5th Grade On Stage

On May 21, 2013, 5th Grade did something they’d been working up to all year–they performed a musical that they had planned, written, choreographed, staged, costumed, and acted in!  It began as a seed of an idea early in the school year, and blossomed into something bigger better than we could have even imagined.  They really did a stellar job.  But not on their own: our amazingly fabulous music teacher, Mrs. Kesler, was there every step of the way helping them make their dream a reality.

The general premise was of a 5th grade class who was learning to write autobiographies in Writer’s Workshop and the scenes were the memories they came up with to write in their pieces.  A couple of them were “real-life”, like reminiscing about Missouri Day and Box Town, but the other two vignettes twisted truth a little further: one was about a visit one day in kindergarten from a leprechaun and his minions that involved an arm wrestle over some chocolate “gold”, and the other was a crazy escapade to Cahokia Mounds that involved lots of dancing.  It was a great example of what can happen when you let kids run with their ideas, focus on their passions and do what is often “off limits.”  Trusting them with the plan and the execution could have been hard for some, but I love that Mrs. Kesler knew that that was the right thing to do in order to really make it “theirs.”  And theirs it was.

(Wish I had more pictures of it–we really did work for almost 9 months on it.  But I only have pictures from the performance.  Boo. 😦 )


Backstage on performance night with Jernandra, Sophia and Anna C. They were portraying kindergarteners in the scene with the leprechaun. I was Mrs. Bearden (quite a stretch, huh?)


The art room worked as the “green room” for kids to wait in when they weren’t on stage. We had a Skype connection worked up between the gym and this room so we could see what was going on on stage. Teachers and students were in charge of following the script to help actors know when they needed to go over for their next scene. This was really a genius idea that worked out SUPER well!


Aiden and Don were stage managers and did an amazing job of making sure it all went down as it should. They were in charge of lights, music and all other stage cues to keep us on track. Definitely the two best guys for the job!


We call these next two pictures “The Many Hats of Mrs. Hong” because aside from being a fabulous teacher, she showed her skills in make-up…


…and hair, as well. Is there anything she can’t do? I don’t think so. 🙂

group pic

Group pic after the performance

  Have you ever taken on a huge project like this one?  How did it go?  What did you learn?

Book Trailers

We watched our first book trailer together when we read The One and Only Ivan earlier this year.   We were mesmerized by how it drew us in and made us want to read the book–even more than we already did!  Then we went 1:1 with iPads, and I knew that this would be something we’d have to do for ourselves, especially since we had some iMovie experts in our midsts (yes, I’m talking about you, Anna K., Aiden and Jack!).

Then, it was time to start thinking about service learning projects, too, and suddenly it all seemed to fall into place….

I was having a conversation with our librarian, Mrs. Meihaus, about my idea for wanting to learn about  book trailers (and at that point I didn’t really have a direction I wanted to go in, or anything more than a desire to do it), and she told me about an idea she’d just learned about from our Scholastic rep–just the day before!  Talk about good timing.  This idea she’d found out about involved creating cards on the shelves that link QR codes to book talks, to help readers as they make decisions in the library.  Seemed like a perfect fit!

So we just dove right in and started making movies the next day, right? Nope.

We had a TON of work to do first.  And what was great was that my kids knew what that work was without me even telling them.  I just asked the question “What do we need to know before we can start our book trailer project?” and this is what they said:

It's messy because we used it as our checklist to make sure we had done all of the prep work before we go to our movies.  What a great example of kids creating a project--they led us where we needed to go!

It’s messy because we used it as our checklist to make sure we had done all of the prep work before we go to our movies. What a great example of kids creating a project–they led us where we needed to go!

We spent many days together reading book reviews, and learning what was supposed to be included in one.  We read examples of them, and practiced writing our own on books we’d read together and individually.  We watched several examples (both good and bad) of book trailers and kept notes about what made them successful, i.e. which ones made us actually want to read the featured book and why.

About that same time, I came upon a Twitter chat where the topic was book trailers and several teachers were sharing ideas for how they make these productive with their students.  I LOVED the idea that Jenn Fountain (@jennann516) was sharing about how she managed student made book trailers.  The way she used storyboards to help students thoughtfully plan the pictures and the text they wanted to include was the missing piece of the puzzle, and seemed to be just what we needed!


Devan loved this project!


Remember Jack, the iMovie expert? He’s hard at work on his storyboard and book trailer about the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio–a class favorite this year!


