these speeches. They may also give them a context for time periods, people, and speeches that they will hear more about many times in their life. Too often, we think these speeches will be over the heads of students, but how do we know unless we try? It won't hurt to hear it, talk about it, look at elements and imagery, and put them in context of the historical era. Give it a try!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Glimpse Into George Washington's Life

Image 117 of 377, Matthew Morris to George Washington, October 19, 1
Source from Library of Congress
October 19, 1776
It is amazing the things you can learn from scraps of paper. I am a scrapbooker and my husband is always saying to use more scraps! Use receipts, tickets, etc to make the story more complete, he says. In this case, you can learn so much more from simple receipts and scraps of paper. The Library of Congress has a collection of George Washington Papers. These papers include these scraps and things to give you a picture of his life and the life of those around him. For example, this single receipt gives you a host of information about a woman named Martha Morris who once did his laundry and gave him a receipt on Oct. 19, 1776.  You can look at the information you can gather from this simple receipt and think about the clues to who Martha Morris might have been. You can also work with students to look at where this was (New York) and why he would have been there. Compare what might have been her experience with what Washington did in the war, or write a fictional bio of her using what you know.

I think just seeing what writing looked like or seeing paper that was touched and held and used by someone so long ago is a great way to get students interested in the past. It makes it come alive and seem like more than just a story in a history book. Especially thinking about other regular people like you and me that might have interacted with someone like George Washington. What happened to her? Who was she? I would love to know.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jump Back in Time

Using the America's Story section of the Library of Congress resource, you can click into the Jump Back in Time feature. (I have talked about other parts of America's Story before here and here if you are interested and missed them.) Using the Jump Back in Time feature, there are a lot of neat things you can do. Of course, the main part included links to all the major historical eras of the United States, broken down into sections from 1492 to present day. Each era link will take you to information along with many links to other stories related to the same time period. I like the way this is done because you can see history as a string of many stories that fit together rather than a bland history book paragraph listing the things that happened.

Super Sleuth gameThere is also a Fact or Myth question when you are on the main page with a different question each time you visit the page. It explains why it is a fact or myth. You can also choose a date to visit to see important things from that day. It suggests using your birthday, but this could also be fun to do each day to see what happened that day. You could also do the Fact or Myth question and use both as an opener to the day or something for those last few minutes after you pack up at the end of the day. The Super Sleuth game is fun but short. Famous photos of historical people have had something added to them that doesn't fit the time period and students have to find it.

This is a great place to start with introducing a time period, giving context to an era a book might be set in, or just for the history buffs!
usflag123.jpg - Proudly we wave

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who are you?

Interrogant Clip ArtI have been wondering who is reading my blog lately. Leave a comment and tell me where you are from and if you are a librarian, media coordinator, teacher, parent, student, or any other hats you may wear!

Reminders from kids...

We have been working on the solar system project with third graders this week. I was working with a class yesterday who was finishing up their research. The last question, you can see below, says to draw what the planet looks like on the back of the sheet. This is for them to take with them to do the illustrations from later on. (Excuse the blurry pictures, I don't have the best camera for close ups!)
#12 is the question he was answering on the back, but part of me also loves that he thinks it being his favorite color is an interesting fact about it. The librarian side of me thinks we might need to define important facts a little better next time -though it may be important to him!
One student worked very hard on his and added lots of details around the planet, such as stars, a comet, the moon, and other planets. He also added one thing I know he didn't see in his book about Mars. Do you see it?

Look closer, in the top right corner.

See it?


He said "I don't know what it looks like but I know it is up there and so I just used that to show it."

Last week, we lost a third grade teacher at our school. As we miss her and grieve in our own ways, kids have ways of reminding us of innocence and bigger things. Now, I don't know that this student ever had the wonderful opportunity to meet our friend and colleague, but she taught third grade in past years, and the coincidence was not lost on me that this was a third grader who felt the need to add Heaven to his view of the solar system. She would have appreciated that he wanted to add that. It was just for him really. And for the rest of us, but he just didn't know it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

American Revolution

Fifth grade is working on the American Revolution, so I started hunting for resources that help teach it. The best one I found, (also known as the most fun one!) was this game. It lets students role play as an apprentice during the time leading up to and during the Revolution to see the sides of the patriots and loyalists, the Boston Massacre, and more. There is a short 3-4 minute video about the site giving a synopsis here. I have not played it all the way through, it takes a few hours at least, but what I have played looks like it would involve students and give them a good first hand look at the perspectives in that time period. There are a ton of good resources here including links to primary sources, documents to use with the game, teacher planning information, and more.

I created a comparison sheet for students to use in the media center to compare American and British forces using this PBS site. It also gave them information where they could choose three people that impacted the time period and research more about them. I asked them to also choose a time period and find events that led up to or ended the Revolution in this part of the site. There are lots of other parts of the Revolution covered here as well. Here is what one student came up with when comparing American and British troops to give you an idea of the assignment.

There are so many aspects of the Revolution to cover. Here is a list of people that impacted the time period if you wanted to do biographical research. Here is a lesson using artifacts. This site has so many artifacts you can show students to bring the past to life you won't be able to use them all! This lesson has a game for kids to play to match items different people in camp would have used with the type of person, which can be an interesting opener to how different some things are today. The Library of Congress has some good resources of course. The Archives also have some sources. And, of course, no unit is complete without a rap about it!

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is a way to bridge poetry and the American Revolution. You can see a map of his ride here and the real story here. Paul Revere himself summarized his actions as you can see here.

