Mystery Skype in First Grade–FINALLY!

I have talked about Mystery Skype many, many times on this blog over the years (because it’s an AMAZING learning experience and man is it fun!!), but if you’re new here you might not know much about it, or even what it is.  If that’s the case, please check out this post that I wrote a few years ago to explain how it works, then come back and read about how it’s going in first grade this year!!

While Mystery Skype encompasses a long list of skills and concepts that first graders need to know and apply, we chose to begin it now because we were going to begin a geography study and knew this would be a SPOT ON and FUN way to do what we needed to do with our kiddos.

Rather than just jumping right in, we did a little bit of work beforehand, and talked about what we already knew or what we noticed about maps.  Kiddos got a partner and a map and talked.  Like we figured, they already knew a lot about how maps work.

I didn’t get a picture of the chart, but kiddos’ post-its showed that they already knew about how blue means water; that usually the green parts mean land; that the stars, dots, etc., stand for places/cities; and that there is a place (which we will later on call the key or legend) that tells you what all those symbols mean.

Ms. Turken’s class was a day ahead of us in our geography study and so had had a chance to talk about regions and where certain states are in our country.  The next day, then, we joined forces and put our kids together to do some co-teaching and kid-teaching about what they had learned.  Rm. 112 brought their maps to share and we talked about how we could use this new learning to help us determine where someone was during a Mystery Skype.

In addition to the idea of using regions to help us, we also highlighted how the Mississippi River is another important natural feature we can use to help us narrow down locations.  We marked it on our maps, and the practiced asking yes/no questions and kiddos figured out which state I had chosen.  During this practice round, we also talked about borders and how we can ask if the state borders another country or a body of water.

After both groups had had a chance to practice (one with me and one with Ms. Turken doing the same thing), we were ready to try it for real. 🙂

Luckily, Ms. Turken has many family members who live in other places and who are game to play with us!  Since we had two Skype sessions scheduled, we decided to use them as an opportunity for more teaching and learning.  One group asked the questions and then the other were the observers, so see how it worked.  We would then switch the next day.  We talked to one brother on Thursday, and very quickly figured out he was in Colorado.  We were EXCITED that we had figured it out!

Kiddos showed that they were TOTALLY listening and learning in our practice rounds, and asked great questions about all that we had discussed.  They used regions, the Mississippi River and borders to help them!  Way to go, first grade friends!

Then on Friday, we talked to another brother, and the second group got a chance to try out their Skyping skills!

Again we were able to use what we know to determine his location! YEEHAA!!  He was able to use his phone to show us some great pictures of the water he lives and works next to, as well.  We liked that part. 🙂

So…we’ve begun a really exciting Mystery Skype journey that has taken us to Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Colorado already.  Wonder where we’ll go next?!  Stay tuned!

Mystery Skype–April 14 (#3)

We’re on #3 Skypes in about 2 weeks!  YEHAA!!  Today was the 2nd in two days!

Like last time, we had jobs, but at the end of the last session we decided to trade.  Unlike last time, our camera worked, though (did I mention that?  They were Skyping with a blank screen the whole time! 😦 ).

By the way, this post has made me think it might be a good idea to start a new page just devoted to Mystery Skypes.  Would make it easier for us (and everyone else!) to find the archives when we need them.

This was another great session, and at the end I’ll share what we know now that we didn’t know just three short sessions ago. 🙂

Screenshot 2016-04-18 21.14.57

Screenshot 2016-04-18 21.15.23

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The debrief this time was a question about how much more they know now than they did just a couple of short days ago.  Here where their responses when I asked “What do you know now?”

  • “I am a better greeter because I’ve practiced three times. I don’t need my dos/don’ts sheet anymore!” JH
  • “Now I can visualize a map in my head when they ask a question.” KB
  • “My job was easier today [than yesterday] because I wrote shorter words.” EM
  • “I think doing a job more than once makes it easier.” AM
  • “I know more about maps.” PM
  • “I know more about what to do as task manager.  I can just sit and watch what’s going on [and give reminders when they need them] instead of walking around.” AK
  • “I know where to stand and use better angles to take better pictures.” CB
  • “I am better at Twitter.  I did it almost alone!” JM

What great thinking, Rm. 202 friends!  As always, you amaze me with your reflection and insight. 🙂  Keep it up–excited to see what happens as you keep going with Mystery Skypes!

Culture–Final Drafts!

We worked for much of last quarter on culture, based on many versions of Little Red Riding Hood.  Here are our final drafts of the books we published about the cultures of the various regions and countries we studied (not all kiddos wanted me to share, by the way–since I know now that I should ask!).

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.21.37

Khalani B.–THE MIDWEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.35.04

Charlie B.–THE WEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.43.11

EmilyM.–GHANA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.57.48

Evan R.–THE WEST

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.22.19

Ja’MiaM.–CAJUN

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.44.20

MillieR.–GERMANY

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.31.12

Baron E.–CHINA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.23.56

Nate R.–CHINA

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.22.45

Sara R.–SPAIN

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.37.25

EllaMarieG.–GERMANY

Screenshot 2016-04-18 20.49.27

Makayla M.–SPAIN

Thank you for reading!  We worked so hard and would love your feedback! 🙂

Mystery Skype–For Real!

You might remember that last year we prepared for a Mystery Skype by Skyping with Ms. Turken’s class INSIDE of our school.  We were ready and had a plan, but then our Skype that we had scheduled fell through.  Somehow we didn’t get another on the books until this year.  So a week or so ago we did a Mystery NUMBER Skype with Ms. Bartin’s class at Keysor–the next step above someone in our school is in our school district. hee hee

Then, when I tweeted about how much fun we’d had, I asked for any takers on another Mystery Skype.  We quickly got a bite from Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd graders!  We quickly put a day and time on the schedule and I got busy getting my class ready for the big time.

Since a few years ago when I did this with 5th graders, I have made some new “friends” on Twitter and knew that they would be the right ones to go to for help.  Paul Solarz, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire and author of Learn Like a Pirate has some GREAT Mystery Skype resources, and I used many of them to get us prepared for our conversation.

It started with determining our jobs.  While Mr. Solarz has 5th graders and does most of his Mystery Skype work online, we were still able to use many of their listed jobs, modified a little to fit our needs.

TIWF2997

While I think that Mr. Solarz assigns jobs, we had a meeting before we got started and I explained each job, then we decided who should do each one.  If more than the allotted number wanted a specific job, kiddos had to find a way to decide who should do it (many of them played rock-paper-scissors to get to a decision).  In the end, we agreed that the right people were in the right jobs, based on their strengths and personalities.

I was excited (as were they) and even though I had done this many times before, I really didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t done it with this format in any other session previously.  Because we were ready a little early (ok, I did that on purpose), we were able to practice.  We were able to run through the whole deal twice, with me pretending to be the other class and them trying out their assigned jobs (thanks, Mr. Solarz for that idea–it was SUPER helpful!).  First I was in Illinois (Chicago, actually) and then I was in Florida (ok, fine–Orlando).  If you know me at all, you could probably guess those would have been my choices.  Ok, fine, they probably had a little head start on that, too.  Anyway…

While we were working, I was surprised with how busy everyone was, how well they worked together and how quiet but bustling the room was!  We were even able to host a few teachers who wanted to see what this whole Mystery Skype thing was about without any real trouble.  Thanks for Ja’Mia and Landen for submitting the pictures for this post, and for Khalani for taking the video.

Check out our archives from our first-ever REAL Mystery Skype!

Screenshot 2016-04-04 20.25.02

Screenshot 2016-04-04 20.30.07

After we were finished, we sat down to debrief and it was great how excited they all still were–I had them turn and talk so everyone could get all their thoughts out, then they shared some with me.  Here is a little of what kiddos said, some positive and some things we might change:

I liked holding up the “Good job” sign, it made me feel great to see everyone focusing, learning and doing the right thing! -Sara

I thought it was fun and I really wanted to do a good job to help out our class! -Thomas

I liked that I helped find Vermont! -Amber

I didn’t like walking around the whole time. -Landen

I liked my job because I got to remind people. -Ella Marie

I thought it was tricky trying to find a question.  -Emily

I liked it when Nate and Charlie asked about the time zone. -Lawrence

I like that my behavior was good.  I got a “good job” card and I really wanted to do my very best for our class! -Jacob

I liked being a greeter.  I was good at that job because I am friendly. -Joshua

I liked learning things that I didn’t know about our state. -Ava

I liked learning about maps. -Evan

We also debriefed on jobs.  The consensus was that there were too many researchers, and that we needed to add a couple of new ones: Tweeters and Closers.  Mrs. Sisul, our principal, texted me during our session and asked that I make sure to Tweet since she couldn’t make it and I could not believe that I hadn’t even thought about it!  We will definitely find some friends to do that next time, as well as choose two friendly kiddos to close the call and say thanks and good bye.  🙂

IMG_1085

One more thing…it’s very long and it’s kind of shaky–it’s our first time, after all–but I think it gives a great example of all the hustle, bustle and hard work that was happening during our Mystery Skype.  We’d love to hear what you think, especially if you notice anything or have any questions.

A Little Further Into the Woods

Since we’ve begun our Little Red Riding Hood culture study, some exciting things have happened!  Let me tell you about what’s going on!

Alongside the LRRH books that we shared was another book, full of all sorts of organizers, charts, and a map.  This would be where we’d record our thinking and learning throughout the study.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 15.22.10LRRH_culture

As we read a book, kiddos would fill in a chart that marked certain features of each story, which we would later use to compare stories and use the information to learn more about each culture represented.

Additionally, we kept track of where our countries are in the world, by adding a star on the map for every one we read.  Later on, we added a US map to our book (which I don’t have a picture of yet) as we learned about regions.

IMG_0392-min

As we read different versions, we also compared how certain books were alike and different…

IMG_0395

…as well as finding other things that we needed to add into our book (note to Mrs. Bearden to make sure to put this in there next year!):

IMG_0393

Once we got the background of the stories, talked about characters, compared and contrasted and decided on our favorites, we were ready for the really fun part–researching more about the cultures from our books.

Each kiddo chose their top 3, then randomly came and declared which culture group they wanted to be in.  I wanted it to be about the country/region/culture, not the people in the group, so this part was all done first, then I shared their groupings.  Each group has 3 people, which is kind of ideal.  I could hardly get the directions out before they were ready to get going (kind of like with our spelling investigations this week–they were eager!).  I had found books for each group to start their research, but groups had to go book shopping to find the right ones.  Once they had books, they were busy digging in, collecting information about land (not culture, but related to the geography focus), language, holidays, food, games, religion, school, music, art and then a topic of their choice.

After our initial book search, kiddos were allowed to use website that I had found, as well as World Book Online and Kid Info Bits, which we have subscriptions to from our library.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 17.09.06

We even had an opportunity to learn about German culture from someone in Germany! I sent out a request on Twitter for friends from our countries/regions of choice, but was unable to work out any Skyping situations.  Then I remembered that Mrs. Appelbaum’s daughter is studying German in GERMANY and that she might be available to help us out!  She was more than willing and so we worked out a FaceTime call for last Thursday afternoon.  Those girls were so excited (and so was I!)!

We are just about done with research and are excited to start writing–we’re going to take all of our information and make books to share with other Robinson kiddos!  Stay tuned for updates on that part of our work!

 

 

Over the River and Through the Woods

Little Red, Pretty Salma, Petite Rouge, Little Roja, Lon Po Po. The list goes on and on.  And it’s a pretty good list, eh?  Rm. 202 thinks so!  (Do you know what it’s a list of?) We have just begun a study much like one (only better!) that we did last year.  And you know how I told you about this thing I have the other day?  Yeah…well I am afraid that because of that thing I didn’t tell you about that awesome study last year.  UGH!  Luckily things have changed, though, and I’m starting this story much earlier. 🙂

This quarter we’re studying culture, and because of the unit I found last year (I used a variation of this Cinderella unit from First Grade Wow.  It went SMASHINGLY and was a great combination of literature, non-fiction text, culture AND geography.  It was also tons of fun to boot, which increased the engagement with a topic that is already generally interesting for first graders.  Win, win, win all around!

So this year when we came to this culture/geography time of year again (which in our curriculum usually happens in January), I knew I wanted to try something similar to what we had done last year.  The big idea of the unit is that folktales and fairytale can tell you something about culture.  When talking about culture, it is also important to understand the geography related to that culture; where the people live and why they might do the things they do there is essential to the puzzle.  Makes sense then, that all of those things would be connected–integrating subjects gives students multiple ways to make new information fit in with old knowledge and therefore make for stronger pathways to memory and understanding.  And honestly, making the unit include multiple subjects and topics helps time-wise.  Fitting it all in is always a concern for teachers, and this helps me get it all in.

Starting with framework from last year, I collected books.  The Cinderella theme worked so well and I knew I had to find another fairy tale or folktale that both had multiple versions, as well as a story that would interest my students.  There were obviously many choices, but I went with Little Red Riding Hood.  This story was familiar enough (like Cinderella), but also had many variations, and had interesting characters we could study, as well.

Our focus is to be using the fairy tales and folktales to analyze story structure, characters and main idea, as well as compare and contrast different versions.  Eventually we’ll probably write about our favorite version, trying to convince our readers why it’s the best with strong evidence from the text.  We will also study geographical concepts like continents, countries (and how they’re different from states and cities, as well as what our country is), bodies of water and regions–this one is new this year.  Besides just studying cultures of other places (which was our main focus last year), we’re incorporating the idea of regions of our own country this time; there are stories from both different countries and US regions in this unit.  We’ll analyze maps, talk about how they work and what information they give us, put stars on the places from where our stories come, color and label maps and talk about the places we know about (as well as places we wonder about).  Eventually then, students will choose one culture to learn more about, and research it.  This will incorporate with our next writing unit, and then will still touch reading and social studies skills and concepts, too.

And here’s the part where the “messy” of writing about this starts.  Previously, I would have waited until the very end of the study, hoping to include all the details and pictures, including fabulous videos of us presenting our final products.  Like I mentioned earlier, that often meant that I then didn’t even get around to writing about ANY of it–usually because I either forgot the details, ran out of steam or just didn’t have time.  And yeah, it makes me sad that it’s missing on the blog.  So here we go.  You might want to wear gloves.  Or a poncho.  Maybe goggles or a raincoat?

First let me share our booklist. I compiled it from a variety of places online, as well as just by standing forever in front of the fairytale section of my library with a crooked neck reading books spines.  I know–I’m a glutton for punishment.  It’s really not so easy, either, by the way, because they’re organized not just by story, but by author and by country.  Oh, and then they’re the ones that aren’t so obvious because they don’t have ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in the title.  Anyhow…

We are using stories from Germany (the original), China (we have two from this culture, actually), Ghana, Spain, as well as from at least 4 regions in the US (and maybe another one that I’ve forgotten.  Told you this was messy!!!).

  1. Little Red Cap by the Brothers Grimm and Little Red Riding Hood by Sam McBratney
  2. Lon PoPo by Ed Young and Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep
  3. Pretty Salma by Niki Daly
  4. Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya
  5. Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell
  6. Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  7. Little Red Cowboy Hat by Susan Lowell

 While those are the “official” titles, we are also going to enjoy some others that will be specifically for the reading part of the study, where we can study version, point-of-view and character.  Those include (at least for now!):

  1. Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  2. The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood by Toby Forward
  3. Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy

  4. Red Riding and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer
  5. Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story) by Trisha Speed Shaskan

  6. Super Red Riding Hood by Claudia Da′vila

I’m excited to share more pages to our story as we go along! 🙂

 

 

Mystery Skype–INSIDE of Robinson?

On of my favorite finds in recent years is Mystery Skype.  I’ve tried it with several classes in several states, and even did a Mystery Skype with my friend Ms. Turken while she was teaching overseas in Ecuador!

As I have written about previously this year, there are many things I have brought from 5th grade with me that I’ve been excited to try with my firsties, and Mystery Skype is one I finally pulled out of the bag this week (mainly because of an invitation from a friend on Twitter to schedule one soon!).

The idea of Mystery Skype is really simple (try to figure out where the other class is located by asking yes/no questions), but it can take some time and practice to get good at it.  I knew I needed to practice with my kiddos before our first “real” MS, so I called on my friend Ms. Turken for help again.  She was totally game.

I asked her to help us by letting us Skype with her class, and at first I was just going to work out the kinks of having kids come up to the camera, making sure we talked loud enough, etc.  Then I thought it could be cool to try to actually do a Mystery Skype…INSIDE of our school!  So I asked Ms. Turken to take her kids to a secret place in our building and we would try to figure out where they were located by asking good questions!

Before they called us, we spent some time working out the logistics of how you would even begin to narrow down someone’s location in this big, wide world of ours.  Using Google Maps and a map of our school, we had some up-front teaching about continents, countries, states, cities and how to narrow down a location by eliminating the possibilities.  We talked about directions and how just asking north, south, east, west can cut out a HUGE part of the world that they are considering.  We also talked about landmarks (both natural and man-made), and how these can be helpful in determining a location, as well.  When we looked at our Robinson maps, we connected these ideas to the floor our friends might be on, as well as our school “landmarks” they might be near, like the gym, cafeteria, library, elevator or bathrooms.  They caught on really quickly, and were excited to get started!

Our friends called us and kiddos got busy!  Rm. 202 kids were paired up with a friend, and they worked together to study the map, consider the clues they got from our friends’ answers, and then decide on our next question.  Pairs took turns coming up to the computer to ask their question and get the answer.

Our questions went like this:

1. Are you in the basement?–NO

2. Are you on the first floor?–NO

3. Are you on the 2nd floor?–YES  (at this point they all knew they could just focus on the sheet that had the 2nd floor on it!)

4. Are you in the NORTH part of the building?–NO (this is the end where we are)

5. Are you in the EAST part of the building?–YES (this part had 5 classrooms in it, so again we narrowed our focus!)

6. Are you near MRS. FRY’S CLASSROOM?–YES

7. Are you in MRS. HONG’S CLASSROOM?–NO (she is next door to Mrs. Fry)

8. Are you in MRS. FRY’S CLASSROOM?–YES!!!  YAY!! WE FOUND THEM!!

After a bit of cheering and a few high-fives, we debriefed on how the experience went, as well as what we’d do for the “real” Mystery Skype session in a few weeks.  We used the protocol of “plusses” (things we’d do again) and “deltas” (things we’d change).  I’d say they had some pretty great insights!

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.31.44 PMI especially thought the one “watch their actions” was a good idea.  It came because of the question we asked about our friends being “near Mrs. Fry’s room.”  Millie noticed that Ms. Turkens’ friends were snickering and covering their mouths when they answered, which told her that they were probably IN her room.  We agreed that often watching how someone reacts can give clues.

I was beyond impressed with how well both classes of firsties did, and am continually amazed at how well “little” kids do with “big” kid things like blogging, Twitter and Mystery Skype.  I’d say it’s proof that you should never underestimate someone because of their size!  WAY TO GO, RM. 202 KIDDOS!