Monthly Archives: September 2015

Addressing Atlases with Third Graders

Atlases are the third reference tool that I explored with third graders.  Continuing with the theme of tools, I reminded students that just as tools (screwdrivers, hammers, pliers) have specific functions, so do reference tools.  I show them the hardware tools each time as they seem very interested in them and I think it catches their attention.


Used real tools to help the students relate that reference tools also have unique purposes

Traditional Form Explored First

I started with traditional, paper atlases first, as I did with the dictionary and thesaurus.  We discussed the alphabetical arrangement of the dictionary and thesaurus and contrasted that with the arrangement of atlases.  I showed the group a very large atlas and we brainstormed how we would find a location if the maps aren’t in alphabetical order.  Someone usually offers up the idea of table of contents or index, as these students are familiar with the text features of non-fiction books.  Working in small groups, I have them locate countries that relate to whatever they are studying.

I read the book, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurusby Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, to two classes after we worked with the thesaurus, so I had these students look up locations where Roget lived.  For the other classes we looked up England (they are required to know about Greenwich and the prime meridian) and Greece (studying the beginnings of democracy in ancient Greece).  That’s about all I have time for during one library visit since my instruction time is limited to about 15 to 20 minutes.

Atlas Adventure: Part 2 Google Maps

The second time we work with atlases, we went on to examine online maps.  I did the second lesson as whole group, so that I could project my laptop onto the screen I have in the library media center and we could explore a Google map together.  We notice that this map looks a lot like ones found in the traditional atlas.  But then we start to play around with it.  I ask them how we could get a view of more of the area and someone came up with clicking on the minus sign.  One student even used the words,  “zoom” out. Then I click on the Earth view and they think that is very cool.  I ask them how they took those photographs and the answers usually start with airplanes or helicopters.  A couple of the students will say the pictures were taken from a satellite.  I usually have to explain how satellites work using a globe. Often student relate this idea to satellite television.

Google map of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich & the Prime Meridian

Google map of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich & the Prime Meridian

Next we explore the very cool “street view” feature.  One of the 3rd grade social studies standards requires the students to locate the Prime Meridian and the street view of the Royal Observatory shows the Prime Meridian marked on the ground with a metal strip, plus the very cool sculpture representing longitude and latitude.  The students were very excited as I maneuvered around and several remarked it was like a video game.

The last reference tool I cover will be the encyclopedia.

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Creating with FlipSnack: Adding Tools to the Digital Toolbelt

One of our 3rd grade teachers asked me to work with several of her students to create some digital project using the drawings they had made about the habitats of Georgia (which covers the Georgia Performance Science Standard – S3L1. Students will investigate the habitats of different organisms and the dependence of organisms on their habitat. a. Differentiate between habitats of Georgia (mountains, marsh/swamp, coast, Piedmont, Atlantic Ocean) and the organisms that live there). The students had created drawings of the Georgia regions and written text on each and the teacher just wanted them to use some digital tool to put it all together.


I have worked on projects like this before (student created drawings with text) and used Windows Movie Maker.  This time I decided to use FlipSnack.  So far I have worked with three students (who are all in the gifted program) and they caught on very quickly to using FlipSnack.  Working with each student individually, I had them start by taking photographs of their drawings.  We copied them to a desktop folder and I showed them how to upload each photo.  I helped them add pages and add their photo.  I showed them how to add an audio component to each page.  We did one or two together and then I left them on their own.  They got the hang of it pretty quickly.  The students listened to their recordings and noticed if they needed to re-record if they left out something or made an error in reading their text.

3rd grade student recording audio for their Flipsnack.

3rd grade students recording audio for their Flipsnack.


Sharing Their Digital Projects

I emailed the FlipSnacks links to the teacher so the whole class can view the project.  She can forward the link to parents so they can also share the experience.  I think I have created 3 FlipSnack experts so far and hope they will share their excitement and knowledge with their classmates. so that they have an additional digital tool in their digital toolbelt.

Here are links to the 3 stories they created (I have the free version of FlipSnack, so no embedding capabilities).



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Third Grade: In the Thick of a Thesaurus

The Second in the Reference Tool Series

In keeping with the theme of “tools”,  I reviewed or introduced (depending on the individual student’s experience) a new reference tool, a thesaurus.


Used real tools to help the students relate that reference tools also have unique purposes

First, we reviewed the different functions of real tools (like screwdrivers, hammers, etc.) and discussed what would happen if you used the wrong tool for the job.  Frustration or failure!  We made the connection with reference tools, each having a different function or purpose.  We use the word “function” as this an International Baccalaureate key concept and we are an IB Primary Years Programme.  We reviewed the functions of the dictionary, so that later we could compare it once we determined the functions of a thesaurus.

Thesaurus Graphic Organizer

I found this graphic organizer online and adapted it a bit.  I wanted the students to get some practice in using a thesaurus while looking up some interesting words.

Graphic organizer for thesaurus

Graphic organizer students used to practice using the thesaurus.

Online Thesaurus

Our students will be getting Dell Venue tablets soon, so I wanted to make the connection between traditional, print thesaurus and its online cousin.  After we used the printed thesaurus the students moved to computers to use and looked up a word to find its synonyms.  After this activity we compared the form and function of a paper vs an online thesaurus.  Students noticed a difference of form but not function!

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Reference Tools: Third Grade Digs into Dictionaries

One of my third grade teachers said in passing the other day, that she was assuming that I was going to be teaching the students about reference tools.  I was planning on it, but was waiting for inspiration for a new approach or activity.  Thought a bit and then realized that with our school system’s 1:1 initiative on the way (tablets coming our students’ way), I should also instruct students about the online equivalent to the traditional format.

New Hook-Using Real Tools

Borrowing an idea from one of my Florida State classes (online program for my Specialist Degree), I brought in real tools and the students talked about how the tools were used. We talked about needing the correct tool for the job and when you need information you also need just the right tool.


Used real tools to help the students relate that reference tools also have unique purposes

We started off with the dictionary.

Printed vs Online

I checked with the third grade teachers to see if they had been using dictionaries in their class so far this year.  Two had and the other two had not.  I skipped the hands on dictionary time with those classes that had some experience with dictionaries this school year.  We did look up a word in the paper dictionary for those who needed practice.  We then looked up the same word in the online dictionary.  I created a graphic organizer so that the students could compare the different formats to discover the similarities and differences.

Form and Function: IB Key Concepts

As we are an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school, I focused on two IB key concepts at this stage, form (what is it like) and function (how does it work) while comparing the paper and online dictionaries.

Dictionary: form and function. This is what the students figured out about this reference tool.

Dictionary: form and function. This is what the students figured out about this reference tool.

I had the students use and working in small groups, they used a graphic organizer to list similarities and differences.  The students figured out that although the form was different, the dictionaries, whether paper or online, have the same functions: providing definitions, showing syllables, listing parts of speech.  They also figured out that the printed dictionary was arranged in alphabetical order and you used guide words to find the word.  They noticed that the online dictionary did not list the words in abc order, but they had to type in the word they were looking up.  A couple of students also discovered that if you aren’t careful and misspell the word or make a typo, you will not find your word!

I will continue to have the students compare the print and online version of each reference tool.


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