Encouraging Leaders Through Literature

Amazing how a simple conversation between educators can spark a cross-curricular, global, enduring learning experience.  Thanks to Mrs. Kussy & Mrs. Robinson (3rd grade) from Brooks School Elementary for writing up this incredible HSE21 project to share with us, to Mrs. Patrick (BSE Media Specialist) for the video story, and to the many third graders who, through Wikispaces, are teaching the rest of us about some wonderful, insightful books!

It started as a simple collaboration between us and Mrs. Patrick and with a goal: get powerful diverse books into the hands of third graders and effectively use them to help students learn to identify a theme and support it with explicit text evidence. The books the students are reading are in the BSE Library’s collection of diverse literature which was purchased through the “Windows and Mirrors” grant — an HSE Foundation Grant that Mrs. Patrick received in 2015.

We began with three simple goals for our students. First, read and enjoy books with diversity. Second, identify the theme and support it with evidence. Third, share it beyond our classroom walls. Of course, Mrs. Patrick had a brilliant suggestion to create a class Wikispace website as the avenue to share these beautiful books and the student’s thinking and writing. Each class created its own Wiki to do just that. Students are united together in one space sharing their thoughts globally while reading diverse global texts. Students began the year sharing responses and reflections in a personal space, notebooks. Then they moved to sharing reflections via a classroom space, Seesaw. So a natural progression was to move to a global space for sharing, a Wikispace.

Weekly, students are self-selecting diverse books of interest to read and share their thinking. As they do this, they are able to add to other classmate’s posts to support their thinking with more evidence. Our next step is to have digital discussions about their affirmation or opposition to the same pieces of literature.

Throughout this entire process students have had to opportunity to discover that they are connected in some fashion with leaders of the past or present, and realistic fictional characters. Naturally, this had led us as teachers to discuss global issues being addressed through the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Along the way students are discovering leaders, real and fictional, representing cultures and diversity from all around the world and are in turn identifying these places on the world map. As we step back and analyze the work the students are involved in, it is addressing every content area and more. All of this work is “Encouraging Leaders Through Literature”.

Learn about many diverse books on our class Wikispaces!  

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First Grade Photographers: Solving the “iPads on Study Trips” Dilemma

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-4-02-35-pmPersonal digital tools have opened up a plethora of creative possibilities for HSE’s youngest learners this year. Among them is the ability to document discoveries on class study trips (aka, field trips). Instead of just telling mom or granddad what we learned at the farm, we can now take photos, record audio, and research our wonderings on the spot – then share everything we learned with friends and relatives! And yet…for six-year-olds, some study trips just don’t lend easily themselves to carrying iPads around all day. What’s a 21st-century educator to do?

Mrs. Vogel, first grade teacher Sand Creek Elementary, has come up with a splendid idea for these hike-intensive adventures: Study Trip Photographers! SCE’s first grade team had two study trips planned this fall, both of which would [and did] require lots of walking. In fact,  last week’s trip to Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve involved hiking through muddy and swampy woods – not the place to drop an iPad (even one in a protective case)! Instead of having every student carry their iPad on the two fall study trips, though, Mrs. Vogel had designated trip ‘photographers’ – five students who brought their iPads and were responsible for documenting the day’s learning with media. Each study trip had different photographers; by year’s end each student in Mrs. Vogel’s class will have had the opportunity to play this role.

Once back at school, trip photographers worked together in a small group (with adult assistance) to combine their images and produce one class movie of the adventure. Both fall trip flicks have been shared online and have been a catalyst for continued learning. The Ritchey Woods study trip production is shared below.

Note:  Yes, Mrs. Vogel did hang onto the iPads through the swamp – but instead of 28, she only had to carry 5!

Goodbye, Bulletin Board. Hello, Story Board!

bulletinboardstory2In the last several years, we’ve done a lot of rethinking about classroom environments – and that includes hallways! Why is it that school bulletin boards of the past, while cutesy and colorful, often featured thirty examples of the same pumpkin cut out, valentine heart, or spring bunny? What drew educators to purchase and hang multiple “teacher store” posters with sayings like “Attitude Matters!” and “Do Your Best!”? We began to question…Could there be a better use for hallway walls,  prime visual venues that they are?

bulletinboardstory1As a result of our reimagining, today’s hallway walls are more story board than bulletin board; these storytelling spaces visually highlight personalized learning and classroom projects. The images shown here are photos are from Brooks School Elementary, where teachers recently gathered early one morning to share ideas and learn from Mrs. Porzuczek’s redesigned hallway space. Perusing these walls, it’s easy to get a sense of what this fourth grade learning community is all about, and of what their recent topics of study have been. QR Codes point to student created videos which explain projects more in depth.


