Our first day of Read Across America and World Read Aloud was filled with wonderful stories and plenty of technical difficulties, but we didn’t let the technical difficulties prevent us from connecting through stories.
The day began with my first cancellation emails. Since World Read Aloud Day is right at the beginning of March, many states are still experiencing winter weather. Two connections were cancelled before we could even begin due to snow. Did this stop us? No. Ms. Wyatt’s 1st grade class still came, and we read aloud Goodnight Already and Waiting Is Not Easy and noticed many similarities between the two books. We just didn’t have a Skype connection to go with it.
Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade students came to connect with Cassandra Ogletree and her students in Forsyth, GA. Before we connected, our students made predictions about where they thought Forsyth, GA was located. Then, we used Google Maps to take a look. During our connection, we read Goodnight Already with Cassandra and her students. I was Bear and Cassandra was Duck. Since our 5th graders are studying perspective, they noticed how the book showed the different perspectives of bear and duck. As usual, students had time to ask one another questions about where they live. We often take for granted that students realize how connected we are around the world, but these Skypes surface that our students have lots of wonderings about the day to day lives of others around the world. When we disconnected, we took time to look at a street view in Google Maps to see the school that we had just Skyped with. Student were amazed by the lack of buildings around the school. It seemed to be way out in the country surrounded by pastures and trees. This is very different from our school that is right next to UGA.
Ms. Boyle’s class skyped with Colleen Friel and her 1st grade in Long Island, NY. We shared The Story of Fish and Snail. Our Skype calls kept freezing or dropping, so we reached a point where we just had to stop the call and finish the story on our own. Once again, the students were so patient during the technical difficulties and we didn’t let it stand in the way of the story.
Ms. Haley’s class had an opportunity to connect with Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, author of wonderful treasures such as All the World and The Good Pie Party. The downside was that we couldn’t get Skype to work at all in order to connect with her. I tried every trick I could think of to make the connection better and faster and nothing worked. Finally, I took out my phone and we huddled around my phone for over 30 minutes listening to her share about her books, her ideas, her dog, and her upcoming work. We had the treat of hearing the first few pagers of her upcoming book The Great Good Summer. Within just a few pages, several of our students started opening up about connections they had to the book. One student shared about losing her dad. Another talked about her dad being gone on tour. I love how stories help us make connections to the emotions we wrestle with and give us a pathway to conversation with one another. It must be amazing as an author to hear how your words open up conversations for readers.
Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade returned at the end of the day to connect again with Colleen Friel in Long Island, NY. This time, our Skype connection was much better since the district worked on the network. We read the book The Day the Crayons Quit. Students loved finding out that even though there were 7 inches of snow on the ground, the New York students were still in school.
Finally, we closed our day by doing a triple Google Hangout with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, VT and Craig Seasholes in Seattle, WA. Ms. Carney’s Kindergarten class joined their Kindergarten classes in reading 3 Elephant and Piggie stories. It was fun to connect across the country and hear words being spoken between thousands of miles of the United States. We had fun, engaged in some silliness while we read, and made some new friends. Even though Donna had some technical difficulties, we still made it work. We could hear her, but not see her.
I won’t lie that I was a bit flustered today with all of the problems, but I have to say how important it is to persevere. I could have easily given up and called it all off, but we made things work with what we had. Because of that, our students had an amazing first day of connections through stories.