Writing Dialog With Google Story Builder

Today I’m reflecting on another idea sparked during the Google Apps for Education Summit I attended two weeks ago.  Ever since Adam Seipel introduced me to Google Story Builder, I knew it was a perfect fit to use with the Elephant and Piggie series, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

elephant and piggie

Elephant and Piggie pageIf you follow Book Buzz, the children’s book blog I write for my students, you know I recently posted about Elephant and Piggie.  The simple story lines and mostly two-character adventures are perfect for introducing young readers to the comic book format, which uses speech bubbles for dialog.  Each year I use comic books/graphic novels to get kids hooked on reading and I encourage teachers to use them in the classroom for a variety of purposes.  So what does all of this have to do with Google Story Builder?  Let me explain….

Story Builder is designed to create short videos that mimic what you see onscreen when multiple users are collaborating on a Google Doc.

Elephant and Piggie Story Builder

You simulate that experience by naming your characters and assigning them a unique color, then typing in what you want them to say.  You can even add one of Google’s music clips.  Once your story is complete, you are automatically given a unique URL to share your video.  Here’s a Story Builder video I created using text from the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?

My plan is to use this to spark a creative writing activity in which students would create their own Elephant and Piggie adventure.  I’d start by sharing the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?, then students would pair up to examine other Elephant and Piggie books and come up with an original idea for their own E&P story.  Next I’d show them my Story Builder of Are You Ready to Go Outside and demonstrate how to use the app.  Students would then type up their own Story Builders and share them with the class.

Not only does this make a good writing project, it could also serve as an introduction to using Google Docs for real-time collaboration.  We could even use it in a punctuation lesson by re-writing the dialog-only Story Builder stories using complete sentences with quotation marks, commas, and periods.

*Update 7/27/15:  There’s a great post at the Nerdy Book Club blog titled Top 10 Lessons Elephant and Piggie Taught Us that is fantastic!  Jen Terry and Jacquie Eckert have captured the real appeal of the E&P books.

Chrome Snagitp.s.  It would be great if Google provided an embed code for the finished Story Builders, but all they give you is a link to a webpage view.  In order to show my Story Builder here in my blog I had to screencast it, upload it to my YouTube channel, and get an embed code there.  I used a Chrome extension I learned about at the Charleston GAFE Summit this summer called Snagit to do that, but that’s a post for another day!

 

 

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Using Google Docs for Submitting Requests

Google Summit LogoI’m still having fun playing with the Google apps I learned about in last week’s #GAFE Summit, and one of the ideas that experience sparked involves using Google Docs to coordinate purchase requests from the teachers in my school.  As the media spcialist, I value their input as I decide what resources to order for the library but it can be difficult sometimes to keep track of all their requests.

In the past they have emailed me or written me notes detailing the subjects they cover and the materials they need to support the curriculum.  But now, the collaborative element of Google Docs will make it possible for them to submit all their requests in one online document.

Here’s a sample of what I envision the Purchase Requests Doc will look like.  (Click the image to enlarge.)

Purchase Request

Anyone with whom I share the link to the official document will have editing rights, so all the teachers will be able to add their requests themselves.  Each grade level will be assigned a different color so that I can see at a glance if one grade is over- or under-represented in the ordering process.  And I can respond to their requests to let them know I have added items to my order, or that we already have the resources they need.  This will also serve as a reminder to me to notify the appropriate teachers once the new materials have arrived.

I also do most of the technology troubleshooting at my school, so I may create another Doc for teachers to use to submit any tech problems that need my attention.  I could use Google Forms for that, but I think having all of the requests in one place would make a powerful statement about how much of my time is spent keeping the technology working.

If you are already using Google Docs to coordinate requests, I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions.  Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Three Things I Learned from Last Week’s GAFE Summit

Google Summit Logo

Our district is transitioning to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) next year, and ours will be the first elementary school to go one-to-one with Chromebooks, so when I was offered an opportunity to attend the GAFE Summit in Charleston last week I accepted immediately.  I was already a Docs and Slides user, and like most people I’ve played around with Google Earth and Maps, but that was about the extent of my experience with using Google tools.  My world was about to be seriously rocked.

In nearly every session I attended, I was introduced to Google apps and extensions that were designed to facilitate teaching and learning, or enhance productivity.  As someone who enjoys trying out new ways of doing things, I was entranced by the options shared by the presenters for everything from collaborating to screencasting to assessing student understanding to flipping the classroom.  And if you’ve never seen a Google Demo Slam, check out this video of one that took place via Google Hangouts in January 2015.

