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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mystery Animal Research with Kindergarten

     Researching with kindergarten students can be a daunting task, but I think I found a way to make it fun for them AND manageable for me!  I've been spending the year getting them to understand the difference between Fiction and Non-Fiction books, and would often pair two books over similar content to get them to practice determining the difference. 
     This time, I used the book The Otter Who Loved to Hold Hands by Heidi & Daniel Howarth.  Before reading the book, I asked the students if they knew anything about otters.  Some had heard of the animal, but weren't too sure what it was.  So, we began to list some questions down that they had about otters. I explained to them that when you are trying to find answers to questions about a topic, it's called "doing research". 


     Then I asked them, "If we were doing research on otters, what could we use to find the answers to our questions?" and they immediately replied "Non-Fiction books!" (Yes, I admit to doing a little happy dance at their response!) So we ran over to the Non-Fiction section, and found a book about Otters.  When we came back to the floor I told them that we could use the book to look up our answers, but there's something else we can use.  This is when I introduced them to our databases, focusing on the absolutely wonderful Pebble Go!  I showed them how, like a Non-Fiction book, a database gives us all kinds of facts about a topic.  
     We spent a few minutes reading the entry about otters,  watching the video of them swimming, and even listening to the audio of their sounds.  Then we read the story and several of the kids wanted to know if otters really do hold hands.  I found this amazingly cute video here that shows two otters in a zoo holding hands as they float and sleep.  They spent the rest of their library time investigating different animals on the database. 
     The next time we met, I read them clues from this fun book, What Animal Am I? by Caroline Hutchinson.  
     Afterwards, I asked them if they would like to create their very own Mystery Animal book.  They were super excited, and right away started talking about the animal that they wanted to do. (It was extremely cute seeing them get this excited!) Since they were so into the project already I let them go onto Pebble Go to make sure the animal they wanted was on there or if they weren't sure what animal to do, they used this time to find one to research.  At the end of our time, I showed them a sample of what our Mystery Animal book would look like:
     On their next visit, we started out by going over the three research steps.  I put up posters of Step #1: Plan, and reminded them that we would be making our own Mystery Animal books.   We reviewed that we would be using the Pebble Go databases to find out answers.
     Then we looked at Step #2: Do, and we read over the questions in the booklet so that they would know what to look for. (Once they have some experience with this process, we'll do this again and they will be able to choose their own questions.)
     At the end of our time, I put up the last poster, Step #3: Review, and we checked to see if they needed more time to finish or needed more time to add better details so that they could be proud of their work.
     Once everyone was done, we had a super share time and each student had an opportunity to get up in front of the class and share their clues while we tried to guess the correct animal.  This was so much fun, and the students really enjoyed researching!  I can't wait to do this again next year, much earlier, so that we will have time to do another one where they get to choose their own questions. I'm also excited to see if they remember doing this next year as first graders, when we bump up the three research steps to the Big 6 steps.  You can read about that Recipe for Research activity on my blog here if you're interested.

     If you'd like to try this with your own students, you can get a copy here at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.  I even included an alternative format that you can use for the second time around.


What experiences have you had with researching with Kindergarten?  I'd love to hear your ideas!
Sandy

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Care with First Grade


     Have you ever gotten an idea in the middle of the night and just had to get up and go work on it?  That's what happened to me a few weeks ago.  I'm really excited about it, and can't wait to use it with my first graders next year!  Here's the idea:
     When I teach book care, I try to use a different book with Kinder, 1st grade and 2nd grade so that they don't have to hear the same book read again each year.   I like to read Chester Visits the Library by Elizabeth Bennett to first grade.  Afterwards I like to leave out the other two books that are in the Chester series that I purchased from Scholastic, and the kids love to read them.

     After the book, we would do a review activity to remind them how to take care of their library books.  This year, many of my 1st graders remembered doing this review activity with me when they were in Kindergarten, so I've been trying to think of something different to do with them next year. 
      
     So there I am sleeping, when suddenly I see my students making their own class book to show Chester that they know the right way to treat library books!  I immediately woke up and starting creating the pages before my muse left me!  
     To start out, I would print out the front and back cover (shown below) in color on cardstock and laminate it after we filled in their class name.

     Then I would hand out the pages to the students and we would read them together out loud and they would tell me "Yes, Chester WOULD want me to do that!" or "No, Chester would NOT want me to do that."  Then I would have them illustrate what the page was saying.  (There are 10 pages total with situations already typed on them for a total of 20 scenarios that the students could illustrate.)
     I also included some blank pages where they could come up with their own examples. You could also use these in case you had more than 20 students in a class.
     After the students illustrated their pages, we could staple them into their cover and they would be able to take it back to their classroom to share with their teacher.  I also included a cut and paste activity for them to show what they learned, and then they could take that home to share with their parents.

I can't wait to try this out next year!  If you are interested in trying this activity out with your students, you can find it here at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.  Let me know what you think!

