Sunday, April 9, 2017

2017 Georgia Children's Book Award Winners

This year's Georgia Children's Picture Book Award winner is Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson.  Gaston was also the winning book (by a huge margin!) at my school.  My students and teachers loved this sweet story about a poodle and a bulldog who were switched at birth. 

This year's Georgia Children's Book Award winner is Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar.

Although my students enjoyed Fuzzy Mud, our school winner is The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

First Grade Introduction to Research

To prepare my first grade students for their first big research project, we recently completed a smaller research project together in the library.  I chose iguanas as our topic, since animal research is common in first grade.  I started by asking students what they already know about iguanas.  Many students confused chameleons with iguanas but most knew that iguanas are a type of reptile.

We logged in to Pebble Go and read the article about iguanas.  At the end of each page, we stopped and reviewed what we learned.  Then we collectively decided on the most important fact from the page and wrote it on a graphic organizer (below).


Iguana Facts from Jennifer Lewis

We also read several books about iguanas and compared the information in each text to what we read in Pebble Go. 
 
Next, students created a Sway to present what they learned.  Sway is a Microsoft app that allows users to create interactive presentations with content cards.  Sway searches Bing for copyright-friendly, appropriate images for students to use.  We spent one entire class typing their text into cards.  Then students were encouraged to add images and change the format of their Sway.  My first graders found Sway easy to use.  Several came to our next lesson and told me that they created more Sways at home during the week. 

About two months after our iguanas research, my first grade students started their big research project.  Students independently navigated Pebble Go and most of them were able to find the main idea on each page and write it on a graphic organizer. 

Here are some screen shots from the Sways that my students created!
 
 
 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bibliography Bootcamp

My fifth grade language arts teachers recently asked me to teach a lesson on how to create bibliographies of the sources their students used during their nonfiction writing unit.  Since this topic is challenging for many fifth graders, I wanted to develop an engaging lesson that would encourage them to approach bibliographies with confidence.  So I instructed our fifth graders to report to Bibliography Boot Camp.

When students came to the media center, they lined up outside and waited for me to give directions.  I greeted students by yelling that my name was Sergeant Lewis and that they had arrived at Bibliography Boot Camp.  I told them this would be the hardest 45 minutes of their life and I didn't expect many of them to make it to the end.  However, if students were up for the challenge, they were instructed to march into the media center and stand in formation.

In the media center, I taught students a military cadence, which they repeated after me.

I don't know but it's been said
Cite the sources that you've read!
Give the credit where it's due.
If you don't, they'll come for you!
Sound off!
1, 2
Sound off!
3, 4
Sound off!
1, 2, 3, 4

Next we discussed what a bibliography is and why it is so important to the cite sources we use in research.  I gave each student a booklet that they could keep as a reference after our lesson.  The booklet also provided lines for students to practice writing entries during the lesson.  Then I explicitly taught students how to create bibliography entries for the types of sources they use most often.  I made sure to show students where they should look within each source to locate the necessary information.  We started with print books and then continued to websites, online database articles, and encyclopedias.  After I taught students each type of entry, they practiced creating an entry in their booklets.  To simplify this step, I selected resources in advance that they would be likely to use based on their research topics.  For books, students selected a book from a stack of nonfiction books I pulled.  For websites, I linked several sites to the media center site.  And I showed an article from Grolier Online for online database articles.  Although encyclopedia articles are included in the booklet, I did not have time to teach students how to create this type of entry during our 45 minute lesson.


After students completed a bibliography entry correctly, they were instructed to participate in a physical activity.  Prior to the lesson, I borrowed some cardio workout stations from my physical education teachers and spread these out around the media center.  When students were given permission to train, they selected a cardio station and followed the directions to complete the activity.  After all students successfully created the required entry, we reassembled as a group and moved on to the next type of bibliography entry. 

 

"Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."
-General George S. Patton


Click below to download the presentation I used during the lesson.

Bibliography Boot Camp from Jennifer Lewis

And click here to download the booklet I created to give students during the lesson.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Using Microsoft Forms to Assess Reading Comprehension

I recently created multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes for each of the Georgia Children's Book Award nominees using Microsoft Forms.  Our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team reads these titles.  The quizzes are a useful tool to determine which books were read and understood by which team members.  We will use the results of the quizzes to help select which students compete at our competition in January.

Using Microsoft Forms for reading comprehension quizzes offers many benefits!  It is very easy to use (for both teachers and students) and offers the option to quickly check students' scores.  Here is how I create reading comprehension quizzes using Microsoft Forms in just a few easy steps!

Open your Office 365 account and select Forms.  The dashboard shows all of the quizzes you have created.  To create a new quiz, select "New" in the upper left corner.

First assign a title to your new quiz.  I use the title of the book and the author for reading comprehension quizzes.  You can also add a picture of the book cover by selecting the picture icon to the right.  Next select "Add question."  Forms allows you to choose from five different types of questions.  For this type of Form, select "Quiz."  With a quiz question, you provide multiple choices and designate one of the choices as the right answer so that the quiz grades itself after students finish the last question.

