Thursday, June 26, 2014

A CritterKin Summer Adventure

Summer school is always a great experience in Bellevue Public Schools.  This year was extra special due to our CritterKin friends +Jena Ball and +Marty Keltz!

Listening to Ms. Jena Ball read from Lead with Your Heart.
When it came time to plan for summer school this year, +Monica Evon and I thought it would be fun to create a summer school class centered around one of the CritterKin books written by +Jena Ball.  We had both worked with Ms. Jena in our classrooms during the school year, and wanted to include this experience in our summer school class.  After meeting with Ms. Jena and our wonderful technology trainer +Ann Feldmann, Monica and I started planning our summer school class for the incoming third graders.

Working together!

As a group, we decided to structure the three weeks around Ms. Jena's book Lead with Your Heart.  The CritterKin books are written from the viewpoint of dogs, and are great for teaching children important life lessons.  Using Lead with Your Heart, we were able to talk about the topics of kindness, empathy, prejudice, and what it feels like to be misunderstood.

Drawing with Ms. Jena.
We used the book as our guide for planning, and read 1-2 chapters a day for the first two weeks.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, Ms. Jena joined us virtually through the use of Google Hangouts, to discuss the reading.  Since Ms. Jena also illustrated Lead with Your Heart, she actually spent some time each week showing the students how to draw.  They did several drawing experiences with some of the dog characters from the book, and then we were able to use these drawings to help with the students' writing.  The students took several pieces through the writing process, and then published their writing to our CritterKin KidBlog, where Ms. Jena actually commented on their writing.  As their writing would be read by Ms. Jena and others, the students took their time with the writing and really did their best work.  In the three short weeks of summer school, Monica and I already noticed many improvements in the students' writing.

Showing off her quilt piece and working on the writing activity.
In addition to reading the book and writing about it, the students also created several quilts to tie into the theme of kindness.  What started as an idea to have the kids create a fabric quilt, turned into a fabric quilt, a paper quilt (with videos linked to the images using Aurasma), and a chalk quilt.  The students were able to choose how to create each part of the quilt, and had to practice working together on several of the sections.  This was a wonderful way to take what the students were reading, and create something to show what they learned.

The paper quilt is finished!

The finished fabric quilt!  So colorful!
Working on the chalk quilt.
During the last week of summer school the students worked on a play of the final chapter of Lead with Your Heart.  Each child had a part in the play.  On the last day of summer school, we presented the play to the school, family and friends, as well as the community.  The students were so proud of themselves!  This was also an opportunity to show everyone the fabric and paper quilts that the students had created.  The parents and community were impressed with what the students created!

The CritterKin play.
Using Aurasma to see the students' videos.
By the end of our three week summer school adventure, students had worked on reading, writing, art, and technology.  They worked with an author/illustrator on writing and drawing, and even had the chance to get acting tips from an actor, Marty Keltz's son Jonathon Keltz.  What an amazing opportunity for the students! The kids had so much fun with this experience, and were able to learn some great lessons.  Thank you to Jena Ball, Marty Keltz, and Ann Feldmann for making this experience possible.  We couldn't have done it without you!