Students Engaging in Reading with #BookSnaps

BookSnaps from Students

I wrote the other day about my plan to try out BookSnaps with my sixth graders. BookSnaps are images of reading books, with “stickers” and short text annotations. While the original idea is to use Snapchat, we used Google Draw, and it worked out just fine.

BookSnaps from Students

My aim was to talk about annotations, with text and images. I also wanted to show them Google Draw, another app within their Google accounts that can be tapped for various projects.

BookSnaps from Students

I walked them the process. We ended up using PhotoBooth to take the pictures (while I was going to use an extension created by Alice Keeler, I realized that our students don’t actually log into the Chrome Browser but instead, log into Google itself.) It turns out our librarian had already shown them how to use PhotoBooth, so that was … a snap.

BookSnaps from Students

Next, I talked about what could be in the texts, which were call-out shapes within Google. I explained that annotations make thinking visible, so they could

  • Ask questions of the text
  • Make predications
  • Find connections with other books
  • Pull out phrases or words that seem interesting

BookSnaps from Students

One friend suggested creating a Google Draw template with call-outs and stickers in the margins of the drawing field, which is a good idea, but I went with a blank Draw slate, and let them build from there. It took longer but I think it gave each BookSnap its own flavor.

BookSnaps from Students

And the ‘stickers’ were merely Google Images, related to the text on the page. I did some mini-lessons around cropping (which some used and some apparently didn’t), and the fading tool, so that they could better manipulate the image within the design of the page.

BookSnaps from Students

Overall, the BookSnap project was a success, and kids were very engaged in the activity. I have now shared all of the folders of BookSnaps with all students across four classrooms, so they can peek in and see what their friends and fellow readers are reading, and maybe get inspired to pick up a new book.

BookSnaps from Students

Peace (and stickers),
Kevin

Mapping the Journey of a Character in the World

Regarding the Fountain Student Map4I was thinking of ways to use Google’s My Maps feature with my sixth grade students, as a way to get them to play with mapmaking in connection to literature, and decided to use the travels of a character from the book Regarding the Fountain. Florence Waters travels the world, sending postcards, telegrams and other notes to a classroom in the book, which is very non-traditional in format.

Regarding the Fountain Student Map3

My students had to “pin” her locations around the world (there are more than a dozen places she travels), adding a quote from the book (with page number) and some sort of image to represent either gifts that Florence is mailing to the classroom in the novel, or a representation of the geographic place. (I saw a few students realize they could use animated gifs, which I should have shared out with everyone, giving the pins a little more life.)

Regarding the Fountain Student Map2

Then, I had them calculate distance traveled throughout her entire journeys, using the line draw tool (which gives distance between points). I also showed them how to customize the pins, which many did to represent Florence in the world.

Regarding the Fountain Student Map1

All in all, this was a very successful mapping project, and incorporated geography and math with literacy in a hands-in immersive way, and they were fully engaged in this work (which took longer than I expected to complete but well worth it.)

One change for the future: I should have had students estimate the total distance first, and then compare their calculations to the estimate. Why didn’t I think of that?

Peace (map it),
Kevin

PS – if you use Google Apps for Ed, like we do at our school, you may need to have the technology folks turn on Google maps in the student accounts. My Maps is not part of the walls of the traditional Google suite. We sent a notice home to families about the use of maps.

Musical Landscapes: Sunlight Moonlight Starlight (Song Six)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out Five pieces:

This sixth and last song of the collection, Sunlight Moonlight Starlight, is just the sense of wonder of the sky during a walk at night along our quiet neighborhood streets.

Take a listen to Sunlight Moonlight Starlight.

Thanks for opening up your ears to my sounds. I am thinking how to pull all of these tracks together into more of a map.

Peace (in wonder),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Bird Off Balance (Song Five)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out Four pieces:

This fifth piece, Bird Off Balance, came after watching a bird on the power wires on the street in front of our house, and how it seemed to always be on the verge of wobbling off the wire. It never did, of course. It was always in balance.

Listen to Bird Off Balance.

Thanks for taking time to imagine through listening what I was seeing.

Peace (in balance),
Kevin

Slice of Life: That Girl Can Teach

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

She had been asking me for weeks now. In fact, after every lunch, she and her friend would rush back to our sixth grade classroom before others arrived, stand before the whiteboard with my daily agenda, and use their “teacher voices” to explain to an invisible classroom of students what the plan for learning was today. They would deepen their voices, an adolescent playfulness combined by a fake adult voice, and then crack themselves up.

