Saturday, December 12, 2015

New Site for Blog Posts!

After switching school district this September, I decided it made more sense to streamline my social networking for students, families, and colleagues.  I decided to embed a blog post right onto my website homepage.  So, I will no longer add to this blogger site, but instead post directly onto my website.

PLEASE continue to follow my reflections as an elementary school media specialists by visiting and bookmarking my new school media center website.  Visit:


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Students Drive Learning!


Dr. Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence, Harvard Innovation Lab referred to that claim in his book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.  

@DrTonyWagner wrote: If we agree on the need to develop the capabilities of many more youth to be innovators, and if we agree that many of the qualities of an innovator can be nurtured and learned, the question now becomes, what do we do? Where do we start as parents, teachers, mentors, and employers?


I whole heartedly agree.  The media specialist is situated perfectly to create a space, environment, and foster habits of mind that encourage play, passion, and purpose. When I accepted my current position as the media specialist at PES and walked into a very-dated space, I made a commitment to mindset.  The physical space certainly has limitations, however, a growth mindset could change everything.  As I referred to in my earlier posts, my motto this year was "Just Let Them Create."  When you release control, listen with intention to students, provide space and resources, collaborate, collaborate, and did I say collaborate---extraordinary things happen.  I will be honest, breaking the chains of time constraints by being available to students and teachers during lunch, recess, before and after school, virtually through Google Classroom, and having a flex schedule has made all the difference. 

Here is a sampling of the outcomes from the past month when growth mindset is embraced by the learning community and students are allowed to play with words, tools, ideas, etc.

The ability to recognize and produce rhyming words is an important phonological awareness skill. Research indicates there is a correlation between phonological awareness and reading ability. Working on rhyming skills is usually part of most programs of reading instruction for that reason. As part of our celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2nd, kindergarten students created this fun project as they played with words Dr. Seuss style.

In preparation for an author visit with Paul Janeczko and in celebration of April's National Poetry Month, our first graders explored acrostic and list forms of poetry.  Using green screening effects provided the additional motivation to practice speaking skills.

First Grade

Take a look at this project in the Smore flyer below.  Use the scroll bar within the "Smore" to navigate this flyer.  I love this tool to showcase student work--thank you @smorepages for creating a great tool.

Also, second graders researched Dr. Seuss and created acrostic poems.  Check out this project on the video below.


As part of the social studies agricultural unit of study, I arranged for two Skype sessions with Farm Academy Live which were fantastic.  Interacting with @farmacademylive gave students the opportunity to interact with experts and to learn how to effectively engage in research with live presentations.  Using print, digital, and Skype conferences, students wondered, read, reflected, and created ebooks to share their knowledge of Agriculture. 

Using @bookcreator app, the students created ebooks which are stored on our iPads for all students to access for informational text.  I also converted their ebooks to movies through a new feature in the Book Creator app.  Take a look at one class through the Smore Flyer below.  Remember to use the scroll bar within the flyer to navigate through it.  If you would like to see all grade three projects, visit my website.

Last month, I shared that each 4th grade class chose a student driven project to work on over a 4-6 week, and I posted Mrs. Matthews' Nutmeg News project--which has received much exposure and recognition.  The project won the 2015 CASL Creativity Award (@ctcasl) and was featured in the Republic-American newspaper!

In this post, I am showcasing Mrs. Corbin's 4th grade class project: Exploring the Iditarod. This project was incorporated into the informational text reading unit--which was ideal. Learning strategies and skills to read and process informational text in a variety of print and digital structures was the main focus for reading instruction. The students were engaged, motivated, stretched, and then inspired to share their knowledge in a creative manner. Tech tools are naturally embedded into student work--not as an add-on-but as a means to an end--delivering a message/content in the most effective and powerful manner. In just two weeks, their "Thinglink" had over 1200 hovers and almost 300 clicks!  I love that @thinglink provides stats because it allows students to see if their work is being noticed and viewed.

Take a look at their collaborative project.

