Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Do You Know Someone Famous?

Do you know someone famous? This was the first question asked two days in a row as our NYC classes participated in this year's Read Around the Planet. It just intrigues me how students from other states view our students lives. The truth is our brush with greatness is far and few between but we won't let the out of towners know that. So, our students rattle off the names of famous graduates from our school. The likes of Lucy Liu, John Legugamos, Adrian Brody and so on. This year 8 classes from two of the schools where I work are videoconferencing in Read Around the Planet programs with classes in Texas, Michigan, Arizona, Upstate New York and Canada. So far five videoconferences have taken place and each one has been an amazing and rewarding experience for our students.

Each videoconference begins with some kind of literacy exchange. Two of our 6th grade classes are reading The House on Mango Street which is a collection of vignettes. Our students wrote some vignettes of their own. Some poignant snapshots of their own homes and lives. Others more humorous as they capture hot school topics like school lunch, detention and what to do during recess. Another class perfomed a skit bases on a chapter out of a book about Harriet Tubman. The skit was complete with costumes and scenery. Our partner schools also share their literary experiences. But the literacy exchange is just a warm up for what is to come...questions and answers. This is when the real fun begins. The students learn about what's different about their lives and how much they have in common. There are always the moans and groans when one class learns there day is longer, their weather is colder and their recess is shorter. The NYC teachers groan when they learn the class size of the schools in Texas. But for the most part there is just a real comradery amongst the classes.
Our videoconference with Paris, Texas was just great. Some of the boys in the Texas class were wearing cowboy hats which definitely made an impression on our city slickers. The conference with Coloma, Michigan unveiled that the population of their town of around 1500 was less than our student population of 2000. The contrasts are striking but so are the similarities. They like the same kinds of music, dances and sports. These videoconferences always end in the same way. The students always want to become penpals or in our case videoconferencingpals. A connection has been made.

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