Next, add your question and answer choices.  Forms defaults to two answer choices, but you can add more.  Be sure to select the "Correct answer" so that the quiz is self-grading.  Also move the slider at the bottom to "Required" so that students can't accidentally skip questions.  Repeat these steps as needed until your quiz contains all of the necessary questions.

 This is what the Form looks like in the creator's view once it has been completed.

Forms also allows you the option to
  • customize the look of the quiz with different themes
  • download a QR code that takes the user to the quiz
  • create a link so that you can email the quiz to students or link it to your website
  • set a deadline for taking the quiz
  • export results to for easy student data documentation

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Skype-a-Thon 2016

Students at my school traveled 8,161 virtual miles during Skype-a-Thon 2016!  We made nine connections with people in four different states!

I love Skype because it allows our students to have experiences they would not otherwise have.  They love connecting with people who live in different parts of the world and learning about how their lives are the same, but different.  Mystery Location Skype, Mystery Number Skype, and Mystery Animal Skype provide students with an opportunity to practice critical thinking skills. 

Here are the connections that we made!

1. A fourth grade gifted class played Mystery Number Skype with a third grade class from a nearby school.

2. A third grade class shared their favorite books with a first grade class from a nearby school.

3. A second grade class learned about dinosaurs in Denali National Park from one of their park rangers.

4. Our technology club Skyped with Microsoft Sales Director Damon Fitzgerald.  The students played Mystery Skype to determine his location and he told students about some new Microsoft products.

5. A fourth grade gifted class played Mystery Number Skype with a third grade class from a nearby school.

6. A third grade class Skyped with Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education for Microsoft.  The students told him about our school, how we use Microsoft products, and their favorite books. 

7. A kindergarten class played Mystery Animal Skype with a second grade class from a nearby school.

8. A second grade class played Mystery Animal Skype with a second grade class from a nearby school.

9. A third grade class played Mystery Number Skype with a third grade class from a nearby school.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Microsoft Store Field Trip


We recently took our fourth and fifth grade technology club students on a field trip to the Microsoft store at Perimeter Mall in Atlanta!  During our visit, students participated in a program to learn about coding.  This trip would not have been possible without my district's technology project specialist and my Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Southeast Region lead, Sandi Adams, who connected me with the store.  The store employees were very helpful in planning our trip.  They designed the experience to teach students about coding and also various Microsoft products.


Before we disembarked the bus, Sandi gave all of our students purple OneNote Avenger capes!  The students loved being Microsoft superheroes.  This also made it easier to keep track of the kids in the mall!  When we arrived in the store, Microsoft Community Development Specialist Katia greeted us and led the students to tables with Surface tablets.  She told the students they would be learning how to code a video game using Touch Develop.  Katia led the students through the first few exercises but after that let them work at their own pace.  There were videos within the site for students to watch if they were confused.  Katia and another Microsoft employee, Ronald, were available to help students also.


After students had successfully programmed the game, Katia and Ronald allowed students time to explore several Microsoft products, including Minecraft EDU, Xbox and Kinect, the Fresh Paint app, and Surface tablets.


Our field trip inspired many of our students to continue learning more about coding using Touch Develop.  Several of our students even plan to use this site to create a game to enter into our district technology fair.  We are so thankful to Microsoft for allowing us the opportunity to visit their Atlanta store!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cassie Beasley Author Visit

I first met Cassie Beasley in September of 2015.  I had just finished reading her debut novel, Circus Mirandus, a month before.  And I knew that my students would love it as much as I did!  So I asked Cassie to visit my school, and she agreed!  Her visit was on October 17.  She gave presentations to our fourth and fifth graders during the day and attended our annual Reading Night that evening.

Circus Mirandus is the story of fifth grader Micah Tuttle, who lives with his grandfather, Ephraim.  For years, Ephraim has told Micah stories of the magical elusive Circus Mirandus.  Stories about a beautiful flying bird woman, an invisible tiger who guards the gates, and a man who bends light and who owes Micah's grandfather a miracle.  Now Ephraim is gravely ill, and Micah believes that finding the circus is his only hope of saving his grandfather.

To prepare for Ms. Beasley's visit to our school, all of our fourth and fifth graders read Circus Mirandus.  I purchased two class sets of the book with Scholastic dollars raised at our last book fair.

Our teachers decorated each of the halls in our school as one of the book's settings (the circus entrance, the Amazonian Bird Woman's tent, the Lightbender's tent, Mr. Head's Menagerie, and Micah's tree house).


We also set up a circus-themed photo booth that doubled as a backdrop for the morning news.  This was very popular during Reading Night!


In Circus Mirandus, Micah and Ephraim have a magical talent for tying knots.  So several of my classes researched how to tie knots and we displayed their work in the media center.


During her presentations, Ms. Beasley talked about living on a pecan farm in south Georgia, what her days as a full-time writer are like, and the importance of editing her writing.  She also had kids participate in an activity that taught them how to be specific with their writing.  I loved the question and answer part best.  Since all of our students had read Circus Mirandus, their questions were very thoughtful.  Our students were mesmerized by Ms. Beasley's presentation.  They loved Circus Mirandus and were amazed that the author was actually at out school!


"Because it was a ridiculous, amazing thing to do, and once in a while, it's good to be ridiculous and amazing."
-Circus Mirandus