Friday, June 26, 2015

Using the Super 3 Research Model & Our Makerspace to Inspire 1st Grade PBL

At the end of the year I decided to change things up a bit with first grade and conduct an author study through a project based learning inspired format (CCSS RL.1.3, W.1.7).  I had been working with first graders on science standards through most of the late winter and early Spring, and wanted to give them the opportunity to capitalize on some of the research and collaboration skills they had developed through the course of that study.

After looking at the resources available to us, I settled on Tomie dePaola for our author of choice.  He is featured on our favorite database, PebbleGo, and we had a number of books by him that we would be able to choose from to compare and contrast.

I prepped the students by introducing them to the Super 3 research model using a YouTube video I found.  The video is concise, visual and really helps even the youngest student understand what they need to do to complete a project.

The author study was essentially divided into two big parts: researching Tomie dePaola and his work, and creating projects to show what we know.

Part I: Learning about Tomie dePaola 

The Question

For our Project Based Learning experience, we started with this question: Who was Tomie dePaola and what were some of his major characters, settings and the problems and solutions in his stories?

Plan - Research

I explained to the kids that our plan was to learn about Tomie dePaola first, watch some recordings of his stories, then choose three books to read that were by Tomie dePaola.  While we were reading, we would take notes on graphic organizers as part of the "Do" phase.

PebbleGo has some excellent selections for
author biographies!

Do - Research

We first turned to PebbleGo to learn about dePaola's life as a whole class.  As part of their research, the kids used the notes sheet under "Activities" on PebbleGo and wrote down notes about why he was important and what he did.

Using Discovery Education's Board Builder, I collected a number of videos of Tomie dePaola's work, and during our book fair, in small groups, students watched those videos on our Smartboard.  For this particular activity, students just needed to watch and enjoy - we had too many distractions to take notes on the story.  The activity was enough though to give students an idea of some of dePaola's characters, and the kids for sure remembered Strega Nona.

As a side note - if you've never used Board Builder, you can see a blog entry [here] with 50 ways to use it. Here's a great, quick video that walks you through the basics of how to use Board Builder by Pulaski S D Technology Integration:

Do: Reading the Stories & Taking Notes

I let each of the classes choose which books by dePaola they wanted to read, and with a little encouragement, all of the classes chose to read Strega Nona, Her Story. Some other favorites that the kids picked were Big Anthony and the Magic Ring and Bill and Pete to the Rescue.  For each story, students filled in a "First Grade Story Map" to keep track of characters, settings, major events and favorite parts.  We did the first one together as a class, and then with each of the next stories, I gave students a little more ownership of completing the work themselves.  You an check out the handout {here}.

Review: Notes & Ideas

After each story, I took a quick opportunity to help students review their work and notes and to make sure students were understanding the content and to help them "flesh out" their ideas more if they needed to.  They were really excited about the stories and what they were learning as we went, and they couldn't wait to get to the project piece.

Part II - Makerspace Inspired Projects


Our question, now that we were finished learning about Tomie dePaola and his work, shifted to: How can we share what we have learned about Tomie dePaola, his books, characters and settings with other people in our school.

I reminded the kids of our Plan, Do, Review process, and explained that there would be two parts to our "Planning" phase: we would need to brainstorm a list of project types, and then create a plan for making the project.

Plan- Brainstorming Projects

Using the Smartboard, I acted as a scribe for the class and let the kids call out different project types they could do.  I asked them to think about to our "maker centers" before Winter Break, and asked them to look at the things we had around the room and in our makerspace area
that would be good to use for a project.  Each class came up with many different possibilities.  Each of the classes realized they could use the Lego table to build the setting of Calabria, they saw the puppet theatre and realized they could make and record a puppet show of their favorite story, they saw the markers and crayons and identified that they could draw large murals and characters to hang.  

The most original (and for me terrifying) project ideas kids came up with were to make stuffed animals and sculptures.  It took everything I had not to totally nix those ideas.  I really can't sew a button on a shirt, and my clay modeling skills are next to nothing.  Instead of saying no, I asked them what they thought they would need to make those projects work...and to my surprise the kids had a do-able answer.  They didn't even plan to sew anything, all they needed was some felt, stuffing and a glue gun, which I could totally handle. For the sculptures the kids asked for Model Magic - after some investigation and consultation with the art teacher, that seemed like a do-able material as well.

