Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5th graders publish their writing online!

A few years ago I saw noted educator Yong Zhao speak at a PNAIS conference and was struck by something he said: what if you went to work every day and just "practiced" your job, but never produced anything real that actually had an impact on the world? You'd soon feel very discouraged.
He pointed out that sometimes in school that is what students feel like they are doing year after year; he stressed the importance of offering them work that will touch others' lives, work they can feel proud of and invested in because it matters.
I thought about this - and about how our students are drawn to collaborative, dynamic, Web 2.0 sites such as Wikipedia. (While we warn students about the potential pitfalls of Wikipedia and do not allow them to cite it for their school-related research, I do explain that it can play a valuable role in leisure-time information seeking and can be a great jumping off point for getting an overview of a subject and collecting data that you verify in more reliable sources.)
Recently our 5th graders learned about Simple English Wikipedia, a version of the site intended for English language learners and younger readers. The articles it contains are shorter and written in easier English. We compared and contrasted articles on the same topics in regular and Simple Wikipedia.

Then each student came up with a topic of interest that either did not already have a Simple English Wikipedia article, or that had only a very short one that needed additions.
They spent time researching their topic using credible sources, such as our school and the public library's databases. They wrote their articles, had them reviewed and edited by their peers, and created properly formatted MLA citations. Finally I uploaded them to the web!

Since anyone can change Wikipedia, some of their articles no longer exist in their original form, of course! This in itself is a valuable lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of using Wikipedia as a source.

Interested in reading what they wrote? Check out the links below! Isn't it fun what a wide range of subjects they covered? I hope they all feel proud of the fact that they are helping to contribute information that will be of use to many readers around the world!

First, here are the articles that were brand new and did not exist before one of our 5th graders wrote it:
1920s Fashion
Aquarius (constellation)
Campbell's Dwarf Hamster
Flag Football
Northern Pygmy Owl
Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Steven Moffat
Next, the articles that students contributed much-needed additions to:

Black Mamba
Fashion Design
Fishing Lure
Gabrielle Douglas
Jeremy Lin
Macaroni Penguin
Major League Soccer
Mountain Goat
Phoenix (mythology)
Poison Dart Frog
Pol Pot
Rhythmic Gymnastics 
White Hole

Monday, March 18, 2013

Have questions? Come see me on parent/teacher conference days!

Have questions about what goes on in your student's library classes? Need reading recommendations for your child? Want a quick introduction to all the great OWS and KCLS online resources?

I will be available this Wednesday and Thursday, March 20th and 21st, from 8:30am-4:00pm. Feel free to drop by whenever it's convenient - no need to schedule, just come in! The library is located upstairs at the end of Heckerman Hall closest to Robinson Hall.

I look forward to meeting with you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The benefits of reading fiction

A University of Buffalo study found that when reading fiction, you actually benefit in several ways, partly by improving in the area of "social thinking" (understanding what the world is like for others) and partly by reaping the benefits that come from social belonging. Many of us have had the experience of feeling as if characters in a book were so real they were people we actually know. Now there is a study that confirms this actually happens and that we are changed by these fictional social encounters.

Commenting on this study, Professor Keith Oatley remarks, "If I read fiction, this kind of social thinking is what I get better at. If I read genetics or astronomy, I get more expert at genetics or astronomy. In fiction, also, we are able to understand characters' actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have. And it turns out that psychologically there is a big difference between these two points of view. We usually take the exterior view of others, but that's too limited. It is the first empirical finding, so far as I know, to show a clear psychological effect of reading fiction. It's a result that shows that reading fiction improves understanding of others, and this has a very basic importance in society, not just in the general way making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding, but in specific areas such as politics, business, and education."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nina Laden came to school!

What an exciting day we had with author and illustrator, Nina Laden, who came to campus yesterday to do a K-4 assembly as well as art and writing workshops with Kindergarten, 3rd and 4th grades! Her books have been published around the world (Roberto was even made into a short animated film) and they have been tremendously popular with many of our students thanks to their lively artwork and clever use of language.

In the assembly, Nina described her childhood as the daughter of two artists, as well as her early art career before she began to make a living as an author and illustrator of children's books. She also talked about her latest projects, including a beautiful picture book due out later this year, and a middle grade chapter book (hopefully soon to be published).

The workshops were great fun and also inspirational as students learned Nina's 4 R's of writing as well as having the opportunity to create their own dog characters. Some enthusiastic students were inspired to immediately start writing stories about their dogs. Take a look at these happy 4th graders and their adorable dogs!

Kindergartners may be small, but they created some pretty amazing art. I wish I had room to share everyone's work, but here are just a few. We have a smartly dressed gentleman dog with glasses...

This one has so much personality, he looks ready to leap off the page! 

This classy poodle is named Layla!

And here is a most dignified Labrador Retriever. To me he looks like a character from an Austen novel!

Enter the annual bookmark contest!

It's that time of year again! University Book Store's bookmark contest is underway, this year with the theme "Books Are Made of Awesome!" Students in grades K-8 are eligible to enter. Winners will be chosen in three grade divisions (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8). These talented artists will have their work printed up as bookmarks to be distributed at all branches of the bookstore and in many school libraries.

We will be handing out entry forms and information sheets in the school library this week. Any student interested in entering may take one home. The deadline is Friday, April 5th.

Entries may be submitted in person at any UBS branch or mailed to:

Kids Books
University Book Store
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105-5809

Please do not send completed entries to school! We cannot take responsibility for them and do not want your child's precious artwork to get mislaid.

I have uploaded a copy of the rules to my SWIFT and Sharepoint pages. We will likely have extra entry forms available in the library as of Friday.