Aiden (another in house expert) decides which pictures from The Kissing Hand to include in his video.


Damonte is hard at work on his book trailer for a text about Lamborghinis. Another place we got ideas for books was from Ms. Dale, one of our kindergarten teachers. We made several for some favorites that we knew some of our newest friends at Robinson would want to read in the fall!


Don’s using his storyboard as he creates each scene of his iMovie.


One of Keelan’s videos was from that kindergarten pile–The Hello, Goodbye Window.


Anna K. (on the left) was a wiz at iMovie! I love how kids taught other kids how to do things and answered questions when we needed to troubleshoot why something wasn’t working. Here she helped Sammy figure out how to fix a problem she was having with a picture.


Owen working on a book trailer for Mouse Counts.


Sophia and Jernandra worked together, too. Jernandra’s book trailer was about Super Fudge.


Sometimes the pictures we added were from the internet, and sometimes they were ones we took ourselves.  IMG_0863 IMG_0865See?

So, kids chose books (we started with our favorites, but also brainstormed other ways of choosing like book award lists for the upcoming year, book award lists from previous years, books that are frequently checked out from our library, etc.) and began to create our storyboards.  Once they had an approved storyboard, they went to work in iMovie, which we worked together to figure out—remember those experts I mentioned in the beginning?  They helped lead small groups to coach kids on what to do–and Jack even taught me how to do it!  What a great app, by the way, and on the iPad it’s SUPER SIMPLE to use.  I highly recommend using it if you aren’t already.

But just because our book trailers were finished, that didn’t mean our project was done.  We wanted to then link all of those trailers to QR codes that kiddos in our Robinson library can scan and learn more about the book as they are shopping for books to check out.  That meant we had to answer the “where do we put them when we’re finished making them” question from our original chart.  Many suggested we put them on our blogs, and we already a class YouTube channel, but we had to make sure it was some place that would be able to get through our internet filters at school (so kids could actually watch the videos we were creating!), that would be able to hold a large amount of data, AND that would be online (otherwise we wouldn’t end up with a QR code!).  I decided that SchoolTube was probably our best bet.

It was really great when we finally got to the end of the project and we were working in the library to finally attach all of our QR codes.  (Even this part of the project was kid-led, too, as someone suggested it would be a better idea to attach the code to the actual book, rather than the shelf.  Genius!)  We were super excited to be able to call in Mrs. Sisul, our principal, who supports all of the crazy and fabulous things we want to try with technology, and show her how they work.

Don and Owen showing Mrs. Sisul how to scan our QR codes to get to our videos on School Tube.  She was so excited for us!

Don and Owen showing Mrs. Sisul how to scan our QR codes to get to our videos on School Tube. She was so excited for us!

So at the end of it all, we ended up with over 50 TITLES that now have book trailers, and each copy of each book in our library has a QR code attached to the spine or the cover (depending on where it would fit)!

IMG_0872 IMG_0871

I wish that I would have had time to do the last reflection piece after this project, to have my kiddos tell you all that they’d learned throughout the process, but alas, we worked right up to the very last minute–and then it was summer!  So I ask now, to all of my 5th grade friends who worked on this big service-learning project with me: What did you learn from this experience?  What do you know now that you didn’t know when we started? What was your favorite thing?

And now it’s your turn to check out all of our fabulous work!  While I’d love to individually post every trailer here for you to watch, it makes more sense to direct you to our Robinson School Tube channel so you can check them out there! Happy watching and thanks for leaving us your comments about what you think!  We worked so hard and are so proud of what we accomplished!



It’s Been Too Long

Um…how did over a month pass without me putting ANYTHING on my blog?  I guess the honest answer is that the month of May was so crazy busy that we had time to DO amazing things and I didn’t have any time to WRITE about those amazing things.

And so now I find myself on summer break with all of this time on my hands, and I’m in a quandary:  should I go back and blog about those amazing things we did at the end of the year, or move on to the new things I’m thinking about and doing?  Seems disingenuous to just leave my kiddos behind and move on without wrapping up the year, so I guess I’ve just answered my own question.  I need to go back and tell you about the book trailer project we did, Field Day and the last day of school, my final reflections on going 1:1 with iPads.  You need to hear about how fabulous I thought this last class was, and how I just met up with Keelan’s family in Disney World when we were both on vacation.

Ok, decision made.  Now, beware–you’ll have lots of blog posts to read over the next few days.  Hope you’re ready!!