Monday, January 18, 2016

Legos in the Library: Part Two

Back in October, I wrote about how excited I was to learn about the Lego Story Starter Kits. These kits looked amazing, and after having some time to work with them, I realized they really are amazing. We were given the funds to purchase a classroom set of Lego Story Starter boxes from our generous and supportive PTO. The first project we have done with the Legos is having our 4th grade students write their own mystery stories. They planned out their stories using a worksheet, wrote a rough draft on lined paper, and then typed their final draft on a Chromebook using Google Docs. Before even getting to use Legos, these students learned the elements of a mystery story, how to plan out a project, and how to use their imagination to write a story. Once the students finished typing their stories we began using the Legos to build the illustrations for their story. The students built a beginning, a middle, and an ending scene from the Legos. The final step was to put the pictures I had taken of their scenes into the Google Doc.

After doing this project, there are a few things I think went really well, and some things that could be improved upon. First, let me start by saying that I will be doing this project with the 4th grade students again next year, however there will be improvements made. When I look back and think about what we could improve on, it mostly comes down to organization. By having the students complete their planning and rough drafts on paper, this made it possible for worksheets to be misplaced or taken home and forgotten about. Next year, I will have the students complete the worksheet in Google Docs and type their rough draft. After they complete their rough draft, I will show them how to use spell check and have them have at least one classmate critique their story before saving it as the final draft. Another organization issue was in using the Legos. With the way my schedule is, I only had 25 minutes with each 4th grade class every 4 days. This is really not enough to complete even one scene, so the first classes I had using the Legos saved their creations to complete later. This meant that there were not enough Legos for the other classes to complete their creations, and we forgot which bins the Lego pieces came from. To solve this issue I combined my 4th grade classes. Where I usually had one class working on Legos and another checking out books, I simply combined them and let them pause to check out books at a time that worked for them. Next year I will begin the project with a combined class as it seems to make the project go much faster. Finally, in using the Legos I did not leave enough time to clean up so the boxes did not get sorted back to the way they were at the beginning of the unit. Luckily I have some 5th grade girls that will help me out, but next year I will need to spend part of a period explaining how the Legos should be sorted and be more vigilant as the students pick up.

Now on to the great things that have come from this project! First and foremost, the students were having fun learning. The students learned a lot of things, but the thing they will always remember is being able to "play" with Legos in the library. This Lego project allowed me to combine language arts, technology, and art into one lesson. It built community through collaboration as groups of students worked together at Lego bins. It built confidence as students found something they could be successful in, and ultimately, it made the students feel good.

(More pictures to come.)

Thank you Mrs. Marquette!

This past week was paraprofessional week. I have to say that I absolutely love my para! She is the best I've ever had and there is no way I would have been able to get this far into the year without her. She's a humble person, so she probably wouldn't ever admit this is true, but it is.

Mrs. Marquette is a gem. Every day she comes to work ready to get things done. She starts by getting out the barcode lists for the day's classes. She then works on checking in books and setting out the hold books for the students. As the day goes on, she spends time preparing overdue notices and lets the students know which books they still have out. She shelves books that have been checked in and trains 5th grade students to do the same. She is always learning new ways to get the job done and new technologies we are implementing in the school.

This year has been a bit of a challenge for us. Not only has Mrs. Marquette had to put up with me, but she has also had to take a big role in supervising a whole 3rd grade class and a whole 4th grade class for an hour each every day. Due to scheduling and limited staff, I have two third grade classes and two fourth grade classes in the Media Center during the 50 minute prep time for these grades. This has meant that while I spend 25 minutes teaching a lesson to one class, she is having to help the other class check out books while monitoring their behavior. Since she is stuck behind the desk checking out books and I am at the other side of the library teaching, classroom management can be a challenge. Mrs. Marquette has taken on the challenge like a rockstar and done a marvelous job!

Mrs. Marquette has also been my sounding board for new ideas. She has encouraged me to explore and build up the Media Program. She has also excitedly learned about the new technologies we are using. This has included learning about video production on the iPad using iMovie and Do Ink Green Screen, Lego Story Starter Kits, and all the wonderful things you can do on a Chromebook. She takes pictures of the new fun things we do so that we are able to share with our staff and administration.

Finally, Mrs. Marquette has simply been an amazing support and friend! Thank you Mrs. Marquette!

Mrs. Newhouse, why are there puzzles on the table?

Since the beginning of the year, students have had silent reading time after checking out their books. Many of the first and second grade students treasure this time to read their books and share them with friends. Many of the kindergarten students, however struggle with the amount of time they are given for silent reading. These kiddos have 25 minutes to check out a book and read through it. Some of them take the full 25 minutes just to pick out a book. Others take less than a minute to run and grab a book on display. We try to stress that they should take their time picking out a just right book that they will for sure enjoy, but for some that display book is the just right book.

With some kids getting their book so quickly, they are often done looking through it before it is time for their teachers to come back, so I have started something new with the little ones. They come in to the library to see puzzles on the tables. The kids are allowed to play with the puzzles after they check out their books on the condition that they share the puzzle with everyone at their table and play nicely together. I came up with the idea to finally use the puzzles that had been collecting dust in our storage room after attending a Media Specialist conference this fall. The session that inspired me was a session on MakerSpaces. MakerSpaces are a place where students can come to be creative and build or make something new. One Media Specialist had set up her MakerSpace with just a puzzle to start, so I decided that I would start my kindergartners off with a puzzle.

So am I just using these puzzles to fill time for the kindergartners? No. This activity teaches the students skills they will use on to adulthood without them even realizing they are learning. Students learn to match shapes and colors. They also build on their spatial awareness. More importantly, the students are learning problem solving and collaboration. These are skills that I believe will be incredibly important in the future. Future jobs will not need kids that know how to sit at a desk and work alone. The workplace is more and more becoming a place where individuals come together to form a creative, problem solving team. With students learning problem solving and creativity through jigsaw puzzles, they will be one step closer to being on the team that is bettering our world.

Lastly, puzzles simply give the kids a time to wind down and enjoy school.