5th graders continue to work during an enrichment block on their TMAT News show. The third episode shows much progress and has spurred other students in various grades to initiate exploration of a segment they would like to create.  So, our next episode will feature a few new segments.  Seeing students take ownership and lead a project is so inspiring. The students themselves create their own "homework" to get the job done!  Isn't that what we hope for--students taking the initiative, deciding for themselves the work that needs to be done and assigning it to themselves, students determining what high-quality work looks like and revising and editing because they see the need versus us pointing it out!  

This mindset of trusting that with purposeful instructional strategies that focus on students driven learning will result in students developing a growth mindset is demonstrated in a grade 5 level activity we recently collaborated on for an argument reading/writing unit. Working with the entire grade level on the argument writing reading/writing unit has been wonderful. Using ICONN resources, I was able to select a number of articles to support the reading component.  The students began the inquiry through utilizing the QFT strategy (Question Formulation Technique from @RightQuestionInstitute), which I taught the students earlier in the year. Using QFT, the students observed a variety of compelling infographics. We broke the class into thirds and each group was assigned one of the three topics: School issues, Climate issues, or Sports Issues. At the end of this process, students had a gallery walk of the questions brainstormed by each of the three groups, and then could choose the topic that was most compelling to them based upon student created questions. This student selected broad topic would now become their focus during the reading unit.

View the following video for an insider's view.

For more... check our and follow me on Twitter (@janemartellino)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

From Sea to Shining Sea!

These past few weeks have been filled with lessons that allowed students to engage in collaborative learning, critical thinking, creativity, and communication opportunities.  

This month alone we Skyped or video conferenced with experts on Agriculture in California, professional book reviewers in Maryland, New York, and California, a computer programmer in Arizona, a park ranger from National Park Services in Topeka, Kansas on Brown vs Board of Education, a historian from George Bush Library in Texas, an Entomologist student from Maine but studying at UCONN, and Entomologist professor from Texas A & M, and an author from Massachusetts.  Next week, we Skype the National Park Service in Denali, Alaska, a nonfiction writer from South Carolina, and another Agriculture session from California!  Technology integration is powerful.

I must say this past week was one of those weeks that I probably overbooked my schedule because 4 out of the 5 days, I was scheduled with before school meetings and then every period throughout the day was booked with student groups or full classes.  No lunch break figured into the equation, since I was trying to make-up for the loss of time with so many snow days.  These are the types of days I am so grateful that I pack protein smoothies in my lunch bag--I can literally "eat on the run."   It was a crazy busy and exhausting week. However, the bright eyes, enthusiastic comments, and sheer excitement I witnessed from students, teachers, and parents is beyond rewarding and rejuvenating.


3RD Grade ELT:  As I mentioned in previous posts, PES has a fantastic schedule that includes a 25 minute block per grade level on Mondays through Thursdays for extended learning opportunities. Thanks to our principal, Mrs. Theresa Forish (@PomperaugES) for having the insight and courage to create such a schedule. 

About 5-6 weeks ago, on a snow day, as I was thinking about a project for 3rd grade,  I picked up the book, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor.

The first chapter hooked me immediately and I continued to read throughout the day.  I knew this would be a great book club selection for 3rd grade ELT.  First, I emailed the three 3rd grade teachers and shared my idea of a book club for 12 students.  They all emailed back with affirmation.  I then immediately went on to to see if I could get my hands on 12 paperback copies (I figured if I ordered at that moment, I would have the books in 2 days--just in time for my first class). Then, I emailed Barbara O'Connor and humbly asked if she would be willing to Skype for free with the book club group at the end of our  5 week session. Not only did she respond within hours, her answer was an enthusiastic "yes".

For the next 4 weeks or so, we gathered twice a week.  The students shared observations on the key events in the text, expressed thinking regarding the actions and decisions of the characters, made predictions, and the students tracked the verb choices O'Connor made in writing this text.  Vivid verbs are often the secret to making a scene visible to the reader, so I wanted the students to see it in action and chart it over the course of a text.

Then the "big day" came this past Tuesday-- Skyping with Barbara O'Connor. The experience was PRICELESS.  Barbara is a first-class human being--generous,talented, encouraging, engaging and just plain nice.

The morning of the event, I passed Ganner in the hallway as he was arriving for the day, and I said, "Skype today with Barbara O'Connor at 1PM." His reply,"Yes!" with a thumbs-up and a winning smile on his face. Seeing his response and the glimmer in his eyes truly set the mood for my whole day--I thought, "It doesn't get any better than this!"

Here is a comment from Lisa (Matthew's mom): "Reading with Mrs. Martellino's ELT book club turned my bright but reluctant reader into an enthusiastic one! He learned not only responsibility for being a part of a group, but how enjoyable it can be to be a part of a truly thoughtful discussion. This program was a true game-changer for Matthew when it comes to his feelings about books and reading!"

The intro to the video is a great segment with Erin and Abby as the interviewers. These two girls are in my 5th grade ELT and are always game for anything--even when it is on a moments notice. They had actually walked into the media center during my 3rd grade ELT book club  wrap-up session because they wanted to work on an independent project. However,  I had just decided that I should capture this session on video for the students' parents and teachers.   On a whim, I asked Erin and Abby if they would grab an iPad and take turns being camera person and interviewer.   So, in just a few minutes we captured one fine moment.  Later that day, I merged their video clips with clips I had taken during the Skype session. And you see the result!

I tweeted out the final video the next day, emailed the link to the classroom teachers to share with students and parents, and then figured I better send it to Barbara. (@barbaraoconnor)! 

Here is her reply: "Oh my gosh. I adore the video. Can I put it on my blog?"
When I gave her permission, she wrote: "FYI, the video is scheduled on my blog for Things I Love Thursday - next Thursday.  Enjoyed looking at your blog. You do so many great things with the students!"
Thanks again
Barbara O'Connor


I have so much more to share but specifics will have to wait.  However, here is a sneak peak.

Mrs. Matthews' 4th grade class embraced a project creating a Nutmeg Newspaper which will be a digital newspaper we will share with librarians throughout the state.  Our hope is that the articles will inspire reluctant readers to dig into the nominees and READ!

Mrs. Corbin's 4th grade class chose a project on the Iditarod.  Working with Mrs. Corbin in curating print and digital resources, choosing learning targets for instruction through readers' and writers' workshop, and planning creative ways for students to demonstrate understanding has been extremely exciting. Collaboration is the best! Lots to share over the next few weeks on that project. 

Kindergarten and First Graders became experts in crickets after researching using digital text (@pebblego) to connect with our One School-One Book program on the Cricket in Times Square (Thanks to our amazing PTO for organizing that program).  

Take a look at student work samples. Pretty impressive work.
Kindergarten note-taking evidence through modeled instruction during one library class.

First grade note-taking evidence through modeled instruction during one library lesson!  

You can see the progression in sophistication from one year to the next.  Grade 1, we looked at the facts we learned on life cycle and decided the best way to record that information would be through a timeline.  Great work happening throughout PES.  I can take the students through this level of research only because of the fine work being done by our extraordinary kindergarten and first grade teachers in the workshop format.  Think how much students will add to family discussions as they continue reading aloud the Cricket in Times Square.

Second graders are taking their research reports and choosing digital images to support main ideas while creating a video to share with the greater community using the Shadow Puppet app (@Puppet).  Again, my instruction only extends and supports the fantastic instruction our second grade teachers provide to our students on a daily basis.

Here are samples:

Also, 2nd graders are dabbling into creating a digital invitation to read their reports using Tellagami app (@tellagami).  Take a look at these samples: 

5th grade ELT produced their first TMAT News Show!

Lastly, another production by grade 5 ELT:  Why Moving towards Google Accounts for Grades 3/4 is a GOOD thing!

More specifics next time!

Can you see why a career as a media specialist is simply the best!

Mrs. "M"
Follow me on twitter: @janemartellino

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interacting with experts and more...

Snow days, delayed openings, and early dismissals will not deter the PES Media Center from impacting student learning!   
Where to begin... a few highlights!

Girls Who Code Club was scheduled to begin the second Monday returning from holiday break-January 12th.  We were going to Skype with Karen D. Miller, Co-Founder of DoInk and the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper was sending a reporter and photographer.  However, Mother Nature had other plans--a snow storm--no school.  Yet, a snow day did not stop our girls from coding.  I emailed parents and provided login information, and these ambitious girls started coding at home!  We rescheduled our Skyping session to only have it cancelled by another snow storm.  We will eventually Skype Ms. Miller! And we have contacted an organization called Women Who Code who is willing to add our club information to their newsletter in order to connect us with speakers!

We FINALLY had an in-person coding session and it was extraordinary to look around the PES computer lab and see every desktop occupied by a 4th grade girl.  Our goal is to have all members complete course 2 through and then start exploring Scratch by MIT. We have two families so far who want to donate a MaKey Makey kit which will elevate the level of creativity and innovation.  Very exciting to facilitate the Girls Who Code Club.


Other highlights from the month of January had to be our two video conferences. First graders had recently completed their nonfiction writing unit and pairs of students researched animals and created reports.  I supported their digital research during library lessons using Pebble Go.  We then read aloud, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla written by Katherine Applegate.  It was important for the students to grasp protecting wild animals in their natural habitats.
To reinforce students in understanding this concept, we Skyped with Paul Reynolds from Wild Futures. The first graders were completely engaged in learning about the reason this United Kingdom primate sanctuary exists.  Students were thoughtful in their comments and questions with Paul.  In this digital age, it is so easy to connect with experts which raises the level of thinking and depth of understanding.  @WildFutures provides these sessions free of charge.  Paul easily adapted his presentation to the first grade level and gave us 40 minutes of his time.  Highly recommend Skyping with Wild Futures.

For a glimpse into our session, take a look at a video clip.

The second video conference we participated in was with the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. Recently, I met with Mr. Maunsell's 4th graders to brainstorm ideas for a project block. The students had interests in sports, science, comics, and creating a magazine.  So, it made perfect sense to choose a magazine project which all students could pursue their interests and publish their work in the magazine.  Since many of the students were interested in sports and with the Super Bowl right around the corner, I contacted Jerry Csaki at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  We scheduled a session for Thursday, January 29th.  

The topic of our session was: The Story of Pro Football.  The focus would be on preserving the history of Pro Football.  Manager of Youth/Education, Jerry Csaki interacted with the students for almost 50 minutes!  It was fantastic. @csaki_hof is knowledgable, enthusiastic, and engaging.  Highly recommend a video conference with this organization.

Again, we witnessed how snow days did not deter our students from learning.  Just days before our scheduled video conference, another storm rolled in--resulting in a cancellation of school.  However, PES students took advantage of the snow day and explored the Hall of Fame website and generated questions. Two days later, they arrived in the media center, prepared and eager for the video conference.  They took notes during the live session and will now work in groups to create articles for our first magazine issue. 

Take a look at the article reported in the Republican-American.


Once a month, I offer a Parent/Child iPad Workshop.  These sessions are some of my favorite experiences as an educator.  To witness parents and children spending one-on-one time together thinking, playing, and creating is pure delight.  January's session was fortunately scheduled in-between snow storms.  Participants were given an authentic task/challenge.  The results of their work is shared with the school community and beyond. This is a great format for parents and children to explore a variety of apps while researching, writing, and creating.

So what was their task/challenge?  On our school calendar, we had a few upcoming events: Spirit Assembly which is also our PB and J collection for the local food bank and Dancing Under the Stars Family Event/Fundraiser.  Take a look at the awesome promotional videos our parent/child participants created in a 1 hour session using the Green Screening app by @DoinkTweets and iMovie.


While the above events were some of the highlights of the week, the day-to-day teaching and learning in the PES Media Center is also cause for celebration.  

Take a look at this video for a glimpse into the last week of January!  
You'll hear about how Grade 5 is now using Google Classroom, a 3rd grade bookclub, a Nutmeg NewspaperDragon Appreciation Day, and more...


Our PTO is extraordinary and are planning our upcoming One Book, One School project. It's a Celebration of Reading program which is sure to delight all ages. Look for my next post for more details.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hour of Code, 12 Days of Vacation Reading, and More


Back in August, as I prepared to start the 2014-2015 school year--in a new school, in a new district--I decided my motto for the year would be:  

I am finding PES students are just ripe for opportunities to use their imagination, skills, and desire to express themselves in order to impact the community.  Perfect example:  In our last class before the holiday break, I reviewed with a class of 5th graders a few tasks they needed to complete.  I started using Edmodo (@Edmodo) a few weeks earlier with our 5th graders since it is so easy to create a post that reiterates my verbal instructions for a lesson while including links and/or supporting documents.  This platform allows students to increase independence while supporting each learner's individual pace.  Well, one of the items on their list of tasks was to make solid choices in book selections for the holiday break.   I informed the students that our "Reading Team"  had created a song and a website called The 12 Days of Reading which would help students to recall and employ various tips and strategies during the holiday break.  I challenged the students to consider creating a 30 - 60 PSA which we could email families, tweet, and post on our website during the break.  

Caleb and David immediately paired up and grabbed an iPad. They asked for the lyrics to the song and off they went.  When I checked in on them a bit later,  they had decided they wanted to create a movie trailer on iMovie and had already completed the storyboard. When I looked at the template,  my initial reaction was ... "Oh gee, that's going to be a little difficult since you will need 20 or more video clips and you only have 30 minutes."   The concerns that ran through my head were: It's Friday,  they have 30 minutes,  what will they possibly capture in 20 clips that will be engaging and not dull, and could they realistically complete this project or would it end up as an unfinished project that was filled with good intentions.  As I started to suggest switching to creating a basic video instead of a trailer, Caleb replied, "Then we would waste all the storyboarding we already did."  That's when, I realized I needed to empower and support their drive and vision.  I needed to believe in them. I am so glad I did!  

Take a look at Caleb and David's movie trailer which will serve as our kick-off commercial for the 12 Days of Reading Challenge!   

Directed and produced within one class period by Caleb and David, 5th graders.

My new motto:


After we hosted a very successful school technology workshop for parents in November, I realized we needed to keep the positive energy and engagement moving forward.  So, I decided to offer monthly parent/child workshops with a focus on unleashing a child's creativity using the power of the iPad. This past Wednesday evening, our first workshop was held.  I cannot even begin to describe the impact of the workshop.  If you are not offering your families such opportunities, make a New Year's Resolution to do so.

My initial goals for the evening:
  •  give an overview of the creative power of the iPad 
  •  deliver brief tutorials on several apps that work great for smashing
  •  provide time for play
  • and encourage parents and children to utilize the apps during the holiday break in order to preserve memories.
However, about two hours before the workshop, as I was driving to a district meeting on "Digital Learning", I  was thinking about how our Reading Team was preparing to roll-out the 12 Days of Vacation Reading Challenge.  In an instant, I had an idea "what if I gave the workshop participants the challenge of creating a short commercial to promote the challenge."   It certainly would provide an authentic way to learn various apps AND create buy-in for the reading challenge.  Being a spontaneous person, I immediately called Mrs. Katie Gordon, our Reading Consultant who confirmed my instinct on this one!  The goal of the workshop was tweaked on a car ride and the results were more than I ever could have imagined.  

Take a look at the digital flyer I created with @smore. You will see a variety of commercials including several which were made during our workshop.  Apps utilized during our workshop: iMovie, @DoInkTweets, @tellagami, @chatterpix, and @puppetworkshop.

I believe this is another example of how ripe students are for engaging and meaningful tasks. It is also evidence of how eager parents are for opportunities for engagement with our school community and are committed to building a culture of authentic learning.


The third example of how ripe PES students are to be leading the way is what resulted from our participation in the Hour of Code (#HourofCode, @codeorg).  Earlier in the year, I ran a 6 week coding class as an after-school enrichment program.  It was a small group of 7 students of which only 2 were girls.  Around week 5, one of the girls asked, "How come there are only 2 girls in this class?"  My reply, "My thoughts exactly.  Why is this so?"  This questioning propelled Maddie on a mission.  She immediately began researching statistics and decided she wanted to start creating video clips in order to promote "Girls Who Code."   Her first greenscreen attempt was quite humorous:

Timing is everything.
Just a few weeks after our after-school enrichment class ended, the Hour of Code began.  This was the perfect opportunity to test the waters and have all students dip their toes into the power of coding.  What has resulted?

