One of the most powerful ways to engage students in their own learning is to give them opportunities to ask questions and the opportunity to investigate to find answers. Inquiry based learning has been found to be an effective way to meet the rigorous Common Core Standards. Furthermore, studies have shown that when students discover information for themselves, rather than being taught with the "stand and deliver" method of instruction, they are more likely to retain what they have learned. NextGen Science Standards and the new Connecticut Social Studies Framework both favor inquiry based learning.
With this in mind, I have launched my own study of inquiry based learning. I have read multiple texts on inquiry learning and have designed lessons for students that provide many opportunities for inquiry. I have undertaken this exploration to discover for myself what methods of inquiry based instruction prove to be most effective. Following are some of the things I have found to be true:
Students become better at asking questions with practice.
This is most clearly observed with kindergarteners. Since the beginning of the year we have done a lot of work with questioning. Before we read a nonfiction text, I will ask students what they know about the subject and what they wonder about. If I hold up a nonfiction book about elephants at the beginning of the year, and ask kindergarteners what they wonder about elephants, most response will be statements. Many times, they have mistaken beliefs about a subject so I will model turning their statements into questions. We write those questions on the board and listen for answers while we read.
Kindergarten students have had Skype visits with two authors: Jeff Mack and Monica Carnesi. The authors have read one of their books and told students a little bit about themselves. A highlight of the Skype visit is the opportunity to ask questions. I have learned that it is best to choose questions ahead of time. When I first asked kindergarteners what they would like to ask the author, they often responded with statements. "I like your books." When prompted what they would like to know about the author, I have heard questions like, "What is your favorite color?" They need guidance, especially the first time, to come up with some questions about the author's work. I helped them compose questions for the first visit. They asked Jeff Mack, "How do you make your pictures?" "How did you get to be such a good artist?" "Do you have a favorite character?"
Jeff Mack did a wonderful job responding to their questions. He had asked have their questions sent ahead which gave him the opportunity to have visuals prepared while he answered. His answers made an impression on our students. They loved having Jeff Mack read to them, but being able to ask him questions gave them a personal connection to him.
When the second opportunity arose to have a Skype visit with author/illustrator Monica Carnesi and ask her questions about her work, students came up with questions that reflected their experience with Jeff Mack. One kindergartener, recalling that Jeff Mack had given them a sneak peak of a book he was working on asked Monica Carnesi, "What are you working on now?"
Objects or powerful images are good ways to stimulate students' interest and questions.
First graders did a brief inquiry project on dinosaurs after reading a fun fiction book called, What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night which featured photographs of toy dinosaurs creating mischief. With kindergarten and first grade, I often explore the differences between fiction and nonfiction. First graders had the opportunity to create their own mischievous scene with toy dinosaurs. The next time we met, we explored the nonfiction world of dinosaurs. I gave them each a small toy dinosaur that was modeled after a real dinosaur. I asked students to carefully observe their features and draw a picture the dinosaur. Then I asked them to do some wondering about their dinosaurs and write some questions. For example, 'Why does this dinosaur have such a large tail?'
We used PebbleGo to try to discover what kind of dinosaur it was and to try to answer some of the questions they had wondered about. Students were very engaged with this short project.
Asking questions using the QFT and Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Fourth grade students did an inquiry project on national parks and famous landmarks in the United States. We started by reading a book called, Lady Liberty's Holiday, a fiction picture book about the Staue of Liberty traveling around the U.S. visiting well known places. I wanted students to become familiar with the library's reference sources before embarking on an investigation of the landmarks mentioned in the book, so I had all students work in pairs and generate questions about the Statue of Liberty using the Question Formulation Technique Dan Rothstein wrote about in his book, Make Just One Change. I projected a large image of the Staue of Liberty on the Smart Board. Students came up with as many questions as they could, changing any statements into questions. I then had them categorize their questions as closed: could be answered in one or two words or open: needing a longer explanation. Student pairs were instructed to choose one open question and one closed question to investigate. I introduced them to Britannica School and Webpath Express to search for answers to their questions. When students stop to consider if a question they have asked is an open or closed question it focuses their attention on the question and gets them thinking about what kinds of questions are helpful for different situations. A closed question with a short answer may be just the thing to provide information about something they are curious about but an open question is often more suitable for a research project where they will be diving into a topic in greater depth.
