Last school year my class started participating in #mysteryskypes. I would connect with another educator somewhere in the United States (keeping it to the states so far), usually through Twitter, to guess each other's locations. We ask the other class questions, like "Are you near an ocean?" or "Does your state start with a vowel?" As we narrow the list of states left, students begin to make guesses. Both classes end up winners by figuring out where the other class is located. Students are using deductive reasoning, while learning geography, map skills, and meeting the social studies standards. (5th grade Social Studies standards in California are all about US history and state locations, while the 4th graders are learning more about CA geography and location.) It was a great learning experience for my students. So far this year, my class has participated in two "games" with another 8 set up for the near future. (The goal is to connect with all 50 states by the end of the year.) Our first one took longer than I thought it would, but the second was much faster, for both classes.
One of the new things I have tried this year to make it more engaging for all students involved, not just the few whole like solving puzzles, is assigning roles to the students. Roles we are using came from Paul Solarz. (http://psolarz.weebly.com/how-to-set-up-and-run-a-mystery-skype-session.html) Students act as greeters, questioners and assistants, answerers, researchers, class map trackers, photographers, sharers (for the end when each class shares about their school/class/city), and closers. With a class of 35, I needed many roles so that all students would have something to do. Students got to pick their top three role choices. I made the final choices, with the understanding that by the end of the year all students would get to do all jobs. With the new roles, I found more students were participating, the students who understand geography better were helping those who needed more support.
I notice that not only are my students becoming more proficient in their map and geography skills, they are becoming more collaborative and greater problem solvers. They have also need better listening skills. Students made poor guesses because they didn't listen carefully to the answer the other class gave us. The "competition" to guess where the other class is located before they guess ours helps the students to work together. They are also becoming better speakers. They have had to learn to speak clearly into the computer so that the class understands the questions and answers over the internet.
Students are learning that others around the United States are just like them. It is always interesting to see the difference in schools and classes, especially class sizes (our last class had only 12 5th grade students!). My class is fascinated when we see schools surrounded by snow (It has snowed once during school in my 20+ years as a teacher in Simi, and that never hit the ground.) They are excited to see other classes have flexible seating and other similarities with technology. We get to see the differences in school times and homework (some have it, some don't.) All of this has made my class better global citizens while learning the academic subjects that can get boring.
What I learned:
- Having roles keeps more students engaged in the activity
- Friendly competition created greater collaboration within my classroom
- Schools that don't have Skype can use Google Hangouts in the same way
If you wish to try a #mystersykpe or #mysteryHangout
- Search and follow #mysteryskype to connect with other classes around the world
- If you would like to connect with our class to make our 50 states goal a reality, please contact me through Twitter (@MViTDiTeach or @CsotoMViT) or through the comment section. :)
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching