Teacher and life-long learner looking for innovative ways to inspire the students I teach. Middle school reading interventionist (grades 6-8) in Texas, yearbook adviser, & student advocate looking to grow my PLN with real people and real solutions.
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Tearing the Walls Down with Global Read Aloud
caption from icanread
This summer when I stumbled upon the Global Read Aloud project, I wasn't sure how I would incorporate it into our daily routine, and I definitely wasn't sure how I would connect with others using tech since I never really had before. However, I knew I HAD to try it out. It sounded fun and exciting- two adjectives that I sometimes felt I was missing in my classroom lately. I knew if it piqued my curiosity and made me excited, it definitely would interest my kids. I registered and joined the wiki, and we were on our way!
Unsure what all this was about or what it would entail, I felt obligated to find another #GRA newbie and make a connection. I met Phillip Jones via email. He, too, was a Global Read Aloud newbie and just as unsure as I was as far as what we were supposed to do or what this would even look like with our kids. We both quickly learned it was okay to have more than one connection and more than one way to connect.
Today's Meet feed
We are currently in our fifth week of the project, and to say it has been amazing is an understatement. Our class has had Twitter discussions with other classes also reading the book, watched a live Twitter chat about the week's assigned chapters, created a shared Google Doc for ideas and notes as we read, which other schools have also added to and extended the dialogue; and most recently we had our favorite day ever.
Through our class Twitter account, we saw another class was also reading Out of My Mind and they, too, had the mascot of a bear. Because they had the same mascot as us- my kids automatically decided to "follow" this class. (They MUST be cool if they, too, are the Bears! ....right?!?!!!) Their teacher, Dana Ariss (@gr34Bears), and I exchanged a few emails and Tweets and decided on a date for a Skype session. Dana and her class live in a tiny village in northern Alberta, Canada. She and I had a quick Google Hangout session the weekend before just to touch base and make sure all of our details were ironed out. For our Skype session, she would read half a chapter and I would read the remaining half via Skype. Our students would have access to a back channel using Today's Meet where they could post their ideas and discussions as they listened. Periodically she and I would also pause to ask a question or have our students reflect on something. To see my students ask thoughtful questions and engage in meaningful dialogue with others was phenomenal. After our chapter, we were able to have a short Q & A about their area and visa versa. The session ended with a promise to connect again soon....And my students have already hounded me on when...
My third class was able to connect for a read aloud session for GRA with Craig Yen (@craigyen). I know Craig through Twitter and asked if he and his class could make a connection with us. To say I gave him short notice is an understatement. We attempted using GHO but had connectivity issues, so we switched to Skype. Our students also used Today's Meet for this session as well. When we read with Craig's class, he would read a few paragraphs and then I would pick up where he left off. He also had several Guest Readers, as well. In addition, several students from his class also asked our class questions and posed some of the reflection questions as we read. Due to the limited amount of computers, he had his students rotating for the back channel discussion.
Colton uses our Class Twitter account to archive events.
Although we had two different experiences, they were both amazing! It showed me that 1. I don't have to have all of the answers or "know how" as far as jumping in to try it out. Dana knew it was my classes first Skype session and was eager to help and guide. And 2. even though connecting may look different each time, the details work themselves out. The end result is what matters; and the fact that I had engaged students having thoughtful and meaningful conversations with others was a #eduwin!
Next we will be sharing a voice communication device similar to what the main character in our book uses with Mrs. Crain's Class (@CrainsClass). Again- this connection was sparked by a class Tweet. My students are excited they have something to share with other students.
These connections have ignited a passion in my students to connect with others, to share what they know, and to learn more out of curiosity. One look at my students' blog responses tells me they are engaged and soaking up numerous reading skills (as well as digital citizenship and technology tidbits) far more than if I were simply reading a book aloud with no other way to reflect or engage. Simply stated, tearing down the walls with connections in various forms has allowed us to go beyond just a read aloud. We truly have a desire to make it global!
**Note- And not all global connections must be tech-infused. Case in point...
Autonomy and collaboration are two buzz words you hear often right now in the realms of education chatter. And for those days when collaboration means within our own classroom, it seems like this is the day autonomy needs to be focused on the most. I can take the same two students and match them up to work as partners, who would have normally joined up anyway- but there is something about the teacher doing the matching that often times sets things on a bad foot right away. I noticed this when school first started. I would watch the groups and partners gather in clusters when I simply said for them to partner up- versus watching their reactions when I actually called them out, putting them in very similar groupings. There is something to be said for students feeling like they have a say in who they work with. I guess we are no different as adults.
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