KC class is involved in a global on-line #flatclassroom project called Building Bridges K-2, in which children learn about each other’s cultures and daily lives. The children wanted to introduce themselves to their partner schools. We talked about the best way to do this.
We could Skype.
What if they are not in a zone, like @KinderPals
I think we could make a video to tell them about us
But it will be too long if everyone speaks and then they’ll think we are really boring.
At this point I directed the children to VoiceThread, a tool that they have used before.
I think that will be really good because then the other kids in the other classes can leave comments
And our moms can leave comments
And we can leave a comment for them!
We talked about how we could build on the skills and understanding the children developed while making their last VoiceThread. The children suggested talking clearly and leaving detailed comments on other people’s pictures. Over the next week, the children will work on adding their comments to their friend’s pictures.
Over this first half term, we have had a strong focus on building a learning community. We started with our class community and gradually expanding to include KP next door. We have been engaging with parents through the class blog and a range of parent sharing sessions. We have made connections with the wider school community through upper elementary and high school buddies.
Most recently our learning community has stretched to include a Kindergarten class in Canada and a Grade 1 class in Indonesia. These global connections will help the children to discover that they can learn from other people in other places, and that other people have different points of view and different ways of doing things. By using the world wide web and cloud based communication tools, these children will see that their classroom need not be confined by physical walls.
The three classes know each other by their twitter handles; @yiskc, @KinderPals in Canada and @Grade1class in Indonesia. They communicate through twitter and class blogs. We have skyped with @Grade1class to find out what shapes people in Indonesia see on the moon. The KC children wanted to skype with KinderPals but we discovered that KinderPals are in a different time zone.
The teachers communicate using twitter, skype, emails and Google docs. We have agreed a general direction, but have decided against making firm plans in favour of following the children’s interests and initiatives. We are intrigued to see where the children lead us on this global learning journey. The children have been sharing songs with each other in response to a student initiated project that began at home. More recently the children have been engaged in an inquiry into seasons and weather in different parts of the world.
As well as sparking inquiries, these interactions with children of a similar age in different parts of the world provide an authentic purpose and audience for communication and are laying the foundations for the personal learning networks that will be a key part of this digital generation’s lives.
From the beginning of the year, we have had a strong focus on developing a learning community. Recently, our learning community has grown to include 3L, our Upper Elementary School buddies and 10S, our High School buddies. KC will meet regularly with these two buddy classes throughout the year. This provides an opportunity for the children to develop relationships with students in other sections of the school. It is delightful to watch the older children interact with the younger students as they support and extend each other’s learning.
Last week, the Grade 10 students took the KC children on a walk around the school to look for numbers in the environment.
Today, the Grade 3 buddies came to our classroom to read with the KC children. They focused on books by the three authors we have studied so far this year; David Shannon, Joy Cowley and Eric Carle. This was a wonderful opportunity for the KC children to revisit previous learning and to re-read favorite stories.
The KC children have got buddies in Grade 3L. Each child in KC has been paired up with a child in 3L. Every Thursday afternoon (Week A) we go to visit our buddies or they come to visit us. For the last two weeks we have gone to the Grade 3 classrooms in the Kirin Building where the Grade 3 buddies have been teaching the Kindergarten children some of their favorite board games. Our Grade 3 buddies have become part of our KC learning community.
We have had so many responses on our blog and on twitter from classes who liked the song videos we posted that the KC children asked if we could make a video to teach other Kindergarten classes around the world a song. After some discussion, we decided on Punchanella.
In free inquiry time some children wanted to go to the KC blog to look at the videos and photographs documenting their learning journey. After they had looked at recent posts on the KC blog, Kieran and Jaiden went the KP blog to see what the KP children were up to.
The latest post on the KP blog explained how Ruby, Scarlett and their mum were doing some internet research and found alphabet songs on YouTube. Ruby thought that the other children in her class might like to watch the videos so her mum emailed the links to Zoe. The children in KP asked Zoe to put the videos on the blog so they could share this learning resource with others.
Kieran and Jaiden liked the videos and thought that they would be useful for the rest of the children in KC since we are also learning about sounds. They shared the post with everyone in KC. The children in KC asked if I could post the videos on their blog as well, so their parents could learn the songs.
The KC children liked the alphabet videos so much that they asked me to tweet the link in case other children were learning about letters. Another Kindergarten class on the other side of the world tweeted back to say that they really liked the video because that’s just what they were learning about! The KC children tweeted back to ask them if they had any other good ideas for learning letters. We are waiting for their reply.
Since then we have received comments on our blog from several continents. One teacher in Australia made a QR code for our blog post so her students can find it independently. This has prompted me to explore possibilities with QR codes -a new area of learning for me!
This is a delightful example, initiated and followed up by students, of how class learning networks can support learning, for both students and teachers.
Recently we have been talking aboutcommunity, and thinking about what a community is and some of the communities we belong to. One important community that students, parents and teachers at our school all belong to is the YIS community. Together, the children figured out what the initials YIS stand for. Today, we talked about what it means to be part of the YIS community.
A community is when you can play with your friends and you don’t get left out.
It could be when you wear your special top (YIS t-shirt) then you know who’s in your team and then they are your friends.
My family is in my community.
A community is so you don’t get lonely.
You have to look after your friend when they fall down and if they cry.
Even if you can’t talk if you dont know how to say that language you are still in the community.
I think it’s when everyone is together and helping and not hurting.
I showed this video that Mrs Clark made at the end of last year. The children shrieked with delight as they spotted older siblings, their friend’s parents and familiar teachers.
For the first few weeks of school, our focus is on building a sense of community amongst the children and the key adults they will be working with. The quote below is from “Starting the School Year Right” by Thomas Guskey in The School Administrator, August 2011 (Vol. 7, #68, p. 44)
“The first two weeks are the most important time in the school year for all children … What happens during this critical period pretty much determines how the rest of the year will go.”
It is important that the children have time to get to know their new classmates and to explore and develop relationships. The children need to feel safe in their new environment in order to learn. They need to trust and respect the members of their learning community so that they can develop as risk takers and experimenters. Throughout the year they will learn with and from each other as they conduct their individual and group inquiries. Time spent now building a strong learning community and developing a culture of collaboration will stand us all in good stead as the the year progresses.