There is magic in a classroom when learning happens serendipitously. That magic happened in my classroom week before last.
This spring, my class is participating in a couple of global projects. One is through PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) as I continue my own professional journey to learn more about using inquiry-based teaching. The other is a Flat Classroom project. Both of these projects involve us meeting and collaborating with other classrooms. These classrooms are mainly in North America, but also included is a classroom of kindergarten students in China who have already stolen my students’ hearts.
To introduce ourselves to the other classes involved, my students planned and filmed a video of themselves sharing our classroom. First, we brainstormed some things that the students felt were important in our classroom. (It is always interesting to see the student’s perspective on these things.) Then, each student chose what he or she wanted to showcase in our video. There was a bit of negotiating in this process, but mostly cooperation. Finally, the students all stood by whatever they were planning to showcase, and the video was filmed by one of the students. It took us only two tries to get it right in their eyes.
We ended the video by saying “Now we wonder…who are you?”
We posted the video on our blog, and began asking/answering questions from some of our collaborating classrooms as we all watched each other’s introductions.
An Unexpected Reply
A classroom in Greece (not one of our collaborating classrooms) happened to see our video, and prepared a video response for us, introducing themselves and their classroom. They posted it on their blog. The students spoke Greek in the video, but there were English subtitles which I read aloud to the children. They were fascinated!
Are they speaking Chinese, they wondered? Are they speaking French? Their letters are upside down! Look, their lowercase N is a v! Look, apple should be for ‘a’ but it’s for ‘m in their alphabet’! They have a stage in their classroom!
They were more than a little intrigued.
The Questions Begin
We decided to comment on their blog. The students laughed along with me as we tried to figure out which of the Greek words on their blog might mean “comment” so that we could add our thoughts. As a part of our group commenting process, I always have my students think of things that they wonder about the article or video the have just viewed. At first the questions came slowly, but then the deluge began.
Do you have water bottles? Where do you put your backpacks? What kind of trees do you have? Do you have a playground? What kind of food do you eat? Do you have computers at your school? The questions filled several pages of chart paper.
Since we had too many questions to include in our comment, I approached their teacher to see if she would be interested in a Skype call to answer our plethora of questions. Because of the time difference, we arranged to talk to her from her home. She patiently answered question after question that the children had prepared, and more as the children moved on to new questions that had just occurred to them.
It was magical learning about a place my students had never before heard of and will probably never see for themselves. Learning that was totally led by the students and their interest in that classroom in Greece. And that learning will continue. The children in Greece, too, have questions for us to answer.
More magic. More serendipity. I love my connected classroom.
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Kathy, I am so excited to hear that your introduction video for our project led to such an amazing connection with a classroom in Greece! Your kids are a true example of “How global connections can help us learn and grow in many ways!”
It really was one of those things that you wish you could script to happen regularly in your classroom. We do a lot of connecting with other classrooms, but sometimes it really is magic.
This is so cool. Thanks so much for continuing to share how you are transforming your teaching/learning, and your students’ learning, especially at the primary level. I regularly send your articles out to my staff, because you write in a very accessible way, that I hope will inspire other teachers to take some small steps along their learning journey.
Thank YOU. It is great to hear that the things I am learning can be useful to others.
I was just led to this blog by my curriculum co-ordinator and I am blown away. It sounds amazing and I would love to try something similar with my grade ones and twos as we are investigating how children around the world have differences and similiarities. You have inspired me!
This way of putting a face on “others” is the kind of thing that will someday prevent wars.
Wow! What an exciting and rewarding global project. I am currently in Burma/Myanmar working as a trainer with several elementary classrooms. I am going to share this with some of the heads of school — the students all learn English, and it would be great for them to connect with and collaborate with another classroom.
Thank you so much for the inspiration!
We would LOVE to connect with you and your students via video. Can we make it happen?