Check out Maddie's flyer announcing the first ever PES Girls Who Code Club!

So, that's a glimpse inside our media center these past few weeks.  Hope you return in January to see more exciting initiatives led by students!

Mrs. Jane Martellino
PES Media Specialist

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Enthusiasm Overflowing!

From kindergarten to fifth grade, there is a palpable sense of enthusiasm when the students enter the PES Media Center.  It is rare to see a student arrive without a smile or a look of anticipation.  From the moment the students enter the learning space, I believe they sense that their presence is not only welcomed but valued.  They are thriving.  Experiencing a variety of learning opportunities is a weekly occurance.  

The success of our media center program requires a whole school commitment.  I must acknowledge our wonderful volunteers and our outstanding library paraprofessional, Mrs. Connie Yacavone.  Together, we have created a team that is student-centered.  Our success also requires teacher support and buy-in.  Our flexible schedule demands collaboration which is essential for meaningful integration of information literacy skills and technology integration.  PES teachers embrace this partnership and it is resulting in student success.  The next ingredient for a successful media center is parent support.  As you read through today's post, you will see how parents are enthusiastically participating by embracing media center-home connections.  Of course, it takes administrators at the building and district level who value information literacy skills, creativity, innovation, and desire to foster lifelong readers and learners.  It's a great time to be the media specialist at PES!

An overview of the week in review (November 17-November 21).

The following video demonstrates how families embraced a challenge to extend learning during International Picture Book Month.  K-2 students enjoyed analyzing the illustrations in Randy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen.  Like Randy, they too could create a robot out of recyclable materials.  Take a peak:

I especially appreciate my time with fifth graders--probably because this is my only year with the students since they will be moving on to middle school next year and I just arrived to PES this year.  The past few weeks, the students delved into research for their science unit by utilizing print and digital resources.  It was exciting to utilize Edmodo with the students for the first time.  This platform includes launching various apps.  For research, the InstaGrok app is incredible.  We met in the computer lab for our intro lesson to these tools.  The students continued research during their science block, utilizing both print and digital resources to gather enough information to answer essential questions created with Mr. Battaglia.  It was great to see how seamless our initial work in September with questioning strategies transferred to this inquiry project. In addition, I love meeting with the teachers and discussing how to update presentation skills and products.  Mr. Battaglia was eager to embrace change--so an essay underwent a makeover and became a greenscreen video product.  Having students demonstrate new understandings in ways that require problem solving, creativity, and speaking with authority is essential.

Take a look at a session with the students once research was completed and storyboarding finalized.  It was time for product creation.

The following video is an example of a draft of the final product.  
The last piece the students need to add is a "Works Cited" list.

What I love about using the iPads for creation is the ability to smash apps.  We used Tellagami, Doink Green Screen, and iMovie.  The power of the iPad is in creating.  Utilizing any app that saves creations in the camera roll is the key to app smashing.  Students also used web-based tools such as Discovery Education and InstaGrok.  The students are proficient in searching for images through google by filtering for usage rights.  

App smashing forces students to push their thinking and problem solve to figure out how they can merge various apps to create the product they need to deliver/transmit their message/learning.  It is teaching students to not be satisfied with using only one app, since there are often limitations in the functionality of each app.  It really provokes the "what if" kind of thinking that is a prerequisite to innovation.   

What's to come in December?  Teachers in grades 3 and 4 start their second rotation of collaboration in the media center.  Look for more examples of student learning in the next blog post!  

And... you will read more about how a grade 4 collaboration grant was approved by CSDE!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It's Been a Whirlwind of Active Learning

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I last posted!  Our new schedule continues to prove effective since it provides great flexibility in meeting the needs of our learners.  Let me provide you with another example of the impact our flexible schedule is having on student learning. 