Sandy 


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Researching with 1st Grade

     Teaching good research habits to younger grades is a very important part of being a librarian.  In the past, I have introduced the research steps using a lesson that connected the Big 6 steps to following a recipe for making an apple pie.  You can read about this "Recipe for Research" lesson on my blog here.  
    Typically, after I do this lesson, we would investigate Non-Fiction books, Text Features, and databases, and then they would do their research later in their classrooms with their teachers.
     This year, I wanted to be more involved in helping them learn how to do the actual research part, so I decided to do a mini-research project with my first graders as part of their library lessons.  

Step #1
     I started off by asking them what they wanted to learn more about.  Most of them answered with some sort of animal, so we decided that our first research project together would be about animals.  
     This was actually perfect, as we had just finished reading the book Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin. (By the way, if you haven't read this, it's a FANTASTIC book.  The kids LOVE raising their fists and shouting "Those Darn Squirrels!" whenever Old Man Fookwire yells at the crazy squirrels in his backyard.  Plus, they were super excited to find out that there are 2 more books in the series!)
     I told them that I was going to research Squirrels since we had just read about them, and then I introduced them to PebbleGo.  This is an absolutely FANTASTIC database by Capstone Digital!  It is ideal for younger grades, and makes it super easy for them to find information. Each topic is divided into 6 main tabs: body, habitat, food, life cycle, fun facts, and related articles.  Each tab allows the student to either read or listen to the information, and most topics have a video they can watch as well.  It is slightly expensive, but well worth the money!  (If you are interested in checking it out, you can get a free 2 week trial by filling out a short form found here.)  I gave them some time to explore the database so they would be familiar with it for our next lesson, and I told them to think about what animal they would like to research.

Step #2
     On their next visit, we quickly reviewed the "Recipe for Research" steps again, and brainstormed a list of "egg" questions to research about their animal.  They came up with things like: what does my animal eat, how fast can it run, who is it afraid of, how does it move, where is it's home, etc.  I created a Research Brochure (aka: note-taking tool) and had them chose 4 questions to write inside each egg.  

  Once their questions were written down, I asked "What do you think the lines underneath each egg are for?"  They correctly guessed it was for their answers to the questions.  I had them look at the lines, and we discussed how they weren't very long and they would have to make sure they only wrote down the important words.
     I pulled up information on Squirrels on PebbleGo, and we read that "Tree Squirrels have bushy tails that are as long as their body." I had them help me find the "important facts" and I told them the general rule was they could write up to 3 words from a sentence.  (I am trying to start them early on learning how to paraphrase and write notes, and not just copy everything that they see.)  It was fun writing down their ideas, and then they would check to see if they had more than 3 words. After several tries, they came up with "long, bushy tails". We practiced a few more times together, and then they spent the rest of their library time on PebbleGo trying to find the answers for their animal. Before they left, I collected their research brochures to keep them safe for next time.

Step #3
      The next week in the library, I showed them another database that I love to use with the younger grades, Facts 4 Me.  It's super cheap (only $50.00 for an entire year subscription!) You can take a quick tour of the site to learn more here.  It's developed by former teachers, and the layout is also very friendly.   Each topic starts with a "Quick Facts" section that gives basic information.  On animals, it gives a variety of info such as: type, habitat, diet, weight, height, etc.  Along the left side are photographs, and under the Quick Facts section are short paragraphs giving more information.   


     At the bottom, it even gives the exact citation to include on your Works Cited page, so I took this opportunity to begin teaching them how to do a simple Works Cited page.  For the younger grades, I created just a simple ABC form (A=Author or website, B=Book Title or topic title, C=Copyright date).  I told them anytime they used facts from a source, they had to fill out a slip for their Works Cited page.  I had a stack and we just stapled the slip to their brochure so it all stayed together.  I gave them the rest of this library period to finish finding answers to their questions.

Step 4
     Now that they had their answers, I showed them how to take their notes and create detailed, complete sentences on notebook paper.  We also talked about how to write a simple paragraphs (one paragraph for each "egg" question that they had answers for.)  When they were done, I had them work in pairs and peer-edit.  They helped each other with spelling, capitals, punctuation, and made sure that all their egg questions were answered.  

Step 5
I gave them a variety of formats to choose from for their final presentation:  
1) They could write a basic report using the 2-page format. 
2) They could make their own animal book using the brochure format including a Table of Contents and Author page.
 3) Those that wanted to create a true Non-Fiction animal book could create one with a Table of Contents, Index, and Works Cited page.

Step #6
     For their finale, each student presented their animal reports to the group.  I believe it's important for students to get practice talking in front of their peers. Next time, I think it would be fun to Skype with another library and let students from each class share. 

Technology options:  
     There are so many different apps that you can use to present their final information as well.  I love Tellagami and Sock Puppets, and both of these are easy to use.  Since we completed these activities toward the end of the year, our normal schedules were interrupted due to state testing, book fair, and end of the year changes.  Exploring those apps were a great way to keep the kids excited about their research project and provided motivation for them to finish. 

