Evaluating Websites in Grade 5

The grade 5 students recently finished a Who We Are unit on transitions. They considered physical, emotional and academic transitions. For their final assessment, they needed to curate several sources on those transitions on to a Blendspace webpage. The sources could be in print or online.

One of the requirements of the assignment was that they evaluate the sources. In grade 5, we use the acronym CARDDS to remind us that a good source is:

Credible – we can trust it because it is written by experts on the subject

Accurate – the information presented is correct and can be verified

Relevance – the source is related to the topic at hand

Date – the source is current and/or is updated frequently

Design – the layout is easy to navigate

Purpose/Scope – the intent of the source is clear, e.g., it is clearly for entertainment, education, commerce, etc. There is no bias.

Once the assignment was over, I challenged the grade 5 students to justify one of their source selections in writing by posting to a Padlet. From the websites they evaluated, I’m going to select several to include on the library OPAC for next year’s grade 5s to have when its their turn to inquire into transitions.

Click on the images below to visit the full-size interactive Padlets.

Some of the websites posted are already on the library OPAC. It’s good to see that they find the OPAC’s Visual tab useful.

Although not all of the students were able to articulate why they chose the particular source they posted to the pad let, many of them did. We hope that the grade 5 students will continue to use their evaluation skills in grade 6 and beyond.

5H Padlet on evaluating website



Grade 1 Looks for Mini Beast books

Grade 1 is starting a unit on “how we share the planet.” The focus of their unit is mini-beasts.

Ruchita explains that mini beasts are small animals. Momo says that mini beasts are animals and insects. Christian lists spiders and bees as examples of mini beasts.

In our library session today, the grade 1 students located books for their classroom. First they tuned in to mini beasts by listing some different types. Then they found books on the different mini beasts by browsing on the animal shelves. Since books are organized by subject, all of te books on beetles for example are together.

They sorted out the books they found using the five-finger rule. That is the rule that says to raise a finger when you find a word you don’t know. If you find only 1-2 words you don’t know on the page, the book is probably just right for you.

The g1 students used book paddles to help the. Return the unwanted books back to the shelves.


Grade 1 Learns about Forces with the Library OPAC

The library OPAC is a treasury of resources for our students. It is basically an online list of all our library materials, but it also holds a collection of useful links on the Visual Tab page.

Main search page of the library OPAC

Grade 1 is using the library OPAC’s Visual Tab to access information on forces for their unit on “how the world works.” Two of the websites featured are particularly useful to them: BrainPop and Bite-Sized Science from the BBC.

A link to the library OPAC can be found at the top left hand corner of this blog, but the URL is easy to remember:


To connect from home, you have to add :81 to the end of that address.

http://library.istianjin.net:81  (Update: As of March 2014, we have a single URL for the library OPAC.)

Landing page to library OPAC

Click on the blue link to the IST library and then you’ll be on the main search page of the library OPAC.

The Visual Tab is the third from the left. IST librarians have created pages on the Visual tab to many different topics and subjects. Elementary school students from grade 1 can click on the PYP UOI button to find links for each of their units on inquiry.

PYP UOI button on library OPAC's Visual Tab


PYP UOI page on OPAC's Visual Tab


Grade_1 button on OPAC's Visual Tab

BrainPop is a database of educational movies. It is an excellent and popular database with our students. The log in credentials for IST students and faculty can be found by logging in to the library OPAC or in student homework logs and Home-School Communication books.

Bite-size BBC Science is a website maintained by the UK’s BBC. The forces section on Bite-Size Science is just right for our first graders. More science topics are also available on the site.

The Visual Tab page for the grade 1 unit on forces also includes a list of IST library books suitable for the grade level. Some of them are checked out by the grade 1 teachers, but there still are lots of books available for students and parents to check out.

Have a favorite site that you’d like to see on the library OPAC? Email us the link. We’ll evaluate the site with its educational value in mind and will include it where appropriate.

Grade 5 Plays Trading Game

The grade 5 students are currently inquiring into the transdisciplinary theme, How we organize ourselves. They are focusing on their inquiries on markets. Their central idea is, “Marketplaces depend on the ability to produce goods and supply services that can be exchanged.”

The library OPAC’s Visual tab holds several online resources for this grade 5 unit. One of these is the online simulation called “The Great Exchange” from the Mariners’ Museum in Virginia, USA. This is an excellent simulation of the voyages of explorers in the 16th century.

Players are given the task of trading for three items. They must travel by ship across the ocean to different lands. They are beset by dangers but motivated by immense riches. Along the way, they learn the principles of trading.

