Friday, May 31, 2013

A Wonderful Project

Back in January, I received an email from Joanne Rowe, Digital Age Curriculum Coach for public schools in Birmingham, Michigan.

She was working with a 6th grade language arts class in connection with a project called "online inquiry book clubs." 

Here's how she explained it to me:
"I connect two classrooms from across the state or the country (right now we (Michigan) are  partnered with California). The participating teachers select books based on a theme which have moral and/or ethical issues (endangered animals and zoos, prejudice, child labor, etc.) and the kids are (based on their interest primarily) placed in online book clubs made up of students from both locations. 

The students have mini-lessons on writing "thick", open-ended questions (usually that can be backed up with evidence from the text). 

Students post questions after reading and then members of the book club post responses... As students complete the novel, they write lingering questions that they would like to learn more about

Each book club decides their own essential question and then the students each research a focus question which culminates in a jigsaw- multimedia presentation (completed online...coordinated with skype planning conversations between book club members, wiki discussion tab, posting the research to the's a collaborative project, then kids choose the tool based on accessibility and consensus of the group...imovie, photostory, etc.).

Finally, the projects are posted on the wiki to bring awareness globally...usually there is a public service announcement component to the presentation."
Ms. Rowe thought that my book, How to Steal a Dog, would be the

perfect book for a 6th grade language arts class in her district to use for the book club.

The project has been a great success. Ms Rowe says:

The students have become focused readers...taking notes on sticky pads, on the whiteboard or on their mobile devices (all self-inspired). They have become a collaborative group...helping each other spell and clarify ideas. 

And here's the fun part for me. I was invited to join the students in their wiki discussions! I was amazed at the thoughtful and thought-provoking questions the students asked one another and the ensuing discussions about the book. 

What a treat to be able to discuss my book with readers.

AND - it gets better!

A group of 3rd graders from a school in a neighboring district also chose How to Steal a Dog for their book club. So Ms. Rowe's 6th grade book club became online "Mentors" for these third graders and constructed (and posted) the questions for the 3rd grade book club.

They gave the students online support with things they may be confused about from their reading and encouraged them when they posted discussion questions of their own.

Now check out these pictures of this fantastic group of readers:

The How to Steal a Dog Book Club with the amazing Joanne Rowe

Some members of the club

Recording thoughts and questions from classmates:

Writing questions that come to mind while reading the chapter.

Such great questions. The students have really thought about the story, theme and characters.

6th grader Morgan helping the 3rd graders with their questions

And when they were finished, I got to meet them via Skype. What a great experience!

And THEN....

I got to Skype with the third graders when they visited the sixth graders:

At their pizza party:

What a joy for an author to connect with readers like this!


Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

AMAZING!!! How fantastic to be a part of the whole reading/life-changing/pizza party experience with these kids. Love the pictures!

Anonymous said...

My students loved your book! We had thought provoking group discussions, worked on writing conventions, & enjoyed meeting the Birmingham students. Technology has given them many exeripences that they would not have had, like meeting you! They do not have opportunities to meet authors, so they really appreciated your time with them. I look forward to sharing your books with my new group of students next year!
Warmest heartfelt thanks,
Kathy Jewell

Augusta Scattergood said...

Not only thought-provoking but very unusual. Such a creative teacher. Lucky kids. I know they had fun. Impressive!