GAFE Demo Slam

Chris Craft opens the Google Demo Slam at the 2015 Charleston Google Apps for Education Summit.

Over the next week or two I’ll be posting specific ideas for using Google in my school library next year, but for now I’ll leave you with my three big takeaways from the summit.

  1. Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and incredibly generous with their tips and tutorials.  I have to give a grateful shout-out to the following GCTs who led some of the sessions I attended, and I urge you to click on these names and check out their resource pages: Kimberley Hall, Juan De Luca, Jesse Lubinsky, Adam Seipel, and Jim Sill.  You can also follow them on Twitter, and while you’re at it go ahead and follow the #GAFESummit hashtag for daily nuggets of Google-y goodness from these and other GCTs.
  2. There are MAJOR advantages to having all your resources stored in the cloud.  Many’s the time I’ve wanted to work on something at home but my files were stored at work, or vice-versa.  And many’s the time I’ve misplaced my flashdrive, or not had it with me when I needed it.  Google Drive (free, with unlimited storage for GAFE domains) makes it easy to store and access everything I’m working on in one place.  And if that’s a big deal for me — a responsible adult who has had practice with working online and saving files — it’s an even bigger deal for inexperienced students.  And by the way, the “Recent” button in Google Drive comes in handy if you’re not sure which Drive folder you just saved to.
  3. The ever-evolving nature of technology means that being able to integrate it into the classroom isn’t just a skill set anymore, it has to be a mindset.  We educators need to shift our thinking enough to see ourselves as learners as well as teachers, and be willing to figure out how to use unfamiliar tech tools right along with our students.  (Sometimes they may even lead the way!)  It can be hard to give up the sense of confidence and control that comes with sticking to the familiar, but when we take a risk we often we gain much more than we lose.

If you’re using Google Apps for Education, I’d love to connect with you!  Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Finally Using Flipboard

flipboard logo  I’ve had a passing awareness of Flipboard for awhile, but I never really investigated it in depth until this week.  Once I took a closer look at it, I realized that it definitely has a place in my Technology Toolkit.

Flipboard homepage

Once you sign up for an account, you choose the broad topics you want to follow.  Flipboard automatically curates collections of internet articles related to the interests you select. Admittedly, most of the preselected topics either aren’t Education-centric, or they’re too broad to really be useful. Yes, as an elementary librarian I’m interested in ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, but I don’t want to read articles about the lunch program, parent background checks, custodial strikes, etc.

Topic Results

Fortunately, you can also search for more specific terms and create your own “magazines” where you include resulting articles that are keepers.  (Example: Suggested topic = CHILDREN’S BOOKS, Searched topic = CALDECOTT AWARD.)  If an article is worthy of saving for future use, just click the plus sign to “flip it” into one of the magazines you created.

Flipboard also provides Share buttons that allow you to email or text links to articles to yourself or others, save them to a reading list for later, or (if you give Flipboard access to your Twitter and/or Facebook account) you can also tweet and/or share articles that you find.  You can favorite them and comment on them within Flipboard as well.

Recommendations

Flipboard will also recommend other topics as well as magazines created by other users that you might want to follow, based on the articles you are reading.  And you can email invitations to friends and colleagues offering them permission to add articles to magazines that you’ve created.  Instant collaboration!

Invitations

I have no idea what algorithms Flipboard is using to locate the articles they present you within their service, which makes the results seem rather serendipitous.  This can be a good thing, in that you may come across something you would never have known to look for yourself.  It can also be a drawback because you know you are missing a lot of good web content, which is unacceptable if you’re using Flipboard as your go-to resource for organizing all that internet information you want to keep track of.  Enter the Flipboard bookmarklet, which allows you to save any webpage into Flipboard directly from your browser.

I’m mainly using this product on my iPad, and that’s where all the screenshots in this post were taken.  Your interface will look different if you are using a different device.  One thing I would change about the iOS app is the giant COVER STORIES box that takes up a double space on my Flipboard homepage and includes a jumble of pop culture articles that I have zero interest in mixed with the content I’ve chosen to follow.  I can ignore it, but I’d prefer to delete it and use the home page for something more useful.

Being a brand new user, I haven’t started following anyone on Flipboard yet.  If you’re a Flipboard user, please leave a comment and let me know!  If you’re using a different tool to curate web content, I’d like to hear about that too.

