Wednesday, June 3, 2020

First Week Flashback

As hinted at last week in the Final Week Feature post, we'll also have a First Week Flashback post over the summertime. So...without further ado...we'll start things with flashback to Harry Potter Hump Day posts from this blog and Hunger Games posts since both series/franchises have new material!

In the summertime of 2014, the blog posts featured different Harry Potter-related content. Looking for information about the Pottermore website? Or Harry Potter World? Online Harry Potter quizzes? All of those and more were part of the summertime blog reading. You can even see how J.K. Rowling planned some of the storytelling on notebook paper with notes and tables.

Over the course of the Hunger Games series in both written and cinematic form, we celebrated read-alikes and the release of the movies themselves. 

Looking back on posts is all fine and good, but let's talk about the new material related to both series/authors! First, J.K. Rowling announced in late May that she was publishing online a new short story called The Ickabog.
“J.K. Rowling Introduces The Ickabog.” J.K. Rowling, 29 May 2020,

On her website, Rowling explains that the story was one she wrote between Harry Potter novels and would read to her two children. She intends to publish online at least one chapter every weekday between May 26 and July 10 on the Ickabog website. Rowling also announced that there is an illustration competition for the publication of the story in November 2020. You can find out more about the competition HERE. Finally, Rowling has said that all royalties from the sale of the book later this year will be donated to those who have been affected by the coronavirus.

The other big news is that a prequel to the Hunger Games series called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was released in mid-May.
“Suzanne Collins.” Suzanne Collins -,

This book is from President Snow's perspective as a young man who serves as a student mentor in the tenth Hunger Games. Click on the link below the image to watch the official trailer from Scholastic:


Sounds intriguing? Stop by the library when school resumes to check out The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes from Suzanne Collins.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Final Week Feature

Well, as the song goes..."what a long, strange trip it's been." Right?! I had no idea when I last posted in early March that we wouldn't be returning to school at all for the remainder of the year. But now that our school year is coming to an "official" end, it's time to start thinking about summertime blog posts. We've had 1-Thing Wednesdays, the ABCs of DCGMS Library, Harry Potter Hump Days, and Tuesday Title Talks to continue our summer reading enthusiasm. This summer each month will include two posts: Final Week Feature and First Week Flashback.

So to kick off our first Final Week Feature, we're taking a look at the Summer Reading Program from our local public libraries. Yes! The summer reading program will continue online this summer! Here's a sneak peek video:

The video includes information and directions relating to how to create or access your account on Beanstack to chart your June and July reading. You can also learn about prizes offered half-way through the summer and final prizes. The video even includes how you can access things to read during this time when the library may not be as accessible to you. Want to learn more? You can access the library's summer reading page HERE

Throughout June and July, the summer reading program includes completely online weekly events. You can read more about it HERE:

A few of the virtual activities are aimed specifically at teen students:

With our Literacy Studies book trailer work and breakout activities, you might want to check out their offerings! 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Using Google Slides to Build an "App"

Recently seventh grade Literacy Studies students completed a long-term assignment that combined fiction books with nonfiction reading in our AEA databases. My colleagues Lacey Sedrel and Melissa White recommended that students use Google Slides to create what appears to be an app so students could show what they learned in an unusual way. Thanks to Gina Rodgers and and Amber Bridge, digital learning consultants from Grant Wood AEA, who shared their presentation "Google Slides: The Swiss Army Knife of Google Tools" at a fall technology conference session that Lacey and Melissa attended. It was the inspiration for students' work for this unit.

First, students used our Destiny catalog and Destiny Discover to identify nonfiction topics associated with a fiction book of their choice. Students also talked with one another about common books read to get feedback on nonfiction topics not listed as subject headings in the catalog. We also used our class read aloud Solo by Kwame Alexander as an example:
What we noticed was that several nonfiction topics we identified with the story weren't listed as subject headings, such as adoption, Ghana, guitars, and music. Ultimately, students would choose two nonfiction topics from their reading to become the basis of their research in our AEA databases.

Once fiction books and nonfiction topics were solidified, students worked in Slides to create their "apps." Along the way, students learned a few new tricks in Slides--namely, how to orient their Slides vertically and how to link Slides within the presentation to one another. The template from which they worked included five Slides:
  1. Front page
  2. Home screen
  3. Fiction book
  4. Nonfiction topic #1
  5. Nonfiction topic #2
Students' nonfiction topics became the focus of their work in our AEA databases. Students briefly worked with SUPERSearch, which allowed us to discuss how to narrow a search and search particular types of resources.
Students also returned to familiar databases like Britannica and CultureGrams to complete some of their work. 

Students turned in their work through Google Classroom, but we also shared our links with one another using Padlet. This allowed different classes to see their classmates' work and read about a variety of topics. 

Accessing one another's projects and viewing the work in presentation mode allowed students to move through Slides as though they really were using an app based on the fiction book. Below are some Slides from students' work:

Finally, students responded in a Google Form in a ticket out after looking at one another's projects and reading about several books and nonfiction topics.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Showing Some Love to Nonfiction Reading

Recently both sixth grade and seventh grade Literacy Studies students completed work that relied on them using our online databases to do a little nonfiction reading to gather information related to topics of their choice. Sixth graders completed the AEA online databases tic tac toe project (you can read about it HERE in an earlier post), and seventh graders created an "app" using Google Slides. (More to come in a future post!)

Both projects included accessing our AEA databases and doing some nonfiction reading. To reinforce this, a recent library display showed students that the realities of nonfiction topics often are reflected in the fiction books they more often gravitate toward. Take a look at some of the more popular nonfiction topics and their fiction counterparts.

Topics for the display included:
  • bullying 
  • natural disasters
  • disease
  • war spies
  • paranormal activity
  • immigration
  • Holocaust
  • Vietnam War
  • extreme sports
  • autism
  • mental health
  • animals

 Throughout the year, students watch book trailers in Literacy Studies class as part of our routine, and often nonfiction titles are included. Recently students watched these trailers:

Stay tuned! More books--including nonfiction reading--will be featured in an upcoming post. Happy reading!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Podcasting, Part II

Once Literacy Studies students had a basic understanding of podcasting elements--specifically related to fictional, storytelling podcasts like The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel--we provided students with options, opportunity, and time to explore a wide variety of both fiction and nonfiction podcasts.

Students had class time to listen to all/most/part of a podcast, and in preparation for a sharing out activity, they completed a Google Slide that included podcast information, a recommendation, and a visual retelling using emojis. 

With their recommendation and visual retell Slides, students shared their podcast reactions with one another in a variety of ways, including rotating partner groups, small groups, and with the full class. 

Examples of students' work appears below:

Finally, students also completed a Google Form that generated a full-class list of recommended podcasts to be shared on our library main page later. With one click from our library page, students will have access to student-recommended podcasts arranged by genre, all for their browsing and listening pleasure.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Podcasting, Part I

New for Literacy Studies students this year is a unit related to podcasts. Collaborating with Cathy Hines from Heartland Area Education Association allowed for several lessons relating to understanding what podcasts are and how they are different than other "reading" and listening students might already do, podcasts themselves, and retelling.
Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash
First, students discussed what podcasts are and if they already listen to podcasts. Many indicated that they were "forced" to listen as they rode in cars with their parents, :) but some already subscribed or listened to podcasts of their choosing. We also talked about how podcasts aren't like the YouTubers or audiobooks.

To kick off our podcast listening, we focused on the award-winning and engaging podcast The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

As students listened, they worked on a digital notebook where they kept track of story elements like character, plot, and setting, along with podcast elements like sound effects and music. Using a "turn and talk to your table-mates" activity, students discussed the podcast and added information to their digital notebooks. Engagement was high, and students were eager to continue listening; in fact, many asked if they could continue to listen to Mars Patel outside of class!

Students would continue to listen to Mars Patel and work on notebooks for another class before moving on to other activities--stay tuned!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Harnessing STEAM Power

With the new school year comes new STEAM activities! After receiving a State of Iowa Scale-Up STEM grant last spring, we are now able to expand the STEAM offerings to students. Still popular among students were things like Spheros and 3D pens and Cubelets, but students were also able to explore using 3Dux Design activities, dry felting, and Strawbees.

With task and challenge cards available to students both in the activities themselves and in Google Classroom, students explored making, creating, designing, and imagining all sorts of things!

With additional new items still waiting in the wings, students will have additional STEAM days to explore again!