Exploring Multimedia Literacy Skills with Animals of the Amazon Rainforest

As a school librarian, I know that it makes sense to teach multimedia literacy skills collaboratively with the classroom teacher rather than in isolation. So I have been very lucky to collaborate with my colleague, Lisa Ross, 3rd-grade classroom teacher. … Continue reading

I Like To Read Because…

Last week, I showed my 3rd-grade students Scholastic’s video, Why I Read,  a recording of kids sharing their answers. Since my students were eager to share their own responses, we decided to create a version of the video. We titled it I Read Because…. Please let us know why you like to read!


Book Tasting

One challenge I face as a school librarian is to make sure my students are exposed to a wide variety of books. So when I read Andy Plemmons’ post about book tasting (who was inspired by Buffy Hamilton), I knew it was something I wanted to try with my students. For my 3rd grade class of 20 kids, I piled a stack of books on each of our four library tables, making sure to include various fiction genres as well as nonfiction and biography titles, all covering a range of reading levels.

We began with a brief review of how to select a book: read the blurb on the back, the inside flap, and several of the pages. For the book tasting event, students selected a book, recorded its title and call number, took brief notes, and rated each book anywhere from 1 to 5 stars on a form I created.

Book Tasting Template

Students were allowed three minutes per book. I used a timer, projected on a large screen, to alert students to move on to another book. The large assortment of book choices as well as the time limit really helped student motivation. I was impressed that my typically chatty 3rd grade students fell silent whenever the clock started it’s 3-minute countdown.




In all, each student “tasted” 10 books. I loved seeing them excited about their 5-star “finds”. When a student discovered one of the I Survived series books, he told me that he planned on reading all of them. In fact, every student found at least one book to check out, but most students found several so that I decided to ignore the usual checkout limit of three books. What a perfect way to start our winter break!

Please watch Eliana and May explaining the book tasting process.

Acrostic Poetry and PicCollage

In 3rd grade, we continued our celebration of National Poetry Month. Students wrote acrostic poems and created an artifact for their blogfolios. An acrostic poem uses the letters of a word or name to begin each line of the poem, and each line must in turn relate to the word — a fun and very simple form of poetry. The subject can be anything. For our mini-lesson, students used their first names for their topics.

We began by looking at an example of an acrostic poem. Then, using pencil and paper, students brainstormed a list of words or phrases that describe them best and used those words/phrases to let their creative juices flow and draft their poems.

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Once poems were written, students used the PicCollage app for iPad to create their artifacts. I modeled the process and then it was the students’ turn.

In PicCollage, they took photos of themselves (or had a friend do it for them). They “clipped” their images and then added their poems. To make the first letter of each line stand out, the instructions were to choose a background color different from the rest of the text.

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This was a fun and quick lesson, forcing students to think of attributes that describe themselves and apply them in a creative way.





Visualizing Shel Silverstein

It’s National Poetry Month–and since I love Shel Silverstein’s work (and we have a good number of his books in the library), I did a mini poetry session with 3rd grade in the library last week. As an introduction, we watched “Ickle me, Pickle me, Tickle me too” (see ShelSilversteinBook’s channel on You Tube) read by Silverstein himself. My goal for this lesson, however, was for students to understand “visualization” as a comprehension strategy: Make a mental picture to help you understand text.

I adapted a great lesson about visualization from a math (yes!) site and read-aloud the following poem:


A square was sitting quietly

Outside his rectangular shack

When a triangle came down–keerplunk!–

And struck him in the back.

“I must go to the hospital,”

Cried the wounded square,

So a passing rolling circle

Picked him up and took him there.

As I read the poem, students were drawing their visual interpretations of the poem. It was interesting that a couple of students were worried about what or how to draw. I had to emphasize and re-emphasize that there is no right or wrong way and that we all form different mental images of text. The result was a very unique illustration from each student. Some focused on the shapes, some on the hospital.

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Then I shared Silverstein’s illustration with the class. As it turns out, he chose to not illustrate one part of the poem. Can you guess what is missing in Silverstein’s illustration?


(From A Light in the Attic, 1981)

3rd Grade Global Study Project: Socializing Students to Information Overload

One modern classroom skill is global awareness. Our third graders have been taking advantage of many “Skypportunities” across the globe over the last few months. So when considering a research project for 3rd grade, I thought it only befitting to do country studies with the students.


After each student had chosen a country to study, they brainstormed specific information they wanted to learn about the country. We then collected the information in a KW chart.

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I then used the KW chart to create a Note Taking Graphic Organizer for the students. I used all of the students’ questions and added three of my own:

  • Identify one way this country is different from ours
  • Identify one way this country is the same as ours
  • Would you like to visit the country some day? Why or why not?


For their information resource, students searched the Kids Infobits (Gale) database. Since they had been introduced to the database earlier, students knew how to navigate this information resource. We spent four 45-minute sessions finding information, reading text for information, and summarizing information using the note taking organizer. I like the Kids InfoBits database as it exposes students to different types of source materials (reference, magazine and newspaper articles, maps, graphs and charts, images). The students quickly figured out that a lot of the information they needed could be found in one of the “Country Overview” reference articles. One student discovered that there are pie charts in the “Graphs and Charts” section showing a country’s religions, which nicely complemented their math lessons where they were learning all about such graphic representations.

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For a product, students created a Top Five Reasons to Visit/Live report (see “Foundations for Independent Thinking: Look to Bloom and Marzano” by Liz Allen) using Tech4Learning’s Pixie software. The project required not only a transfer of information collected on the organizer to Pixie, but students were challenged to provide detail and/or comparisons in their statements. For example, rather than simply writing: “They have lots of different religions”, a more specific statement would be, “Judaism is the major religion in Israel.” Or, rather than stating that “They have interesting places to visit”, “In China, you can visit the Great Wall, which is so big that you can see it from space.”

Pixie - nahila.venezuela

Pixie - Julia.China

After all their hard work, students shared their products with the class. There were lots of questions for each presenter from curious classmates!

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Negotiating Information Overload

To some degree, this was very much a student-driven project, as students chose a country to research and generated research questions about the country of their choice. The level of engagement was high throughout the project. Students really enjoyed finding out about unique animals and special foods and loved to share the information with their classmates as they were discovering new information during the research process.

Still, reading text for information clearly is challenging for all students. And even though we used a kid-friendly database for our information resource, not all information was easily understood. Students were challenged to learn new vocabulary (e.g., population, climate, transportation, reference source) and needed many reminders to not simply scan an article but to read it in its entirety. I limited the research stage to four sessions. Some students had already completed their organizers after three sessions, others were not finished after four–but all students had enough information to create their products.

Creating the Top Five Reasons report again challenged them to think critically by using the information they had gathered, evaluate it, and then apply it in a new way. Initially, we required the Top Ten reasons, but found that most students simply listed very basic information (as mentioned above). So we changed the requirement to the Top Five insisting on quality statements: Convince me to want to visit or even live in the country.

I think students found this last step so challenging because while they had gathered a lot of information, they often did not read texts in their entirety but rather skimmed or scanned them for the information sought and then moved on. I’ve observed this research behavior in many of my older students as well: Skim or scan the first few results of a Web search, then enter a new search or simply give up.

Not reading closely also caused some students to provide incorrect information. For example, one student claimed that the South Korean currency is the “Korean dollar” and another student claimed that Boxing Day is celebrated by Kangaroos boxing each other! While very imaginative, the information obviously is incorrect.

If I were to do this project again, I would begin by modeling the information gathering process with a focus on how to closely read and extract information.  Also, I would focus the information sought on more unique facts and encourage students not to get overwhelmed.  So rather than determining the political system or size of the country (neither of which really tell the students much anyway), focus on customs and culture. Some such questions were included in the graphic organizer, but they were not the focus of the research. I believe fewer but more in-depth questions would have forced the students to read text more closely and made it less challenging to come up with those reasons that can convince me to live or move to another country!