This past school year, my students and I had many opportunities, one basically leading to another. As you may have read in some of my previous posts, my class was given the privilege to chat with explorer Mark Wood as he was preparing for his ascent of Mt. Everest. To go along with this experience as we talked to and followed him on his journey, we did a daily read aloud.
My principal suggested that we read the novel Peak, by Roland Smith to supplement this experience. My students LOVED this novel, even though it may have been a little mature for them, but the description of the experience was as close to real as it can get! As we were reading the novel together, we would check Mark's updates of his status on Facebook from Everest and the stuff he was describing we were learning about through our novel at the same time! This novel led my students and me to study the country of Nepal, learn about the people and their culture, look up facts about Mt. Everest, and google pictures of frostbite and of the equipment that explorers use to climb the mountain.
My students became so involved and curious about Mt. Everest and the experience that Mark Wood was having, that they looked forward to coming to class every day and engaging themselves in our study of this explorer and the intimidating task he was trying to accomplish.
Also by being involved in the Skype call with Mark, I was able to establish other connections with teachers. We were able to connect with a class in rural Montana, who also had the opportunity to connect with Mark on Mt. Everest. There happened to be a student in this class who was also reading the book Peak. From this, we came up with the idea of connecting with the class through Skype to share thoughts and comments on the book Peak.
They gave a short summary of the book, they talked about their favorite part of the book, they talked about what they would have done if they were the main character, and they also gave their opinions about the theme of the book. After we talked about Peak though, the other class began to share about a book series that they were reading called Everest. Again, the students gave summaries and basically gave book reviews of the series to my class, which in turn built their interest in reading the series.
Soon, the students were asking each other their own questions and some of the questions my kids came up with wowed me! Again, this was towards the end of the year, so their learning of things we did in the classroom this year was evident.
One student asked: "How does your book Everest relate to our book Peak?
Another students asked: "Can anyone relate to any of the characters in the story?"
One of my students commented that the series Everest was like Hunger Games in a way.
The richness of the discussion was so beneficial for my students, and their ownership of what they were saying during the discussion was evident. Since they were connecting with students from a different state through Skype, they put forth a different sort of effort and excitement than they would have if we were just talking amongst ourselves in the classroom...