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- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
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One of our fourth grade standards in Kansas is US states. Students learn about the regions including their geography, climate, economy and cultures. We spend time researching and learning about the various states while comparing them to Kansas. Students become travel agents to different places. While it would be wonderful to have the funds to fly to other places, going on a mystery Skype is a fun and engaging activity to take our learning outside our classrooms walls.
There are three ways you can use Skype with students in your classroom. Allow about 45 minutes for the actual Skype call. Talk to your tech team and make sure you have the proper connections and have an account set up first. I did a trial Skype with a parent because we all know connections can be different from school buildings than they are from home. Assign roles and talk about speaking loudly and clearly. You will need to do some prep work with students beforehand depending on the type of Skype call you are bringing to your classroom.
Mystery Skype: This connection turns your students into detectives to strengthen the listening, speaking, inference, questioning, and geography skills. We started with a blank US map and students identified major landmarks, waterways and regions. This provided a base to ask questions. We talked about broad questions versus specific questions. If you ask about life in Hawaii right off the bat you know 1/50 states. However, if you ask do you live near an ocean you eliminate or identify a specific region to focus your search. I had my fourth graders do this in groups of four so they could help each other the first time through. Each group created questions and then they took turns asking the questions during the Skype. You may need to come up with questions on the fly, depending where your mystery group is, but having some questions to use to start helps in the beginning. The goal of this activity is to ask yes/no questions to determine the state (round 1) of your mystery Skypers and then the city (round 2). My students became hyper aware of any sports teams they had on their t-shirts and checked the classroom for identifying marks before we began. What a great lesson in paying attention to details! This can be done with students in your own state or any place in the world and the fun can repeat as many times as you set up the connection.
Virtual Field Trip Skype: With budget cuts (and realistic costs of travel) students do not get out and about to see the world around them. Using a virtual field trip opens possibilities in classrooms to expand your curriculum. There are many places you can connect with that take minimal time to set up and do not cost. Virtual field trips allow your students to explore cultures, art, habitats, and more. As with any field trip, set your expectations up before you start. Give students meaningful tasks and allow them to create questions if you will be talking to a docent. This connection opens the walls of your classroom and allows your students to add to their learning with real examples, artifacts and more.
Guest Speaker Skype: Listening and speaking skills become real when experts are invited into your classroom. Experts can answer questions and provide information that is current and relevant in their field. My fourth graders interviewed college engineering students about design. Even the quietest child is curious and will want to ask questions. Inviting parents and community members into your classroom is always a fun learning opportunity, but you have access to hundreds of volunteers around the globe through Skype. Engaging our students with real people doing real work will inspire them to help move their learning forward. Many authors will Skype for free. This provides meaning for content learning, writing skills, reading and more. Connect your classroom with experts; the engagement you bring to your classroom will be limitless.
Our brick and mortar buildings are no longer isolated. Our world is shrinking and our networks are growing. Skype offers students and classrooms ways to connect and engage with each other. This real world opportunity gives students life to their learning. Covering every age, subject and content area allows you to connect in meaningful ways for your classroom. Who will your first Skype call connect your students to?