Making learning authentic is always something we strive for as educators. When you see a wonderful example of it at a conference, like the MassCUE fall conference, you feel energized and eager to return to your classroom – after the conference ends of course- and begin the work with your students. This is exactly what happened a few years ago when third grade teacher, Nicole Kinney, and I sat in on Falmouth educator Suzy Brooks’ presentation about Books for Babies. Inspired by the student centered approach to teaching research, fluency and writing skills, we are now in our second year of the multidisciplinary project inspired by her MassCUE presentation. Beginning with a conversation about why it is important to read, students in Mrs. Kinney’s third grade classroom embark on a community-driven research and digital publishing project. A project which is also a true collaboration between a classroom teacher, a special education teacher, a music teacher and a library media specialist.
Introduction to Literacy
The project began this past March in Mrs. Kinney’s third grade classroom where students began to think about their own introduction to literacy, their favorite board books, and how early literacy has helped them become the readers they are today. Students had the opportunity to go home and reflect with their parents about their early literacy and to decide together which board book was their favorite and why. Through donations from parents and some of our own collections, we found copies of all the books so that each child had a copy. Students used this copy for practice reading. During reflections about why it was important to read, fluency was something students came across again and again. To improve their own fluency students practiced reading their board book, recording their progress and reflecting upon past reads using the digital portfolio app, Seesaw. Once students had practiced reading their book 100 times, they were ready to record with our music teacher, Mr. Wagg, using GarageBand. Their final reading was recorded to be burned to a cd, but also to be available digitally.
Meanwhile in the library media center, students began to research the importance of reading to young children and the influence it has on student literacy later on. Students understood that they would be writing persuasive letters in their classroom to new parents and that they needed quality research to support their claims about importance of reading to their baby. Persuasive writing is something that happens in every third grade classroom, but when given a real world audience like this, students worked especially hard on these letters and the result was well researched, well written, passionate letters.
Storytime: A Wonderful Community Connection
When Nicole and I sat in on the presentation at MassCUE, the Falmouth third graders were able to go visit new babies at the hospital. Alas, no hospitals on the North Shore would allow us and our germs to visit, reasonably so! We were disappointed, but connected with the Lynnfield Public Library to visit during storytime. This has been a wonderful community connection to make during the past two years. At the library students were matched with a parent and young child with whom they would share their knowledge and passion for reading. The students read their favorite board book and gifted it to the family, along with a CD recording of them reading it, and their persuasive letter.
In the second year of a project, things always seem to go more smoothly. Because of the support of the MassCUE grant, this was even more true. We were able to use updated iPad minis, iPad microphones for better sound, and gift the families brand new board books. MassCUE offers wonderful support to educators through professional development and conferences, but being able to use their support on a project idea that was born at their conference was very rewarding. We hope to continue the project next year with the entire grade level. To learn more about the project, visit our website.
Alex Caram is the library media specialist at the Summer Street School in Lynnfield. She loves children’s literature, collaborating with teachers and using technology with students. Follow her on Twitter @librarycaram to see student work and makerspace happenings.Print this post