The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles-Messages to their Future Selves

We are operating in a new way for all of us. We have students in the building and some joining class virtually, so it is a challenge to do activities or instruction. I have a cart that I bring to each classroom once a week in order to do instruction and checking out books and all in a 30 minute time slot.  What ever activity I do, students at home have to be able to also do it.  Supplies are thus problematic, so the only thing I can count on them having is paper, pencil and crayons.  

Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

I read The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Quevas to fifth grade classes, but first we talked about how people sometimes used messages in bottles to communicate. After reading the book I asked them to write a message to themselves or anyone about what their dreams are for this school year.  I told them I would hold onto them and that they would read them at the end of the school year.  Each student took a photo of their letter and uploaded it the Google Classroom assignment, which I purposely included as some students hadn’t really practiced that skill. The virtual students did the same and I printed out their photos and rolled them up as I had done with the in-school students.

Writing a message of their wishes or dreams for this school year.

Taking a photo and uploading to Google Classroom.

Students rolled up their messages and they will be saved to be read in May 2021.



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Never Take a Shark to the Dentist

I am constantly challenged to create instruction and activities during this weird time we are in. I have to go into the classroom with my cart to check out books and do activities. Anything I do hands-on has to be done with paper, pencil and crayons as supplies have to be what our virtual students have and those items are the only thing we know they all have. Very limiting-I can’t give out construction paper or colored paper to our in-person students as those at home might not have them. It’s getting pretty boring for me!

Getting Creative in the Virtual-In-Person School Mode

However. this activity worked really well and it didn’t require any supplies!  Third grade students are studying animal habitats and adaptations and the book, Never Take a Shark to the Dentist, by Judi Barrett (illustrated by John Nickle) is an excellent one because it is about animal behaviors or adaptations.  After reading the book (which the students enjoyed immensely) we brainstormed a list of animals that were NOT included in the book.  This was an easy way for both the in-person students as well as the on-line students to participate and feel like they were part of the classroom.

Recreating the Style of the Book-Adaptations

Then I had the students figure out what physical adaptations or behaviors the animals possessed in order to help them survive.  We added those characteristics to the list.  Finally I asked them to create a sentence that modeled the ones in the book and they did a great job.  In one class one of the students said, “Never race with an ostrich!” and in another class they said, “Never take a whale to a water park!” (which I thought was brillant and very original).  If you had more time (I’m only in the class for 30 minutes approximately and that includes book checkout), each student could write a sentance about the animal they placed on the list.

Definitely a keeper.


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Not a Box


I’ve been reading Antoinette Portis’ book, Not a Box, to my kindergarten classes.  Before reading the book I tell them I hope they brought their imagination with them.  I ask them what imagination is and there is usually one or two who can articulate what imagination is.  They really enjoy this book.  After reading the book I explain that they will be receiving a “box” (small square cut from grocery bags) that they will glue onto their paper and make it whatever they want it to be.  After the first class I decided that I needed to brainstorm with them what their box could be as they mostly drew objects that were in the book.  After brainstorming I got a few more varied ideas, but still some just drew what was in the book (race car, rocket ship, building).


It’s a pet store.


It’s a building.


It is a store.

Acting Out the Story

After the finished their drawing each student got inside a box.  I would ask them, “Why are you sitting in a box?”  They would reply, “It’s not a box.  It is a ____.” I placed all their responses into a Google Slide presentation and shared it with their teacher.  They got a huge kick out of sitting in the box.  Lots of smiles and giggling.  Ah, the simple things.


Videotaping students in a box.

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Big Orange Splot and Expressing Ourselves

In their IB Unit of Inquiry: How We Express Ourselves, the central idea for our first grade students is “Our creations persuade, inform and entertain us.”  I looked for ways for the students to express themselves.  We read Daniel Manus Pinkwater’s book, The Big Orange Splot.

914vGHLpd8L I gave them a paper with a quote from the book, “My house is me and I am it.  My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”  I asked them to design their dream house.  I just stood back and was amazed with their creativity and ideas.



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The Tale of Peter Rabbit and LEGO Garden

Our first grade classes are inquiring into the basic needs of plants and animals.  I’d run through most of my standard read-alouds about plants and animals when I saw a post on Instagram where a librarian had the students design a garden after reading Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  Bingo….never reinvent the wheel when you can borrow a good idea!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I wasn’t surprised that most of our students had not read/heard this classic book, although several said they had seen the movie!  They were very engaged and were anxious about Peter getting caught.


After the first class I realized that we needed to brainstorm ideas of what they could include in their garden.  I just used a white board to record details they recalled from the text.  Then I turned them loose with the LEGO baseplates and LEGOS.