No Extra Credit If You Nuke!

WIth our K-4 1:1 roll out on deck for August 2016, HSE21 Shorts has devoted much of this school year to sharing HSE21 snapshots from elementary classrooms. Today, though, we’d like to highlight HSE21 in action at HSE High School. Read on!


Mr. Follis, AP Social Studies teacher at HSE High School, exemplified HSE21 before there ever was an HSE21. Mr. Follis is a natural communicator whose classes are student-centered, engaging, and relevant. He has found ways to create learning opportunities for his students that combine depth of content (AP exams are this month!) and meaningful experiences connecting the past to issues in our world today. His recent Cold War simulation is a perfect example.

IMG_3707Mr. Follis ran HSE’s Cold War as an in-school field trip for his AP European History classes.  Students represented the East (the Warsaw Pact), the West (NATO) or the United Nations.  All day, teams were confronted with real problems which they could choose to solve diplomatically or… Throughout the game, wars broke out, territories changed hands, and treaties were signed.  Newscasts, propaganda campaigns and the Olympic Games heightened excitement throughout the day. Nineteen-fifties technology meant no computers – files and books were the only sources of information available! Communication? Only through ambassadors, the red phone and one’s defcon status. (I had to Google ‘defcon‘.)

IMG_3711Of course, no Cold War simulation would be complete without spies and the threat of nuclear war. KGB and CIA leaders recruited spies, who could steal launch codes, locations of bases, troop numbers, and game stats.  Spies could be caught and tried…or flipped to become double agents. Each side had the potential to ‘nuke’ the other (Translation: force the other side to take the unit test); but nuclear war has consequences for all – a retaliatory strike could lead to mutually assured destruction! A ‘box’ (with electronics, sound effects, a red button, and two launch keys) made by HSE engineering students  sat ready throughout the day, an ominous reminder of what could be.

In ten years, these AP European History alums might not remember how to spell Romania. What they will still remember (really, what they will still deeply understand), though, is far more important. Why is it difficult for nations with conflicting values and visions to work together? What potential solutions exist, and what are their costs? What does that mean for us today?

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“The simulation was a smash.  The paranoia at times got the kids so worked up they were literally yelling – they were actually fatigued at the end of the day by the whole experience.  The whole game came down to a dice roll and it was possibly the most exciting moment of my teaching career.  No one asked for “the case”; the students realized the benefits of working together.”      – Jamie Follis

Twitter in the Classroom?!

When my children were young, reading class newsletters was always a highlight. These newsletters were my window into the learning activities my children had been experiencing throughout a given week. Weekly newsletters prompted great interaction at home, because I then had ideas of questions to ask my children about their learning! But I had to wait until Friday.

Today’s digital tools, however, have changed the communication game. Through social media, communication happens simply and quickly–even ‘in the moment’. Some of HSE’s elementary teachers are making the most of new digital communication venues to give parents glimpses into their children’s learning in nearly real-time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.34.03 PMTwitter has become the preferred venue for real-time classroom communication. With a quick camera click, a short typed phrase, and an ‘upload’, a teacher can give his/her students’ families a window into learning that day. Instead of dinner conversation like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.31.41 PMMom: “What did you do in school today, Jimmy?”

Jimmy: “I dunno. Stuff. It was fun.”

Conversation suddenly becomes much richer:

Mom: Jimmy! I heard that your class Skyped Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.28.18 PMwith a third-grade class in Alaska today. Was that fun?”

Jimmy: “Yeah! Their class had 28 people and they get to wear snow shoes to school sometimes and once they had a moose on their playground and…”

You get the idea. Using digital tools to deepen the home-school connection. Another aspect Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.29.46 PMof HSE21.

Twitter Glimpses, Part 2

Yesterday’s post highlighted the Twitter accounts of Hamilton Southeastern’s elementary buildings. As with elementary, HSE’s secondary schools make use of Twitter as a 21st century communication tool–these accounts highlight important announcements and happenings from specific buildings, and are one quick way to keep informed. Here are our intermediate, junior high, and high school building-specific Twitter accounts:

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*As stated yesterday, don’t forget to also follow @HSESchools and @HSE_21 for a more complete picture of Hamilton Southeastern Schools!

Glimpse Into Classrooms with Twitter

If you attended school years ago, you may remember teachers typing up and copying newsletters to send home each week. These printed updates listed important announcements and shared class happenings. For HSE schools and some teachers today, though, classroom announcements and happenings are often shared in real-time through social media. In addition to the @HSESchools Twitter account (district announcements & highlights), and our @HSE_21 account (21st century teaching & learning focus), many of our school buildings have Twitter accounts of their own. If you haven’t connected with HSE school buildings on Twitter, here are some elementary school accounts to get you started! We’ll share secondary school accounts tomorrow!