 

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Reflecting on 2014-2015

I often use this blog as a place to “think on paper” and reflect on different aspects of my job.  As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, I’m scratching my head and wondering where the year went!  Robert Browning tells us that our reach should exceed our grasp, so I suppose it’s okay that I had more plans than I was able to implement this year.  But in looking back over the ideas that did come to fruition, here are some of my favorites:

  • Our annual Comic Book Read-In is always a hit with students, and this year I was able to help teachers connect it to the curriculum with my companion workshop Comics in the Classroom.  I went on to share those resources at the S.C. Association of School Librarians conference in March of this year.
    Boys on Beanbags
  • This year I celebrated International Dot Day: Make Your Mark with all of our 5th graders.  I shared the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds on the Promethean board via Tumblebooks, and we discussed the importance of trying new things and giving yourself permission to experiment with new things.  We then used Microsoft Paint to create digital dot art, which I displayed in the library and online.
    Dot Art
  • Our 2nd graders practiced their research skills and their technology skills with our African American Biography Timelines.  They learned how to use Encyclopedia Britannica Elementary (part of the SC DISCUS suite of databases) to gather facts and photos, then synthesized their information into an online timeline using the ReadWriteThink timeline tool.
    Timeline
  • We discovered some budding poets through our Found Poetry project with 4th grade.  We examined various nonfiction print sources to create word banks of important facts, then used the elements of poetry to communicate the information in more lyrical ways.
    Down Deep in the Ocean
  • The Quest teacher asked me to lead an Hour of Code with the gifted and talented students at my school and the other elementary school she serves.  We used a Scratch project, and the kids astounded themselves with their results!  “Wow, I’m really good at this!”  (Those types of comments are music to my ears!)
    scratch animate your name
  • My LOOK! NEW BOOKS! new book preview for teachers this year included a QR Code twist!  Many of the new books on display in the library contained bookmarks with QR codes that teachers could scan to access additional teaching resources for using the books in the classroom.  I created the codes with QR Code Monkey, which I really like because it allows you to upload a logo or photo as part of your code.
    How to Write an Ad QR Code
  • I created several technology tutorials for teachers using the free screencasting tool ScreencastOMatic.  When I can’t provide assistance in person, a screencast video is the next best thing!
    Promethean Timer

What did you try this year that was a hit with students or teachers?  Tell us about it in the comments!

 

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Prose is Architecture: Building Our Writing Skills

 

Update:  Our Donor’s Choose project was fully funded, and we’ll receive our new materials when school resumes in August.  Thanks to everyone who supported us!!!

Lego StoryStarter  If you are considering purchasing a Lego StoryStarter Kit for your school or library, you may want to take a look at a project that we are implementing at my elementary school.  I’m working on getting extra components for our students to use, so if you’re feeling generous we could really use your help with our Donor’s Choose fundraiser!

Hi Friends,

I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I’ve created a classroom project request at DonorsChoose.org, an award-winning charity.

I’m asking for donations of any size to help my kids. For the next 4 days, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100)! If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

Click the link to read all about my Lego StoryStarter project and Donor’s Choose request:
Prose is Architecture: Building Our Writing Skills

To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the promo code SPARK on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through May 18.

My students and I greatly appreciate your support!

Mrs. June

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Testing Week Read-Alouds

  Testing getting you down?  Just the thought of testing getting you down?

I read a blog post entitled Uplifting Read-Alouds for Tough Testing Days at the We Are Teachers Book Club blog, and I thought it was interesting (and timely) to think about new ways of using books during testing. From the blog:

Testing season can be stressful for students and their teachers! We asked teachers for their favorite positive, motivational, stress-reducing, hard-work-encouraging and just plain fun read-alouds for those bubble-test kind of days.

The author (Hannah Hudson) goes on to list 6 titles that teachers recommended, with an explanation of why each book was chosen.  It got me thinking about which books I would want to hear if I had taken one bubble test too many.  Here’s what I came up with:

  Dex: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner  (Because no one epitomizes the importance of hard work and dedication to a goal than Dex!)

