What do two classrooms, 41 students spread out by 6 time zones have in common? We are finding out. Ms. Kim's class in Seoul, Korea and my class in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia are getting to know one another via Skype.
How did this arrangement start? Both of us teachers have blogs. We read and commented on one another's posts. Jee Young asked if I would be up for our classes connected. Of course I was.
So, we started a Google Doc and each added our students' questions. Even though my classroom has a good mix of diverse backgrounds it was interesting to see my students' cultural stereo types come out as they were coming up with questions for Ms. Kim's class. The first odd question caught me off guard, but then I realized I simply had to ask how they would ask a similar question and the students quickly realized strange their question sounded. Yes, there are differences and yes, it is OK to ask about them, but think it through first was the lesson that day.
We found a time that would work for both classes (the start of my day and the end of hers) and we were on our way. Our students have now talked twice and gotten the opportunity to ask and answer all of the questions. In our last conversation we found out they like K pop music, which we know nothing about. My students like Arab music, which they have never heard. Right now we are coming up with two videos to share in order to give the other class a taste of the music in our part of the world.
Where will we go from here? Her students are doing an American Revolution unit ahead of us so we will look to them to help us with our background knowledge. My students are completing their NESA Virtual Science Fair and will be able to help Ms. Kim's students focus their work when they start their Science Fair.
Anything else? We are talking about a book club, perhaps something like "Reading Across the Miles" where students in each class can read the same book and share in a virtual forum. We'll see!
After reading about the 1,001 Tales Projects I am wondering if we should give some collaborative writing a go as well.
It is a small world we live in. I am thankful for opportunities to allow my students further connections with people whose lives might be different from their own.
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