From our lists, each class chose 6 projects from the brainstormed list to work with, and then each student got to choose the project type that was most appealing to them.  The only restrictions I put on them was for the lego table, I told them I couldn't let any more than 6 students work on the Lego table at once because it wasn't big enough, and the rule was they had to use the pictures from the books to build and not destroy other people's contributions.  Each student found something to work on that they really had a sincere interest in doing.

Plan: Project Materials and Timeline to Finish

Each project group met together at a library table, and using the collaboration board created a list of materials they would need to complete the project, a goal for finishing the project, and in some cases a rough draft or sketch of what they needed to do.  Once they had their plan written down, they sent a group spokesperson to me to approve their plans and give feedback if needed.

Do: Projects 

Most classes had about three weeks to complete the projects.  Groups worked together, when necessary I intervened to help them problem solve, but mostly I just got a chance to step back and watch them go.  Some of the projects were more successful than others.  The Lego setting of Calabria turned out great, and the kids developed some great art work. Some of groups did not quite have enough time to totally finish because we ran out of school days, but I could tell from listening to them work together that they really were understanding the characters in the stories.

Review: Time to Celebrate

On the last day of library for the year, I gave students 30 minutes to finish up their work, and then we took some time to share projects and debrief.  The kids were amazed at what each of the groups had created and were really excited to share with each other.

Here are pictures of some of the projects.  I think they turned out great - and the kids were extremely proud of their work:)  

I love these projects because they were entirely student driven and completed (minus some hot glue gun work from me)

Giving the kids this time to take ownership of their own work and learning was really a valuable experience, and it's one for sure I will do with them again in the future. I think in particular the projects wouldn't have been so successfully student driven had it not been for the materials in our makerspace that students had available to them for inspiration.  I'm finding that as students are exposed to more diverse resources and materials they are quickly finding new uses for them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Making Sound Waves in the Library

I should start out by saying - I am not a science teacher, nor do I play one on TV...I'm my school's teacher librarian, and I'm seriously trying to support our school's adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Last summer when I met with our first grade team to review programming needs for the year and to explore options for collaboration in the library, a big need that we identified was the implementation of the NGSS.  We also wanted to be able to work in something for CCSS W.1.7 "participate in shared research and writing projects". After some discussion, we settled on working with the NGSS standards that fall under the "Waves and their Applications" heading. 

The first grade teachers were already working with other first grade teachers across our district to develop their science lessons and investigations, so I really only had to reinforce the learning that was happening in the classrooms until it was time to conduct the investigation. One of the extra things we had decided to do was to use the app Tellagami to give students a chance to explain what they had learned about sound and light waves, so for each lesson I worked in a way to either model or give students a chance to practice with the app.

Over about a six week session, we discussed both sound and light waves.  I tried to build in a combination of beginning research skills, investigation strategies and sharing learning though the use of technology with Tellagami.

Focus on Sound in Nonfiction

We discussed sound waves over three library session (NGSS 1-PS4-1). I began by showing students through our Destiny catalog how we could look up books about sound, and then we practiced locating books about sound on the shelves. 

PebbleGo Physical Sciences Articles
The reading level of the books we currently have on sound are a bit high, so we browsed through a sound book we located just so the kids could get a look at how to use things like a table of contents and index. We then turned to PebbleGo, which has been an excellent resource for primary grades.  As a class we listened to the article on sound, went through the discussion questions provided under activities and students completed a notes page that is also located under activities. 

Technology to Help Solidify Understanding of Tough Concepts

Audacity is an open source audio editor & recorder
that you can download for free
From our discussion it seemed that the kids were having a bit of trouble understanding waves and pitch.  I had just been working with Audacity, and that seemed like it might be a good visual for them.  I will need to plan for using Audacity next year a little better, but in the moment I pulled up the program on the SmartBoard, gave a brief explanation of what it was and how it worked, and then I recorded my voice. I then asked for a student volunteer to record their voice, and we put the recordings side by side to compare how the waves looked.  There wasn't a significant difference, even though I have a fairly deep voice, but it did give the kids a better sense of how different sound waves might look, and the kids really got a kick out of the recordings. I think next year this is something we may also be able to do with Garageband and different instruments.   

Using Fiction to Reinforce Understanding of How Sound Travels

After we discussed sound and how it travels in waves, we then read the story
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.  When we got to the end, and the students heard the crickets chirping they were completely in awe.   In the beginning of the book it gives an explanation for how and why the crickets make sound.  So at the end we were able to discuss how real crickets were able to make the sound by vibrating their legs, and then we discussed why we could hear the cricket.

