Monday, March 31, 2014

Ninth Ward Project 2014

The Ninth Ward Project for 7th graders ELA is in its third year. It began in 2011 with the teachers reading the book by Jewell Parker Rhodes out loud to the students and has grown each year. Lisa Valence and I had developed such a technology rich unit with this project that we were recognized for it with an award from ISTE in 2013. We now even have a class set of the books provided to us by the author herself. Though Lisa no longer teaches 7th grade ELA, we have two new teachers at PFTSTA teaching those classes, but Lisa does serve as our cheerleader.

Open here for Livebinder
This year, I added a new component to the project. The current class of 7th graders were in kindergarten when Hurricane Katrina hit our area in August of 2005. The teachers and I knew that the students didn't really have a concept of what happened around them during the actual event because most of what they remember is just evacuating. So I made a pathfinder that I wanted the students to complete on Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi River, and the Ninth Ward. I then used a Livebinder to curate all the resources for the students to complete the pathfinder including text, images, videos and audio recordings. You can find the Livebinder here along with the pathfinder. (Some of the resources come from NBC Learn K-12 and Gale databases, so you will need a subscription to these services to view.)

House untouched since August 2005
Each year of the project, we have taken the students on a field trip down to the Ninth Ward so that the students could walk in the footsteps of the characters in the book. This trip was getting expensive because our 7th grade class has grown and one bus would no longer get us there and back. Also, we make several stops on this trip, and we need to pay for each stop that each bus makes. To pay for this trip, Cheryl Bordelon, one of the other 7th grade ELA teachers wrote a grant to the Brown Foundation that included the field trip with a component for service learning. Cheryl, like Lisa, no longer teaches 7th grade ELA, but the field trip wouldn't have happened without her hard work on the grant and all the activities that she planned when we visited the elementary school in the Ninth Ward. 

Center of Musicians' Village

Documenting the Musicians' Village

Gathering on the corner to check out the houses
On the morning of March 26th, we boarded two buses and left school for an adventure. Each student was put in a group of four and was given the task of documenting in video and photography one of the trip's stops. The first stop was Frantz School where Ruby Bridges integrated with help of federal marshalls in the early sixties. The second stop was the Musicians' Village which is only two blocks from the school. We were running behind schedule, so I took the groups who had the Musician's Village so they could get some good pics. 
Make it Right Houses
Using iPhone to Skype with Van Meter in Iowa

A little free library 

The next stop was the area with the Make it Right Houses. It was here that we scheduled a skype in the field with 7th graders at Van Meter School in Van Meter, IA. We had skyped with this school on our first trip to the Ninth Ward, but unfortunately, last year we took our trip during their spring break. Tyler, one of my students took my phone and handled the skype beautifully. We walked around the neighborhood for about 25 minutes and shared what we saw with the students in Iowa. It really made a special element to the trip. The students all gathered for a group photo at the levee, and then my phone died, and we had to move on to our next stop. 

Class of 2019 by the flood wall near the levee break

Shannon Miller, librarian from Van Meter, posted the skype on Instagram

View of the students in the Van Meter library skyping with PFTSTA on field trip
Picture by Shannon Miller
Stopping at Martin Luther King Library and Dr. King Charter School was where we engaged in the service learning project. We went to the King school library where the PFTSTA students paired up with a 1st grader. One of the 7th graders read part of the Dr. Seuss book about the Sneetches along with a puppet show while all the students followed along in a copy of the book. We brought two books with us for every 1st grader to take home. Then we provided a journal for every 1st grader, and the big kids helped the little ones write a story to begin their journal. There were snacks for everyone before we left to continue on with our trip. 

Ms. Romero, the librarian at Dr. King Charter School and me

Reading the Sneetches to our 1st grade book buddies

Helping our book buddy write in her journal

150 kids in one room!
The last stop were the steamboat houses on Egania Street where the students walked up the levee behind one of the houses to see the Mississippi River. We returned to school in time for lunch.