The next phase of this project was for students to choose one of the landmarks from Lady Liberty's Holiday to find out more about. Their mission was to create a custom map with a pin on the map for their landmark. The were to pretend they were tour guides and were to provide information a visitor might want to know about their location. This time I had students come up with questions using question starters Where? When? What? Why? How? I chose this method because I wanted to steer students to ask questions that would encompass all the important features of their place much like a newspaper reporter would write an article.
This project was both challenging and time consuming. Ultimately they were successful generating questions and finding answers to them. See the link below to visit one of the class's maps.
Lady Liberty's Map
Looking for connections in the Immersion Stage of Inquiry
Carol Kuhlthau and Leslie Maniotes write about finding a "third space" in an inquiry project in their book Guided Inquiry Design. Third space is where the student's world meets the curriculum. School subjects are more engaging to students when they have a connection to the topic. Learning becomes more relevant and long lasting.
I kept this is mind when designing a biography project for fourth graders. I chose a good selection of picture book biographies on the categories of Black History and Women's History. We did a "book tasting" with the books which meant I put a number of books on each table. Students chose a book that looked interesting and dipped into it for a few quiet minutes trying to get a sense of what the book was about. Then we switched tables 3 times so students had a chance to sample a number of books. I emphasized that I wanted them to find a biography about someone they had a connection to in some way. I was pleased when students indicated they had found someone they were interested in reading more about.
Their job was to read their chosen biography and look for character traits and motivations of that person.
Our students love jumping into a project. One of the things I enjoy doing with them is having them make artwork in a similar manner to an illustrator from a book we have just read. This not only gives students an opportunity to be creative, it helps them to understand the job of the illustrator and the process that person goes through to create the pictures they see in books.
Young children enjoy Lois Ehlert's beautiful books filled with her collage illustrations. In the fall, I read her book, Leaf Man, to the kindergarteners. Afterwards, students created their own Leaf Creature collages with some colorful fall leaves I had gathered. They did a great job!
In December, the kindergarten classes had been reading books by Denise Fleming as part of their Reading Workshop. Denise Fleming is another wonderful author and illustrator. She creates vibrant pictures for her books by using paper pulp and stencils on a wire screen in ta similar manner to how hand-made paper is made. We wanted kindergarteners to experience this process. We set up stations with window screens over plastic tubs and created buckets of paper pulp using torn colored paper and a blender. Students made the background for the pictures using their fingers to push the paper pulp around on the screen. Then they arranged cookie cutters and different colored pulp to make details in their illustrations. They loved the feel of the wet paper pulp and enjoyed making these textured pictures.
Our first graders had a chance to try making a pop-up illustration in the same way that the very talented paper engineer, Robert Sabuda, designs his pop-up books. We read the author's book, Winter's Tale, which has very intricate pop-up illustrations done in all white on every page. Then we viewed a short video that showed Robert Sabuda talking about his work and demonstrating how he makes his illustrations. First graders then tried his method. They were very successful!
Third graders have started an ambitious biography project. Working with a partner, they chose a biography of a famous person from a selection of books I had put together. I chose books with interesting people that were a good reading level for our third graders. Biography subjects included Amelia Earhart, Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, George Washington Carver, Neil Armstrong and others. Students found a quiet spot in the library to read their book with their partner. They were given a graphic organizer to record important events from the person's life as well as challenges the person had to overcome. They were also asked to identify characters traits and give examples from the book of traits they identified. It was impressive to see students apply themselves to this project. I enjoyed hearing their insights as they read about their famous people.
We kicked off this project by reading a book by Suzanne Slade called The Inventor's Secret. It traced the lives of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The way the author presented the story of their lives, the students immediately picked up on the similarities between these two men born 16 years apart. Both love to tinker and invent things from the time they were young. Edison had a great deal of success. Ford, trying to perfect an automobile that was both affordable and roomy enough for a family, ran into problem after problem. Finally he decided to seek out Edison's advice. When the two men finally met, Henry Ford related the struggles he had been having creating an engine, Thomas Edison leaned forward, pounded the table and said, "Don't give up." Students loved this message of persistence. The two inventors became friends for life, another aspect the kids enjoyed.
