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Global Read Aloud- Full Circle Game Changer

Have you thought about what your game-changer has been this school year? 

Last summer I stumbled upon the ISTE convention not really knowing at all what I was in store for, but was hooked immediately. The people, the ideas, the sessions, the tweets, the blogs... this frenzied, super-charged mix of excitement and passion- all in the name of education. I listened to numerous speakers and leaders in our field talk about global collaboration- to think beyond the four walls of your school. I started to think about what this meant for me as a 5th grade teacher in a small Texas town and how I could bring this idea into my ELA classroom. Enter stage right- The Global Read Aloud

Several fellow ELA teachers I followed and learn from on Twitter mentioned #GRA so I decided to check it out. Totally unsure what it even entailed or if I would be able to really pull off this idea of connecting globally with other classes, I jumped off my side of the mountain (metaphorically speaking, of course... have you been to southeast Texas?) and took the plunge. I signed my classes up to participate. 

The idea is simple: one book (Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper), read aloud
Skype w/ Mrs. Ariss' class
according to the predetermined schedule, and options to connect with other classes- however you choose. Once I got over my fears of messing this up, we actually made many connections using various methods. We used Edmodo to visit with several classes in California, we created a Google Document that we then shared a link to- using our class Twitter account that other classes used to share their perspectives and thoughts. We received feedback from classes in Ohio, Iowa, Canada, and even Australia. This allowed for the difference in time changes and schedules, but still provided a place to exchange ideas and a running dialogue about the story we were reading. We used Skype with Today's Meet to interact with a class in Canada, as well as California. We participated in chats on Twitter, and even watched an interview with the author of the book we read on Google Hangouts- Live on Air!

While all of this 'busting down the walls' and 'thinking outside our school' was great- we began to think how this affects us- here- in our own school. This awesome novel made us think so much about the needs of others and pushed us so far out of our comfort zone in understanding that despite the differences of others- especially through all of the dynamic conversations and connections we made, we began to think about what we could do to help those with physical limitations at our own school. 

Stay & Play receives a grant
Enter stage left- Stay and Play. Our school nurse, Mrs. Meadows- a wise woman in the medical field with a heart to help others, began an effort in grant writing for a recreational area created with students' with special needs in mind, but inclusive for all to play on here at our campus last school year. You see- our "playground" is a bare, open field with no equipment; which works fine if you're able-bodied, but doesn't always work for those needing more defined limits and certain encompassing equipment. Stay and Play is being built one fully-funded stage at a time. My students and I began asking questions- to learn more, to understand what it would take, and why it was needed. We began to have honest conversations about what we could do. We had a parent share with us about life as a parent of a student with special needs. My students asked thoughtful questions- full of respect and genuine concern. 

About the same time, I saw a link on Twitter to a story of a courageous man named Rick Hohn, who also has cerebral palsy- the same as the main character in the book we read for Global Read Aloud. Through a simple Tweet requesting to contact him, we were able to connect with him, and he agreed to Skype with one of my classes. We learned so much through this remarkable man! He shared his own childhood story, the obstacles he had overcome, and the obstacles he continues to face. He shared the technology he uses to communicate with the world around him- including his communication device and chair. He gave of his time and energy, and left us inspired and wanting to DO something.   

I'm excited to say, we've become more aware of those we can include and help out right here at home, as well as break out of our comfort zone to meet and work with others in new and innovative ways using technology. My own role with Stay and Play has grown as I share with others the positive effects I've seen in my own kids by participating in Global Read Aloud. The narrative of the novel was powerful, but the involvement and emotion it evoked from my kids when working with others around the globe was greater. I'm always quick when asked "what made you become involved with Stay and Play?" to credit Global Read Aloud for many reasons. 

  • I learned it's ok to connect with others in new and innovative ways- we tweaked what didn't work and expanded the things that worked well.
  • I started pushing my students to try to come up with solutions to real world-problems by asking "what can I do now to help?"
  • Reminded myself often that moving beyond problems with multiple-choice answers is ok (for many reasons)...
  • Left me as a better, more connected educator with multiple ways to connect with others- and the courage to do so!
So, back to my original question, what's been your game-changer this school year and how has it impacted the lives of others? I hope what ever it was- it has stretched your comfort zones, stretched your thinking, and pushed you beyond your four walls to see yourself as unstoppable. Live loud- be the change!


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