“Can I teach a lesson? For real?” she asked, and I had told her, yes. I just wanted to find the right time and content, so before Thanksgiving break, I asked if she would like to lead us in the next vocabulary lesson. She sure did. She was so excited. She took her book home to make sure she knew what she was doing and came back, with the lesson dotted with sticky notes.

Yesterday morning, she checked over the pronunciation of words with me (‘monotonous’ seemed rather challenging), asking some questions on how to best proceed, and then later in the day, she took over my classroom, leading the lesson on vocabulary. The class was amused that I had handed over the reins but mostly game (one boy was a little too amused and had to be separated from the rest) as she called on students to help with words and definitions.

She was confident and knowing, giving encouragement and helping with challenges. This girl can teach!

She will continue as our teacher during the next days of this vocabulary unit — and she informed me she had figured out how to explain a rather difficult and new section in our book this week — while others, including the “rather amused boy,” asked if they, too, could lead a lesson in the future.

Yes, I told them, now wondering how to balance all of this “visiting teacher” out, but knowing that I will.

Peace (and sharing),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Cue the Queue (Song Four)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out three pieces:

This fourth piece, entitled Cue the Queue, is inspired by the bird talk I heard while walking our dog, Duke. A flock of somethings were chattering up in the pine trees of the front drive. When we walked close, the entire tree went silent. As we wandered past, the chatter started up again. I imagined one lead bird, with baton, queuing them up. Meanwhile, the beat is that of the dog and I, walking away.

Listen to Cue the Queue

Thanks for taking the time to pay attention.

Peace (in the quiet),
Kevin

Aw Snap — Introducing Digital Annotation with #BookSnaps

BookSnap Mentor Example

I ran across a reference to an idea called BookSnaps that seemed intriguing so I followed the thread to Tara Martin’s blog, where she shared out information about how to use digital tools, particularly Snapchat, for annotation and layering of media.

Watch Tara’s short talk/presentation about the idea:

I was intrigued because I am interested in finding more ways to engage my sixth graders with annotation and digital tools, for many of the reasons that Tara gives: the ways annotation focuses attention, how it helps us remember, how to it makes visible the learning of a text.

While Tara shares about Snapchat as the platform, I was more interested about using something within our students’ Google accounts, to make it easier to teach and easier to save. We are in our Independent Reading unit right now, so this is a perfect way to share the first pages of books they have chosen, I am thinking.

My sample — for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, see above — was done in Google Drawing and it all went quite well, using call-out text boxes for the writing and some images searches for the “stickers.” There’s not a lot of space, so finding focus will be key, as will setting parameters for how many overlays can be on a page. I can see my kids getting carried away with images.

Tara does have a video about using Google Drawing that helped me think this through:

(Note: Google has now changed the way one can take image snapshots within its system, so the direct method that Tara mentions in her video may no longer work. I used PhotoBooth for my sample, but Tara kindly mentioned a free extension by Alice Keeler for Chrome that takes pictures and puts them into a Google Drive folder, which can then be moved into Google Drawing. I tested it out and it seemed to work quite well.)

I envision this BookSnap idea as one of the first steps of our work with digital annotation, and the connection to Snap Chat (even though we won’t be using it) with layered text and layered image, and sharing, should grab my students’ attention. And sharing out books, and reading about what others are reading, is always a powerful sharing experience, made more fun with layers of annotation.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

If you are thinking that the use of Snapchat App is of interest, this video by another teacher (not Tara) gives a good walk-through of each step along the way:

Peace (layer it and annotate it),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Under Each Leaf (Song Three)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out two pieces:

This third piece, Under Each Leaf,  is inspired by what the title says. I was looking under a certain leaf in our yard as I was doing some raking, and found bugs and critters all beginning to settle in for the cold, as if the leaf were a blanket of some kind.

Take a listen to Under Each Leaf.

Thanks for taking the time to lend your ears.

Peace (under us),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Busy in the Trees (Song Two)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

Yesterday, I shared out the first piece, entitled Interlocking Parts.

This one, Busy in the Trees, is inspired by the way the squirrels and other small animals dance and jump and cruise through the trees of our yard. It’s a circus act of sorts. The last note of sustain is the tree branch slowly going back to static mode after the last leap of the squirrels.

Take a listen to Busy in the Trees.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin