Inquiry Across the Ocean

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My fifth grade students have been growing connections with other fifth grade classrooms through Twitter.  One of our friend classes is @5bfish, a group of students based in Hawaii.  It was through their tweets that we discovered that there was an active lava flow threatening the village of Pahoa.  As you can imagine this is a rather foreign concept to my Chicago kids, many of who have never even see a farm let alone an active volcano.  As we began to follow their tweets and explore some of the news links that they sent us my students became more and more interested in what was going on.  We began to view media clips and images of the active flow, do research on the volcano itself, learn about the Goddess Pele and how the cultural traditions of the Hawaiians were impacting the response to the lava flow.  To tell you the truth it took on a life of its own.

I began searching out supplemental resources and sharing them via Edmodo.  Then students began doing their own research and sharing videos, link, and images with each other via our Edmodo group.

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When we sat down to discuss what we wanted to do with this information students grasped onto the idea of creating their own news casts so that we could raise awareness of the issue.  Then, we decided why no involve our Hawaii friends and ask them to join us as a sister news station in Hawaii.  So we collaborated via Google docs on some questions to send them and they sent recordings back!

My students are so energized and knowledgeable about this topic now, they are having a blast, and they are learning so many skills!  During this inquiry they have;

  • Read at least 15 different articles, websites, and books on the topic.
  • Viewed at least 6 different videos including interviews.
  • Examined a live volcanic rock set.
  • Tweeted questions to our 5BFish and other Hawaii sources and received responses.
  • Analyzed visual images.
  • Practiced notetaking and synthesizing skills.
  • Worked together to write a script including the most important parts of the topic.
  • Collaborated on filming and editing.
  • Practiced fluent reading from the vidoprompt app of their script.
  • Improved their public speaking skills by speaking loudly and clearly for the recording.
  • Collaborated on Google Drive to cowrite thoughtful follow up questions.

We are in the editing and revising process now, examining video from our Hawaii friends and working on editing the footage that we took in front of the Green screen.  I can’t wait until their newscasts are finished!  What a fun and friendly inquiry this has been so far.

What I love about this is that its homegrown, from the students, and following their passions.  It’s helping them raise their cultural awareness as we explore how culture and science sometimes collide.  Best of all, it’s helping them build global connections and meaningful learning partnerships with students halfway across the world.

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Getting Kids Into Global Blogging Communities

In the spirit of refreshing my own blog I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can help my students continue to find stamina and excitement for their blogging lives.  One of the things that keeps me blogging is connection with community.  When you feel the presence of your audience, or you are able to connect with others it gives you a sense of purpose in your work.  It’s not just about sitting in front of a screen and spouting off whatever ideas come into our heads, it’s about connecting to the hearts and minds of our readers.  It’s about inspiration.

I want my students to feel inspired by their blogs.  I wasn’t feeling that inspiration these last few weeks.  I was feeling like our classroom blogging had become stale, and in my zest to help them improve the quality of their writing I had put to much of myself into their writing.  This is why I not only redesigned our class blogging home, but I also decided to connect them to some of the global blogging communities out there so that they can feel the presence of their peers from around the globe.

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We started our first experiment last week by posting “It’s Monday What Are You Reading” posts.  Students read a few examples before getting started.  It worked well since it was Thanksgiving week, a very short week, and the format of the post was much shorter than what we had been previously doing.  Although there was less writing, students put some nice thought into their last several book choices and I used this as a jumping off point in my conversations about book choice with students.

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This week we dipped our toe into the Nerdy Book Club.  This start was a little more intensive as we needed to first read many posts on their blog to get a sense of what types of posts would fit, and we spent a good deal of time talking about the Nerdy Book Club community, who started it and why, and why it was important.  Students first posts were a bit tentative but they were excited by the freedom and choice that came with it!  As their teacher I was happy to see their zest but frustrated to see the amount and quality of writing decrease.  That will be something that we discuss together this week as we go back and revise posts, and it will be something that I will look carefully at to see where I can help students find the stamina to write long and strong.

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We also jumped into a less formal community that I’m calling Wonder Wednesday.  This is based on the Wonderopolis Website and the fact that it sounds really swell.  There isn’t really a blogging community per se but there is lots of great wondering going on on the Wonderopolis site in the comments section and on Twitter using the hashtag #wonderwednesday so I sort of launched a Guerilla style round up today to see what would happen.  Students read about wonders, left comments on my post, and added to our wonder wall.  In future weeks we’ll be taking wonders and doing some mini-inquiry to see if we can find answers!  So I’m anticipating some more authentic blogging opportunities there.  We also contacted a bunch of other fifth grade classes on Twitter and even got them to join us!

