2015 Poem In Your Pocket (Part 2)

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Our live poetry cafe continued today with 11 more sessions.  Again, we broadcast each reading through Google Hangouts and encouraged people to Tweet about our poetry using the hashtag #barrowpoems.  You can read about yesterday here.

I always love the surprises that come up from students: a student reading from a computer, a student who barely speaks who reads an incredibly descriptive poem, a student giving his teacher a standing ovation, a student who shared a poem in Chinese and then English, students encouraging their friends with a “you can do it”, a student sharing a poem about his home country, a student reading a poem for another student who was too shy to come up, and  a student handing me her poem to carry in my pocket.

Today I added a little sign to help with our traffic in and out of the library for checkout.

The energy of our students sharing poetry is simply amazing and inspiring.  Check out all these pictures of the students in action.

Our Twitter wall was very popular with students during the two days:

A few tweets from today:

Watch all of today’s archives:

2015 Poem In Your Pocket Day (Part 1)

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Each year, Poem In Your Pocket Day morphs into something just a little bit new.  It’s always a day to come to the library and share poems into our open microphone, but we like to mix things up a bit each year.  This year, I put out soft seating instead of tables.  It allowed students to be a bit closer to the speaker and hopefully felt a bit more cozy.

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In the past, I’ve used Adobe Connect to broadcast our day.  While it is a great tool, it has some drawbacks.  I love that it is one room that our online guests can stay in all day long and I can communicate with them via chat.  However, I don’t love the way the archive is created.  I have to setup and name each recording right as I’m starting the recording.  It doesn’t take long, but it’s one more step I have to do.  Also, once all of the archives are done, I have to go in, change them to public, and copy the link to share in order for people to view them.

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This year, I decided to try Google Hangouts on Air.  We use this every day for our morning broadcast, so I’m very familiar with using it.  Ahead of our event, I setup a Google Hangout on Air for each session on our schedule.  Then, I opened each hangout and copied the Youtube link where the video would stream live.  I embedded these videos on one big Google site so that they were easily accessible in one spot.

Click to visit our Google Site

As each group came in, I opened the hangout, tested the sound, and pressed start.  Our guests could watch online, but as soon as I pressed stop the video was instantly archived on that same Google site.  It saved me the hassle of having to go back and find all of the videos in order to share them.  While it’s not huge, any amount of time I can save is valuable to me.

This year, to make up for the chat feature being taken away, we decided to use Twitter to talk about our poems.  We encourage our online guests and future viewers of our content to tweet using the hashtag #barrowpoems I used Tweet Beam to display the tweet on our projection board for students to see.  It was fun to see how this populated throughout the day and how much students smiled when they saw a tweet mentioning their poem.  Teachers even pulled out their phones and helped document the day through pictures, videos, and comments on Twitter.

Also, here’s a little look at what it’s like to be in the room.

This event always amazes me because pretty much every student in the school gets up in front of an audience and speaks.  It’s a small amount of speaking, but I love seeing students get used to speaking to an audience and seeing what that feels like.  This is a very positive and supportive atmosphere, so most students leave the reading feeling validated for their work.

I encourage you to listen to some of our archives and continue to tweet about #barrowpoems

Continue watching us live on April 10th!


Get Ready for Poem In Your Pocket Day 2015

Poem In Pocket 2014 Day 1 (9)

Poem in Your Pocket Day has grown to be one of our favorite days of the year.  Each year, we’ve found new ways to celebrate this day.  We write poetry to prepare.  We hold a poetry contest.  We encourage every person in our school to carry a poem in your pocket.

The thing about Poem in Your Pocket that people look forward to the most is our poetry cafe in the library.  I decorate the library with tables, tablecloths, lights, and poetry.  There’s a fancy microphone and a poet’s stool.  Every class in the school comes the library across 2 days to share poems into the open microphone.  This year’s poetry cafe will be on Thursday and Friday April 9th and 10th.

Poem In Pocket 2014 Day 1 (1) Poem In Pocket 2014 Day 1 (3)

For the past few years, we’ve used Adobe Connect to broadcast and archive our poetry readings for the world to see.  This year, we are once again trying something new.  We’re still broadcasting, but now we are using Google Hangouts.  Each class has a Google Hangout setup.  I’ve made one Google Site that contains all of the links to the hangout feeds.  At each scheduled time, the hangout will go live for an audience to view.

