Friday, June 3, 2016

The Most Precious Book Club EVER!

I would like to share something about a few special Ney Knights. This spring during one of my conference periods, I was visited by three special fourth graders, Emily, Alyssa, and Peyton. They had a proposal for me. It was a very well thought out proposal, I might add. They sweetly presented their idea to me. They wanted to start a book club for fourth graders and they wanted me to "sponsor" them. My job as the sponsor was only to provide the space for their meetings as well as the adult supervision. They laid out their organized plan for me. They were going to meet for about thirty minutes every other week during their recess time. They also checked and found out that this was my conference period, so I would not have any scheduled classes. They had a list of rules that book club members would be asked to follow (the most important of which was to KEEP UP WITH THE REQUIRED READING) and they had a three strikes and you are out policy. They had spoken to the counselor and had permission to tackle this project pending my agreement to help them.
Of course I agreed! What self-respecting librarian wouldn't agree (and melt) to this idea? They asked for my suggestions on books to read. We pulled a few titles that were appropriate for their age and which I had multiple copies of. They decided to pick the book at the first meeting, so that all members could vote on their choice. All three of them were very concerned about having enough books each time we started a new one. I promised them that if the library did not have enough copies, I would see to it that I got the copies for them. They were so very thoughtful in that they always tried to choose between books I already had copies of. They were all so worried that I might have to spend my own money to purchase the books we needed. I thought this was so very sweet! I assured them that the library would purchase the books we needed. I would not have to use my own money.
On the day of their first meeting, the three leaders came into the library early to set up. They neatly displayed all book choices that the members would be voting on. They discussed their agenda for the meeting and which of them would be covering each item. They reviewed the rules and discussed how they would present them to the other members. Then, they set up the space with chairs and laid out their sign-in sheet.

Before long, the members started to show up. Each of these sweet kids were giving up their recess time to be a part of this book club. My heart just melted. The leaders introduced themselves, and proceeded with the agenda. Thankfully they agreed that I could be a part of their book club. I made it clear that I wanted to join, but as a member. I was not going to interfere with the leadership. We voted on the book that we would all like to read. The Tale of Despereaux one by a landslide! The leaders informed the others of the next scheduled meeting and told them how far they should read by the next meeting. Everyone left with a book in their hand and a smile on their face! I spoke to Emily and let her know that she could most likely google good discussion questions to use at the next meeting, if she would like to do that. She seemed interested, but I definitely did not want to push her. I purposely wanted this to be THEIR book club, not mine.

The remainder of the school year this little group met faithfully every two week until the craziness of mid-May came along. As they finished one book, they would vote on the next and start it immediately. They came prepared with googled discussion questions and led meaningful, spirited discussions each meeting. I was so incredibly impressed with their faithfulness, preparedness, and leadership qualities! Over time, some members dropped out if they could not commit to the required reading. Interestingly, each child policed themselves with this rule. The leaders never had to utilize the "three strikes and you are out" rule. If a child was not keeping up, they voluntarily turned in their book and quietly stepped out of the book club. I am pretty sure they did not want to disappoint their leaders. I am still in awe of this precious little group of kids. I feel blessed to have been included in their book club and even more blessed to be their sponsor. This opportunity provided me first hand insight into what can happen when you allow students to take control of their learning and their learning environment. I am so sad that they are leaving me this year, but so hopeful that they will carry on their legacy of leadership. I can't wait to see what these future "bosses" will become and what they will do with their lives. All three are destined to do great things! Mrs. Roland loves all three of you sweeties! If you have a book club at Rasco, I want to be in it, too!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Kindergarteners Can Do WHAAAATTT?