Dexter the dog is little but he has dreams — big dreams. He wants to be a superhero! So he reads all the comic books he can, works out to build his muscles, and even orders a hero suit. Dexter has determination, spirit, and heart. He proves that no matter how little you are, you can still do very big things.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Brainstorm ways that students can prepare themselves for standardized testing (getting a good night’s sleep, eating a nutritious breakfast, etc).
    2. Allow students to design a Testing Hero Suit.  Features might include a cape in case the testing room is chilly, pockets for mints and #2 pencils, a belt buckle with a built-in pencil sharpener, and a logo to represent some sort of testing motto.  (A large question mark, for example, with the big red NO symbol over it.)

  Grandpa’s Teeth by Rod Clement  (Because I LOVE the visual twist at the end!)

Grandpa’s teeth, which were handmade by the finest Swiss craftsmen, have been stolen! Officer Rate arrives on the crime scene to investigate. He puts up WANTED posters for the missing teeth and rounds up the usual subjects. Grandpa even goes on the famous TV show Unsolved Crimes. But the crime remains unsolved. What is Grandpa going to do? And why does everyone in town keep smiling all the time?

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Athk all thtudenth to thpeak with a lithp ath though they were mithing thome teeth.
    2. Have students smile continuously throughout the day, the way the townspeople in the book do.
    3. Face the standardized tests with the same forced smile the townspeople in the book use.

  Skippyjon Jones: Class Action by Judy Schachner  (Because any school story that can pack in Mo Willems’ pigeon, a woolly bully, The Mona Fleasa, a word of praise for the delicious scent of books waiting to be read, a jump rope rhyme, slipping on a banana peel, three different Mexican Hat Dance songs, and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary words is worth sharing!!)

Skippyjon Jones, the little Siamese cat, really wants to go to school, but Mama Junebug Jones tells him school is where dogs go to get trained.  So he goes inside his closet instead, where he finds himself in the school of his imagination, surrounded by dogs of all kinds enjoying reading, art, and music!  It’s fun until a bully threatens total lunchroom destruction; then it’s up to Skippyjon to save the day.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Read it aloud to your students.  Even better, play the audio version of the story (my book came with a CD) while you show the pictures.
    2. Visit the Skippyjon Jones website for videos, activities, games, and curriculum guides.
    3. Have the students speak with a Spanish accent throughout the day, the way Skippyjon does.
    4. Write your own set of class lyrics for a Mexican Hat Dance with a testing theme.  (“Oh we are the testing banditos Clap Clap, We bubble like lively mosquitos Clap Clap, We all do our best on the standardized test, We hope that our snack will be Fritos Clap Clap!)  Use the song and dance during your testing breaks.

Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile  (Because students may need to practice doing nothing, since once they finish the day’s testing they aren’t allowed to read or draw or move until everyone else has also finished the day’s testing.)

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Use the “Doing Nothing” challenges and games from the Non-Activity Kit.
    2. Practice doing nothing every time the kids get on your last nerve.  These are high-stakes tests after all, so your students really can’t over-prepare for the strict testing environment they will encounter.

  Big Bad Wolves at School by Stephen Krensky  (Because ya gotta love a book whose cover shows a wolf sitting in class with two pencils stuck up his nose!  Thank you Brad Sneed, illustrator!)

Rufus is not like the other wolves.  He spends his time rolling in the grass, running like the wind, and howling at the moon.  His parents, feeling he needs a more structured existence, send him off to the Big Bad Wolf Academy. The curriculum is tough: learning to huff and puff, determining the best way to enter a henhouse, and coming up with disguises to fool little boys and girls. When it’s time for exams, Rufus is unprepared. Then hunters interrupt the testing, and it’s Rufus who has the necessary skills to successfully fend off the danger.

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Discuss with your students how everyone has a unique set of talents and abilities, and that rather than trying to force everyone into the same mold and measure success through a single limited type of assessment, we should….we should….well…
    2. Maybe you’d better just save this book until after the testing is over!

  All kidding aside, are there any read-alouds you like to use during testing season?  Please share your favorite titles – along with the reasons they make good testing read-alouds – in the comments for a chance to win your own copy of Dex: the Heart of a Hero.  You have until midnight on Tuesday, May 12, to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment on this blog post.  Next Wednesday, May 13, I will choose an entry randomly and announce the winner here.  Good luck, and thanks for sharing!

 

Image #1: 'NJ Hot Air Balloon Festival - Great+Colors' Found on flickrcc.netImage 
Image #2: 'Wink ;)' Found on flickrcc.net
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Happy Ultimate Pi Day!