This year, we are encouraging our viewing audience to use Twitter to talk about our poetry.  Comments for classes or individual students can be tweets using the hashtag #barrowpoems  I’ll have a Twitter feed up on our board so that our students can see what people are saying about their poems.

I encourage you to tune in and watch on April 9th & 10th.  Please share this event with everyone you know.  It is sure to be a great 2 days of poetry!

Here’s what you need to know:

When:  8:00AM-2:30PM eastern on April 9th and 10th

Where:  Google Hangouts.  All links can be found at bitly.com/barrowpoems15

View the complete schedule here.

Tweet about the event and the poems using hashtag #barrowpoems


Popup Makerspace at UGA with the Maker Dawgs and Flipgrid

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A few weeks ago, Gretchen Thomas, UGA instructional technology teacher, emailed me about a possible collaboration on the UGA campus. She wanted to bring her Maker Dawgs class to the UGA Tate Center Plaza to host a popup makerspace.  The idea would be to have a variety of maker tools available for UGA students to try on the spot.  She wondered if I had students who might join them.  Without hesitation, I said yes and  we started the logistics.  The more we planned, the bigger the trip got.  The biggest news was that 2 members of the Flipgrid and Vidku team from Minneapolis flew down to do a video in our library.  They wanted to go with us on our trip to see how students were getting their voice into the world and also how we planned to use Flipgrid to reflect on the day.

Our school is about a mile from the UGA Tate Center Plaza and our students have walking field trip forms on file so it was easy for me to create a field trip.  The hard part was working out the logistics for bad weather.  In true fashion, we had plan A, plan B, plan C, and maybe even a plan D.  It was right up to the wire deciding about going to UGA, but the rain held off and we made our trek down to Tate.

Students had a little bit of time to explore the maker tools that Gretchen brought before we prepped all of our supplies for UGA students to explore.

Students connected Spheros to iPads through bluetooth, setup a wireless network with Justin & Greg from Flipgrid, and made a playable piano with Playdoh and MaKey MaKey.

Then, we waited.  Traffic on the UGA campus quickly picked up at around 10:30 when classes changed, but most UGA students had their earbuds in and walked at a fast pace to get to the next class.  The kids were a bit timid at first, but with some encouragement, they began to develop techniques to get UGA students to stop and try out our makerspace stuff.

Several students started driving the Spheros right into the paths of walking college students.  At first, they dodged them, but eventually they started asking questions.  Other students started experimenting with phrases to get the UGA students interested.


One student even put on silly costumes and made up dances to attract attention to our cause, and so many people loved his techniques!

It was really interesting to see the college students when they stopped.  Most of them wanted the students to demonstrate for them how each piece of technology worked.  They had to be nudged and encouraged to try them.  It made me wonder if there is less of a culture of risk-taking in this age bracket than with our elementary students.

Halfway though our makerspace time, Gretchen’s Maker Dawgs class joined us and helped talk with UGA students, demonstrate tools, and document the day through pictures and Flipgrid.

We used Flipgrid part of the time just to capture some video of what was going on.

Ludwig and Kearn spent a lot of time showing people how MaKey MaKey could control a computer.  They setup a piano and bongos that could be played with Playdoh, and they got several people to stop and try it out.  It was fun to listen them explain the science behind how it works.  When you touch the Playdoh and a piano plays, it seems like magic, but they did an incredible job of talking about circuits as they demonstrated the tool.

Many of our students worked hard to drive the Spheros around and demo them.  I wish that our Sphero students had been able to get some UGA students to try programming the Sphero, but most were just in too big of a hurry.  They mostly showed how you can use the Drive app to control the ball.  Maybe next time, we can be prepared to demo alternate apps.  However, they still had a good many students stop by and actually try out the ball after seeing how it worked.  The kids loved talking about how it worked and being able to teach students who were much older than them.

Another group of our students spent time making some things from duct tape and then teaching UGA students how to make them too.

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Others had a great time exploring littlebits, connecting blocks, and making friendship bracelets.

As our popup makerspace came to a close, we used Flipgrid to reflect on what we had learned.

Here are links to a few of those responses.

It was truly an amazing day of getting our students out into the world to share their knowledge and pass on their passion for makerspaces.  Gretchen was able to promote her UGA class.  We were able to show what’s happening in K-12 education right now with makerspaces.  Our students were empowered by the chance to be the experts in the room.  Gretchen and I are already brainstorming what this might look like next time.

