Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Getting Started with Global Literature Circles

For the past five school years, my students and I have engaged in a powerful learning experience - the Global Literature Circle (#GlobalLitCircle). If you are familiar with the traditional literature circle, the #GlobalLitCircle follows the same concept yet adds a global peer connection, taking the ordinary literature circle to an incredibly powerful level.

Reflect on your past literature circles. What does it look and sound like? You'd most likely see students reading choice books in groups and writing a response to literature. You would hear students having lively discussions with their group members and teacher as they sit in small groups. Of course, you'd also have mini-lessons and projects and the teacher's own creativity to complete the unit. It's a great thing! But imagine taking your literature circle to the next level - you would still have groups reading choice books (from the teacher selection). Students would still write responses to literature and of course, they'd discuss in a variety of ways but... game changer! - they would be reading, writing, and speaking & listening with students in another classroom in another state, time zone and/or country. Imagine the enthusiasm boost in your classroom!

There are many ways that you can make a #GlobalLitCircle successful, but these are my ideas. I suggest planning a unit in advance and advertising it. I see a lot of shouts-outs for global collaboration/connection for short connections. They are great for our students, but a full unit is more effective for students to form authentic connections. A pre-built unit is the best way to start a #GlobalLitCircle because when you advertise, you know exactly what you are sharing out. When a teacher shows interest, you may end up changing some of the book choices to meet the needs of both classrooms, but you will already have an idea.

When building your unit, choose a theme. I picked global issues as my theme and found nonfiction books that dealt directly with real problems occurring on our globe. Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario follows the harrowing journey of a teenager from the Honduras attempting to connect with his mother who had illegally entered the US in order to send money to her impoverished children and family members. I Will Always Write Back is the true story of an American teenager, Caitlin, and her pen pal Martin in Zimbabwe. Martin is trying to overcome poverty and maintain his education in a country where education is not free. I am Malala tells the story of the inspirational young woman who fought for the right for females to receive an education and was shot by the Taliban in an effort to silence her. When Broken Glass Floats is Chanrithy Him's memoir of growing up under the Khmer Rouge. I tell my students that we read about the genocide in the 1970's because those fighting a genocide in Syria, for example, have not survived yet to tell their story.

The above are my book selections, but you are able to choose what suits your theme and what your district allows, etc. There are so many amazing pieces of literature for our students.

After you have chosen a theme, you will need to build a website to house your project. For four years I used Weebly, but this year, we are using Google Sites with Padlets embedded as our blogging platform. Truthfully, I like the set-up of Padlet better than other platforms as students can add links, pictures, and change the color to match a theme, to name a few.

You will also want to create an educator account with Flipgrid. Flipgrid will allow your students to safely record their literature discussions and share with their global partners. There are other methods for video sharing, so if you aren't comfortable with Flipgrid, explore other options.

The reason I mention the two above technologies is that your students and the students in the other country/state will need a way to be present in the other classroom. Sharing their writing via blogs and sharing discussions via video takes your literature circle beyond the classroom walls. Imagine your student knowing that their partner, a peer in their grade thousands of miles away, will be reading and listening to their responses. It is quite motivating.

I find the best way to advertise for global collaboration is to give a shout-out of your unit on social media. I have found partners in the FaceBook groups 2ndary ELA and Creative High School English. I've also connected with other educators by advertising my project on Taking it Global. Here are some links for finding global collaborators. When you do find a class to join your unit, consider contacting their administration just to ensure that they are supportive. It's too big of a project for your partner to pull out of at the last minute. There must be full school buy-in.

Give yourself at least two months to meet with your global teacher collaborator before starting the project. You will want the time to fine tune your rubrics and ensure that everyone involved in your project understands expectations. You may also want to introduce students to your digital platforms (Padlet and Flipgrid - or whatever tool you choose to use). It will make things easier when the unit begins.

Let's review! To set up your #GlobalLitCircle: write the project and create a website. Share your idea on Social Media or other platforms. Collaborate with your partner classroom teacher and fine tune rubrics and book choices and purchases. Ensure you're familiar with your blogging and video swapping technology. Share your excitement of your upcoming unit with your students!

What will your first #GlobalLitCircle be? I'll be super excited to hear of your successes.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

#MysteryFlip in the Global Classroom

The Mystery Skype concept has been around for awhile, but what about those time zones? My students will be participating in a Global Literature Unit with schools in five different time zones. We can meet face to face with only one of the countries during school hours. How do we connect with the others for this fun activity that will get students thinking about different areas around the world, while also taking a closer look at their own unique surroundings? We use the magic of FlipGrid in what I call a #MysteryFlip! This year is the first time that I used a #MysteryFlip in my classroom and I must say it was more a flop than a flip for my first go-around, but I know what needs to be changed for the upcoming one.

In my first MysteryFlip attempt, I paired an entire class period with a small group in our partner classroom. This was too much. My twenty five students couldn't agree on the question. It was hard to hear the videos when I played it to the group. The class asking/answering questions format was disorganized. To remedy, the key to success is small groups, pre-pairing and a graphic organizer for the students to follow.

