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Literacy in the Classroom

Global Learning: Virtual Field Trips

Global Learning, Literacy in the Classroom

During the fall semester, I was enrolled in a graduate course called Global Learning: Teach the World in Your Classroom. If you’ve ever read about our experience with the Global Read Aloud or my love of She’s the First, you know this is a huge passion of mine. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be bringing what I learned from the course to you in a series of four blog posts.


We live in a day and age where it is easier than ever to travel outside the walls of our classrooms. In the global learning course, we explored the concept of Virtual Field Trips: using video conferencing, 360° videos, and other resources to transport students to places around the globe. This allows for learning experiences that are memorable and meaningful, and will stick with students far beyond their time in your classroom.

How Virtual Field Trips Have Changed My Teaching

Last year, my students had the opportunity to write letters back and forth with a class at the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda. After months of letter writing, we had the opportunity to Skype with the students. That 15-minute video call is something my students still talk about today. Across oceans and continents, our third graders had the opportunity to communicate with kids who live their lives in completely different ways, and yet have so much in common. Being able to see the classroom and speak with the students took our lessons about global citizenship to a whole new level.

My students have also been able to Skype with researchers stationed in the Arctic, authors who live in different states, and other third grade classes in places as far away as California and Argentina. Through these experiences, my students have had an opportunity to investigate the world. They have seen places that look different from Massachusetts and spoken with people who have different lived experiences. It’s my hope that these virtual field trips encourage a drive in my students to keep broadening their horizons and expanding their understanding of the world and its citizens.

After this section of the global learning course, I’m thinking more than ever about the power of virtual field trips. How powerful would it be for students to see a butterfly sanctuary when studying pollinators? Or chat with a historian in Virginia when researching the lost colony of Roanoke? We have so many opportunities to create powerful learning experiences for our students.


Resources for Virtual Field Trips

During the course, I was absolutely amazed at the wealth of resources our instructor and classmates shared. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • National Geographic has amazing 360° videos on their Youtube channel. You can watch them with a Virtual Reality viewer like Google Cardboard to make them more immersive, or you can use the directional arrows on a laptop or desktop to see the whole video. If you have a mobile device, you can move the phone around to see the whole video. Here’s an encounter with a Hammerhead Shark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG4jSz_2HDY
  • This Statue of Liberty eTour allows students to travel to one of our nation’s historic landmarks. While many students haven’t had the opportunity to visit the statue in person, this eTour allows them to see what it looks like on the inside and outside, as well as discuss its significance in American history. Similar eTours are available online for other National Parks sites.
  • Skype in the Classroom allows students to connect with people they are unable to connect with in person. Students can connect with role models, interview subjects, and even other classes using video calls. Students can ask questions and have them answered, promoting inquiry and engagement. Skype has the ability to enhance learning experiences for students at many different grade levels. Best of all, all the opportunities listed on the website are free!

Have you used Virtual Field Trips or Virtual Reality viewers in your classroom before, or is there something you’re excited to try? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!

Top Ten Kid-Recommended Picture Books to Celebrate Kindness

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

Happy World Kindness Day! Every November 13th, we have the opportunity to celebrate kindness, while recognizing that kindness is important every day of the year. Today, during snack, my third graders and I started discussing books that fit a theme of kindness. This launched a fascinating conversation that stretched into our literacy block and throughout the rest of the day. My students compiled the following list of Top Ten Kid-Recommended Books to Celebrate Kindness. Enjoy, and be sure to let us know how you celebrate kindness in the comments below!


Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev was one of our read alouds on the first day of school. Telling the story of a boy and his pet elephant, this book captures the isolating feeling of exclusion as well as the joyful feeling of including others. My third grade readers said the message of this book can be expressed in just three words: “All are welcome.”

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi is an absolutely gorgeous wordless picture book. It’s fitting that this book has no words, as it communicates a feeling that can be so hard to articulate: the feeling of genuine friendship. While friendship can be messy and hard, it can also be beautiful. My third grade readers love the colors and creativity with which this story is told.

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio captures the feeling of longing to belong – something that we all experience at some point in our lives. In the same way that her novel asks students to “choose kind,” Palacio’s picture book encourages readers to see the strengths that we all hold inside ourselves.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts makes me cry every time I read it aloud! It can feel so isolating to be the only one who is “missing out” on the newest thing. This book celebrates the people in our lives who try to give us the world, and teaches us that it’s okay when we can’t get everything we want. In fact, what doesn’t work out for us might be the perfect thing for someone else.

 

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh chronicles young Sylvia Mendez’s fight for quality education in the 1940s. When a student proposed it as a book about kindness today, he pointed out that being fair and inclusive is necessary in order to be kind. This nonfiction text reminds us that justice for all is another way to show kindness towards all.

 

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes just effuses kindness. A little gardener, no bigger than a worm, puts his whole heart into helping his garden. While he doesn’t look like much, he makes an impact a million times larger than he could imagine. This book is a celebration of kindness towards the environment and kindness towards each other.

 

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a gorgeous wordless retelling of an Aesop fable. Today, our class discussed how kindness can circle back towards you when you least expect it. If you put kindness out into the world, you may get a little bit (or a big bit!) back.

 

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister shows how unkind behavior like bragging and excluding others can harm everyone. Celebrating our strengths and using them to bring joy to others is the way to go! My students have such fond memories of reading this book for the first time in kindergarten or first grade. It’s definitely a kindness classic!

 


One by Kathryn Otoshi is such a great read aloud for any grade level, K through 12. My students love the playful way in which the colors learn to stand up for themselves, and eventually stand together. This is a book we return to again and again throughout the year as we explore ways in which we can speak up and stand up.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is a heartprint book that always leaves my third graders thinking. Every day, we take actions that create hurricanes or sunshine for others. How will you bring sunshine to the lives of those around you? Each Kindness reminds us of the importance of considering this question every single day.