Many thanks to Greg and Justin from Vidku and Flipgrid for tagging along and helping to document our day.


Connecting Through Stories: World Read Aloud Day Part 4

WRAD15 Day 4 (19)

It’s snowing in the northeast, so today’s WRAD15 connections were a bit tricky.  I had 4 cancellations today, but that did not stop classes from coming to the library to still hear some good stories read aloud.

Ms. Wright’s class read I’m Bored.  Ms. Yawn’s class read Goodnight Already and Wolfie the Bunny.  Ms. Li’s class read The Story of Fish and Snail.  Great conversation filled the air even though we were disconnected from our friends through Skype.

Ms. Spurgeon’s class also had a cancellation, so we used this time to hear some oral stories about Harriet Powers, a former slave from Athens who made a famous Bible story quilt.  I have a replica of the quilt, so we sat around the quilt and heard stories about Harriet Powers and the various symbols she put on her quilt.

The day still had connections.

Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten class connected with Sherrell Stepp’s 1st grade in Gilbert, South Carolina.  We read Same, Same but Different.  Students asked questions about their schools to hear things that were the same but different.  We both have a college in our towns but they of course have different mascots.  We both have recess but our school has recess before lunch and their school has recess after lunch.  It’s always fun to see how same but different we are even if we are just a few hours away from each other.

Ms. Lauren’s PreK students connected with Catherine Word’s 4th graders in Baton Rouge, LA.  We shared Elephants Cannot Dance.  I was elephant and Catherine was Piggie.  Catherine’s students were the squirrels.  We took time to share our favorite Mo Willems books as well as other favorite books.

Ms. Ramsey’s class connected with Kelly Light, author of Louise Loves Art.  She read the book to us, but what we loved was how she pointed out so many details in the pictures that you can miss if you go too fast.  Kelly reminded us all of how important it is to slow down when we share a story aloud and spend time examining and talking about what we see in the pictures.  I know I need to do more of this as an adult.  I’m often rushing too fast to just get to the words.  I loved how Kelly told us that she chose red because it is a “strong color”.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class closed our Day 4 by connecting with author, Peter H. Reynolds.  Peter showed us all around his studio, let us asked questions, and just had a hangout session.  It was a blast.  We saw some examples of how he puts together a book idea such as putting ideas and sketches on index cards and then putting them in order.  Peter closed with Susan Verde’s You and Me and gave our students some encouraging words to go out and change the world.

Once again, we learned how much stories connect us!

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 2

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Wow!  Day 2 was busy.  We had much smoother Skype connections and plenty of stories.  Here’s a quick look at what happened.

Ms. Hicks’ 3rd grade ELT students connected with Crystal Hendrix in Asheville, NC.  We shared the story I’m Bored.  Then, students had fun asking about life in each other’s communities.  We made several connections between Asheville and Athens including college towns and weather.

Next Ms. Brink and Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade connected with Carol Scrimgeour and her 2nd grade in Essex, VT.  We read the story Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  We had our students form lines and step up to the camera and take turns reading pages of the book.  It was great fun to hear student voices reading across the miles.

Ms. Yawn’s 2nd grade came and read Elephant and Piggie Waiting is Not Easy.  We had some trouble getting the right Skype accounts connected for our author visit, but we finally got it worked out in time to make our connection with Alison Randall, author of The Wheat Doll.  She told us about her book and then read from Roald Dahl’s The Witches.  It was scary fun.

Ms. Clarke’s 3rd grade class connected with Cathy Potter’s students in Maine.  We were fortunate to be joined by Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic.  We got to meet her camera-shy dog, Biscuit.  Then, we saw some of her favorite books before hearing her read aloud the first chapter of Snicker of Magic.  It truly was magical to hear her words drifting to Georgia and Maine from Tennessee.  We even got to hear just a bit about her book that was just sent off to the editor.

Ms. Clarke plans to read Natalie’s book to her class as their next read aloud, so The Beedle just happened to put a new copy of the book in Ms. Clarke’s box.

Ms. Ramsey’s 3rd grade connected with Shannon Hyman’s Kindergarten in Virginia.  We were joined by author Melissa Guion.  She shared her wonderful penguin stories and illustrations.  Shannon’s students were able to share some facts about penguins that they had just learned.

Ms. Em’s 1st grade connected with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten in Tampa, FL.  We were joined by the amazing poet Laura Purdie Salas.  She had our students chanting poetry about rocks and listening to poems about books and unusual pets.

Ms. Slongo’s 4th grade had a special treat Skyping with Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady.  Barbara visited our school last year in person and it was her very first school visit.  This time, we were her very first Skype visit.  Our students loved hearing about the Athens connection to Moina, who is responsible for getting the poppy to be a symbol of remembrance.

Finally, we closed out our day with a high-energy Skype with 2 authors, Ame Dyckman and Adam Lehrhaupt.  These two were full of laughs and energy.  They took questions and then shared some stories.  Adam shared a book that isn’t coming out until October (shhhh….don’t tell anyone).  Ame shared Wolfie the Bunny.  Ame even sent some amazing book swag for all of the readers in the class.

It was truly an amazing day.  It was exhausting, but we feel connected to so many readers across our great country.  Thank you to each and every author and class who connected with us for World Read Aloud Day.

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 1


Our first day of Read Across America and World Read Aloud was filled with wonderful stories and plenty of technical difficulties, but we didn’t let the technical difficulties prevent us from connecting through stories.

The day began with my first cancellation emails.  Since World Read Aloud Day is right at the beginning of March, many states are still experiencing winter weather.  Two connections were cancelled before we could even begin due to snow.  Did this stop us? No.  Ms. Wyatt’s 1st grade class still came, and we read aloud Goodnight Already and Waiting Is Not Easy and noticed many similarities between the two books.  We just didn’t have a Skype connection to go with it.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade students came to connect with Cassandra Ogletree and her students in Forsyth, GA.  Before we connected, our students made predictions about where they thought Forsyth, GA was located.  Then, we used Google Maps to take a look.  During our connection, we read Goodnight Already with Cassandra and her students.  I was Bear and Cassandra was Duck.  Since our 5th graders are studying perspective, they noticed how the book showed the different perspectives of bear and duck.  As usual, students had time to ask one another questions about where they live.  We often take for granted that students realize how connected we are around the world, but these Skypes surface that our students have lots of wonderings about the day to day lives of others around the world.  When we disconnected, we took time to look at a street view in Google Maps to see the school that we had just Skyped with.  Student were amazed by the lack of buildings around the school.  It seemed to be way out in the country surrounded by pastures and trees.  This is very different from our school that is right next to UGA.

Ms. Boyle’s class skyped with Colleen Friel and her 1st grade in Long Island, NY.  We shared The Story of Fish and Snail.  Our Skype calls kept freezing or dropping, so we reached a point where we just had to stop the call and finish the story on our own.  Once again, the students were so patient during the technical difficulties and we didn’t let it stand in the way of the story.

Ms. Haley’s class had an opportunity to connect with Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, author of wonderful treasures such as All the World and The Good Pie Party.  The downside was that we couldn’t get Skype to work at all in order to connect with her.  I tried every trick I could think of to make the connection better and faster and nothing worked.  Finally, I took out my phone and we huddled around my phone for over 30 minutes listening to her share about her books, her ideas, her dog, and her upcoming work.  We had the treat of hearing the first few pagers of her upcoming book The Great Good Summer.  Within just a few pages, several of our students started opening up about connections they had to the book.  One student shared about losing her dad.  Another talked about her dad being gone on tour.  I love how stories help us make connections to the emotions we wrestle with and give us a pathway to conversation with one another.  It must be amazing as an author to hear how your words open up conversations for readers.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade returned at the end of the day to connect again with Colleen Friel in Long Island, NY.  This time, our Skype connection was much better since the district worked on the network.  We read the book The Day the Crayons Quit.  Students loved finding out that even though there were 7 inches of snow on the ground, the New York students were still in school.

Finally, we closed our day by doing a triple Google Hangout with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, VT and Craig Seasholes in Seattle, WA.  Ms. Carney’s Kindergarten class joined their Kindergarten classes in reading 3 Elephant and Piggie stories.  It was fun to connect across the country and hear words being spoken between thousands of miles of the United States.  We had fun, engaged in some silliness while we read, and made some new friends.  Even though Donna had some technical difficulties, we still made it work.  We could hear her, but not see her.

I won’t lie that I was a bit flustered today with all of the problems, but I have to say how important it is to persevere.  I could have easily given up and called it all off, but we made things work with what we had.  Because of that, our students had an amazing first day of connections through stories.