For our global unit, students are grouped into four different reading groups, meaning a group reading When Broken Glass Floats in Japan will be partnered with students reading the same book in another country. They will be given their own grid to interact with their partners. The groups will have creativity in their exchanges, but there will have to be structure. These groups will remain partners throughout the unit, commenting on each other's videos and blog posts so this is a great way for the students to start interacting.

Time frame: classes can't spend forever guessing the location because we have to start forming group bonds which will require the students to be able to share about their environment. Once the groups are formed, the classes should start the #MysteryFlip. At this point, the classrooms are just getting started with the project, so there should be time within the pre-reading activities to allow 15 minutes for Flipgrid listens, reflection, and guessing.

Groups should come up with cryptic clues to get their partner classroom curious. Ensure the clues aren't too obvious. For example, my students should not say that Japanese is the official language of our country. The groups should keep a record of the questions and answers and also record reflections. Here is a draft for the upcoming #MysteryFlip.

Some things to note: Remind students to not wear school gear or record under posters/banners that display the school name. My students do look up clothing brands when guessing their groups - that's fine. Just not a blatant display of the school or location name. Teachers: don't pull up the #MysteryFlips on your teacher account to display. It will show the email and my students figured out the last global flip via the email address alone.

Encourage students to show higher level thinking in the questions that they ask. For example, one of my students asked the question, "Was your nation involved in the G20 summit?" When the answer was "yes," my students looked up a list of the G20 summit attendees and started to narrow down the list. You'll also see your students learning about their own area. My students were asked if we live on an island. You should have seen us all pondering this and then one student announced, "I just looked it up. Japan is considered an island nation." So that is how they responded. I think you will be surprised to see the learning from this engaging activity.

I'm looking forward to trying this modified #MysteryFlip with my upcoming unit and will edit this post as needed.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Blogging with Padlet in Google Sites

Connecting Students to Share their Writing

Technology has really changed the Global Connections Game! Back in my youth, it took an  airmail stamp for me to connect with my pen pal, Gulianna, in Scotland. Even the authors of the best selling book, I Will Always Write Back, started their life-changing global correspondence with pen, paper, envelope and stamp. Postcard and letter exchanges are still amazing ways to incorporate some global exchanges, but the timing might not work for a dedicated unit. Insert classroom blogging.

I find that sharing student writing with peers is a super motivator in the classroom. Students step-up their writing when the audience goes beyond the teacher. Since educators know this to be motivating, how about sharing with peers outside the school community?  What venue can teachers use in the classroom?

In my past global units, I used weebly. Weebly is a great website platform as it's super easy and can be password protected. Google sites used to be a bit complicated so I just stuck with Weebly. Well, sometimes you are forced to change, explore and learn new tools which is exactly what happened to me this school year. My district blocked Weebly and I was super stressed as Google sites did not have an easy blogging tool that would be aesthetically pleasing and easy for students to find each other's postings. However, after spending hours on Google, I found a solution: Padlet!

I have used Padlet in my classroom often, but I couldn't imagine it working as a blog because the Padlets I typically created looked scattered and with 100 students posting a response on one wall, the blog has to remain organized. Well, the trick with blogging with Padlet is to set up your new Padlet with the "shelf" option. Because I have multiple classrooms in one project, each classroom can organize their student responses on one shelf. To share with multiple classrooms, you can embed your Padlet links in your Google sites. I create an image via Canva and then upload the image and link my my Padlet. Here is my example for a unit room 319 is doing with a class in Vancouver.

Each image links to a Padlet for students to share their written response

Students post their written response under their class period, school, book, or however the teacher wants to organize it

Padlet Positives

There are so many things that students can share via Padlet. The image above shows the simplest form of students sharing student work with others. We were in the practice portion of our unit and had not yet started the novel: The Giver. Students shared their written response on the Padlet and I was able to comment on each. Students are able to see each other's posts and read my comments to help improve their writing and literary analysis. The class periods are organized for easy viewing and the ctrl F feature works for searching for student names. But Padlet can do much more than just share writing. Students can color coordinate their post as symbolism. Students (and teachers) can also add images, videos, and links - to name a few! Students can also respond to their classroom or global peers with their comments, videos, images, etc. The Padlet can really come alive and be a colorful display of learning and connections.

Padlet also allows teachers to add collaborators. Using my paid account, I add my global partners and they can modify on the Padlet, approve posts (if you select that posts need to be moderated), and basically do anything that the Padlet owner can do. This makes it a great tool when teachers are in different time zones as any of your collaborators can fix problems as they occur.

There is a price for this amazing technology tool, but it's totally worth it in my opinion. For $12.99 a month, I have unlimited Padlets with the ability to use it in so many ways - from smaller daily uses like formative assessments and exit tickets to student portfolios, class discussions, curating websites and learning, a digital parking lot, to larger projects like global collaboration with the authentic audience.