Modeling Ways for Students to Share their Learning

I used our discussion of sound and waves in the book to model for students how to use the Tellagami app to take a photo of what we were discussing and then how to explain how sound waves work through vibration.  We chose one of the illustrations in the book to act as our back drop for the Tellagami explanation, and then I modeled how they might talk about sound and vibration.

Creating a Model that Makes Sound
Students sketching out models
of their instruments on our
collaboration boards
Putting their designs into action 

In their classes, students were designing instruments and creating their own sounds as part of an investigation. As reinforcement to that activity, I told students that I had a bag of rubber bands, and that I wanted them to develop a model of something that would make a "good" sound using the rubber bands on their table's collaboration board.  The catch was: they could only use the things available to them on their tables and in their table's supply boxes.  At group tables, we always have a materials box that contains: boxes of crayons, posted notes, dry erase board markers, and a bucket that has pencils and erasers. I added a whisperphone to each of their tables and some books about sound before they arrived.   

Students used collaboration boards at each table to brainstorm and draw pictures of what they would like to create. Once they had their plan, they could send their group spokesperson to me for the rubber bands to test the plan.

In no time at all, most groups had agreed upon a model to try, and were building.  Some of them worked right away, and some had to rethink their approach, but all of the groups eventually created a device that made an interesting sound.  

I observed a number of the groups, who chose to use the whisperphone to create their instrument, holding the whisperphone up to their ear and plucking the rubber bands.  When I asked them what the difference was in sound, they noted that the pitch changed because the vibration sounded deeper when they held their ear closer.  They were really excited about this discovery.

Sharing What Was Learned 

To practice their Tellagami skills, the kids took pictures of their devices and explained how it worked to create sound.  I did remind them to use key terms from our study of sound in their discussion.

This session with Tellagami gave us some good practice.  We were able to view a few of the videos as a class and troubleshoot some of the problems we had with getting clear recordings. 

Here are a few of the videos the kids made as their first attempt at discussing their learning:

As a class effort, this was an exciting first attempt at trying to work in some NGSS standards into our library learning.  The kids were highly engaged and excited to try things and share what they had tried.

Upon reflection, this would have been an excellent way to also introduce the Super3 model of research to students and allow them to apply the Plan, Do, Review model.  I also know that I have a lot to learn about the new standards and supporting classroom teachers, but I hope to continue to improve upon learning the "talk" of science and methods that will allow students greater control of their learning.  I would also love to be able to challenge students to build a device that uses sound to solve the problem of communicating over distance (NGSS 1-PS4-4).

What resources do you use - or are your teachers using for teaching sound and light waves?  Is there anything that I could do to improve our 1st grade study of sound?  Do you have any ideas for a project that would help students communicate over a distance? 

I would love some feedback and some additional ideas!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Makerspaces - Getting Started

My library's makerspace is a little underwhelming at first for visitors.  There is currently no 3D-printer (maybe someday?), no poster printer, and no fancy, electronic cutting machines.  You won't find power tools or sewing machines or soldering irons.  

What you will find are big ideas, things the elementary students in my school are familiar with, and a few things they are using to inspire learning.  We have basic arts and craft materials that you'll find in any classroom: pipe cleaners, craft sticks, construction paper, markers, and a million crayons.  There's also some inspiring electronics: a raspberry pi, makey-makey, snap circuits, and little bits. And let's not forget the free computer programs and apps we can use for coding, 3d modeling, and photo, film and audio editingLinks to most of what we work with on a daily basis can be found below on the Symbaloo.

This is what our makerspace looks like

Makerspace basics

So what is a makerspace, how does it support the learning community, what should you consider before starting, how do you start one and where do you go for more information?  Many of those things can be answered here:

Makerspaces - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

How our makerspace works 

The makerspace in my library acts as a tool to inspire students to explore and share their learning.  They can participate in "maker recess" to tinker and try things out that they wouldn't ordinarily have time to play with at school.  They get to build on the lego table, 3d model with Sketchup, code with Scratch and create with the makey-makey, snap circuit kits, and green screen.  They can also use the materials as inspiration to create projects to share their learning for Genius Hour and project based learning.  Students use the Big 6 research model and Super 3 to help coach students through the project planning process.

During this past spring, students made how-to videos, built websites, designed models, put together powerpoints, and created projects for a series study and an author study that included: stuffed animals, settings built out of legos, and puppet shows filmed in front of a green screen. Another group of students researched uses for a raspberry pi and began working on creating a station in the library where they will be able to tweet pictures of books they are reading with short recommendations.

