We have been successful with implementing various author Skype sessions in all of our schools. These experience are always positive. The authors that we have connected with have done a fantastic job inspiring our students. Most notably they have allowed students to make an authentic connection to the writing process. They connect the strategies taught in the classroom with what real authors actually do. Sometimes it is just better when they hear it from someone other than their teacher. Each time we connect we also have a lot of fun.
This particular Skype session was different. The student's in Ms. Reichel's grade 1 class in Ellen T. Briggs School connected with author Jean Marzollo. Mrs. Marzollo is the author of the well-known I-Spy book series. Ms. Reichel's class chose to focus on her non-fiction story Pierre the Penguin. The students had been studying about penguins. They recently skyped with a penguin expert.
Here is a excerpt from Ms. Reichel's blog posting regarding the connection:
"We first read this book as part of our unit on penguins and instantly fell in love with the adorable Pierre who wears a tiny wet suit so he will stay warm in the water even though he does not have feathers. Our interest in Pierre brought us to his home sitehttp://www.calacademy.org/webcams/penguins/. There we were able to watch live footage of Pierre and his friends and read about how he is doing on the Penguin Blog.
After that we were hooked! We wanted to know more and were lucky enough to Skype with Mrs. Marzollo. Not only did she read us the book but she also took the time to answer questions. "
What really differentiated this experience from other author Skype sessions is what unfolded during the exchange of questions with Mrs. Marzollo. The students shared that they discovered Pierre's birthday was the next week. He was going to be 29 years old. They had learned this and other interesting facts about Pierre while reading a blog published about him. This was new information for Mrs. Marzollo. She was so impressed with the knowledge she had uncovered from our students that she wrote a posting on her personal blog to highlight the experience. You can read it here.
The student's in Ms. Reichel's class are very excited to be mentioned on the blog of an international author. They believe that they are now famous! What is underlying here is what this has accomplished. The student's have seen a true purpose for their research. They were able to curate and communicate what they learned and share it with a global audience. This opportunity opened up a level of engagement that each of us strive for. If we could create opportunities for students to share what they have learned or created with the world, we can expect a level of engagement and excitement about learning that is difficult to develop using traditional instructional methods.