Lens: something that facilitates and influences perception, comprehension or evaluation

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hour of Code

This week is Computer Science Education Week, an annual event that focuses on the importance of making sure all students learn computer science in school.

Students at Falmouth Elementary School will take part in the Hour of Code in their classrooms and in technology classes thanks to the leadership of Mr. Harvey (technology teacher) and Mrs. Macdonald (tech integrator) who have planned and prepared programming lessons for each grade.

Why should students learn how to code?

You can follow Hour of Code events on social media with the hashtag:  #hourofcode.

Here are some resources to introduce students to computer science and programming.

Code.org- Offers a computer science curriculum for grades K-6. Teachers may set up for free accounts for their students.

Khan Academy- Hour of Code videos and lessons

Microsoft- Hour of Code resources

Codecademy- Hour of Code programming projects

Skype in the Classroom- Arrange for a guest speaker from the computer science field.

Kodable- Teach young children the basics of programming.

Scratch- Program a holiday card or create a pong game.

Made with Code- Program a snowflake.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Skype Author Visit with Jaleigh Johnson

The 4th and 5th grade students in the FES Mock Newbery Book Club cannot stop talking about The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. The first chapter pulls readers into a dark world where meteor showers force residents to take shelter. This steampunk, science fiction novel for middle grade readers has mystery, adventure, trains, and much more!

Twenty students from the Mock Newbery Book Club stayed after school this week to participate in a question and answer Skype visit with author, Jaleigh Johnson. Students had some excellent questions about the plot, characters and setting of the book. In case you're wondering, there is a companion novel in the works! One student took the opportunity to ask Jaleigh for some writing advice. It was a successful visit that will have a lasting impact on FES readers and writers for years to come.

If you are haven't read The Mark of the Dragonfly, stop what you're doing and make your way to the nearest library or independent book store. You can thank me later.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

School Library Journal Leadership Summit

I was honored to be invited to take part in the School Library Journal Leadership Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota this year. I saved my pennies and purchased an airline ticket to the Twin Cities. The SLJ Summit is an annual conference that brings together 200 school librarians from across the country. This year's theme was Fire It Up: Sparking Creativity and Motivating Students.
Snoopy at the Minneapolis Airport

St. Paul was a lovely setting for this year's Summit. It is the home of Peanuts creator, Charles M. Schultz. Some of the guest speakers at the Summit included Mark Turnispeed (the President Emeritus of LEGO Education), Dr. Mark Edwards (2013 National Superintendent of the Year), and nonfiction author Loree Griffin Burns, to name a few.

My favorite sessions were the "Fifteen-Minute Fast Learning Sessions." Presenters shared projects and ideas for 15 minute bursts. My friend, Andy Plemmons from Athens, Georgia, shared how he empowers his students with student book budgets.

I was thrilled to attend a special dinner in honor of author/illustrator, Patricia Polacco. Ms. Polacco was also a keynote speaker. She is a wonderful storyteller and a real treasure.
Patricia Polacco shares a reproduction of The Keeping Quilt.
What made the SLJ Summit so special was having the opportunity to meet school librarians from other states and to learn about their library programs. Anytime we had a break between sessions, the collective wheels were turning as we brainstormed ways we could connect our students with meaningful projects. I left Minnesota reinvigorated and inspired to continue to look for creative ways to meet the needs of the learners in my school.

Librarians from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Georgia, Maine and Hawaii 
Special thanks to School Library Journal and the wonderful sponsors who made this conference possible. Capstone Publishing, Lerner Publishing, and Mackin VIA were especially generous and organized special events and provided meals while I was in St. Paul.

During the Summit, Capstone Publishing revealed this video: Why School Libraries Matter.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Epic! Books for Kids

Last month I read a post about Epic! Books for Kids on Joyce Valenza's Never Ending Search blog. Epic! is a platform for reading children's e-books, and the company is offering free accounts for life to teachers and librarians.  I signed up for an educator account then downloaded the Epic! app on the library iPads.

All seven 3rd grade classes were introduced to Epic! e-books in library class, and we spent time discussing the similarities and differences between print and digital books. Once students logged into Epic! the room became silent. All students were immediately engaged in reading independently.

Some students chose biographies, some read graphic novels, many students found picture books to read, and others enjoyed reading for information.

During our class discussions of print and digital books, students agreed that there is something special about holding a physical book in our hands while we read, but having access to digital books makes books more accessible and also engages readers.

Families may sign up for an Epic! account at home for $4.99 per month.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Apps Galore

We use iPads across all content areas at FES. Over the past few years, more apps for children have become available for the iPad. I'm currently serving at the chair of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award (CYBILS) in the Book Apps category. Over the next several months, CYBILS judges will evaluate dozen of nominated apps before choosing a winner.

People often confuse book apps with e-books. What makes a book app different from an e-book?
E-books are electronic versions of print books that display the text on a device like a computer phone or tablet. Sometimes e-books have a read aloud feature. However, e-books are not interactive. Book apps are interactive stories that may include sound effects, narration, video clips, recording capabilities, animation, and much more.

Here are some recently released book apps your children may enjoy.

The CYBILS is currently accepting nominations for children's books in all categories including book apps. Books and apps must be published/released between Oct. 16, 2013 and Oct. 15, 2014 to be eligible for the 2014 CYBILS.  Visit the CYBILS blog to nominate your favorite books:

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Genre Challenge- Do you have what it takes?

Recently I collaborated with Amy Wheeler, a 5th grade teacher at FES, to create a group genre activity. All of our 5th grade students take part in the 40 Book Challenge inspired by Donalyn Miller's work in The Book Whisperer. In addition to reading 40 books in 5th grade, students are required to read across seven different genres. Students study the characteristics of the different genres in reading class. Amy's goal was to find an engaging way for students to show what they had learned about genres because during the year students are asked to figure out the genres of the books they read. 

Amy came to me with an idea to create a Survivor style group challenge. After putting our heads together we had the perfect plan. It required a lot of prep work on our part, but it paid off. We selected books from the seven different genres then created a card for each book. The front of the card displayed the cover of the book, the summary from the inside flap and a sample page was glued on the back. Amy cut and covered seven large shoe boxes in different colored paper.

We assigned students to five different groups. Each group was given a set of cards and were challenged to figure out the genre for each book. Students had to work as team to complete the challenge. This was tricky because some of the books could fit in more than on genre. Since our library's fiction collection is organized by genre, Amy had a great idea that we could place boxes in the genre sections to get students moving around the library. We awarded points based on the number of correct responses.

Once all of the teams finished depositing their genre cards into boxes, Amy and I pulled out the cards and discussed the results with the whole class. What makes this book fantasy? What words in the description made you think this was a mystery? 

The genre challenge was a huge hit with students, and it met the objectives Amy and I had set. Students had rich discussions about the elements of genres, all students were engaged, and they worked as teams. Some students even asked to check out books they had read about on the genre cards.