Saturday, October 15, 2011

Our Experience with the Global Read Aloud!

So, 4 weeks ago, we started the Global Read Aloud Project for 2011.


During the summer months, I sent the parents of my students a lengthy "Summer Newsletter" to describe some things that would be going on in our classroom ("Room 5," a resource room for students with moderate-intensive special needs) this year.  The newsletter contained information on the Global Read Aloud Project aka "The Flat Stanley Project."

I was unsure about participating in this project, but wanted to continue to find ways to teach my students some 21st Century Skills like collaboration, making global connections, and increased communication.  I saw this project on twitter, created by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) and thought, "we could give that a try."

In the weeks leading up to the project, I checked the participant list and map repeatedly.  Would there be other special education classes participating?  Who would we "make connections" with?  Would our projects look small, less, or not up to par with those learning in a general education classroom?  Would we be able to create these projects, and how would I modify all these things to meet the individual needs of my students?

I'm not sure why I felt these uncertainties.  I should know by now that my kids ALWAYS stretch AND reach all expectations placed on them.  Why not raise the bar to have them stretch and even leap to meet it?

So, we dove in with Flat Stanley.  I wasn't sure, originally, about the book choice.  Would we understand this book seeing as though my students are so "literal" and do not relate well to "fantasy" stories?  But instead, I collected all the "Stanley" books around the elementaries in the district that I could find to show that Stanley is really quite a popular guy.  Then, I decided that we would do what we could in the interest of making this a fun and interesting project.  If the kids didn't like it, we would stop.  No harm, no foul.

On day 1, I introduced Flat Stanley and the "Flat Stanley Bag."   The "Flat Stanley Bag" contained a hard laminated "Stanley," Flat Stanley the chapter book, directions for parents, a digital camera (I bought at Target for only $40 for fear of losing/breaking it), and "Stanley's Adventure Notebook."  On Stanley's first day with us, we took lots of photos around the classroom and wrote our piece in the Adventure Notebook as an example of what the kids would do at home with Stanley.  Also on day 1, we looked through Stanley's original picture book and the chapter book.  We made some predictions and did some talking about real vs. make believe books.

On day 2, we gave the "Flat Stanley Bag" to our first of seven "Room 5 Friends" to take home for the week.  We also began to read chapter 1. 

As the days passed on, we read and reread chapters to make sure that we understood the main events.  Vocabulary in the story was changed so that I could ensure my students would understand the story (example, I changed the word "parcel" to "package.").  We spent the entire first week on chapter one and made the class book "Flat Stanley is as Flat as..."  Some students needed visual choices for this activity and others needed verbal choices.  Some students were able to generate an idea on their own and some needed to see examples of other students' work.  By the end of that week, Flat Stanley was as flat as a pancake, a hamburger, a mirror, an iPad, and an envelope.

Third graders with e-portfolios were blogging every other day about Stanley and his adventures.  They made predictions based on pictures and chapter titles and posted them on their Weebly sites.

By week 2, we were ready to see what would happen to Stanley next!  We read chapters 2 and 3, modified ideas we found online, and came up with a few original ideas.  We made some "life-size" paintings of Stanley, each child able to make color choices and paint choices on his/her own.  One third grader made his own "Flat Jaguar Stanley" and laughed and laughed at his own idea.  We also worked on another class book, "If I was Flat like Flat Stanley, I would..."  We had students helping others, being flat like an iPad, hiding in the gym with Flat Martin (our principal has his own flat life sized cut out), taking care of roosters, and riding on the school bus. 

At the end of week 2, we planned to Skype with two different classes.  I was fearful about "skyping" with general education kids for fear that they would not understand... Another silly uncertainty!

Our two first graders and two kindergarten students "skyped" to Ms. Wilson's class in Atlanta, Georgia.  They shared our two class books and our life sized paintings.  Then, Ms. Wilson's small group of first graders asked some questions about our town and our weather.  We found out that it was "getting cold in Georiga.  It was almost 70 degrees!"  We laughed and shared that it would get to 38* that night in the Cleveland area!

Our 3 third grade students "skyped" to Mrs. Bond's third graders in Michigan!  Our third graders again shared the two class books and life sized paintings.  We also got to experience the joys of technology and practice our "waiting skills" while our Skype connection was a little shaky.

The last activity we did during week 2 was coloring our paper Stanley's and getting them ready to be mailed to our family and friends.  Some students mailed Stanley to siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.  One student mailed his to our special education aide's son in the Marines is Missouri.  Another went to the home of our speech therapist, Miss K, and still another went to our friends in Ms. Dunsinger's Room in Cananda!

During week 3, we read a very long and detailed chapter 4.  We read this chapter up to 3 times depending on grade level to make sure we understood the main events.  We posted on blogs and created flat characters of ourselves!  Check out the flat versions of my students!

During week 4, we finished reading chapter 5 and our third grade friends created a Photo Story of the work we had completed.

Wait, the project was supposed to be over after week 4... But we didn't share our Flat Stanley Bag and Adventure Notebook yet!  And we didn't get our Flat Stanley's back from our family and friends yet!  And we didn't get to check out Ms. Dunsinger's kiddos blogs about our very own Flat Stanley!

Now, as I sit at home on this cold and windy Saturday night, I'm thinking, can we even finish this up in FIVE weeks?  Will we push it to SIXSEVEN?

And I thought this might not go well????  We LOVE Flat Stanley!!!

Another cool thing about this project is that I managed to convince another teacher in our school to participate.  I was hoping to convince more than one, but even getting one is such an accomplishment!  Mrs. Pagel and her second graders also participated in the Global Read Aloud project, posted projects on the Global Read Aloud wiki, created Photo Stories, created a Voice Thread, AND Skyped!!!  Oh, AND made a Wall Wisher, AND made life sized "flat" characters of some teachers around the building AND came to Buddy Read with us during week 3!  Thanks Mrs. Pagel!


So, in essence, the point I am trying to get to with this blog- OUR KIDS CAN DO ANYTHING!

And, I'm still not sure if any other special education classes participated, but, next year, I am going to be sure to encourage them to!

We cannot wait until next year's GRA and look forward to making even more connections throughout the year!

(Note to skeptics: This project included reading comprehension, listening comprehension, reading fluency, problem solving, story elements, written expression, literary genres, making global connections, practicing social skills, addressing an envelope, writing a letter, blogging, fine motor skills, and communication!!!!)