While attending the Texas Library Association's annual conference a few years ago,  I came across one particular session that really peaked my interest. The ladies presenting the session explained in great detail how they were able to get their PreK and Kinder friends to do research. I was amazed! I was also extremely jealous because this school had access to the coolest database for younger elementary kids, PebbleGo by Capstone. I immediately contacted my Capstone rep and requested a quote for PebbleGo. Unfortunately, our budget had been spent by this late in the year. I decided to save the quote and make PebbleGo one of my first purchases for the next school year. Next, I very sweetly asked my kinder teachers if they would jump on board with me and try this research idea with their kiddos. Luckily, I have kinder teachers who are generally always on board with my ideas, so they agreed to collaborate with me.  Although we did not have the database access, we did have age appropriate library books, so we completed our research the "old fashioned way," with library books.  With all hands on deck (even the kinder parents), we were able to make it through an entire research project. The final product was just precious. Each child completed a poster of their animal at home, they came back to school with the poster, and we recorded their voices telling about their animal. I connected the voice recordings to a QR code that we attached to their poster, and then we invited their parents up to school for a gallery walk of all the kinder projects. Parents could see the poster, then scan the QR code and hear each child explain what they discovered about his/her animal. It was a TON of work, but it was a BIG hit! This is an example of one student's audio presentation:

 Many things have changed on our campus in the two years since we completed this research project. Our classrooms each have ten Chromebooks and about three or four iPads.  Our kindergartners are familiar with using both devices. Our district has also graciously purchased the PebbleGo databases for all of our elementary schools. With all of this available technology, I decided that this year was the year to try my hand at online kindergarten research.

I started this project by first teaching my kinder friends how to log on to MackinVia using our generic school log in. From MackinVia, we discovered how to access the PebbleGo database. This worked pretty well, but I ran into two substantial problems: the students had to do too much "logging in" and we only have ten iPads in the library, so they had to "partner up."

The following week, I decided to "bite the bullet" and teach my kinder friends how to log in to the library computers. I have twenty Chromebooks available in the library, so this was a more individualized option. Once they were familiar with logging in to the Chromebooks, I taught them how to navigate to our school's Symbaloo. This Symbaloo is the go-to place for all of the websites that our students will need access to. Our entire campus uses this site on a daily basis and it has really helped us with speeding up the process of kid's finding the sites we need them to find. If you aren't familiar with Symbaloo, be sure to check it out. It is a lifesaver! From Symbaloo, students were able to access our school's PebbleGo databases without being required to log in (the least amount of steps possible, the better with our kinder people). The first day we navigated to PebbleGo, was just an exploration day. I let the students play around on PebbleGo and figure out how it works on their own. They absolutely loved it!

The following week, we reviewed how to log on to PebbleGo and I allowed the students a few minutes to explore. Once the uncontained excitement was under control, I asked them to navigate to the animal database and choose one animal that they would love to learn more about. When their choices were made, I gave each student the following graphic organizer to take their notes on. I found this idea on the PebbleGo website, then tweaked it a little bit to make it more kindergarten friendly. Next, I guided the students in writing down their animal name on the top line and their name on the second line. It doesn't sound like much, but just these few steps took one entire lesson!

During our next library visit, we got down to the "meat" of the research. I asked the kids to log in to the computers, navigate to Symbaloo, find PebbleGo, and find the animal they picked to research last week. This was quite the task! About half were able to do all of this without help. The other half, I assisted as needed. Once students were on their animal, I asked them to draw a picture of their animal in the large box at the top of the page. This was right up their alley and they loved it! Once the picture was complete, I modeled how to click on a tab such as, Body, listen to PebbleGo tell about the tab, and pick one thing to write in their "body" box. I was very impressed with how many of them were capable of doing this task! When I started this, I actually expected that most of them might need to just draw a picture to represent what they heard about the body. However, almost every student was able to find one thing to copy in the body box! The next library lesson or two focused on filling in the remaining three boxes about their animal. Each week it became easier and easier to complete the task. By the time we finished the graphic organizer, I was able to teach the lesson without feeling like I was going to come undone!

I am looking forward to next week when I will teach students how to use Chatterpix on our iPads. We are going to use this app and our note taking sheet to create the final product for our Animal Research. Stay tuned to find out how it all turns out!