Monday, February 16, 2015

Reading Along with the Global Read Aloud (Part I)

I was so excited this year when all four 6th grade Language Arts teachers agreed to give the Global Read Aloud a chance! It wasn't a hard sell since One for the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a fantastic text. But I was nervous. I hadn't ever participated in the Global Read Aloud before and now four classroom teachers were depending on me to lead them through this new experience.

Not heard of the Global Read Aloud? It is a great global project where Pernille Ripp (GRA creator) chooses a few books that would appeal to students K-8 (and even older) and teachers agree to read one of the books (or collection of books) over a set period of time. Then, teachers can connect with each other through Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, Padlet, Kidblog, or whatever tool seems best suited for the teacher and the learners. Part of the magic of the project is that teachers can decided how involved to get. They can just read the book or they can host Twitter slow chats while Skyping their Kidblog posts! Ok, that last example might be a little much.

As a newbie to the Global Read Aloud, I wasn't sure what techniques would be the most effective or which technologies would have the biggest impact. Here are a few things we tried and how they went.

Mystery Skype


We launched the Global Read Aloud with Mystery Skype sessions with four different schools (not familiar with Mystery Skype? Read more here: Who Doesn't Love a Mystery?). Students had already done some Mystery Skyping in their social studies class so they were excited to do it again and to meet other students that would be reading the book along with them.

Edmodo


Next we created Edmodo accounts for all of the students to post reflections about the text and to share their thoughts with schools in TX, OK, NC and LA. Edmodo was a struggle for us. Our students had trouble logging on and remembering their login information. And sometimes, they got a little too silly in Edmodo and forgot that it was a space for educational conversation and not just socializing. I think we'll try Edmodo again later in the year with some adjustments for our Special Education students and English Language Learners. I was proud of the students that took it seriously though and like the following activities that we tried:
  • Reading the "blurb" on the back of the book, do you think this book will have internal or external conflicts? Explain your answer.
  • After reading a few chapters, what kinds of conflicts have there been so far in the book, external or internal. Explain your answer.
  • List character traits of a character without saying which character you are describing. (Other students then guessed which character.)
Even though we struggled with the management aspect of Edmodo, I was thrilled that students had a chance to interact with each other, engage in meaningful writing and see the writing of their peers (especially important for our Special Education students and English Language Learners).

Powerpoint


I know, PowerPoint? Yes, PowerPoint. The teachers and I made PowerPoints for each chapter that contained key images from the novel. The purpose of these PowerPoints were two-fold. (1) We chose images of vocabulary we weren't sure our students were familiar with. This might have been home-made lasagna, scenes from Wicked, or Elvis impersonators.  (2) By projecting these images during the read aloud, students began to anticipate and predict aspects of the text. Teachers shared that this led to more engaged and meaningful reading. So, yes, PowerPoint. *grin*

Twitter


One of our highlights was when I tweeted drawings the students had done based on figurative language (by the way, if you are looking for an excellent text full of figurative language, One for the Murphy's is a great find). I would post the student's drawing along with the phrase it was based on and mentioned Lynda Mullaly Hunt. And she replied!!! Right away!!! I took a screenshot of the exchange and shared it with the students the next day. One of the boys' whose picture had gotten a reply could barely contain himself. He stood up, backed away from his chair and said "I need a minute." They were so excited that the ACTUAL AUTHOR had seen their work. This was a huge moment for these sixth graders.

Skype conclusion


The other most memorable moment of the Global Read Aloud for me was when we had concluding Skype calls with our partner classrooms. Students in both classes wrote letters as the main character or wrote epilogues or characters sketches. During the Skype call, students from each class went up to the microphone and camera and shared their work. Seeing our students who struggle to be successful in their own school, in a new-to-them language, proudly reading their writing to students in Texas and hearing compliments from the other class was momentous. I know that those students will remember that moment for a long time.

So, if you haven't joined the Global Read Aloud yet, please consider doing so for next year. It will move you beyond the walls of your classroom and school and give your students a multitude of opportunities to engage in authentic writing. If you aren't sure which technologies suit you, just try a few.

If you are an experienced Global Read Aloud participant, please share your own successes (and challenges). I'd love to learn more as I hope to get more classrooms engaged next year and beyond!

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