Heather and I have been working together collaboratively for a few years. I thought a peek into how we do our planning might be interesting to some people.
Over the past week Heather and I have been working on the story the Monkey’s Paw with our class. It is time to keep moving along. This time, I chose the classic Canadian story To Build A Fire by Jack London for us to work with.
Heather and I live 2 700 kms apart so tools like skype, twitter, email and google docs allow us a series of channels to work though. So as I sat down at my kitchen table and began building a structure for us I knew we would be making use of all of these tools. I started with a Google document with some simple lesson plan outlines laid out. We will work through a day of pre reading activities, a few days of reading and then move on to post reading ideas. There is nothing ground breaking in the content and structure of these lessons. Heather and I have managed to break a lot of boundaries, but this set of lessons isn’t about breaking new ground in content. They are mostly focused on getting our students working together and practicing the skills they will need to do that. So, after I had finished a draft of his document I shared it with Heather for her to take a look at, comment on and make any revisions or adjustments. This has to be a collaborative process as we both have a lot of outcomes that we need to meet.
Following this, I begin making up a series of nine documents that we are going to use with our students for the pre and post writing activity. Heather and I have already shared class lists and email addresses for our students so this is a simple matter of making up the activities that we want and sharing them with all of the kids who are in that group. Here is an example of what we are going to do for a pre reading activity for this story. The first day we are working on this story we will start off the day of the lesson with a quick skype call and make some connections between kids and communities. Following this, students from each class will head to their google docs account where they will have an individual and a group activity to complete. Heather and I will split the supervision of the chatrooms that goes with each document, jumping back and forth between the nine groups ensuring that the students are on task, productive and practicing good online collaboration skills.
After these pre reading activities are completed, we will begin reading the actual story. We do this over skype. We will begin the morning with a call, any quick news items and then one of us will read. We have set up a Today’s Meet chatroom for each day that we will read. As the teacher in one classroom reads aloud to all of the students, the other will supervise all of the students in the chat, keeping them focused on the topic and also posting questions and ideas for everyone to consider. (Here ‘s a chat that we used for the story The Monkey’s Paw.) When we finish the reading for the day, we always have the students post their ideas on a linoit bulletin board. (Here’s a bulletin board from The Monkey’s Paw)
We think that the reading of this story will take us two days over skype. Following this we will move the students into a post writing activity. For this story that will involve the students listening to an mp3 of another version of this story as well as completing a task on a group google doc. We’ve also got a few reflection questions for our students to take a look at since at that point they will have finished working with two different texts:
POST READING STUDENT REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1.) While we have read these two stories, I have mostly used the chatrooms to…. (ask questions, socialize, post quotes, post comments, post random thoughts, etc)
2.) I have found the bulletin boards each day helpful / not helpful to help me to think about the reading that day. Why?
3.) How is using these kinds of tools for learning as opposed to socializing different? How is it different working with partners 2 700 kms away?
I started these documents and then shared them with Heather. She was online while I was doing this planning so we talked about a few things, made a adjustments to our plans and are now ready to move ahead.
There is nothing ground breaking in our lesson plans. Pre reading, reading and post reading activities similar to what you would find in many classrooms. What is different is the added value that is brought in the collaboration and the skills that the students (and teachers!) need to focus on when you work in this way. We are not breaking new ground for our students in the content of these lessons, But we are pushing them to use these tools in ways that support learning, collaboration and gaining new perspectives.