Friday, February 18, 2011

Celebrating Black History Month

In honor of Black History month, my story time this week is all about JAZZ - jazz music that is.

I read one of my favorite books about the subject, Lookin for Bird in the Big City by Robert Burleigh. I love reading this book because of the rhythm of the words as you read it. The book is about what *MIGHT* have happened when Miles Davis came to New York City to find and play jazz with his idol, Charlie "Bird" Parker.

After we read the book I play parts of an episode of Reading Rainbow - Hip Cat by Jonathan London. The books is read by the FABULOUS Ann Duquesnay, I don't think I could do this book justice after hearing her read it! If you are lucky enough to have access to Discovery Education streaming video you can download the episode from there (which is what I did). The kids love the music and it is a great introduction to jazz music.

Another thing I did this week for Black History month was with third grade, we did a webquest on Frederick Douglas. You can access the webquest here, but the links are specific to some databases that my school has access to as part of Galileo (our state database portal). I have done quite a few of these webquests with third grade in the past few weeks and they are great for two reasons, one is that they get to learn about the different databases that our school has available and how to naviagte them and two, they learn some facts about the person we are researching (the people are all part of the third grade social studies curriculum). You can take a look at some of the other webquests I created here, but realize that many of the live links will not work unless you are part of my school district.

I hope everyone has a GREAT weekend, it is 70 degrees here in Atlanta today - not bad weather for February!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chinese New Year

Last week and this week we are celebrating Chinese New Year in the media center. Some year I am going to get brave enough and attempt to make a dragon head - but not this year! This year we are reading two books, Grace Lin's Bringing In The New Year and Janet Wong's This Next New Year. after we read the books we are making Chinese lanterns. I have done this before with kindergarten and first grade, but for some reason I didn't remember the kids having as much trouble following the directions as they have this year. I do think art projects like this are great lessons in following directions. My teachers really appreciate it when I do things like this, to reinforce the skills they are trying to teach in their classrooms.

To make the lanterns I printed out this template, I cut off the directions part of the template and enlarged just the template onto an 8-1/2x11 piece of red paper. I hand these out to the kids and they follow me step by step as we create the lantern. I think with my kindergarten students it is the following directions part that is making it difficult. My first and second graders are having a much better time creating the lanterns.
According to Grace Lin, this year, the year of the rabbit "should be a should be a gentler and smoother one" - I sure hope Grace is right!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Skype Author Visit

Last week after much wrangling with my county to allow us to do this, we had our first Skype visit with author Melissa Stewart.
I first learned about Melissa last year from Twitter - one day I tweeted about doing a reader's theater project and she tweeted back to me to check out her website, she had some reader's theater scripts on there. As it turned out, I had just ordered her books for the library that she had scripts for! I used the scripts with my class, we created a slide show/podcast with the reader's theater, which I put up on this blog and Melissa saw it. She linked to it on her blog and it made my kids DAY - I mean, how COOL to have an author put your work on her blog!!! So, Melissa and I talked about a school visit (she wasn't heading to Georgia anytime soon) and she suggested a Skype visit. Great idea, I thought, until I had to deal with my county telling me it wasn't possible.
So fast forward to this school year and I was determined to make it happen! With the help of my district media coordinator, we convinced the county technology department to let me do this. Originally they wanted me to use a different software to conduct the visit, but ended up letting me use Skype (but I have been told that any future virtual author visits need to use the other software). It helped that Melissa was on board no matter what software we had to use for the visit - and that made it so much less stressful for me to know that she was willing to work with me on this.
So then FINALLY last week was the day. I had my two reader's theater classes in the media center for the visit (about 28 students). The students had written questions the week before when we met and we had talked about what is an appropriate question to ask and what is not (not asking How old are you but maybe ask When did you start writing instead..). My partner in crime for this class - the 4th grade gifted teacher Mrs. Zawacki - typed the questions up and made copies for the whole class and we highlighted the questions WE thought were the most important to ask her. I had done a test Skype with Melissa earlier in the day and we had determined that we would mostly have the kids ask questions to her during the visit. I think the visit went FABULOUS and the kids were SOOO excited about the while thing. Most exciting for Janet and I was the advice that Melissa gave to our students about writing a reader's theater, since our students will be writing their own as our next unit. The students blogged about it after and you can read their reflections here and here.
I can't wait to do this again, I think having a smaller group (under 30 kids) works out best and definitely having a group write questions before speeds things along and makes for a better visit (I think this applies for any author visit!) I also think that since we have spent SOO much time with Melissa's books that it really meant more to the students than if we had a Skype visit with an author they were not as familiar with. I can totally see doing this again, maybe with my 4th grade book group or maybe with another class that has done an author study on a particular author.
Here is author/teacher Kate Messner's great article on author Skype visits to get you started.