Standing on the levee with the Mississippi River behind me
This was a jam-packed morning. To finish this project the students will use their photos and videos to create a product using their choice of on-line tool. We won't tackle this until after standardized testing. Open here to see examples of the products created by the students when we returned to school

Participating teachers included Maggie Grindstaff and Meghan Ritter who both teach ELA at PFTSTA. Also, Lorie Prouty, who teaches ELA at Van Meter School and Shannon Miller, who is librarian at Van Meter. Thanks for everyone who has collaborated and will continue to collaborate on this project as it grows. This is definitely a multi-man type of show. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Presentation at LLA Annual Conference 2014

I wasn't planning to present at LLA this year. After presenting at LACUE in December, I asked Kelly if she would make the same presentation with me for the school librarians at the LASL Mid-Winter one day conference to be held in Lafayette, LA on a Saturday in January. Kelly agreed, reluctantly, because she really didn't want to give up a Saturday, but I really did not have to twist her arm very hard. I picked her up on January 25th at 6AM. We took I-10 until we found it closed due to the thick fog. We didn't worry because we had wanted to take highway 90 anyway. When we reached Gray which is a very, very small town in the middle of southern Louisiana, we could not go any farther. The state police closed 90 because of the density of the fog. Now what? We went into the Waffle House to regroup. It was a bit surreal but, the waitresses and other diners tried to figure out a way for us to reach our destination. Until all the roads reopened, there really was no way to get there. So we turned around and went home. It was a four and a half hour trip to nowhere. 

Two and a half weeks before the LLA conference, I received a message that a session had been cancelled and I was asked if I would be interested in presenting. The problem was that I would have to go solo. Kelly was not going with me to the librarian conference. I didn't know if I could carry off her part of the presentation. So I revisited our powerpoint and added a few slides and took out a few slides and agreed to make the presentation. I am glad that I did. 

The title of the presentation was: 
Be Armed and Ready for the Next Evolution in Educational Technology
You can find all the resources that were mentioned and a whole lot more here: 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mock BOB Round 2 Results have been Tallied

School Library Journal has kept up a prolific online presence with the Battle of the Kids Books through blog posts, online articles, twitter, etc. Read this online article to see one of my student's picture prominently displayed and find out more about PFTSTA's participation in the Mock BOB

The students had about four days to ponder and decide how they would vote in Round 2 of our ongoing Mock BOB. The hardest battle was the choice between Eleanor and Park and Far Far Away. Open here to see what the SLJ author judge had to say about this battle.  

I used Survey Monkey to collect the votes. The free version only allows one hundred respondents. I was hoping to have close to that. We only have 350 students in our school so that would have been a nice percentage of students. Unfortunately, I only had fifty-five voters, and that is only 16% of the school. Maybe I can figure out a way to drum up more votes in Round 3. We are going to do that one online too, but I am going to use a different tool to collect the votes. I will share after it is created next week. See below to find out which books the students thought were the best of the best in Round 2.  

Winner: All the Truth that's in Me by Julie Berry

Winner: Far Far Away by Tom McNeel

Winner: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick

Winner: The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Teen Reviews The Last Forever by Deb Caletti

Last month, Bookmarked got a chance to meet Deb Caletti, virtually via Skype. The ARC of her newest YA book, The Last Forever had arrived, and one of the students in the group (Destiny) was a big fan before the meeting with Deb and had read the book before knowing that we had a skype session planned with the author

My big mouth got me in trouble because I told Deb that I would post a review of the book by Destiny here on my blog without checking with Destiny first. I volunteered Destiny; she didn't volunteer to do it. Finally, Destiny told me the problem of why I couldn't have a review. She had her own blog and had already posted a review months before the skype session. Since she had published the review already, she didn't think it right to post it here, too. I was glad to hear that she wasn't ignoring my request. She just didn't know how to explain why to me. Luckily, I had an easy solution to this problem. I explained to Destiny that I would just put a link in this blog back to her review that she posted.

I want to say that I am continued to be blown away with the writing abilities of my students. Destiny has an honesty and eloquence in her writing, and I admire her way of turning a phrase. The insight that she gives as she described her take on the story was exceptional. I wish the book reviews that I write for SLJ and LMC were as good. I definitely think that I could learn a few things from my students. Though I don't agree with Destiny's take on Deb's books--I am a fan who has liked every book of hers that I have read, she really did like this one, a lot! Click here to read what Destiny had to say about The Last Forever.