Next year plans are already in the works to host after school maker events where are World Language and Music teachers can spotlight extra skills.  We will be working towards building a butterfly garden and using technology to create music.

What about the budget?

At this stage in the game we are fairly low budget.  I will dedicate some of our book budget to purchasing books that inspire making.  I am currently using only free software and apps for students, and am working to build the collection of materials available through donations, some of my own money and a portion of the proceeds from book fairs.  

You would be surprised what you can get just by asking.  In the past I have put requests out on Facebook for both Legos and a coffee table to make repurpose into a Lego table, and I found quickly that many of my friends were looking to off load things for a good cause. For the electronics and consumables, I hope to add a few key things each year and am going to budget approximately 30% of my book fair proceeds to help do that.  For other projects, I may ask students to bring in materials: I'm finding that the kids are willing to bring their own duct tape or rainbow looms if it means they can have a space to work with their friends. I will also be exploring other options to fund consumable materials - local and national grants and fundraisers are next on my list of things to research. 

Resources to Check Out

Below is a Symbaloo webmix of maker inspired links. The resources in red and on the left are some helpful articles and resources for getting started.  You will also find close to those resources, different blogs and books that would be good to follow and read.  The resources in the orange are local or state resources, links in teal will lead you to places to find maker activities and ideas, there are also links below to coding, free programs and electronics you might want to start with.  Not to mention Pinterest boards and YouTube channels to follow.

To see the mix on Symbaloo - click [here].

 Do you have a makerspace?  How do you fund it and what happens there?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Resources for Managing your Message

A Few Words on Copyright and Fair Use

Even though educators often have some freedom in using different things for educational purposes, we must be respectful of copyright and adhere to the principles of fair use. Any original work produced by someone is protected under copyright.  Columbia University Libraries offers an excellent resource about copyright {here if you want to learn more about it.

Fair use offers educators the opportunity to share copyrighted material under certain conditions.  Learn more about Fair Use from Columbia University Libraries {here}. Before you use excerpts of material, popular songs, images, and videos for school or for communicating with the school community, I suggest that you use Columbia University's Fair Use Checklist to help you think through whether or not you are allowed to use that media.  You can find the direct link to the checklist {here}.

When possible, it is important to focus on searching for and using Creative Commons licensed mediaUnder a Creative Commons license, you can find material that is available to use, share and modify more freely, even though it is important to still give credit to the work. 

Basic Design Tools 

Use these tools to help create a variety of designs to use as your "brand" or share on your webpage, Smore, etc.
  • Canva - Online graphic design tool that you can use to create posters, presentations, blog graphics, Facebook images, Twitter posts and more.  Check out "Design School" if you need help getting started or want to brush up on some tricks.
  • Britannica Image Quest - Use our district's subscription to finds images that are safe to use/share/modify for school projects
  • Photos for Class - Excellent tool to locate Creative Commons licensed images, and it documents the source for you when you download the image.
  • Makerbook - free resources for you to use to find photos, videos, fonts, audio and more- collection

Social Media Tools

When you use Social Media be sure to adhere to your district's policies and choose a social media identity that can be consistent across platforms.


Before venturing into the world of social media, it's important to review your district's Responsible Use Policy (see page 2-3) and fill out any necessary paperwork to get permission to use the different sites.

For a great, overall social media in the classroom resource, check out Matt Davis's Edutopia post "Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources and Ideas".

Facebook Pages

Many of the parents we want to communicate information to are using Facebook.  This can be an effortless and engaging way to get your message out to families.

Create a Facebook Page, then share the link for families to "Like".  

Check out this overview handout of Facebook pages [here]. 

You can have multiple Facebook page administrators if you are collaborating with other teachers across the district and using the same page to disseminate information and you can manage the page through an app on your device.  Search Facebook Pages in your device's app store.


Twitter is an excellent way to communicate with not just parents but other educators for your own professional learning.  There are many resources available to help you use Twitter, and Edudemic's "Teacher's Guide to Twitter" is probably the best place to start. I've made an infographic with links [here] and a follow up [here].

I recommend creating two professional Twitter accounts: one for your class, and one for your own professional learning.

With your class account connect with other classrooms using Twitter to share learning.  I would caution against following parents or students on this Twitter account, although you want to promote the account so they follow you. Create common hashtags to share your ideas and make the work searchable. 

For your professional learning account, use that to participate in Twitter chats and to establish a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

When it comes to photos on either Twitter account, I would suggest being a little more cautions about sharing photos of students since this is a more open network, where anyone could end up seeing your posts.