Ultimate Pi Day
Only once a century do we experience Ultimate Pi Day: On March 14, XX15 at 9:26:53 (a.m. and p.m.) the date and time line up to 3.141592653  Awesome!

Pi in the Sky  I can’t let Ultimate Pi Day go by without giving a shout out to a book by one of my favorite authors, Wendy Mass.  Her novel Pi in the Sky takes us to outer space for a funny and informative science fiction adventure.  With pie!

In Wendy’s own words:

“The germ of the idea for Pi in the Sky came from a quote a middle-schooler gave me. It was by astronomer Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ My brain just started churning that quote over and over until a story started to form. I’ve always loved reading science fiction—starting with Ray Bradbury when I was younger—and I felt ready to take on the challenge.”

She actually started her career writing nonfiction for kids, so she’s no stranger to researching science and math.  It actually took her three years to do the research for this book before she felt ready to write about astronomy, evolution, and astrophysics on a level that students could understand.

Learn more about the book:

And here’s a link to some classroom resources for Pi Day.

I’ll leave you with the Pi Episode of Math Bites with Danica McKellar.

It’s true this is the only Ultimate Pi Day we’ll see in our lifetime (the next one will be on March 14, 2115) but Pi Day is celebrated every year on March 14.

Do you know of any other good Pi books or resources?  Please share them in the comments!

 

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SCASL 2015!

SCASL 2015

Hooray!  Tomorrow is the first day of the annual S.C. Association of School Librarians (SCASL) Conference!

I’m looking forward to:

If you’ll be at the conference, leave a comment here or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and let me know!

 

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Live Penguins at the Library

I always look forward to the Kindergarten unit on penguins.  I especially enjoy using penguin webcams in the library so that we can watch them in action.

Screenshot of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Web Cam.  Feeding Time!

Screenshot of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Web Cam. Feeding Time!

The Monterey Bay Aquarium web cam is turned on from 7 am to 5 pm Pacific time each day, and shows the rocky habitat of their African blackfooted penguin exhibit.  (If you tune in at other times it won’t be live; you will see highlight videos playing instead.)

Screenshot of one of the SeaWorld Penguin Cams.

Screenshot of one of the SeaWorld Penguin Cam views.

The Sea World (Orlando) webcam page offers a choice of three different views of their penguin habitat: above ground, shallow underwater, and deep underwater.  You can also use their camera tool to take a picture of the penguins and share it via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, email, or one of several other options.  I shared one of our photos to my Book-Based Activities Pinterest Board.

Penguins by Liz Pichon  After spending a few minutes watching the penguins, taking pictures of them, and discussing the penguin facts they’ve learned, I read the book Penguins by Liz Pichon.  This is the perfect book to follow up our webcam viewing because in it (as the cover hints) a group of zoo penguins discovers a camera one of the visitors dropped.  They have a wonderful time taking pictures with it (“Say FISH!”) until a zookeeper discovers it the next day and takes it to the Lost and Found.  Once re-claimed, the owner discovers some very puzzling and unusual photos!

Last page of PENGUINS by Liz Pichon.

Last page of PENGUINS by Liz Pichon.

Although the book is a bit anachronistic (the extra photos are discovered when the pictures are developed) the kids love the surprise at the end: a foldout of the snapshots the penguins took of themselves!  I just substitute the word “printed” for the word “developed” and the kids are none the wiser.

Fins and Grins CD  I also like to play the song “Rock Hopper Penguin” from the CD Fins And Grins by Johnette Downing.  It’s a great uptempo song that we can dance to – and when I say “dance” I basically mean “hop up and down until we’re too worn out to move” – before we check out books. (Click here to listen to a sample.)

My favorite non-fiction penguin books to use with Kindergarten classes are:

About Penguins About Penguins A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill

Baby Penguin Slips and Slides Baby Penguin Slips and Slides by Michael Teitelbaum

Egg to Penguin Egg to Penguin by Camilla de la Bedoyere

Life Cycle of a Penguin The Life Cycle of a Penguin by Lisa Trumbauer

My favorite penguin picture books to use with Kindergarten classes are:

A Penguin Story  A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

if you were a penguin  If You Were a Penguin by Florence Minor

Little Penguin's Tale   Little Penguin’s Tale by Audrey Wood

One Cool Friend One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

my penguin osbert My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmell (which I also wrote about here)

What are your favorite penguin resources for young learners?  Please share them in the comments!

 

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