A couple of years ago, a teacher named Keana Frey from Bozman Intermediate in Conroe. TX came up with the idea to pair reading buddies from her 6th grade classroom with a 1st grade class in a nearby school in the same district. Each week, Keana and her students chose a children's book, learned to read it expressively, then wrote questions to ask the 1st graders about the book. On Thursday, eligible students "tried out" for their reading. If they were properly prepared, they were scheduled to Skype with their buddies the next day.
This project went extremely well. One of the best stories to come out of the project was of a 6th grade girl who Keana said never did her work and rarely came to school. One day Keana realized that the child had a major attitude change. "What's going on with you?" she asked curiously, "you're really doing a great job, but this is a major change." The child explained that she couldn't let her first grader be the only one who didn't have a reading partner on Friday.
Keana, if you read this, please contact me! I tried to email you but the address I had didn't work!
There are so many great stories from the project, but I realize you don't have all day to read this post, so let me cut to the chase! Here's how the project is going to work in our district.
PreK Center Principal:
Wants to connect PreK students with older students as reading buddies. She needs to purchase webcams. Here is the webcam I recommend she buy. She needs one for every computer she wants to be simultaneously used for this project. She'll also want to buy one headset per station she wants to simultaneously use. I recommend this model for PCs. Try to use them on your faster computers. This won't go well on slow machines. It is also better to make sure the machines are plugged in with a wire (not on wireless).
Huntsville Intermediate Principal:
Another principal has enthusiastically agreed to support this project. Teacher, Mr. ___ probably doesn't know yet, but he will be asked to be in charge of organizing the kids on his end at this school. I think he'll be enthusiastic about doing this, and Melissa and I will help him whenever he needs us. We will also be on each end of this the first time or two when the kids connect. Mr. ___ will need one headset per station to be used simultaneously. I recommend this model for Macs.
Middle School Principal: Debbie was the first principal I talked to after getting fired up by speaking to Rosa about this, and she also was enthusiastic about a group of students to contribute to the mix.
The Software: Google Video is already available to us through our Google Apps for Education domain and while this project was done via Skype before, Google Video is a better medium for us because we can have up to 9 points in every conversation. For example, if we end up missing an Intermediate student during a video chat time, two children could participate with one 6th grader on the other end.
If you need help starting this project in your district, Tweet me or something. There's also a contact form on this blog. Let's do it!