Last year, I tried something new with the 2nd grade. My library schedule was packed and it was hard to get all 4 classes on the calendar, so I used Google Hangouts to teach all 4 classes at one time. It was an experiment, but it proved to be a lot of fun and also showed the students and teachers how to use a Google Hangout and collaborate on a Google doc.
This year, we planned it again and added on a few layers. One of our favorite kinds of poems to write is list poetry. You take a list and add descriptive words to each item on the list so that the reader can experience the items on the list. Our goal in our Google Hangout this time was to learn about list poetry, hear a mentor poem, practice list poetry together, and then create one collaborative list poem.
In advance, I setup a Google Hangout on Air.
I sent the link to the hangout to all of the teachers participating in the hangout. I also created a blank Google Doc for our collaborative poem and shared editing rights with all 4 teachers.
I gave the blank doc a title and wrote each teacher’s name inside the doc to create a space for each class to add to the collaborative poem without writing on top of one another.
On the morning of the hangout, I emailed teachers a reminder that included the link to the doc as well as the direct link for joining as a participant in the hangout.
At hangout time, I went in my office and awaited the classes. As they entered, I did a sound check to make sure microphones were working. Then I used the control panel in Hangouts to mute all of their microphones to eliminate feedback.
I opened our lesson by reading from Falling Down the Page, list poems collected by Georgia Heard. We focused on “In my Desk” by Jane Yolen. I pointed out how she gave describing words for each item found in her desk so that we would be able to picture it or experience it. I built on the reactions of students to the line about a “great big hunk of rotting cheese” found in a lunch box. These kinds of words cause us to react which is exactly what we want in a poem.
Next, I opened up a blank doc and started writing a grocery list: bread, milk, eggs, cereal. Then I assigned each word to one of the 4 classes and had them brainstorm describing words to add to each item on my list. Each class had a chance to speak in the hangout as I added our words to the poem.
Finally, I invited all of the classes to work on a collaborative poem about things under our beds. Each teacher facilitated the work in their own classrooms. I checked in from time to time to give an update on when we would stop working. Then, each class read their stanza of the poem to close out our time.
While we were writing, I invited people on Twitter to watch the doc in construction. We had lots of viewers engaged in our work in progress, and students loved being published authors with one tweet.
You can watch the whole thing here:
This lesson certainly saved me time in the library to give to other classes who needed a lesson, but it was much more than that. Rather than having each class in the grade level feel isolated, this lesson allowed them to unite together to create a piece of writing that immediately reached an audience outside of our school. It allowed us to collaborate within the walls of our school without the disruption of shuffling kids from class to class. It gave each class a space to think and work with one another and also a space for all classes to work together. I don’t think that every lesson would work in this type of setup, but it does make me curious to think about when this type of learning is the better choice than scheduling each class individually.
Under My Bed
By Barrow 2nd graders
Under my bed you will find…
Lost High Fives
Stuffed animals, toys, and books
Scraps of paper
Remote control plane
Hairy, mad Tarantula
Clothes and shoes and jackets
Hairy Monkey Eyes with a big chin
Tv, coke can, and baseball cards
Football cards and a zipline
Dirty underwear, rotten bread, and an old sandwich
Two fat picture books
A fake diamond sword
My playful black kitten
Giant Lego parts
Huge dead bugs in the corner
A stinky, rainbow sock
A blue crate filled with Adidas shoes
A chewed up puppy stuffed animal
Hiding under my bed with my big, hairy monster
you will find
smelly dead cockroaches and dust bunnies
old paper candy wrappers
a big purple three horned monster
an empty shoebox and an old toy
a skeleton reaching for water
a stinking mummy, rotten eggs, and a stinky sock
cuddly stuffed animals
a golden chair, medals, trophies
smooth rocks I found in the street
lost, overdue library books
a racing track
Under my bed, I look and see
cute and sleepy puppies
old broken legos I used to play with
misplaced and forgotten toys
and ripped, dirty money
So many things under my bed.
Following this lesson, I did a very similar lesson with one Kindergarten class in person. We didn’t do the hangout, but we did share our work with the Internet so that students’ voices were already reaching an audience even in their beginning steps of writing. It was so much fun to get a comment from one of the viewers of the doc.