Our Very Own Star!

For Diego’s birthday, his family gave our class a stellar treat! Our very own MAC class star, part of the Lynx constellation:


Jennifer, Diego’s mom, came in to present us with our star certificate. As we start our Night Sky Journals, it’s fun to look up at the night sky and know that our very own class star is twinkling back at us.

The MAC Class Star

The MAC Class Star

To let Diego’s parents know how excited we are about this unique birthday treat, and to thank them, the class composed a group email (notice the use of one of our special vocabulary words, incredulous):

Dear Scott and Jennifer,

Thank you for buying us a MAC class star to celebrate Diego’s birthday!

Everyone is super excited that we have a star named after our class! It was really unexpected because we don’t usually get this kind of treat 🙂

Some of us were incredulous; we didn’t believe it was true… But, our teachers assured us it is. Thank you for bringing the picture of the Lynx constellation and sharing it with us.

The donation was great! Thank you for giving it to our class and happy birthday to Diego!


The MAC Class

(Note: Composed collaboratively by the whole class)

Digital Storytelling – Our Version

Digital stories are created for a variety of purposes; to share a personal life event, reflect on history, to tell a tale inspired by literature, and more… On Digital Learning  Day (DLD2014) this year, our class decided to create a digital story to share the story of how our service learning project unfolded (Packed With a Lot of Love).

Our multi-age class of first, second and third grade is based on a model of mentorship and collaboration across the grade levels, and this project was no exception. From script writing, to picture selecting, to voice recording, teams of four navigated various opinions, ideas and writing styles to come up with our version of a digital story.

Here’s a snapshot of our process…

1)   Script writing and editing (choosing what to say and what to leave out)

2)   Drawing pictures to represent the script (segmenting the script into parts)

3)   Photographing hand-drawn pictures using iPads (photo app)

4)   Recording student voices in iMovie

5)   Creating digital stories by matching pictures to voice-overs

Because we’ve been talking about “social vs. academic commenting” (Commenting), watching a group’s videos became an opportunity not only to celebrate our digital storytelling successes but to also practice academic commenting. Rather than just telling another group, “Good job!” or “Great video!” students practiced writing constructive, specific feedback to their peers.  (Students will soon have an opportunity to post these comments on each other’s blogs… stay tuned…)

Though we believe everyone was “a winner” in this project for having participated and effectively navigated the sometimes-tricky terrain of varying opinions and ideas within a group, we believe even more strongly in critical dialogue. Not critical as in criticizing, but as in critique for the purpose of improving our learning experience. For that reason, two of our eleven projects were selected as the stand-out projects of our version of Digital Storytelling. Here they are… Enjoy! And feel free to leave a comment! Thank you!

(You will find all the other videos linked to individual student blogs)

A Sweet Treat: Learning About Drumming

On Valentine’s Day, all of us in the MAC class received a sweet treat. Chocolate, you might ask…doughnuts?  A heart shaped cake?  No…it wasn’t food at all, but it was quite a treat!

Carlos Cabrera, Ana’s dad, came to our class to share his passion for drumming with us.  He brought several drums and some other percussion instruments.  Using the map, he traced his experience and that of his drums from Puerto Rico (where he grew up) to west Africa and south America.

We got to see and hear the djembe, a drum from west Africa.  We learned how it is tuned using the ropes along the side and how to tilt the drum to allow air to pass through and create a resonance.  We watched Carlos’ capable hands nimbly move over the animal skin as he hit the drum in different places to create different sounds.


djembe again

We looked at the difference between the more modern conga and learned how it is tuned by tightening or loosening the metal screws along the side.

tall drum

looking in the drum

He also brought in the more familiar bongos and surprised us with information about them.  Did you know the bigger drum of the two is the female and the smaller is the male?


And best of all, we not only listened to some recorded music featuring these drums, we also got to watch and listen while Carlos played for us. It was obvious that Carlos has a passion for music, drums and drumming…and that love is infectious!  We know that many of our students probably went home talking about drums and drumming and may have even practiced a few beats on the edge of a table, on the arm of a chair, or maybe even on their own thighs.

Here’s a short video of Carlos playing in our classroom.

Thanks, Carlos and the rest of the Cabrera family for sharing this passion with us.  What a treat!