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Some upcoming communities we will participate in are the Slice of Life challenge in March, although I’m thinking of getting them started a bit earlier on this with some Tuesday Slice of Life writing sessions.  We will also be popping into Poetry Friday and Chalk-a-Bration at some point, but for now we’re just taking it a little bit at time.  I’m feeling pretty inspired and so are my students so I’d say overall we’re accomplishing our goal.

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Three Ways to Start Using Social Media In Your Reading Community Now

This year we’ve been working on harnessing the power of Social Media to build a reading community.  This community is both within and beyond our classroom.  Here are three ways you can start using social media to build reading community with your students today!

#1 Scrap your reading records, use Padlet instead

Instead of just keeping a list of books we’ve read I had each student create a Padlet instead.  This Padlet will hold a record of every book they’ve read this year.  So far it’s working great!  Students decide what and how much to write about each book and while some give a simple sentence and rating, others enjoy jotting more.  We have a bulletin board in the classroom with each students’ picture and a QR code.  Scan any student’s QR code and it will take you right to their Padlet.  When readers are looking for a new book they check out each others Padlets to get ideas for what to read from classmates that they know they have reading tastes in common with.

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#2 Join a Hashtag Community like #5bookFriday or #readergrams

Every Friday I pull out my special bag that has five mystery books for the week.  Instead of book talking every day which I’m bound to forget, I do my book talks on Fridays.  We even have a jingle worked up and the students buzz with excitement when they see the bag out.  They gather close to me as I sell each book and jot down titles on their books to read list.  Then we photograph it and Tweet it out to our followers using the hashtag #5bookfriday.  We would love for you to join us so that we can share amazing titles among classes.  My students love to see what books other classes have in their #5bookfriday bags.

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Or have students send a #readergram! I was super excited about this idea this summer when Katharine Hale (@KatharineHale) sent me an email talking about her idea for #readergrams.  Students send out tweets, recommendations, questions, and reading needs using this hashtag to help build a digital reading community.  We have found new titles to order for our classroom and made some great connections by participating in this fun Twitter community.

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#3 Blogging, Commenting, Connecting

If you don’t have your students blogging yet then start! Blogging is so powerful in connecting students with an audience.  We teach them to write thoughtful posts, give supportive and constructive comments, and then reach out to an audience outside of our classroom to connect with.

When students are aware of and connected to their audience they write more, they think creatively about how to construct posts, and they have more energy for their work.  This year I’m getting my class involved in some of the global blogging communities that are going around for adults.  But more on that later!

 

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Social media is a powerful tool for connecting and we can show our students how to use it in a way that makes their work more meaningful than ever.  So get out there and start connecting your kids today!

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Innovate Ignite Inspire: The Story of a Beginning

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This blog started a few years ago or at least the seed for the idea of it did.  You see when Kristin and I published our first book someone invited us to an author signing.  As in, we were supposed to sign the books.  “What will we write!?” we thought to ourselves.  Authors always seem to have some thoughtful and meaningful phrase that they put in our books, a small tidbit for us to take away and savor.  I mean what are you supposed to write?  “Thanks for buying my book, I hope you don’t hate it.”

I don’t know precisely where the phrase came from.  Maybe it was on a Google Hangout or on a road trip across Wisconsin.  In all likelihood it was on the leather sofa in the back of “our” coffee house fueled by bacon smoke and too much coffee.  But these words constantly resurfaced in discussions, writing, and our work.

Innovate: Do innovative stuff in the classroom!  With technology or without.  To innovate means to do something in a new way.  Innovation drives creativity and passion and lights the spark of dedication in our students.

Ignite: Speaking of that spark let’s ignite some excitement and innovation around us.  Connect with others and let them ignite new ideas and drive within you then turn around and ignite the fire of ideas in others.

Inspire: Inspire those around you to try new things, learn, hone their craft.  Inspire your students to wonder, read, problem solve, reflect.  Be inspired by people, places, ideas, and things.

With this blog we hope to share innovations, ignite learning, and inspire you to do the same.  Thanks for joining us on this journey.  Please feel free to comment, link up to your own innovative posts, or tweet about the awesome work you are doing in your classes using the hashtag #innovateigniteinspire.

 

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