Thursday, August 30, 2012

Opening up our classrooms

Students checking out Mr. Sharp's video

I love opening my classroom up, showing my students that the world is bigger than our tiny piece of it. Skyping has helped in that endeavor – and I cannot wait for my first Skype session this year. I also love to collaborate on units and lessons within my own district, creating lessons with other teachers, working with specialists to pull in their knowledge and teach my students that people beyond their crazy reading teacher love literature and technology. But today I was reminded of one of the biggest collaboration tools I’ve come across in the last three years, Twitter.

I joined Twitter three years ago this summer. Signing up, I didn’t think I would get much from it. I think the only thing I knew about Twitter was that Ashton Kutcher had a lot of followers. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

I immediately began following educators and authors. Twitter has become, as Donalyn Miller puts it, the best “armchair PD” out there. I can ask questions, get assistance on a lesson issue, or just discuss books. I’ve made friends through Twitter, people that I communicate with on a regular basis. I’ve grown as an educator through Twitter. Probably the biggest shock was that through Twitter, and my friends there, I’ve also begun to realize my dream of writing.

Today as I taught a lesson in my reading class the beauty of Twitter was brought home to me. I’m reading R.J. Palacio’s Wonder to all three of my reading classes. The kids hang on Auggie’s every word. (For those of you that know the book, we hit the “Bleeding Scream” scene today. Oh boy.) Today I pulled up a blog from my friend Jen Vincent talking about her student, Michelle, who shares some of Auggie’s medical complications. (HERE) Wow, the discussion was amazing. The kids were kind, insightful, curious, and made connections that I was astounded by.

Then we switched gears and talked about how to share books with each other and how some people wear their love of reading on their sleeves. To illustrate this I shared Colby Sharp’s opening day video from last year. (HERE) The kids giggled, talked about what it would be like to be in Colby’s class, and discussed why he was a “cool” teacher. I pulled about six books that I said would be some of Mr. Sharp’s favorites (Bigger Than a Breadbox, Hound Dog True, Babymouse, Hatchet, The One and Only Ivan) and book talked them all. All of these books were checked out by the end of the day.

Educator friends from Twitter like Donalyn Miller, John Schu, Tony Keefer, Frankie Sibberson, and so many more have come up almost daily in our classroom. I’m thinking of grabbing a map of our country and pinpointing friends’ classrooms on it so kids can refer to them easily. Hopefully once my Skype operation is working again we will Skype in their classrooms because as I watched my students reading about Jen and Michelle today – and laugh with Colby  – I realized that my classroom is a richer place for because these amazing educators are part of it.