Our fifth graders have enjoyed the game. See what they have to say:

“[This game] helped me because trading can be hard sometimes.” Annika

“It is connected to our unit because when we buy something, we trade with people who are selling the product.” Clare

“It helped me understand that trading is not as easy  as it sounds because you can get robbed, or your crew will fight and kill each other, or even you could run out of supplies!!! I would suggest to buy a lot of supplies in the beginning or else you will die like 9 minutes in to the game! It relates to our UOI unit because market places is where you buy and sell things which is basically trading items.” Dong Geun

To access the Grade 5 Marketplace page on the library OPAC, simply click on the Visual tab and navigate to it:

Visual tab -> PYP OUI  -> Grade 5 -> How we organize ourselves -> Merchants Game
Grade 5 How we organize ourselves

I made a Wordle word cloud with the responses of all the 5S students. You can see from the word cloud that they liked the game and that it helped them to start understanding the intricacy of trade.


Here is a Wordle word cloud with the feedback on the game by 5H. Once again, one of the main words is a reflective verb: “think.”

5H's trading game feedback Wordle


Grade 3 Builds Cities

The grade 3 students are starting a unit into the transdisciplinary theme How we organize ourselves. They will be focusing on their inquiries on cities through the central idea, “Cities are organized to meet the needs of their inhabitants.”

As for all other units of inquiry in the elementary, I have created a page on the Visual Tab of our library OPAC to support students in their inquiries. For this unit, I found an online game that allows players to create cities with roads, buildings, and people. The grade 3 students gave it a try this week as part of their tuning in* to the unit. The game is called City Creator, and was developed by Denise Wilton and Cal Henderson.

City Creator Online Game

I challenged the third graders to trial the site this week after our initial demonstration yesterday and we will be discussing the experience next week.

We did notice that sometimes the site freezes and one can no longer drag the shapes to the map. Next week, we’ll create member accounts that will let us save our maps and edit later.

I showed the third graders how to get to the game via the library OPAC. You will need to access the Visual Tab of the library OPAC, http://library.istianjin.net. , then click on the PYP UOI button and navigate to the grade 3 cities unit page.

Visual Tab on the IST library OPAC

There are three buttons on the grade 3 cities unit page. One of them is for a list of books in our collection on cities, one is to the City Creator game, and one is to a children’s page maintained by the American Planning Association. The latter is not a very dynamic page, but it’s hard to find materials on urban planning at a grade 3 level. If you know of better websites on this topic, please let me know in the comments.


*Tuning In is the first stage of the IST Inquiry Cycle. During the tuning in stage, students consider what they already know about the topic. Teachers assess prior knowledge and adjust the unit based on what they discovered about the students existing understanding of the central idea.

LibGuides are being used in the Secondary School!

14 Guides were created this fall by IST Secondary Teacher-Librarian Virginia Morgan for a variety of student research projects. LibGuides are subject guides to help students find credible resources. These subject guides are springboards into detailed information that is academic and authoritative. In these guides, librarians recommend specific databases for specific subjects. Widgets are built into the guides so students can access the databases immediately. Also included are other online sources, ebooks, and books from the IST library collections.

Where are they located? Find them at http://libguides.istianjin.net

Statistics Showing Increase In When & How Often LibGuides Are Being Accessed

Month & Views

2013-04    9
2013-05    17
2013-06    10
2013-07    1
2013-08    362
2013-09    500
2013-10    791

This Week in the Elementary Library

The secondary school has been out for Week without Walls this week, so things have been pretty quiet in the library. The 12th graders have been in all week, working hard on their extended essays, but for the most part, it’s been quiet.

The quiet ends, however, when the elementary classes arrive. We have been very busy this week. Here are the highlights.

Nursery, preK, kindergarten, grades 1, 2 and 3 enjoyed read-alouds of books related to their units of inquiry.



Grade 4 located books and websites for their unit on inventions. They used the library OPAC to search for titles and then located the books on the shelves using the call number.

Navigate the Visual tab from the main OPAC page.

Grade 5 had a Readers’ Advisory session. Readers’ Advisory, also called “book talks”, are sessions where the librarian presents different books that are sure to interest the class. 5H was very enthusiastic about the books I selected and every student walked out of the session with at least one book. 5S wasn’t as impressed. They’re a hard audience, so will have to try harder! Both classes logged  into the library OPAC with their personal account information to write recommendations and place holds on books that are checked out.

Log in to the OPAC to recommend or hold books

As if all this wasn’t enough, Ms. Nicol visited us as well and took photos of us. They are featured in her own blog, which you should be sure to visit as it gives an overall picture of life in the elementary school. Be sure to subscribe.

Inquiring into Heroes and Inventions

This week has seen grades 3 and 4 inquiring into heroes and inventions, their current units of inquiry. For both units, we have shown students to use Encyclopedia Britannica Online (EBO), which has a new layout this year.

