Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bringing the World to My School: Culture Day 2012

Last week our school hosted its Second Annual Culture Day. Our Spanish teacher and I host this event to explore and celebrate diversity in our school and around the world. This year, however, we made a few changes to improve the experience for our students. Our goal was to organize a way so that all our students can fully experience cultural exploration. Let me say we achieved this and much more!
I was fortunate enough to have two university partners who were willing and flexible in making my vision to have guest speakers in our classrooms a reality. They helped me gather international students in their departments to come speak to our classes. These university students had prepared engaging and interactive presentations for our children.
Volunteers presenting on Japan to our Pre-K students. 
Another component of Culture Day was our Diego Rivero Exhibit. Our Spanish teacher was awarded a Spring PTA grant that provided our school with a traveling exhibit from Teacher's Discovery that our whole school and community could enjoy. She also focused a unit around his murals and had students create their own murals to decorate outside her classroom. We can all agree that this has been a great addition to our Culture Day Celebration! Have a look at these stunning masterpieces!

The culminating event included two variety shows with student-led performances and presentations. So it comes to no surprise that my 4th and 6th graders had to take part in some way. They had the huge task of preparing introductions for our performances, serving as helpers (who took pictures and escorted speakers to their designated classrooms) during the classroom presentations, and even preparing for performances of their own! In a nutshell, they researched, they planned, and they practiced. The best part is that I didn’t make this mandatory or really an assignment for that matter. They took it upon themselves to complete these tasks to ensure the Culture Day would take place. And that is what reaffirms why I do what I do. Without them, this event could not have been made possible!
I am grateful for our Spanish teacher, Music teacher, Strings teacher, faculty, and administration for participating in our shows and providing much needed support. In addition, I appreciate my university contacts for helping make my dream of bringing the world to our classrooms a reality. 

Global Mystery Skype Challenge

This month our 5th graders had their very first Global Mystery Skype Challenge. I came across the idea of Mystery Skype Call on Twitter and found many positive responses among my PLN and fellow Tweechers. I then modified this kind of call to challenge my students to think more globally. The objective of the call was to same as any Mystery Call: Ask yes/no questions  to determine the exact location of our partner class. If our partner class answered yes to one of our questions, we were able to ask a follow- up question. But if they answered no, then our turn was up and we had to answer their questions. Although the rules were simple, the task itself was a lot more difficult than we expected! In fact, it took us all day to complete the call. The great thing was that our partner class was also a gifted class and had the flexibility to continue our call throughout the day. Although this was my students' first experience with a Mystery Call, they did an excellent job of narrowing down the country and province of our partner class. However, they struggled with pin pointing the city they were in. Overall, this was a great learning experience because my students had a chance to work cooperatively and problem solve on the spot. 
As with most Skype calls in  my class, I assigned Skype Jobs. Here is a summary of some of the jobs: 
1. Greeters & Inquirers- These students were responsible for greeting our class and asking our questions.
2. Map Keepers- These students had atlases and Google Maps available to narrow down the location based on clues.
3. Question Keepers- These students kept careful track of the questions asked and reported these to the Inquirers.
4. Logical Reasoners- These students were responsible for listening to the clues given and putting the pieces together to determine the exact location. They worked with the Question Keepers to construct questions.
5. Runners- These students were messengers who shared clues, questions, or tips between the Map Keepers and the Logical Reasoners. They also were responsible for giving the Inquirers our class' questions.

And if you're wondering where to find classes to try out a Mystery Call here a few places to look: 
1. Skype in the Classroom- I posted my project here and received many responses from other teachers who are members of this site. To join this fast-growing community, click here. To view my project page, click here
2. Twitter- There are many teachers on Twitter who are currently seeking classrooms for Mystery Skype Calls. I normally come across them tweeting and RT to help them find others in my own PLN. 
3. Twitter Chats- Several grade level chats on Twitter have accompanying wikis where participants can sign up for Mystery Skype Calls. A few include #4thchat  and #6thchat. If you click on these chat names, you will be directed to their Mystery Skype sign up page on their wiki. 

I hope that these resources help in your journey with Mystery Skype Calls and enjoy them as much as we have!