Follow people on Twitter and search for hashtags that relate to your field.

Local and Specials Area Hashtags:
#KyEdChat - Kentucky Education Chat - happens every Thursday from 8-9pm est
#KyLChat - Kentucky Library Chat - happens 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 8-9 pm est during the school year
#KyAdmin - Kentucky Administrator chat - happens on Mondays at 7pm est
#musedchat - Music Education Chat
#elmused - Elementary Music Ed Chat - Tuesdays at 9pm est
#PSCchat - Principal - School Counselor Chat - happens Mondays at 8:30 pm est

To see a full list of chats that happen, click here for the Education Chats page.

Some Kentucky people to follow, who tweet often, to get you started in Twitter:
Heidi Neltner (me) - librarian, former English teacher, #KyLChat moderator, #KyEdChat guest moderator, #KyGoPlay co-creator, #EdCampNKY planner
James Allen - librarian, former Music teacher, KASL president elect, #KyLChat moderator, #KyEdchat guest moderator, #KyGoPlay co-creator, EdCampKY planner
Donnie Piercey - 5th grade teacher, technology integration specialist, Google Certified Teacher, #KyEdChat creator/moderator, #EdcampKY planner (and a bunch of other stuff)
Mike Paul - teacher, blogger, #KyEdChat guest moderator
Robin MeMe Ratliff - PE, #KyEdvolution
KATE - MU - Kentucky Academy of Technology Education
Sherry Powers - Librarian
Shelee Clark - Administrator
Brad Clark - teacher
Leanne Prater - Technology Integration Specialist
Tricia Shelton - Science Teacher
Adam Watson - District Technology Integration Coach 

And there are lots more...just ask and I can keep suggesting!

YouTube & Google Accounts

YouTube is obviously a great way to share and organize videos.  As teachers it's very important to take into consideration privacy of students, and to share content in a limited way. 

Check out Edudemic's "The Teachers Guide to Using YouTube in the Classroom" for some great tips on organizing content and for even using YouTube as an assessment tool by using YouTube videos with Google forms. 

YouTube is part of the Google Apps, so if you aren't a GAFE school,  I suggest you create a 'professional' Google account to keep track of all school related content.  

When you upload content to your YouTube channel in particular, I recommend that you make your content "Unlisted".  This way it is only viewable with a direct link, and other people can't stumble upon work that student's have done with a simple search.  

Check out this video by KATE for "Using YouTube in the Classroom"


You can use the Instagram app on your device to share photos with followers.  This might be a good way to share student projects and short videos with a growing number of Instagram users, and you can connect it to other forms of social media.  

Check out this "Educator's Guide to Instagram and Other Photo Apps" for details about how to use the app.

If you choose to use Instagram, I would suggest that you set your account to private and that you approve only follower requests of parents.  I would also strongly advise that you do not follow parents or students on this app, as you can't be sure what they will be posting.  If you choose to follow anyone using your professional account, it should only be other educational institutions. The app is intended for an audience of 13 or older, but many of our students are using it, and they may not be practicing good digital citizenship skills.

The Instagram website gives some excellent directions for how to control your visibility on the network.  Click [here] for directions.

Content Creation Tools


Smore is a described as an online newsletter service, but functions to an extent as an easy to use drag and drop webpage maker.  It is extremely user friendly and easy to share on social media, through email, and it can be embedded on websites and blogs. 

You can create up to five Smores for free a year, and earn more through sharing the service; however, you think you would use the service more often, the educator pricing is very reasonable. 

One of the nice things about Smore is that you can check the flyer statistics to get an idea of how well you are reaching your audience.  You can check the statistics to see how long "visitors" are staying the page and check to see if they follow links that you share.  This will give you an idea if you message is meeting the needs of your audience. 


You can create infographics to share with students, parents and colleagues using services like Piktochart.  Piktochart is a decent infographic service that allows you to use a few templates for free that offer some flexibility, as well as the ability to create your ownInfographics are a great way to share complex information in a visual way.  They offer some flexibility in that Piktochart can be downloaded as a file, embedded in websites and blogs and they can be directly shared as a link.  

Check out Kathy Shrock's Guide "Infographics As a Creative Assessment" page for some more information.  For some ideas for how to use infographics in the classroom, check out "14 Useful Infographics for Teachers" ideas from Piktochart.

Choose What Works For You

There are many ways that you can communicate your message to your stakeholders.  Don't feel pressured to use everything all at once (or at all).  Choose the tools and combinations of tools that work for you and your stakeholders.