Fun with LEGOS



This is Mr. McGregor with his hoe!


A carrot!

The most enjoyable part was circulating amongst the students and asking them about what they were creating.  They had all sorts of good ideas and were very articulate about what they were making.  One had a “video camera” (like a Ring) so Mr. McGregor could see if animals were coming into his gardent!

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Third Designs Galimotos

     We read Karen Williams’s book, Galimoto about an African child who builds his toy galimoto from wire he has collected. After designing on paper the students created their galimotos using 10 pipe cleaners. This activity was a good way for students to use creativity and work on those fine motor skills.  Some of them had a more difficult time translating their two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional object.  We also see that some children need more opportunities to practice and develop their fine motor skills (twisting wire, using scissors, etc.). IMG_6841

Students used Flipgrid to describe the process for viewers. Creativity and engineering on display.



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First Grade Boat Building Makerspace

For some crazy reason I decided we needed an afterschool makerspace club!  It meets every Tuesday; a different grade level each week (Kindergarten through Third Grade) for an hour in our school’s dedicated makerspace. The first time the grade met they helped develop Essential Agreements for the space and had the opportunity to explore and rotate through the different areas (LEGOS, KEVA, magnets, Ozobots).

At their second meeting each grade will have a challenge and for Kindergarten and First Grade it will be building a boat.  First we read Pamela Allen’s book, Who Sank the Boat?


LEGO Animal-Step One

The students had to create their animal which will sit in their boat.  They used LEGOS to make their critters.


Boat Construction-Step Two

I have been collecting a bunch of “junk” over the last year or so and sticking it in the library storage room; things like old CD, bubble wrap, styrafoam, etc.  Students took turns “shopping” for one item at a time.  They had unlimited access to a few things such as masking tape, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, yarn.

After completing their boat, they tested them in the “bay” without their animal, just to see if it would float.  If they were successful they placed their animal in the boat.


Testing the Boats-Step Three

We added pennies to the boat to see if they could handle the extra “animal” weight.  If they were still seaworthy we added waves!

They had so much fun!!

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Caps for Sale, Kindergarten and Design

Our kindergarten classes are exploring jobs and I read the classic, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina which is about a job that is no longer, a peddler.  The students love this book, especially the part where they get to be monkeys-copying the peddler as he shakes his finger at them, etc.


Cap Design-Art in the Library

I drew a cap so that the students could design their own cap with their favorite colors, objects, designs.  The sky was the limit and they really enjoyed it.


Check out the smiling face!



His favorite thing is sharks!



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Makerspace Club Third Grade-KEVA Building

I started an after-school makerspace club for students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.  Each grade meets once a month for an hour and at their first meeting it was exploratory time at each section: LEGOS, magnet wall, KEVA Planks and Ozobots.  At the second meeting they will each face a specific challenge.

Third grade students were challenged to create a house for their pig (a stand-up paper pig) that could withstand the big, bad wolf (hairdryer with ears and eyes) using only the KEVA planks.

Plan, Design and Reflect

First I read Paul Galdone’s version of The Three Little Pigs.  These days you can’t rely on every student being familiar with traditional folk tales.

Then each student recorded what the problem was and how they would solve the problem and drew their design.Makerspace g-o

Building, Adjust and Test

It was interesting to see the process of the building, adjusting, borrowing of ideas.


When they said they were ready I brought out the “wolf” and began blowing, getting progressively closer and closer.  If there was structural failure most of them decided to make changes to see if they could improve their design.IMG_6338


Afterwards they wrote about what worked and didn’t and how they might improve the next time.

They had such a good time.  Lots of conversation, sharing and laughing.  Next week second graders will take up the challenge.

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Fourth Grade Reflects with Padlet

I wanted to share the book, The Wolf, The Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett (illustrated by Jon Klassen) with students.  It’s a quirky, interesting book that can spur discussion. It has some different points of view for them to consider. I read it to the fourth grade classes and then asked them to reflect on it.

We used Padlet as I wanted to expose the students to the choices available for expression.  I encouraged them to explore the voice and video recording options and many did!IMG_6173

IB PYP Learner Profile and Reflection

I asked the students to consider the attributes of the IB PYP Learner Profile and if they woud have made the same decision as the duck and mouse to remain inside the wolf.

Students wrote their answers out on index cards before accessing Padlet.  Having the students write in advance really helps the process when they start using Padlet.


Padlet-Tool for Reflection

Part of the motivation for using Padlet with students in the library is to expose teachers so they can feel comfortable using it in the classroom.   Padlet is also very easy to use for both the creator as well as the students.



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