Monday, April 21, 2014

Observing and Wondering

Good morning! Today we are going to start reading a new biography about a very famous artist named Georgia O'Keeffe. We have been learning how important it is to be able to ask and answer questions, and today we will use the painting below to practice asking questions. During the week, I hope we will be able to answer many of those questions!

Today you will also practice observing, which means looking at something without judging it or analyzing it. Use words like: I see...., In the picture/ painting there is/ there are....
When you use words like I think... or It looks like... you are presenting an opinion rather than a fact. 

This is very hard to do, but today we will practice it!

Your task today before reading:
1) Write one observation.
2) Write one question.  (make sure you remember your punctuation!)
3) Have fun!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Connecting with Nepal through Art

Back in November,  my students began what has become one of my favorite annual projects--our annual Art Link through Creative Connections

The premise of this project is that students learn about other cultures through art. Each year is based on a particular theme, so that both art partners are creating images on a similar topic. What this does is twofold:
1) It spurs students to think about what is meaningful to them about that topic, and how to draw it, and in doing so
2) it activates their thinking so when they receive art from their partner class, they are more prepared to analyze it within a solid frame of reference.

This year the theme was food and our partner class was from Kathmandu, Nepal!

Here are some examples of their beautiful artwork. Below, you will also find some of my students'  feedback as they learned how to analyze artwork--and learn about another culture in a very fun way.














Remember that on the back of each piece of artwork is some information about the artist and a little about the art itself. This information helped inform our ideas and understanding, but there is still a lot of interpretation. Although it makes for a little longer reading, here are responses from my class to some of the questions we analyzed:
The aspects of your culture we found particularly interesting: 
We  thought it was interesting that there were a lot of fruits and vegetables. The kids talked a lot about being healthy. The people cook with fire in Nepal. They eat at small tables and don't sit in chairs like we do. Only one picture had a hamburger. All the others were about food that we don't know about in the United States.

The cultural values we think we both share: 
They think family is important. They also think fruits and vegetables are healthy, and that it is important to brush teeth. It looks like family is very important. Maybe the way food appears on the plate is important, too, because it all looks so pretty on the plates.

The cultural values we think are unique to you: 
You wear different types of clothes than we do, but we think they are special. Are they made from silk? You like simple things that are beautiful. You don't need furniture to sit on. It looks like you are having a picnic inside your home. The red dots on some women's foreheads we learned mean blessings. If you cook with fire, you must be patient.

The specific details in your class' artwork we found fascinating: 
You are really good artists! We like the frames around the art, the lines you draw in the white space. They look cool. We learned a lot of different names for your foods. It looks like your foods are all different from ours, except the hamburger. Only one picture had a tv in it. We don't think you have games! Do you always arrange your food on the plates like you drew it in your pictures? It looks perfect.

Your personal information (written on the artist's description sheets) that we found particularly interesting: 
 We liked how you talked about being healthy and helping your moms cook. You have very young artists! Some of our students look similar to you! We wished you would have told more about you want to do when you grow up. We are glad you speak English so you could write about your art.

The art techniques you used that we think are special (color, media, patterns, etc.): 
 You draw and color neatly. You use all the white space, and they are all so colorful. Do your homes actually have yellow and colored walls? They look pretty.

The ways your art collection changed our preconceptions of your culture: 
 We think that because family is important to them, that it might be something valuable for many different cultures. Food is something important to many cultures. And even though they are so far away, it is cool to think that we have these things in common.

Our new questions for you: 
 When did you start learning English?
What is your favorite food?
What games do you play? Do you have computers?
Do you have electricity? Is it hard to cook with fire?
What are some other things you do when you're not in school?
What do schools look like in Nepal?
What do you eat at school?

So, our BIG question for you, readers, is how would you depict the theme of "food" in your life? We welcome your art if you'd like to share!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Great things are afoot...

Today another budding entrepreneur was provided a jump start for her idea to help others. This 3rd grader's application convinced the judges that her project was worthy of a mini-grant. She encouraged friends to help her with the application and process, and they will work together in upcoming weeks to complete the project.

Her goal is to help students in need, and this mini-grant will help get her started with a project she has imagined for awhile. (And yes, we'll get the details out later regarding her project!)

The foundational thinking behind PRAESPERO is that socio-economic status shouldn't preclude kids from developing money management skills, seeing ideas through from seedling to successful completion, and looking ahead to the next step.

Keep in touch, because we will be posting an update about her progress, and ultimately, her success with her ideas. As of now, this project has already made a tremendous difference in her thinking, and motivation at school.

We can't wait to see what's next!
Reaction after the phone interview step of her application.
She said she was "almost crying because she was so happy."
What a great day--big smiles and an even bigger heart
in this third grader. 
Excitement after receiving her mini-grant funds. She and one
 of her partners are ready to roll!

Contact me with questions!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

These girls have some questions about a Gigantic Rutabaga!

We've been learning about the Olympics, from Ancient Greece to Russia, and we recently finished reading the Russian folktale titled The Gigantic Rutabaga. In a nutshell, it is a story about how a Russian Grandfather couldn't pull out a rutabaga from his garden because it was soooo GIGANTIC! He asked Grandmother, Granddaughter, the dog, the cat, and the mouse to help him until they FINALLY PULLED IT OUT! The story is full of repeated events which were great for sequencing.

Here is Russia!!
We learned that there are similar vegetables in other versions of the folktale, including a Gigantic Carrot and a Giant Turnip. Which is the most popular version in Russia?

We also have some other questions for you, if you are from Russia!


What is your favorite vegetable?
Do kids like to eat rutabagas?
How do you cook rutabagas?
What do your schools look like in Russia?
In Russia, do people think mice are strong?
Do rutabagas really grow that gigantic?
How is your weather right now?
What are some of your favorite folktales?
Do you read any stories from America?

We also read that the Russian language has a tongue twister when this story is told--can one of our readers help us by reading it to us so we can hear you? Ms. Wendi knows a little bit of Russian, but she  loves hearing native Russian speakers!
Here is what we found for the last part of the story--can someone read it for us?:

Myshka za koshku, koshka za Zhuchku, Zhuchka za vnuchku, vnuchka za babku, babka za dedku, dedka za repku, tyanut-potyanut--vytyanuli repku!

Thank you for your time!
 We can't wait to "meet" you!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sharks live in a FOREST?!?

Thanks to the power of social media, today our students experienced the passion of a woman who abso-poso-tutely LOVES her job! Ms. Jillian Morris from Sharks4Kids is a marine biologist, explorer, photographer, educator, and all-around shark advocate.

A couple of months ago, my students were learning about oceans, and came up with some questions. Part of their solution to finding the answers, was to create a video posing questions for ocean experts. We were so lucky to have Ms. Jillian respond!! (And how exciting that the kids are starting to realize how to leverage technology as a tool for learning!)

Her energy and love for sharks was exciting to experience, and our kids were rapt as she taught us all about sharks, especially how to see them in a new way.

Check out some of what we learned!
Say Cheese! Sharks smile, too!


This is the island of Bimini, where Ms. Jillian lives and studies sharks.
And YES, some sharks live among the mangrove tree roots, hence
in the forest!!! 

These were lots of images from her work, studying sharks,
and helping them. 

Skyping with a shark scientist was definitely a first for
 our third graders. 

Whoa!!! Look at Ms. Jillian in the middle of the picture!!
What a cool job! And, as some of my students said, "It's
cool that a woman can do that!" 

Taking pictures of her friends,  with her special underwater
camera equipment.

Jillian had load of pictures of different sharks,
and she took the time to explain them,
then answer questions from our curious students.

Here are some thoughts from the kids. Have a look at some of their takeaways!

Our feedback for today was 4-fold: 1 question, 2 facts, 1 way cool
thing they were planning on telling someone later today, and
an illustration showing what they thought the "coolest part
of Ms. Jillian's job" is.


The fact that over 100million sharks are killed in a year left
quite an impression on many of the kids. 

Ms. Jillian presented sharks in a new way for us. Instead of scary
wild animals, we learned that humans are not on the menu and
would prefer not to hurt us.

We learned about different types of sharks, such as the Nurse
Shark and the Lemon Shark!

Did you know that sharks have belly buttons like us?



Examples from student feedback: The coolest part of her job,
taking care of sharks, swimming with them, and taking pictures
of them.
The range of questions after her presentation. :)

Ms. Jillian, thank you once again for your time, and your many efforts to teach kids like us about sharks, and how to help them. We learned so many different things today!!

And hey, by the way, THANK YOU for helping us see how technology can be used as such a fun tool for learning and reaching out around the world!