Saturday, April 9, 2011

Third Grade Collaborative Project

Earlier this year I saw a note posted on the Elementary Tech Teacher's ning. A teacher was looking for partners for a collaborative project. We've had a great partnership and are still working together. I wanted to write some notes to remember how the project was planned, what worked well, and what we're planning through the end of the year.

The Project's Beginning
After the teacher and I communicated through email, we agreed that the goal of the project was to create templates that the students could edit collaboratively. We would partner his second/third grade combined class with my two third grade classes. He was flexible with the content as he wanted to see how children paired at a distance would work together.

My third grade students had not yet edited a wiki or blogged. His students had been blogging and they edited a wiki last year. I used the knowledge I've gained over the last few years and the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards as a guide to the content.

Learning to Edit a Wiki
In the past, I've been successful with creating a "sandbox" for the students to play in to get a feel for the wiki editor. I set up some quick, easy questions to answer in a template and then created a link for each student.

My students had not used the digital camera, so I added a "What do your shoes look like today" question. In computer class I taught one student how to use the digital camera and each student taught the next how to use the camera. The following week, I had resized the images, loaded them to the wiki, and taught the students how to find the image and place it on their wiki page.

Learning on a Local Level
The students really didn't learn too much about the state/province of our partner's country. We did learn about the similarities and differences between our schools. I believe this makes sense at the second and third grade level because they tend to be more concrete thinkers.

We set up a page to compare, via digital photos, different rooms and daily objects in our schools. The students enjoyed taking photos and comparing the images. 

Our partners were fascinated to find out that we wear uniforms every day. My students were surprised their partners ate lunch in their classroom every day. We have a cafeteria with hot and cold lunch. Their school does not. There were many other aspects they enjoyed comparing.

Comparing Weather
Many elementary classrooms have a focus on the weather. This is a daily event in the children's lives and something they could easily compare. Our classes kept a log of the daily temperature and the students took turns taking a photo from the school to show what the scenery looked like with the daily weather. 

Partner Table
We had partner pages. I partnered up the students of both schools. For each partner group, I gave them a 3-2-1 set of questions:

What three things would you like to know about Canada/the United States?
What two things would you like to know about your partner's school day?
Tell one thing you think you know about your partner's country.

I asked the students to guess how many days our weather would be the same.

As a bit of an inspiration, I gave the student groupings animal names. The students were easily able to communicate with each other through their wiki page. 

My students easily took to editing the wiki. They learned how to change the text color when answering their partner's questions. My students learned how to use Pics4Learning to link to an image of their animals on their wiki page.  I added the citations and spoke with the students about thanking the people for their images with a link.

Connecting via Skype
One of the favorite parts of the project for both classes was getting to meet each other via Skype calls. Each of my third grade classes had one call with our partner. During the call they were able to ask and answer each other's questions. Next year I will have my students do a little more prep work before the call. I'll have the students prepare questions with their classroom teacher and share the questions, in advance, with our Canadian partners.

Movie Making
Both classes had students who were disappointed that they did not get a chance to meet their partners on the Skype call. The Canadian teacher and I had each student make a little 20-30 second video recording. In the movie each student shares their group name, pseudo name, real first name, favorite subject(s) in school, favorite thing to do outside of school, favorite toy, and favorite thing about the project.

The students wrote their answers in advance - giving them some time for introspection. I set up the camera and had their scripts on a table. While not recording their part, students quietly watched the Canadian video with headphones. When a student finished recording their part in the movie, they quietly told the next student to get their script. We recorded the entire class in about 15 minutes. 

Afterward, I edited the movie into one finished project.

Finishing Up the Project
We started working in the beginning of March. We'll continue editing and adding to the wiki. In April, the students will find two tall tales from their country. We will have one Skype call with all of the children in May. Each class will take turns telling a tall tale. It will be a nice way to close out the project.

I've given all of my students a unique user name and password. I sent a note home to the families. It's really fun watching the students add little edits to the wiki page from home. As with all projects, I've subscribed to the RSS feed for all changes and notes. It's been a great experience and a real way to practice digital citizenship!

Please enjoy looking at our Canada-US wiki.