I'm in the middle of a truly awesome, exciting unit right now. I taught my fourth graders how to use Scratch (just the basics) and then set them loose to animate their Greek myths. At least five have come up to me privately and told me excitedly "Mrs. Bery, I signed up for Scratch and I spent the WHOLE WEEKEND playing on it!" which, you know, is a wonderful feeling. And they're using their classmates who know more about Scratch to fancy up their animations, which is even better.
Unfortunately, due to our district being a pilot district for PARCC and library closings for MCAS, our state standardized tests, Scratch is temporarily on hiatus. Which is a shame, but there's nothing to do about it but adapt and move forward. And since I'm in their classrooms for a full 41 minute period, I have to come up with something for them to stay occupied for 41 minutes (doing silent reading could happen, but it feels like a bit of a cop-out).
And then on Sunday night, I had a brainwave. I'd just had a conversation with our fabulous 7th grade social studies teacher about his "create a country" project. But that was too grand a scale for me, and I wanted a project to have a curricular tie-in. His project kept floating around at the edges of my mind (where some of my best ideas seem to come from), and then, I had it! We would do a "create your own state" project, which would incorporate the knowledge and skills students have gained from their study of the United States all year, and their current research project in class. Win win. And the kids LOVED it.
I got not only your basic ideas, but some kids thought about adding a government, writing a constitution, coming up with districts (unsurprisingly inspired by The Hunger Games), and more. When I told them I thought we'd record their state information online with accompanying visuals (VoiceThread), they nearly jumped for joy at the idea. And some asked if they could use Scratch, to which I said "sure!"
I'll write another post about how I'm handling being a librarian on a cart (quite literally), but for now, I'll revel in a spur-of-the-moment brainwave that I think is going to turn into something kind of awesome.
If you've never used Animoto as a promotional tool for your library program, you are missing out. I now have my cellphone pretty much permanently glued to my side when I am doing activities with kids so that I can photograph and video and gather examples of what we're doing, because as I learned last night, people don't know. When I get the chance to start talking about what we're doing in the library, the teachers whose students I see weekly go "wait, wow, you do that in the library?" And then their minds are blown (in a good way).
I'd made a video for the first six weeks in library, but it was very touchy-feel-good and not very impressive on the 21st century skills front. So, this time around, I stepped up my game. And then I sent it to the entire elementary school faculty, my principal, and my superintendent. And boy, does it feel good to redefine perspectives and shift understandings of what happens in the library :)
Check out what we've been upto!
Although I had two days of work last week with my new colleagues, today marked the official first day of school. It's a weird week, what with Monday being a holiday for Labor Day, and I'll be out Thursday because Rosh Hashanah is early this year, but I think I'm off to a great start. The kids are adorable, polite, and curious. I'm sure teaching kindergarten tomorrow morning may cause everything to fly out the window (not only is tomorrow their first day of school, for many of them, it's their first day at THIS school, so I have my work cut out for me), but today was a promising start.
I started by welcoming students and introducing myself, then I asked them to introduce themselves and tell me something about themselves. Given that these were first and second graders, we had some lovely tangents where everyone wanted to offer their favorite color or chime in that they had also been to that amusement part, but that's part of the fun. Then I gave the students a chance to ask me some questions - I think my favorite was "why are you wearing pink nail polish today if pink isn't your favorite color?"
Then we did a little bit of routine setting when I demonstrated the wind chime I bought from Amazon. I had an instructor in grad school who used the chime to get our attention, and I found it an effective method, so I decided to deploy it from the get-go. I explained to the kids that when they heard the chime, they needed to stop what they were doing and fall silent, then I had them practice talking gobbeldy-gook to their neighbor and falling silent. They aced it.
We closed by reading the lovely Sky Color by Peter Reynolds (who is local! He may be on my list now for an author study/visit), which I found out about on a blog talking about a "no rules" first day. I read the kids the story, then asked them to think about why I had chosen it. They gave their guesses, then I told them that I hope that library will be a place where they can be creative, use their imaginations, make things, and feel safe to experiment and take risks. That's my hope for this year.
My time with the upper elementary students at Nathan Hale was unfortunately, a little uneven due to holidays, standardized testing, snow days, and schedule changes, but we still managed to get some great learning done.
We began with a biography project focusing on famous African Americans in honor of Black History Month (3rd grade), and a general selection of famous personalities for the older grades. 3rd graders used Glogster to express their learning, while the older kids created "scrapbook pages" of their work. Unfortunately, I neglected to take photos of their work, but I do have a video showing the 3rd graders' work:
Though my tenure at Nathan Hale ended in late May, I've shamefully neglected this blog all summer. However, with school (and work) starting in mere weeks (where did the summer go?!), I thought it best to get myself back into "school mode" and update. What better place to start than with a quick overview of the major units we did in the Nathan Hale Library?
The main focus of the spring was preparing for our author visit by Joseph Bruchac. Thanks to my local public library, I borrowed a stack of his books and introduced them to students in all grades, though K1-3 heard the most stories.
For the past few weeks, students at the Nathan Hale in grades 3, 4, and 5 have been working on studying biographies and learning to use resources, both print and digital, to create posters displaying what they've learned about their subjects.
The third graders have been working with myself and the technology teacher in the tech lab. The unit began with learning how to use KidsInfobits to do background research, and then translating their knowledge into interactive glogs using Glogster. This video, submitted as part of Digital Learning Day/Month, showcases the awesome work these third graders have done. They're very proud of themselves!
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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