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.