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:


  1. Thanks for sharing the information from the classroom. Very helpful.

  2. What a great blog post. Loved the explanation and demonstration of collaboration in action. Videos are great!

  3. Kudos to Mrs. Martellino and the 4th grade teachers, parents, and students at PES for maximizing the opportunities made available by our new flex schedule, technology tools, and informational resources. This goes to show that good things happen when people come together with open minds and a commitment to our kids. Very inspiring work, indeed.

  4. I love to see the new ways you are incorporating information literacy and technology into the curriculum. Your students look like they are having a great time learning and creating. The PES library is the place to be! (P.S. Love the videos with the dramatic effects. I was on the edge of my seat to see if the students would answer their inquiry questions.)

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