As our project progresses, students will be gathering additional information about their biographical subject from an online source and creating a Power Point presentation to share what they have learned.
Every year I speak with students about what it means to be a good digital citizen. We discuss ideas for staying safe on the internet, always being respectful with our communications, and regulating screen time. We talk about the fact that you cannot trust all the information on the internet. If students come across unsafe or inappropriate behavior online they are advised to let a grown up know. It is reassuring to hear how many parents have had conversations with their children about these issues and how many parents monitor their children's online activity.
Here is a Padlet where fourth graders have posted what kinds of technology they use regularly. After our discussion about being a good digital citizen they have posted their ideas about using technology safely.
We were fortunate enough to start the year with a Skype visit from Lauren Tarshis, author of the very popular
I Survived series. All the third grade classes gathered in the library early one morning to have a conversation with this very engaging author. Lauren Tarshis told us how she got started writing and how she goes about writing her books. She answered questions from students who had some good ones! "Why don't any of your I Survived books have a girl as the main character?" one student wanted to know. The welcome answer was that Ms. Tarshis' latest book, I Survived Mt. the Eruption of Mount St. Helens does just that. Students were fascinated with the stories the author told about traveling to do research for her books and the experiences she has had while working on her books. It was a memorable event for our young readers.
We started the school year welcoming students back to the HCS Library by talking about the reading we had done over the summer. Many students had read an impressive amount of books. Great job, parents, for bringing your kids to the library, making sure they had good books to read, and reading with your children!
I shared a couple of wonderful books with students in the first weeks of school. With the first graders and kindergarteners, I read Where Are My Books by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. This is an intriguing mystery. Spencer is a little boy who loves to read. He has a collection of beloved books and many favorites that he loves to read at bedtime. One by one his books start disappearing. On his bookshelf in their place Spencer finds small tokens - flowers, nuts and bolts.... What could be happening to his books? The author/ilustrator leaves the readers visual clues which the students loved piecing together until finally the mystery is solved. This book was a great springboard for talking about some of OUR favorite books.
I read Surf's Up by Kwame Aleaxander to our older students. This is a lively romp of a book about two froggy friends, Bro and Dude. Bro pops his head in Frog Dude's window to ask if he'd like to go surfing, but Frog is deeply immersed in a book and is reluctant to put it down. Not to be deterred, Bro loads his friend, still reading, onto the back of his scooter and heads off to the beach. By this time, Frog is sharing the story with Bro who becomes hooked. We loved this book! Students shared stories about books they couldn't put down - even when they had been asked to stop reading! You can see some of our discussion in the Summer Reading video on the main page of the HCS Library website. Enjoy!
Second graders have just finished up a project based on the book Woodpecker Wham by April Pulley Sayre. We started this project by examining two nonfiction books about woodpeckers. Woodpeckers by Kari Schultz is a very informative book about several different kinds of woodpeckers. This book uses photographs and text to tell us about the lives of woodpeckers. Then we read Woodpecker Wham and compared the writing in the two books. "Woodpeckers are birds. They peck at trees with their sharp, pointed beaks," reads the first book. We compared that to April Pulley Sayre's first lines, "Swoop and land. Hitch and hop. Shred a tree stump. CHOP, CHIP, Chop!" We found that April Pulley Sayre's writing had rhythm and rhyme. Her verses were alive with movement and sounds. I was surprised to find that many of the second graders were familiar with the word "onomatopoeia" which refers to using words that sound like the sound they make. "Pop", "whiz," and "bang" are examples. Sayre also uses alliteration, which is a literary tool where words in a phrase repeat the same sound, as in "Flick and flake to find them all." We loved April Pulley Sayre's lively language and decided to try writing about birds in a similar manner.
Students used PebbleGo (www.pebblego.com) to research a bird of their choice. They answered questions about where the bird lives, what it eats, and discovered other interesting facts about the bird. PebbleGo also provides short videos and clips of sounds so students could watch how the bird moves and hear how it sounds. Once their research was done, students wrote about their bird. They used descriptive words, alliteration and sound words. Midway through this project we had a Skype Visit with April Pulley Sayre. This gave our students a special connection to this author and her books. They loved her presentation . She told them many interesting stories about how she writes her books and how she and her husband travel to do research for her books.
The book, Woodpecker Wham, was illustrated by Steve Jenkins who does amazing collage pictures to illustrate his books. When the students had finished their writing, we watched a short video that showed how Steve Jenkins makes his collage pictures. Then it was our second graders' turn to try. The library was alive with cutting and gluing. Students looked at colored photographs of birds and drew a template before cutting their colored paper just as Steve Jenkins does. They did a terrific job!
The kids had so much fun working on this project. One student said, "We should do reptiles next!" You have to love that kind of enthusiasm!
Here is Gage's writing about a hummingbird:
humming bird flap, flap,
flap, flap, sssssllllleeeeerrrrrrppppp, tweet, calling to its mate buzz fling
backwards stomik filled with joos f
and land, kuplop
sparkly green on a feeder
big as a walnut, tweet that's me.
And Nadia writing about cardinals:
The males are red striekes with thieve's masks. Females are gray
and brown detectives. North and Central America warm or cold?
They don't mind. Peck! Peck! Dig them out! Juicy insects, crunchy seeds
yummy fruit, buds and bees.
On May 11th, first grade students met in the library for a Skype visit with the Buffalo Bill Center Museum in Wyoming. The presenter took us on a tour of exhibits showcasing the animals that live in the Yellowstone area. We saw a stuffed grizzly bear, a moose and big horned sheep. We were surprised to learn that the huge curly horns of the sheep are made of keratin, the same material that makes up our hair and fingernails. The first graders were astonished to see the difference in size between a coyote skull and a the much larger wolf skull. They were invited to guess which animal was the fastest in that region. Coyote? Wolves? Were some of the guesses. The correct answer was the prong horned antelope. Our presenter was knowledgeable and upbeat. It was a very interesting glimpse into another region, the animals that live there, and the adaptations that help them survive in that habitat.
In preparation for the Skype visit, students had each been asked to research an animal from our local woodland habitat and to draw a picture of their animal. Students learned about coyotes, beavers, deer, black bears and many others. Several first graders shared their drawings. Students researched their animals by taking notes from a book about their animal. They wrote notes about the animal's habitat, life cycle, diet and fun facts. Then students looked up the animal they were studying on PebbleGo. This is an online subscription database with information on many subjects. First graders combined their notes to write a paragraph about their animal. They did a great job on this project.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was the winner of the Intermediate Nutmeg contest in the state-wide contest. HCS had a different idea. The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson was voted the number one favorite by students in our school. This is a historical fiction novel set in London in 1836 during an outbreak of cholera. At the time, people time believed that bad air caused sickness, but Dr. John Snow had a theory that infected water was causing the disease The author presents the story as a medical mystery that the main characters, Dr. Snow and a young boy named Eel, must solve.
Our fourth graders know this book well. Their teachers read this book to them as part of their historical fiction unit. We also had a Skype visit with the author in the library. Students were able to speak with Deborah Hopkinson and ask her some questions about the book and her life as a writer. Their questions were impressive and they were treated to some insights into the book.
In the Elementary Nutmeg Contest, Star Wars Jedi Academy was the winner both at HCS and in the state-wide election. This is the first title in a graphic novel series. We have recently added more books from this Jedi series to the library collection because they are so popular. Readers can be on the look out for them.
Every year, a panel of school librarians, public librarians, and several students select a group of books which will become the Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award Nominees. There are 10 titles at the intermediate level for grades 4 -6, and 15 titles at the elementary level for grades 2- 4. The panel do their best to choose books in a variety of genres that will appeal to readers of all kinds. These books are kept in special displays in the HCS library so they can be easily found by students checking out books.
I introduce the Nutmeg Nominees to students when the list of titles is revealed in May by giving brief and hopefully exciting book talks. I read aloud some of the shorter picture book Nutmeg books to the younger students. In September I do more book talks and read-alouds to rekindle enthusiasm for these books. Students have all year to read the nominees. In the final week of April, students in grades 2 -4 are invited to vote for their favorite title. The first, second, and third place winning books at HCS are announced in the morning announcements as soon as the ballots have been counted. We can hear the cheers from the fourth grade classrooms in the library! Then I send the results on to the state Nutmeg committee. We learn the winners of the state Nutmeg contest in mid-May.
This year we tried a special project to promote the Nutmeg books. A half dozen rising fourth grade students read the new Nutmeg titles over the summer. When school resumed in September, they met with me to work on writing a Nutmeg Newspaper with articles on six of the intermediate titles. We undertook this project hoping to encourage other students to read the Nutmeg books. Thank you to Kaya Aranha, Mary Fratarcangeli, Jenna Morton, Jameson Sederquist, Kayleigh Smith, and Keira Underwood for doing an incredible job! You can see a copy of their newspaper below.
We will announce HCS students' favorite Nutmeg books in May. For more information about the Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award, visit their website:
Wow! The first HCS Exploratorium was an exciting night of fun and learning for the hundreds of students and their families who attended! The doors opened at 6:00pm Friday, April 1st. Students were greeted at the door and issued a passport. As they traveled around to different rooms in the school and participated in various activities, their passport was stamped accordingly.
Over 100 Learning Fair exhibits were proudly displayed in the multi-purpose room. There were projects of all kinds showcasing the hard work of students. The Farmington High School Robot Club was set up in the cafeteria. Visitors were able to see the club's robots performing tasks and even take a turn using the controller! The computer lab was buzzing with students and parents trying their hand at computer coding. In the library, special cards challenged kids to build structures and contraptions of all kinds. Activities using pedometers were going on in the gym.
It was standing room only in the art room much of the evening where students were challenged with Makerspace activities. Can you design a catapult with these materials? Make a boat that floats or create a paper column to support a heavy weight? Many students worked at building a circuit wrapped around a clothespin. This was a bit tricky, but once finished, the smiles were brighter than the LED bulbs!
Wednesday, February 24th was World Read Aloud Day.
According to the WRAD website:
"World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people like you who participate and spread the word across the globe!"
In honor of World Read Aloud Day, many authors volunteer to read aloud to school classes via Skype. Author, Kate Messner, organized a registry for authors who wished to interact with students on that day. Skype in the Classroom, an educational service now sponsored by Microsoft, also offered opportunities to connect with authors. Through the generosity of authors offering their time, we were able to speak with three authors.
We started our morning by assembling the first grade classes in the library in front of the Smart Board. Monica Carnesi, author and illustrator, read aloud her two books to us. Little Dog Lost is the true story of a small dog who somehow wound up floating on a piece of ice rushing down an icy Polish river. Attempts by firefighters to rescue the dog from shore failed. Fortunately, when the dog's ice raft emptied into the Balkan Sea, he was spotted and rescued by the crew of a Polish research ship. Ms. Carnesi read this book first. The first graders loved this true story. Then she read aloud her fiction story, Beatrice and Bear, about a bear and a bunny who are best friends.
Monica Carnesi spoke with students about where she gets her ideas and how she writes her books. The kids were thrilled when her dog wandered into the scene! Ms. Carnesi's final piece of advice for our young writers was "Don't be afraid to rewrite." She held up many copies of drafts of her stories and talked abut how she and her editor worked to revise her words. The kids really enjoyed her visit and the chance to ask her questions.
You can see a picture of the Skype visit and some of the students' thank you notes below.
After lunch, second grade students connected with author, Dan Paley, who read aloud his book, Luigi and the Barefoot Races, from his home in California. This picture book is set on the streets of Philadelphia where Mr. Paley grew up. It has a lot of action and a very surprising ending! Our second graders were enthralled! In a question and answer period following, a student asked the author if he had any favorite books. Mr. Paley held up Finding Winnie and Last Stop on Market Street. This caused a lot of excitement among our second graders because we had just finished a Mock Caldecott Event and they were very familiar with these two award winning books. We also discovered that Luigi and the Barefoot Races was Mr. Paley's first published book, although he has written four more. We loved the first one and we'll be looking forward to reading more from this author!
Our final Skype of the day was with J.C. Phillipps, a Connecticut author and illustrator who has written several wonderful fiction picture books. I had read, Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed with kindergarten students prior to this Skype visit. Because Mrs. Phillipps creates her illustrations with paper collage, kindergarten students had made collages based on the ninja story we had read. Mrs. Phillipps read another book from her ninja series, Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Take a Nap. Following her engaging read aloud, she polled the audience to find out which animal they wished to see her make in collage. "A horse" was the most popular vote, so Mrs. Phillipps got to work. The kids loved her read aloud and collage demonstration. After, they were invited to ask questions. As students approached the screen to ask a question they held up the collage pictures they had created so Mrs. Phillipps could see. It was a terrific conclusion to our World Read Aloud Day.