Monday, August 5, 2019

My "Why" for Global Collaboration

The Beginnings of my Global Classroom

In 2015, I was finishing up my MA in Instructional Technology from UMUC and one of my last courses was titled something like "The Global Classroom." Dr. Tamara Blesch was my instructor. She introduced the course by exclaiming that global collab and the authentic audience would transform your classroom. I believed her from the start, but I didn't know how big this transformation would be - and how once the ball started rolling, I'd never keep my classroom contained to its tiny walls. The global audience has become such a presence in my class that here it is - 5:16am in the last two weeks of summer break, and I can't sleep because I have so much to work out in my head with changes due to my weebly websites being blocked by the district. I have multiple classrooms committed to upcoming units, and I haven't found a solution for this blogging dilemma. Yes, there are many additional tech tools, but I think with all that is swimming in my mind, I need to just write this down, share with my partners, and we will work this out.

History of Global Collab and Issues in the Past

As part of my EDTC Global course, we had to write a project. My project was a Multicultural Literature Circle which consisted of classrooms in different areas, reading the same literature that dealt with social issues such as gender equality, education around the world, genocide, and poverty. We had to advertise our projects on various sites. I wish I had known the power of Twitter for educators and collaboration back then, but I did not. Still, I put it on Taking it Global and some other sites. I had ordered the books, but by December, no one had requested to collaborate with my students in Japan on my project, so I pretty much gave up. Then in December, right before the break, I had an email from a school in Costa Rica and one in the Boston area. Not really understanding what was about to happen, I asked my 6th grade team cohort, Gina Kahler, if she wanted to partner with us. I'm so glad that I did because starting this global journey with someone else in my building was instrumental to our success. 

Year one of the Global Project - None of us knew what we were doing. We had the vision from my lesson plan and the website that I had built for grad school. But the four us tweaked the books, adding ones that resonated with our unique student population. We knew that we wanted to blog, but also to exchange videos. Year one, we simply recorded the videos and changed permissions to "anyone with the link can view" and then posted the link on the weebly website. The students used weebly to blog. It was a great success, but we knew it could get better. It was also a huge hassle for me to link the 20 videos each day to our weebly. 

I'm not going to dwell too much on year one because we had to make a lot of changes. While it was bumpy, what all four teachers saw was our 6th grade students rising to the challenge and presenting their best writing, reading, literary analysis, speaking and listening that we had ever seen. They were critical of themselves and aimed to improve. They were complimentary of their peers and eager to share positive feedback. Students who rarely participated in the in the past couldn't wait to share their answers on video. This unit changed my ideas for authentic audience going forward. 

Year two of the Global Project - I moved to 8th grade and our partner in Costa Rica included her 8th grade teacher in our unit goal. However, the 8th grade teacher pulled out of the project a week before, leaving my 8th graders with no authentic audience. We read our books, but without the partner classroom, there was no spark to this unit despite the power of the literature that we read.

Move on to year three. I learned from the past experience to not rely on a class to join unless they were completely dedicated. Gina had moved to England and was teaching grade 9, so we knew that our grade 8 and 9 could partner and make this great, but we wanted another classroom presence. I advertised on global education sites, but did not receive feedback so I took it to a social media group I belong to on FaceBook. I actually interviewed the teachers and ensured that their principal and district was on board! We included a very enthusiastic 8th grade team in the Wichita Kansas area. While some people thought that wasn't "gobal" enough for our American students living abroad in Yokosuka Japan, that was untrue as they stepped up as global leaders, showing their peers in Kansas what it was like to live abroad. We improved our sharing methods by using Google suites for students to create a group digital portfolio to share videos, then linked the portfolios to the websites. That required only one weebly edit from me, and the rest was on the students. 

Year three was amazing with three active classrooms. The project morphed as it went to include a package exchange, my students did a literature discussion in town for one of their video exchanges, the students created a Fortnight group, and one girl in Kansas and a boy in my class in Japan started a long distance relationship. Aside from the personal exchanges, we all saw our students shining to show their best self to their peers around the world. Put your student in front of an authentic of audience of their peers and you will see amazing results. Gina and I continued the global exchange by our 8/9's doing a Holocaust Literature unit together as well. 

Now let's go to year four. Year one (bumpy and trial) and year three showed me that the global connection was vital for student voice. Then insert Flipgrid's move to becoming free for educators! At the very last minute in the fall, I asked a friend in Iowa if she wanted to do a mini-global lit with my only whole group novel, The Giver. It was quick in coming together and not as dedicated as the Global unit in winter, but it was a perfect preparation for the big unit to come. Year four was absolutely incredible with my students seasoned in FlipGrid from the mini-unit with Iowa, and our project with three schools for our winter unit. 

With that said, I'm going to pause here because this is what is troubling me. I am weeks from school starting and I don't have a venue to blog with the weebly block. I have a partner in Canada and a local partner in Yokota, so I want to share my vision and resources for our upcoming unit in my next blog post. I will want to share it with my collaborators so we can start this year off #globalfromthegetgo!

Update to the post - I found my blogging solution with Padlet. Read on in the blog to find out how Padlet can transform your classroom with the authentic audience.