Have you ever met some very cool people at a conference and talked about teaching and different lessons you use in class? I think that is something we have all had some experience with at some point. One of the normal ways that those conversations end is with a, "We should connect and do something together. That would be great." More often than not, that connection never takes place. We end up too busy and trying to connect two teachers in a building can be tough, much less connecting teachers in different buildings or time zones. It seems impossible right?
Welcome to #VMGPS! In June, I had a few conversations with the amazing people of Van Meter, Iowa while attending ISTE in Denver. We complimented each other on how awesome we thought the other was and shared some ideas about connecting students from around the country. At the end of the conversation, I told @shannonmmiller that it would be great if we could work together on something in the future. Well, I learned very quickly that you cannot suggest something to Shannon without her going at it like a Van Meter Bulldog. Within a few weeks, she had connected me to @ShawnHyerVM, an English Teacher at Van Meter. @JohnCCarver contacted my Principal and Superintendent to talk about connecting our schools and hopefully say a nice thing about me. :-) I cannot thank all of the people of Van Meter for being so nice and working with me to make a connection with my students. That brings us to the main part of this post.
After months of planning, Skype meetings (I have another with Sean in a couple of hours) and many emails, #VMGPS is finally up and running and I'm super excited. Here is what we have set up so far.
We created Lit Circle Blogs using KidBlog.org. We created unique logins for each student and placed them in groups named after American Authors. Their first assignment is to write a post about themselves and connect with the other students in their group. Next week, we are going to have the students start discussing short stories. As time progresses, we will move the students to different groups so they will have the chance to meet other students and share new ideas.
I had Back to School Night on Wednesday and I was worried what some of the parents might say about the project. I was very happy to see how excited the parents were. they said their kids were excited about meeting new kids from Iowa and they loved the idea of expanding the horizons of a traditional English class. I've seen the excitement on the faces of my students. It truly makes me feel like a half-way decent teacher when I seem them that excited. ;-) I hope to create a guest log in for you to use to be a fly on the wall of the Lit Circle Blogs. After a couple of weeks, I'm sure I will be anxious to show of the awesomeness taking place.
As the school year moves forward, we are looking forward to discussing larger books (Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Black Boy) and work on Research Papers together. Most things are still in the early planning stages, but I have a good feeling about where this project is going. Do you know that feeling when you have created a lesson at home and you just KNOW that it is going to be awesome? That is what I feel about working with Van Meter.
After most of the year working together, we are planning on our students doing a joint production of Romeo and Juliet. There are still plenty of details to work out, but the kids are pumped! They want to start working on the play right now. The students are seeing the potential of working with new students and learning abut them as they create new ideas and do things no other students have ever done before.
I want to leave you with one last thing,
This afternoon, I was talking to the students about connecting with the Van Meter students and getting to know them using the blog. They had questions about the blog and we traded ideas about how it was going to work. One girl raised her hand and asked the question that I was hoping would be asked.
"We're allowed to talk to them about non-school stuff right? I mean, I can be Facebook friends and Skype with them right?"
#VMGPS - Knocking Down Walls