We are very grateful to the authors who shared their time with us!! Hearing these terrific authors read aloud from their books and being able to interact with these authors made this day special and memorable for our young readers!
Below are pictures of our Skype visit with J.C. Phillips and student thank you notes.
Our kindergarteners have been hard at work building reading and comprehension skills. They have learned the differences between fiction story books and nonfiction informational books. They know where to find each type of book in the HCS library. We have read some wonderful books by some amazing authors and illustrators. Mo Willem's Elephant and Piggy books are among the favorite choices for our emerging readers.
It is fun to see the kindergarteners' creativity emerging. In the fall, we read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. This author illustrates her books with wonderful collages made of colored paper and fabric scraps, found items of all kinds, and in the case of Leaf Man, real autumn leaves. Of course, we had to try our hand at creating a Leaf Man or Leaf Animal and writing where he might be flying on the wind. Here are some of our students' leaf collages below. Didn't they do a great job?
.Denise Fleming Author Study
Just before the December holiday break, the kindergarten teachers read a number of Denise Fleming's books to their classes including such well known titles as In the Tall, Tall Grass and Where Once There Was a Wood. Denise Fleming's books have simple text and bold and colorful pictures. She makes the pictures for her books with brightly colored paper pulp poured through hand cut stencils. The process is similar to making hand made paper. The kids were fascinated by a video of Denise Fleming creating her illustrations, so we decided to give her paper making process a try ourselves.
Each class had a turn in the room we set up for this project. We set up three stations for students to rotate through. While a small group of students worked at the paper making table, others read Denise Fleming books or colored with stencils. At the paper making station, we started by mixing torn colored paper scraps in a blender with water to make the pulp. We had buckets of green, yellow, blue, white and red pulp. The consistency was similar to oatmeal without being sticky. Every student was given a small piece of window screen framed in cardboard and perched over a tub. After a brief demonstration, the kids got started. They chose their background colors and scooped out small cupfuls of pulp. They poured it onto the window screen and pressed it down to help knit the fibers together. The excess water from the pulp poured into the tub below. Once the background had been laid, students added embellishments on top by pouring new colors of pulp into cookie cutters which acted as molds. Some made free hand pictures with the pulp. The kids were totally absorbed in this fun activity. The illustrations dried over vacation and we returned to find beautiful sheets of hand made paper.
What fun we have been having in the library! On Wednesdays or Thursdays after school, up to 20 fourth graders can be found hard at play - tinkering with Paper Circuits, Squishy Circuits, Marble Runs or Makey Makey kits. These STEM oriented Makerspace projects have been made possible by a grant from the Region 10 Make A Mark Enrichment Foundation. At the time of this writing, we are in the middle of our second seven week session. A third session will run in the spring.
Building circuits is fun and easy when you have copper tape, small LED bulbs, and coin batteries. The first challenge was to build a simple circuit to light a bulb. Then, create a collage for the top which hides the circuit but lets the light show. There were a few struggles. Torn tape will not let those little electrons run around the circuit. Electricity runs in one direction, so if the poles on the LEDs or the battery are reversed, the light will not light up. Trial and error are part of every STEM activity in the library. Ultimately, everyone was successful. I was impressed with our fourth graders' creativity. Their smiles were brighter than the bulbs when they showed off their work!
The votes have been counted. Our second grade students favored Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall as the book they thought deserved to be the 2016 Caldecott Award winner in our Mock Caldecott Event. (The real judges agreed with them, they will be happy to learn!) A distant second choice for our second graders was Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. Clustered in third place were the books Water is Water, Toys Meet Snow, and Drum Girl Dreaming.
Some of their comments were insightful, "I like this book because the pictures helped me understand the book and I loved the bright colors." And "the pichers are good it even did reflechin on the water like it dose for real."
I look forward to sharing the results of the second graders' votes as well as the real Caldecott judges' decisions.
The work of evaluating and comparing requires a lot of thought. Putting themselves in the shoes of the judges gives students an opportunity to read a book closely and really think about it. What is the book trying to say?
How much additional information do the pictures offer? And finally, which illustrator did the best job?
Second graders have been learning about the Dewey Decimal System and how the library is organized. We took a break from Dewey recently, to have a Mock Caldecott Contest. Every January, a panel of judges, representing the American Library Association, meets to award the next Caldecott Medal. This award is given to the illustrator of the "most distinguished" picture book published in the United States the previous year. The judges consider things like the illustrator's technique, how well the illustrations convey the theme of the book and how well they believe the illustrations appeal to children. The real Caldecott committee considers hundreds of eligible books in their decision. Our second graders looked at ten.
The ten picture books we included in our contest were books that children's literature reviewers and bloggers thought were front runners for the award . To kick off our contest, I read aloud Lindsay Mattick's wonderful book Finding Winnie, the True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This book is the story of the author's great-grandfather, Henry Colebourn, who purchased a bear cub from a trapper at a train station in Canada. At the time, Henry Colebourn was on his way to fight in World War I. 'Winnie," as Colebourn named the bear, was soon beloved by his regiment. She traveled with them by train and overseas by ship to England. Before the regiment reached the front lines of the war, Colebourn brought her to the London Zoo to live. Winnie became a favorite of many children who visited her there, including Christopher Robin, son of A.A. Milne. The friendship between Winnie and Milne's son inspired the well-known series Winnie-the-Pooh.
Second grade students loved this book! I did not tell them ahead of time that this was the story of Winnie-the-Pooh (although a few guessed). It was great fun to see this realization occur. The kids marveled that Winnie was so friendly she was allowed to have visitors right in her zoo enclosure! The author includes photographs in the back of the book that show Henry Colebourn with Winnie and the real Christopher Robin petting the bear. The photographs and journal entries in the back matter of the book drove home the fact that this was a true story.
We discussed how students would judge this book and the nine others in our contest. It was up to them to read each book with a partner and then evaluate how well the illustrator had done. On a scale of one to five, they had to rate how well the illustrator used the medium. I explained to them that this word meant what the artist used to make the picture. They had to pretend they were an art teacher grading the art work. Did the illustrator do a good job using watercolors? They could circle five. Next they considered how well the illustrations helped them to understand the story and third, if they thought children (like themselves) would like these pictures and want to read the book.
It was very enjoyable watching students squirreled away around the library taking turns reading to their partners. They were very engaged in this activity. The comments I overheard showed that students were taking their evaluations quite seriously. "This illustrator uses beautiful colors." "The pictures have a lot of detail." Stay tuned to find out the winner of our Mock Caldecott Contest.
Third graders did a nonfiction and biography reading unit in their classrooms. In the library we did a biography project that allowed students to become familiar with a famous person's life and explore some of the "Big Ideas" about that person, like "Why do we remember that person?" And "What character traits do they possess and what examples from their life showed these traits?" Students worked with a partner to read a picture book biography. These books are very engaging and have the advantage of offering a lot of information that can be read in a short amount of time. Students took notes on an organizer as they read.
Then they consulted PebbleGo or Britannica Online, two of our subscription databases, to find out more information about their biography subject.
Now they were ready to make a slide show using Haiku Deck, an online presentation tool. See some of the finished projects below. Nice job, third graders!
Copy of Carl sagan - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
ben franklin - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
Jackie Robinson - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
Got a Feeling 2016 is Going to be a Good Year!
1/3/2016 0 Comments
Welcome to the new HCS Library blog. I will keep you up to to date on library happenings here. We have many exciting plans for the New Year. January is the month when our kindergarteners and second graders will be investigating Caldecott winning books. One gold Caldecott Medal and several silver Caldecott Honor medals are awarded every January to the illustrator of the "most distinguished children's picture book" published during the previous year. Second grade students will engage in a Mock Caldecott contest where they will vote for the book they believe deserves to be the next medal winner. First grade reading and projects will revolve around a weather-related theme. Third graders are finishing up a biography project and fourth graders will be using their research skills to investigate facets of colonial life. A new session of the STEM Club with Makerspace activities will soon be starting up for fourth grade students.