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A Peek Into the Socratic Seminar


The Socratic Seminar is often thought of as a discussion tool–a way to foster student dialogue around important topics–much like its namesake, Socrates, instigated  thought and dialogue around the issues of his day. While true, this statement leaves much unsaid. In reality, the classroom Socratic Seminar, when well-planned and executed, fosters important reading and comprehension skills, helps students build and communicate evidence-based arguments, all in addition to helping students deeply consider the complexities of the topic at hand.

IMG_0238Karl Knerr, sixth grade language arts teacher at Fall Creek Intermediate School, describes how the process unfolds in his class: “Students read articles closely, identify and underline the author’s claim/central idea of the text, highlight textual evidence that supports the claim, and mark the text.  Next, they create 2-3 good interpretive questions that they will use during the discussion (these should also be supported with textual evidence).”

IMG_0225When discussion day arrives, students have already digested the articles and formed questions  that will guide discussion. . They have a basic understanding of the broad issue/topic addressed (albeit still from only their own perspective). By this time in the school year, Mr. Knerr’s students know what is expected of them during a Socratic Seminar. They’ve learned about sensitivity to other points of view, about the importance of listening as well as speaking, and about giving evidence to support their claims. IMG_0216In observing a recent Socratic Seminar in Mr. Knerr’s class, HSE21 Shorts was amazed at the natural ebb and flow of the conversation amongst these eleven- and twelve-year-olds, and at how politely and intently they listened to their peers, even to the point of purposefully creating space in the conversation for the quieter students to be heard.

“What I’ve seen from our Socratic discussions,” remarked Mr. Knerr,  “is a deeper understanding about ideas and values in the text through different points-of-view. Students question and examine issues related to what they’ve read, and connect to the Indiana Academic standards we are currently studying.  We constantly analyze, interpret, listen, and participate with our peers to gain knowledge.  Students think out loud and share ideas openly while exploring deeper issues in the text.  They often make great connections between the texts as well.”

A Google Community of Readers

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Independent reading is an important way to learn and grow–even when one is a high school senior. Jennifer Jacobs, English teacher at HSE High School, has taken advantage of our district’s GAFE status (see yesterday’s post) to encourage her students to connect and communicate about their reading. Jacobs created a Google Community, called (of all things!) English 12, and posted the prompt, What are you reading? 

Students have requirements to participate in the Google Community throughout the semester, by sharing their thoughts about what they are personally reading. Much like customers at Amazon, students can rate the books they’ve read, recommending them (or not) to peers as they see fit.

Many types of books are already represented in the English 12 Community, so much so that Jacobs has created subdivision tags for specific genres. Now it’s easy for students to click on a genre tag and explore other books they might like. Did you read Unbroken and love it? Just click on non-fiction and look for another similar memoir!

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Day 55 – Learning About Authors Using QR Codes

In the library media center, the numbers we used to focus on were ones like 551.5 or 796.32 – the Dewey Decimal System numbers! Today we’re thinking a bit more outside the box! During the fall of 2014 we focused on these numbers: 1 goal; 2 grades; 3 months; 4 C’s; 5 W’s and a partridge in a pear tree. OK…no partridge, but QR codes and authors in the LRES LMC!

lrescollage2At Lantern Road Elementary School I have one goal for my students when they come to the library each week – learn something new! It might be a new story, a new fact or how to use a new piece of technology. Two grades, third and fourth grades, collaborated on a special project this fall to help students quickly reach that goal. It took us the better part of three months, but our goal was reached! We incorporated the four C’s, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, to introduce 560+ students and parents to some of our favorite authors and their websites. Once they were able to visit author websites via the iPad and QR codes, students were able to gain knowledge of the five W’s – who, what, when, where, and why!

lrescollageBenjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” I wanted the students to learn about authors and QR codes so they created and used them. Knowing very little about QR codes (Quick Response codes) myself, in August I took an online webinar through www.simplek12.com about QR codes and differentiating instruction using them. That’s all it took – I was excited to create with my students. In September the third grade students learned how to create QR codes using www.qrstuff.com. They created signs for the library media center that included an author’s name, a picture of the author, and a QR code linked to the author’s website. During October, fourth grade students used iPads and the QR Reader app to go on a scavenger hunt to find interesting information about authors and their books. Hopefully now when parents come in on our Family Reading Nights, they can use their devices to scan the signs for information also!

The numbers certainly add up to learning at Lantern Road Elementary School!!

-Submitted by Lori Silbert, Library Media Specialist, Lantern Road Elementary School