If you are interested in doing this research activity with your students, you can find it here at TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.  I'd love to hear how you do research with your students!

Sandy







Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teachers Are Heroes Sale!

Wednesdays are great days to shop!

Especially today!



Teachers Pay Teachers loves teachers, and they know how hard we all work. So, they are having a SITEWIDE SALE today (Wednesday, February 25th)
and my store is participating!

WAIT!! They just extended the sale through Thursday, February 26th!


Just enter promo code HEROES when you check out, and you will get a whopping 28% off
ALL MY PRODUCTS!

This is a great time to go purchase those items you've had on your wish list!  While you're shopping, check out all the other amazing stores that will be participating as well!

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Starting a Makerspace in the Library

     I have been using centers in the library for several years now and absolutely love them.  They work really well at giving students choices of activities to do after the lesson and checking out new books.  Now that I have 50-minute library classes as part of the Special's rotation, this has proven to be beneficial.  If you haven't started centers in your own library and you're interested in starting, you can read about my journey here.

      Over the last year, though, I have begun to read more and more about Makerspaces. They intrigued me, and it seemed like a natural progression from what I had been doing with my library centers. So, like most things, I decided to dive head first into trying them in my library this year. 
      I started off researching ideas from another amazing librarian in my district, Tracey Rice.  She has been the brave pioneer that tried Makerspaces in her library already and created this great Symbaloo of ideas and resources.


     After investigating these links and listening to Tracey talk about what she was doing, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what a Makerspace could be.  Now, I wanted to get some feedback from my students.  The first thing I did was create a chart paper that I divided into 2 columns:  
  • What is a Makerspace? 
  • What are our Expectations?  
I then asked each 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class to brainstorm their thoughts as I wrote them down.  With each new class, I would let them brainstorm first, and then would share what the other classes said for them to comment on.  I put check marks by ideas they liked, which would show me some similarities between grade levels and classes.  I also made note of specific items they wanted to have in our Makerspace such as:  Legos, Rainbow Looms, jewelry, crochet or knitting, origami, electronics, puzzles, games, arts-n-crafts, etc. 
 
     I combined all their thoughts and created this poster to hang up in our Makerspace area. (For those that know me well, I took both of them to Office Depot and had them make an 18x24 color poster.)
     I also created a blank version of each so that I could use the same format in the following years.     
     The next thing I did was look for things to put in the Makerspace area.  I started out by going into my garage and looking through all my stored teacher stuff. (One of these days I will take the time to finish going through 15 years of teaching stuff again.  I've done it twice already, and each time I weeded out a lot or sold/donated things, but those that have taught for years like me know that this is a hard process to go through!)  
     I did find some cool things though.  I had these cube puzzles that I had used with my third graders that I originally bought from Oriental Trading.  I haven't been able to find anything like them there now, but I did find this site called "Happy Cube Puzzles".  They are pretty pricey, but the kids LOVE THEM!  And it fit perfectly for those students who wanted "puzzles and challenges" in the Makerspace!  I also found my legos that I got for free when I attended a lego robotics workshop at the University of Texas (Go Longhorns!), along with an assortment of games and arts-n-crafts that I hadn't brought up to the library yet.
     I'm also very lucky to have a supportive husband, and as part of his "Blue Santa" tradition, we took his 2 nieces to go shopping at Target for some toys to donate. He gave each niece a $100 bill and told them that it could be used to buy whatever toys they thought kids would like. (I still swoon when I remember him taking me on a mystery trip when we were dating!)  While they shopped for items to give to Blue Santa, I shopped for some items to donate to my school from their Makerspace wish list.  Here's a list of what I found at Target:
     If you don't want to go out and buy a lot of stuff, there's a lot of fun activities out there that only require materials that you would have around already.  You can see some great STEM activities here by Smart-Chick.  I've downloaded some of her projects, and the kids LOVE them.  One of their favorites is the Plastic Cup Tower!  My "make your own bookmark" area is also a big hit, and you can find a ton of fun ideas on Pinterest.
     Because I'm such an organization freak, I knew I would have to have some sort of system to store all these activities.  I didn't think I would want to have everything out all the time, plus as new things were donated or materials were used up, I knew I was going to need a way to rotate and store the activities.  I created these labels to put on my plastic containers that I already had in abundance from teaching for so long.  The labels are roughly 4 inches long by 3 inches high, which easily fits onto any plastic shoe box container (like the ones you can find here at Walmart), and would allow me to easily see what was inside.
The last thing I made was an "open" and "closed" sign.  I knew that some of lessons would not leave enough time for Makerspace, and I wanted to have a way to communicate this to the students (without having to say it 100 times!) 


      I'm planning on introducing our Makerspace area to Kinder and 1st grade soon.  So far, it's been a huge hit, and the students have been doing an amazing job of following the expectations and monitoring each other.  If you would like to get any of these activities, you can find them here at my TpT store or at Teacher's Notebook.
     Have you tried starting a Makerspace in your library?  I'd love to hear the types of activities you are doing!