To log in to Britannica School Online, you will need to first log in to the library OPAC. You can use your personal account information or the Quick Login, which can be found in the homework logs and the library brochures. After logging in to the OPAC, you get to the Home tab where you can scroll down to view all of our subscription databases. Britannica School Online is one of these. Click on the link and use the username and password given to log in.

Once you have logged in to EBO, you will see three levels of difficulty: elementary, middle and high.

Landing page for Britannica School Online


Elementary is for up to grade 4. Middle is from grade 5 to 8, and high is for grades 9 and up.

The elementary level has two levels of reading difficulty. The middle and high have three levels. All have a read aloud tool which will read the article. Starting from the elementary reading level 2, there is a translate tool which will translate the article into any language. Please note that it is a machine translation and so will not be perfect.

Speaker and translate tool on Britannica School Online


Britannica School Edition is just one of the many databases that the IST library subscribes to for our community. The grade 4 students are also using World Book Discoveries and Inventions Digital Collection to help with their unit on inventions.

We will offer two sessions for parents to “show off” our databases and other resources. Please join us. Register online via the sidebar. A bus will be provided for

  • Library Resources for Parents – Elementary on 17 September
  • Library Resources for Parents – Secondary on 24 September

Book Talk: Trickster Tales

Trickster tales are a special type of folk tales in which weaker characters get the best of stronger characters. These are some of my particularly favorite stories. They’re perfect for a first library session with grade 1 who are starting to inquire into the ways we tell stories.

I read aloud the first two of the titles in this list with grade 1 and the others were checked out by grade 1 students.

From left to right and top to bottom.

  1. Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile, by  Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret H. Lippert. In this tale from the Dan people in Liberia, Mrs. Chicken convinces a hungry crocodile that they are sisters. Our first graders loved the clever Mrs. Chicken and the bold illustrations by Julie Paschki.
  2. Monkey, by Gerald McDermott. Monkey gets the best of Crocodile when he crosses the river to eat mangoes. The illustrations by Gerald McDermott are a collage of boldly colored papers which perfectly capture Monkey’s cheeky courage and Crocodile’s surly frustration in this trickster tale from India.
  3. Coyote, by Gerald McDermott. Another trickster tale retold by Gerald McDermott, this one from the Southwest of the United States. Coyote wants to learn to fly and the crows trick him into thinking he can with disastrous consequences.
  4. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book, by Yuyi Morales. Señor Calavera (Death) comes knocking on Grandma Beetle’s door on the day of her birthday. She’s too busy to go with him so she makes him wait so long, he gets tired and leaves her to enjoy another year with her grandchildren. Mexico.
  5. Conejito: A Folktale from Panama, retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. Conejito is my hands-down favorite folktale to read aloud. This version by Margaret Read MacDonald is an absolute delight. Follow Conejito as he goes up and down the mountain evading the lion, the fox and the tiger.
  6. Little Rooster’s Diamond Button, retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and illustrated by Will Terry. A favorite with IST students, Little Rooster gives as good as he gets when the King’s servants capture him. Another great retelling by Margaret Read MacDonald, this one appears in versions from many countries, but here Will Terry’s illustrations sets this version in Turkish occupied Hungary.

For a longer list of trickster tales in our library catalog, click here or use the keyword “trickster” in the main OPAC search page.

United Nations Millenium Development Goals

In the year 2000, the United Nations set 8 goals for global development. These 8 goals are the UN Millennium Development Goals and were meant to be achieved by 2015. The goals are:

  1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  2. Achieving universal primary education,
  3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  4. Reducing child mortality rates,
  5. Improving maternal health,
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  7. Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
  8. Developing a global partnership for development.

Our grade 5 students are inquiring into the UN MDGs and how they will take action to support those goals. Other grade levels at IST also study the United Nations and its institutions, and so I’ve created a page on the Visual tab to collect links related to the UN and the MDG.

To visit the UN MDG page on the Visual tab, go to the library OPAC.


Enter by clicking on the blue link “IST Library.”

Click on the Visual tab.

Visual tab on the OPAC

Scroll down the page. The UN Millennium Development Goals button is at the bottom of the page.

UN Millennium Development Goals on Visual tab

Our fifth graders are concentrating on four of the MDGs, and those are the goals that have received the most attention so far, but it is my aim to include links to sites for all 8 MDGs in the near future.

Click on the UN icon for each goal to see the links associated to that goal.

UN Millennium Goals page on Visual tabThanks to Ms. D for her help in locating many of these links. If you have suggestions for links that you would like to see on the page, please add them in the comments.

Source for the UN MDGs:

“United Nations Millennium Development Goals.” UN News Center. United Nations, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2013. <http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/>.