Focus: Grade 4

For this first collaborative project, the 4th grade team met with me before school on Fridays.  They chose to meet on a day when we are not contracted to report to school at 8:10AM. Yet, if you walked into Mrs. Matthew's classroom around 8:10AM on a Fridays in October, you would have found us gathered around various devices, curriculum materials, cups of tea/coffee, and heard collaborative conversations.  You would have left the room exhilarated--just like us!   It was true collaboration--we would leave each planning session with a firm grasp of "our plan" not mine or theirs--but ours.  Sharing skills, strategies, resources, our unique perspectives and talents allowed the unit to develop into something so much more than if we taught the unit in isolation.

Since the 4th grade social studies unit was Native Americans of Connecticut, we felt it lent itself perfectly to research and creation.  First, the students learned how to use Discovery Education (specifically the assignment section) to locate relevant facts related to Native Americans.  I had selected a number of video clips from Discovery and created an assignment in which the students would access just those assets.  The goal was to build background knowledge.  Therefore, locating information within a resource was the skill being developed versus locating the resource itself-that's why it made sense to create a curated list of resources for the students.  The students learned that many DE resources include a transcript of the video.  This proved to be a valuable support in taking notes and recording keywords and facts accurately.  The next session, the students accessed text resources from ICONN related to the topic.  Again, I located resources that were relevant and included a read-aloud feature (which would support the students since the text was complex in nature), and embedded the links into a Discovery Education assignment.  This way, the students had another exposure to utilizing DE.

Next steps:  Now that the students built background knowledge and were assigned to a group with a clear focus for their inquiry, we were ready to tackle print materials.  The beauty of the flex schedule is that we were able to schedule blocks of research time in the media center (consecutive days when necessary) so the students could read and extract relevant information from a variety of print books (a collection I pulled from our library and a collection I borrowed from Southbury Public Library).     The classroom teacher and I were able to guide the students through note-taking using a graphic organizer (a web with questions) and showing them how to cite their resources in a simplified way. Next, the students were taught how to locate and filter images by usage rights when utilizing Google Images.



Once the students were able to answer their inquiry questions, they were ready to create a product/presentation to share their knowledge.  This is where there was flexibility within each homeroom class as to what the final product would look like.

Again, because we have a flex media center schedule, we were able to create a 2 hour session in which the students used technology, crafts, their research notes, the space--to create without being interrupted.

iMovie is a great tool to record a brief overview of the process undertaken by the students.  It builds excitement for the community as they get a sneak peak of what is coming next. Take a peak at Mrs. Corbin's class as they take their research notes and create a storyboard for an ebook. Once the storyboard was created, the students would create an "ebook-like" product using the app Educreations.

Mrs. Corbin's Class

Mrs. Matthew's invited a group of parents to assist with each table.  Each group had decided ahead of time, what visual product they would create to represent their particular topic within this inquiry project.  Take a sneak peak at their "creation block."

 Mrs. Matthew's Class

Mr. Maunsell's class combined both aspects: the students set-the stage for a "How-to-Video" by creating an artifact to serve as a visual representation of their inquiry.  Take a sneak peak at this creative session.
Mr. Maunsell's Class

Providing time for students to dig-in, collaborate, problem-solve, think critically about new learning, and then express knowledge to others is critical, engaging, motivating, and fun.  When a student popped into the media center one morning to check-out a new book, she had this to say, "Is today our research time for Native Americans?  I LOVE researching!"

Another group was given a one minute warning to wrap up their session since it was almost recess time, and I actually heard groans of disappointment!  Now tell me FLEX SCHEDULE in the media center was not the best administrative decision made for students!  Thank you Region 15 for committing to creating effective media centers with full-time certified media specialists--not the norm in many communities throughout the state and country.

Here is a sample of the final products created by Mrs. Corbin's students:
Native American Tools
Life of a Warrior

Here is a sample of Mr. Maunsell's How-To-Videos:
The Way of The Warriors-How to Make a Bow
How-to-Basket Weave

Mrs. Matthew's class is creating a "Museum" display for parents.  More to come...

To see the rest of the projects and to learn more about the "Happenings at PES Media Center, visit: