On the first day of grade one, as we were thinking about our goals for the year, my students and I talked on Skype with three people who lived in different places around North America. These educators all told us what they had learned in their first year of school.
Before we made the first call, I explained what we were going to do. I’ll never forget Carson’s question: “Why would we do that?”
Just like their older counterparts, primary children love to connect with people from places around the world. Connections bring new perspectives, ideas, and learning in a way nothing else can. I could simply tell them that children everywhere on Earth play games and go to school just as they do, but when they are actually able to link with a class in Colorado or in New Zealand and ask questions themselves, the learning experience is much more powerful and lasting.
Our classroom blog is often the first way that we connect with people outside of our school. This year, each child posted an article in their individual blog space during the first week of school. To show them the connections that their blog could bring them, I invited people in my Twitter network to comment on one of the student’s blogs and mention their location. In my tweet, I included the hashtag #comments4kids.
My mid-prairie six-year olds were amazed to find they had comments from places they’d only heard of — Texas, New York, Ontario. As we read each location aloud, it elicited a small collective gasp. Later we visited the blogs of a couple of other primary classrooms. I reminded my writers about how they felt when they received comments, and they happily helped me compose comments for their fellow bloggers in schools far away.
Building global awareness
In my classroom our group reading and writing activities often center on commenting or reading blog comments sent to us, building the children’s sense of membership in a global community. Comments that have been written directly to our class or to an individual child in the room are extremely meaningful text for young children, and engagement is high. Some of the most fun comes when the children begin to use their developing editing skills to find spelling or grammar mistakes in the comments from adults.
We often connect with other teachers, classrooms and “experts” using Skype. The students are astounded when they realize that while we are in school, it is the middle of the night for our friends in Brisbane, Australia. They marvel at the differences in our weather and seasons, and ask questions about why the students are all dressed the same and why they talk so funny. We use Skype to find out about mundane things such as what other people eat for breakfast or their Christmas traditions â€” or more extraordinary things like information about rocks and minerals from a professional geologist.
Whatever the topic, these are all themes that support our grade one curriculum. The fact that we connect with others from around the world to learn these things gives the students an awareness of the wonderful diversity of the global family we are all part of, even as they learn science or social studies outcomes. On some occasions, we have used wikis to collect information. We have asked people to contribute to our one thousand names wiki or our rituals wiki. We have collaborated with other classrooms to create a wiki of alphabet videos or a names wiki.
We are fearless. We never say, “Oh, we can’t possibly do that — we’re just first grade.”
I am able to find people and classes to connect with our classroom fairly easily because I am personally connected to a network of educators online. This network has shifted over time, but is now centered mainly in Twitter. I am continually encouraged by the willingness to share, support and caring that educators display in that space.
By the end of the school year, Carson and all of my students can answer his question about why we connect with others from around the world. The simple answer is because we can learn from them.
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What a wonderful article and such a sweet, sweet story of how young children are venturing out beyond the 4 walls of their classroom. I love the pictures of the clocks….I think I could use some of those in my room!!!!
I think it’s wonderful that your 1st graders are leading the way.
You and you first graders are such an inspiration to educators worldwide. I remember learning about all of the wonderful ways you have your students becoming global citizens several years ago and you got me moving in that direction. I have been using Skype, Edmodo, kidblogs, and other ways to get my fourth graders connected for a past several years thanks to you. Thank you for all you do and share with us.
I’m so glad to hear that you are finding ways to connect with other classrooms. Once you have done it, there really is no going back, is there?
Over and over again, I am asked, how do you get 1st graders to blog or get involved in technology? In your article, you answered this question. What a great way to teach your students about the world and other cultures!
I wish every 1st grade teacher would do what you describe here! Keep up the good work!
It’s a wonderful experience! I would like to do something like this one or connect with your classroom from another classroom of my school in La CoruÃ±a, Spain. Thanks
We’d love to Skype with you. I checked the time difference, and unfortunately, by the time we start school in the morning, it will be 5:00 pm in Spain. I’m sure school is over by that time. That will make it difficult for our classrooms to connect. Can I suggest that you try http://education.skype.com/ ? I’m sure you could find someone there that would be interested in connecting with you via Skype.
I love how your students are fearless. Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep students that way?
A great post Kathy. While I’ve only just begun my journey into the on-line world with my grade one class, what you and others on twitter are doing, is certainly pushing me to try so many new things this year. Once we can have our district put skype on our class computer we’ll have to skype with your class too! I can’t wait. Karen
That would be great! Let me know when you have things up and running.
I love the way you have reflected on Carsons’ very simple yet powerful question.I have set up a #globalclassroom through VoiceThread and it too has been an amazing experience for all involved! Something so simple as what animals did you see on the way to school today? produces amazing responsess!
Thanks for sharing the value in global education and thank you Carson for asking why!
It looks like a wonderful project, Deb. Thanks for sharing it.
I’ll be sure to share your comment with Carson!
of course like your website but you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I’ll surely come again again.