Skype session from February with Deb Caletti

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mock BOB Round 2 Begins Online

Today, I sent the students a link to the Survey Monkey with the pictures that you see below to help them in their quest for the best of the books in Round 2. The students who defended the books in Round 1 gave me the blurbs to add to the pictures below. Just click on each picture to enlarge it to read what the students had to say. I think the students did a phenomenal job. They gave just the right kind of info to try and sway their classmates to select their book as a winner. The poll will stay open until Monday the 24th. I will let you know the school's selections next week. I will also add the a link to the SLJ author judge decisions after they are posted next week. 

For Battle 1 of Round 2, our selections at PFTSTA did not match the selections of SLJ's author judges. Tonya Bolden was given the task by SLJ for picking the best of two non-fiction works: The Animal Book and Boxers and Saints. Though our student presenters of those books loved them, they could not convince everyone else to vote for their books-fiction won again at PFTSTA. To read Bolden's rationale for selecting Boxers and Saints as her best of this round, open here

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mock BOB Round 1 Ends with Battles 7 and 8

The week began with our final battles in Round 1. Since Monday is the day for the weekly scheduled meeting of the high school book group (Bookmarked), everyone was there for these battles. Up first, was one of my favorites of 2013, Rose Under Fire. I know that historical fiction is a hard sell to my students, but Alexandra and Kayla who read this work seemed to love it as much as I did. The strong female characters and the different picture that the book paints of the Holocaust resonated with them. Unfortunately, it could not manage to defeat The Thing about Luck. Darla stepped up with a script in hand so she wouldn't forget anything and described the story about a girl of Japanese descent working as a migrant farm worker with her family  That the protagonist feels good luck just seems to evade their family time and time again spoke to the students. I guess they could feel her pain. Twice as many students selected Kadohata's work over Wein's. Author judge, Malindo Lo, agreed with the PFTSTA students. She thought that The Thing about Luck was the superior book. Click here to read why.

Members of Bookmarked trying to decide which book appeals to them

Students stood at the podium to make presentation, made it feel official
Below is a student talking about The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata:

I wasn't sure if we could keep up the momentum through eight book battles, but we did. Vy and Ella did a great job of describing the environmental fantasy The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. They liked the humor and all the twists and surprises. Agreeing that the book was not predictable made it a hit in their eyes. The boys, Logan and Harris, who read What the Heart Knows, a poetry book, had a tough hill to climb. Poetry is not high on the list of loves in our science and technology school. Though both boys really found something to like in the poems, and they each chose their favorite poem to read when they tried to defend it. It just wasn't going to happen. Three times as many students selected True Blue Scouts as What the Heart Knows. I am happy to have the poetry book on the shelves in the library, but I know it is not the title that is going to get checked out unless a teacher assigns it during a poetry unit.I guess my students are as smart as Sheila Turnage, the SLJ author judge. She also went for the humor in True Blue Scouts as her book of choice. Click here to read her wonderful recap of both titles and why she went for Appelt's book.

Reading one of the poems out loud

Using the Activotes to select their fav book 
Middle school students watch the books battle it out

So that ends, Round 1. We have decided to move Round 2 to an online round. I have collected blurbs from all the students about all the winning books. I am going to create an electronic survey for the students to use to vote. Watch next week for the students comments and winners posted on this blog.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mock BOB Battles Round 1, 5 and 6

In the video above, you can hear a few seconds of the student defending, March Book One

Our Mock BOB continued on March 13th when students defended the books in Round 1 battles 5 and 6. The first book up was Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli. Tameka was slated for the defense and that was an issue as she couldn't attend the second lunch battle because she takes a college course off campus. A teacher had a great idea and suggested that I should make a video of Tameka on my iPad and play it back during the second lunch through my computer. Second lunch begins  immediately, so I didn't have time to do any editing, just play the video back. It was a great suggestion, but .... Isn't there always a but. We are in a brand new school. As you can see in the pictures below, we have a podium with permanent microphones. It worked great for the student when they got up to speak. We have two huge tv screens hanging in the common area, and some day I will be able to hook my computer up to the screens to show a presentation like the video of Tameka. The system just hasn't been hooked up yet. So I had to use little external speakers that I attached to my computer, but they just could not amplify the sound in the commons area loud enough for the audience. That was a  big disappointment to me. Anyway, I tried to repeat Tameka's explanation of the book. She described the world Hokey Pokey where there are only kids, no adults, and Jack, a big kid, serves as their leader, and she explained how there is a main plot and several sub-plots, and she found the coming of age theme that pervaded quite charming. Tameka is a senior, and she was up against Dillon a sixth grader who was championing March Book One by John Lewis. He loved it. When Dillon spoke, he gave some anecdotes from the story and explained how Lewis began his life dedicated to civil rights at a young age. He told us how he could relate to the story because like John Lewis, he has chickens, too that he loves. Though that is by no means a major thread in the book, it did resonate with Dillon. Anyway, after all was said and done, Hokey Pokey was the students' favorite. The students just like a good fictional story no matter how well the history is presented.