What are some of your favorite activities or resources for the American Revolution?

Monday, January 9, 2012


One of the really cool online tools I love but never really knew how to use in the classroom is Wordle. I came across this link to a presentation of 52 Ways to Use Wordle and had to share! There are some great ideas here that I would have never thought of. Wordle is a site where you can either type in your own text or copy and paste in text from books, speeches, etc. It then takes the words and sizes them based on use - bigger ones are used more often and smaller not as much. The ideas here are terrific and really help you start thinking outside the box a little more. Some of the suggestions include book reports, spelling lists, word walls,  analyze your own presentation to see if the words you are focusing on are where you want focus to be, analyze famous speeches to see main ideas, compare genres (the example here is comparing history to historical fiction), character traits, word walks, and so many more fantastic ideas to get the wheels turning in your head. One of the suggestions is even as a gift which I did before I ever read this.

Tagxedo is a source I have not played with yet, but could also be fun. You can even enter a search topic, url, twitter id, or other sources to create a word cloud.

What other ways can you think of to use these great resources?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting the Solar System Journey

moon12.jpg - Night
We are embarking on a new experience here at Caleb's Creek with the hope of a true integrated unit among the specialists. Third graders are going to be working on a digital storybook about the solar system inspired by this one from another school called Lost and Found Sabrina about snakes. The idea is this:
  • research the planets, sun, and moon with me
  • write a fictional story using the information and including something about character education with Mrs. Nieters
  • illustrate the story with Ms. Matthews
  • create music for the story with Mr. Baker
  • learn more about the solar system in science with Ms. Fulp
  • solar system game in PE with Mrs. Martin
  • create the digital book and narrate in the lab with Mrs. Jones
I am really excited about seeing how this goes and what the kids come up with! We will keep you posted and hopefully post the final projects, but that will probably not be until the end of the quarter.

There are some other great solar system resources for using in the classroom while teaching the solar system. This is a great site for information about the planets. This is another great one for information on planets, moons, the sun, comets, etc. This site has links to some great videos and information. The videos are from YouTube, but they must have the education tag because they still played for me and most of YouTube is still blocked at our school. Of course, most link sets are not complete without something from Wonderopolis, such as Why Pluto Is No Longer A Planet. This actually was the first time I truly understood it myself!

Phases of the Moon

First graders are learning about how the moon, sun, and earth travel and interact to create night and day. We read about the phases of the moon and how the sun creates day and night. Then, the students created a moon phase cycle. They did a great job!

Another fun way to practice the phases is this site from ScienceNetLinks in which you drag pictures of the moon to correct spots in the lunar phase calendar. It works great with a SMARTboard or other interactive white board. For more fun, add in wonders from Wonderopolis like this one about what the moon does and includes an experiment on how to make your own tide. You can use something like this sheet to have students track information they learn about the moon, but I prefer having the kids make a little booklet of some sort instead.  Add in some math and find out how much you weigh on the moon or other planets, then figure it into a fraction or ratio. You could also discuss hoax sites and how not everything on the internet is true with a site like this one. There are so many ways you can add to a moon lesson including creative writing about a trip to the moon or living on the moon in the future!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Weather Wizards

Weather is the topic for the second graders right now and so I decided to throw in a little research and text feature practice along with it. I created a scavenger hunt for them to work on in pairs using different books on weather. They had to find answers to questions such as:
  • write down three words in your index and the pages they are found on,
  • find one caption in your book and tell what it is talking about,
  • what is the copyright date of your book,
  • why is it important to notice if there are words in bold,
  • find three interesting facts about your type of weather, and
  • what is the first listing on your table of contents.
They got right to work and seemed to stay interested and involved in the project the entire time! Here are some photos of work in progress.

There are also a ton of excellent online sources for weather geared toward kids. Scholastic has an interactive weather maker that lets kids see what happens when temperatures change and humidity changes in a picture of a house that can go from sunny to rainy to snowy depending on the settings they choose. Weather WizKids has several aspects that make it a great resource including information on many types of weather in kid friendly language, along with weather experiments, flashcards, instruments, folklore, and more. This site is worth checking out for the weather experiment ideas alone. Weather Channel Kids is a site for online teacher resources, a weather encyclopedia, questions and answers about climate change, and more. NOAA's Weather for Kids is more of a collection of resources you can check out to find more. Tree House Weather Kids from the University of Illinois is a kid attractive site with lots to explore. There is so much here it is hard to summarize, but it is worth checking out. This is a site kids can explore or you can look around it as a class on a white board. It includes things from weather comics to information to video clips to teacher resources.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fun with Snow

Need a Snow Day? With winter finally here since it is so cold outside, I started a snow lesson with my Kindergarteners. We read some books about snow and talked about what they like to do in the snow, then looked at photographs of snow taken by Snowflake Bentley. We counted the sides of each snowflake in the pictures to learn that all snowflakes have 6 sides. Some great conversation books about snow include those below. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs always gets them excited because there are no words so the kids have to follow the comic strip panels to tell the story themselves. There are lots of things they point out like he 'warms' himself by the freezer and is scared of the stove heat. Snow by Cynthia Rylant is a great book for teaching even older kids about metaphors and similes but is a good conversation starter for younger kids too. All the Snowmen series books are tons of fun too. Kids love snow and talking about snow so they are always excited to see the snowflake pictures and to talk about their favorite things to do in the snow (which makes those text to self connections!) Another site they love is this one to make snowflakes. It works great on an interactive white board and usually each student can make a cut and you end up with a very pretty snowflake!