Thursday, April 17

Author Visit Success - Ask Questions!



This year our school was lucky enough to schedule Matt Phelan for our annual author visit.  Along with organizing a luncheon and the sale of books, I wanted to prepare the students thoroughly so they could engage with him fully.  We met this goal.

While my initial plan was to expose them to as many Matt Phelan books as possible, I didn’t want to seem as if I were pushing book sales.  Granted, I was excited to share my enthusiasm for Matt Phelan’s books and illustrations, but something seemed missing.  I needed a better plan.

To begin, I created a Google Presentation about Matt and his life.  After a number of lessons on creating a PowerPoint in Google Docs this year, the students were immediately drawn to my presentation.  They were given the opportunity to not only view my work and content, but to offer suggestions. Fortunately, this initial step provided the catalyst to my next step.

Now that I had them excited about Matt and his work, I wanted to explore questioning.  As a former reading specialist and classroom teacher, it seemed natural to provide a lesson on thick v. thin questioning.  I began by modeling, and then we brainstormed a list of questions.  The next step was pivotal.  How do we ask a visiting author questions that show us at our best?

Each grade (K-4) had the chance to practice asking questions.  While this may seem like over-preparation, it is an important life skill, and it was a lot of fun! The students learned how to introduce themselves, and then ask questions that couldn't be answered with a yes or no response.  They learned to lower their hands while the author responded and to be polite and patient listeners.  We worked really hard on our listening skills so we wouldn’t waste precious time asking questions that were already asked.  The younger student concentrated on forming their question in their mouths so they would be ready if selected. 



During Matt’s presentation, the students were focused, attentive and showed their best “Myers Manners.” This catch phrase became our signal to present ourselves in our best way.  When Matt asked for questions, even the Kindergarten students remembered to introduce themselves, lower their hands while he responded and ask deep, rich questions that showed they connected to his work.  Matt was very impressed.

Overall, each grade exceeded expectations, and most importantly, learned how to present themselves respectfully and politely in a public forum. 

By the way, the books sold out and the excitement for reading grew even more.

It was a memorable day.



Monday, April 14

Using Voki in the Library

After a six week course of study on Digital Citizenship, I was looking for a culminating activity for my third graders.  

Quite accidentally, I found Voki.  I’m a teacher/librarian who relies upon my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter, and I saw a few tweets about Voki and I began to explore. I was quickly intrigued.


While I had seen a number of ways to create avatars, I had never seen one that included not only a voice feature, but an abundance of creative choices.  I knew I had to find a way to include this in my library.  I began by setting up a free account.  Then, I tried to make a Voki that looked like me.  I was thrilled by the feature that used my cell phone so I could record my own voice.  Each step of the way was so user friendly.  My Voki told the students about the genre of the month after I easily copied the embedded code onto my library website.
When my third graders arrived for their weekly library lesson, I showed them the Voki on our library website.  They loved it.  When I told them they would be creating their own Vokis… well, let’s just say the enthusiasm included applause and high-fives.  In our district, the students all have a standard user name and password.  Prior to each class arriving, I had created Voki accounts for each student using the Voki Classroom feature.  This was a huge time saver.  It didn’t take too long and it insured that each student had an account with their correct user name and password.
Once I showed them how to navigate to Voki using our library Symbaloo (an exceptional time saver), I created another Voki. I showed them how to choose a character style, and the multitude of customization features as well as the background and player features.  (The bling was a huge hit!) One of the areas I didn’t stress strongly enough with the first group of third graders was the importance of saving their creations.  Luckily, as a librarian I get to try each lesson three times.  With each subsequent group, I modeled this vital step.
During this first introductory lesson, my goals for the students were to log on, create a Voki, enter text to make it talk, and save it.  When the students returned the next week and logged on, they found the assignment I created.  Not only does Voki have a place for teachers to share lessons, but you can create assignments for your students.  Each third grader was required to describe what being a good digital citizen meant.  Since we are always running short on time, creating the Voki the first week and focusing on the content the second week, made it much easier for the students.

Another great feature in the Voki Classroom is that the teacher can approve, disapprove and leave comments for the students.  Once I approved their Vokis, my next step was sharing. While each lesson automatically creates its own Web page, where you can showcase your students’ work, I wanted all of the students in the school to be able to view the Vokis through my library website.  When I clicked on the publish feature, I discovered that Voki had a feature for sharing the link on Symbaloo.  As mentioned earlier, Symbaloo is a great time saver if you are looking to save all of your links in one place.  I created a Symbaloo webmix that shared all of the third grade Vokis.  Now, everyone (including parents) could view the Vokis.  It didn’t take too long to copy/paste the Symbaloo Voki link for each link.  It was worth the time and effort.

As a library media specialist, I’m always looking for ways to excite my students about technology in a meaningful way.  Using the Voki as a culminating activity for our unit on Digital Citizenship was not only exciting and fun, it was meaningful.  It meshed different apps, typing skills, writing skills, summarizing skills and creativity.  An added bonus was when the teachers found out what the students were creating, they wanted to set up accounts and use Vokis in their classrooms.