Addendum: (Tom Angelberger, the SLJ author judge, was also charmed by Hokey Pokey and selected it for his choice in this battle. Click here to see what he had to say on the two books.)

Students listen intently to the book presenations

Standing at the podium gives each defender a feeling of power

During the second battle on Thursday, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick was up against P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Garcia-Williams. Nuri and Fred spoke up for Sedgewick's book. They explained how the seven separate stories intertwined and that as a reader, you had to figure out the connections between each story. That made the book a lot of fun to read, and both of them were fans of the work. Paris read Garcia-Williams' book and described how her book was a sequel to One Crazy Summer. She had not read the first one, but that did not detract from her enjoyment of this work. Paris is not usually a big fan of historical fiction, but I think that this story spoke to her, and she could could see herself in the sisiters. One of the middle school boys said to me when the students' finished their books' sale pitch that he just didn't know how to vote because both books sounded really good to him. When all the votes were tallied, it was Midwinterblood that stood its ground and spoke most to the kids.

Addendum: (Mac Barnett, the SLJ author judge, did not hold back when voicing his opinion on this battle. He had no love at all to give Sedgewick's book, and you can click here to read why he picked  P.S. Be Eleven.)

Middle school students eat lunch during the book battle

The audience learns that Midwinterblood is a very different kind of story

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mock BOB Battles 3 and 4

On Tuesday, the students met in the commons area during lunch to participate in two more battles in our Mock BOB. The first book up was Doll Bones by Holly Black. I was concerned about this particular title because one student had started the book, but returned it with an explanation that she did not care for it so she could not finish it. Did the mean that Julian felt the same and would not be able to champion it? However, he wowed me when he arrived with his speech printed out and ready to go. He stepped up to the microphone and belted out his reasons for why his classmates should select his book as the best. One of the students who was to defend Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell pulled out, so I stepped up. The students have to present twice at high school lunch and middle school lunch, so that meant that I had to do the same. I was able to speak eloquently the first time around, but I sort of botched it the second time. Oh well, it isn't about me anyway, it is about the kids. Lauren also stood up to defend Eleanor and Park, and she did a marvelous job filling in the blanks that I left out. When the votes were tallied for both middle and high school, Rowell's book won out. It seems that both the boys and the girls like a good love story. It seems that SLJ's author judge agrees. You can read Lauren Oliver's reasons for selecting Eleanor and Park in this battle here

Presenting a book to the audience

The fourth battle began with Taylor explaining how Tom McNeal's book is one of the best books that she has read in a long, long time. This is a student who reads constantly, and teachers often have to confiscate her books because she is reading at the wrong time. Anyway, when she loves a book, she really means it. You can listen to her talk about this book here. Mary Ann also stood up to explain the reasons that she liked Far Far Away which include the way the author used the ghost of Jacob Grimm as the narrator and the many twists that the tale takes before it reaches an end. Then Paris stood up to explain how Flora met the squirrel, Ulysses. As a senior, Paris is not the demographic of reader that DiCamillo was seeking with this work for middle schoolers, but Paris did enjoy Flora's story. She found the characters engaging and thought it was an entertaining read. However, when the votes were counted, it was McNeal's take on fairy tales that trumped DiCamillo's work.
Addendum: (My students agreed with author, Sarah Mlynowski's choice in this battle with Far Far Away coming out on top. Read what Mlynowski has to say here.)

Listening intently to the book presentations

Defending her book with the best (s)words that  she can conjure

Student used activotes to make their choices for the best book

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