Friday, 6 February 2015

The Global Read Aloud rocks!

The Power of the Global Read Aloud

This is a post I wrote for the Literacy Online list. I hope its ok to share it here too.

For the past couple of years, I have watched the Global Read Aloud unfold with great longing! This is a global project where classes read together, build connections and form friendships over the same shared book. It was started by the amazing Pernille Ripp (and if you are not following her go and do so right this minute! She is amazing!) I’ve desperately wanted my learners to be a part of the GRA but the timing is horrendous, falling over the New Zealand Term 3 holidays. This year, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up- I’d address the scheduling issues later.  

First my class and I needed to select one of the novels on offer. These five titles had been selected via a social media campaign and the selections ensured there was something for everyone.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane- Kate di Camillo
The Fourteenth Goldfish- Jennifer L. Holm
One for the Murphy’s- Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Fault in our Stars- John Green
My class selected “One for the Murphys” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt which thankfully only five had read and all five were very keen to read it again. The Global Read Aloud is very well supported by the authors of the selected titles and we were fortunate to be able to watch Lynda Mullaly Hunt herself read the first chapter via a youtube clip.  This was a great experience. She also held frequent open question sessions via google hangout which were able to be watched later on youtube.

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Next, I registered to make connections with other classes who had also selected “One for the Murphys”. It was easy to find classes who were very keen to connect with a school at the bottom of the earth in little old Christchurch, New Zealand! I was inundated with tweets and emails, people inviting 8C to connect. I formed a connection with the first class who approached us, a class in Oshawa, Canada. Their teacher and I hit it off right away and started planning fun and meaningful ways to connect our classes. I created a quiz for our buddy class to complete which would eventually result in them establishing that we were in Christchurch, New Zealand and we did a similar thing in 8C, completing quiz questions that eventually led us to their map coordinates. We would have loved to have done this via Mystery Skype but the timezones were completely incompatible. We each created a movie introducing ourselves which highlighted the many differences between us but perhaps more importantly the many similarities we share.

We each created challenges and reflective tasks based on “One for the Murphys” which we shared between our classes.  We collaborated via padlet, our 8C blog and their individual kidblog accounts.

The greatest challenge we faced was timezones. Without organising an out of school event, connecting synchronously was very difficult. Also, 8C uses Twitter a lot for slowchat- type questions but in our buddy class’s district, Twitter is blocked and they were not a google apps school. So there were some initial challenges to work through none of which was insurmountable. They do however use Edmodo and I was inspired to join and learn more about this platform.

About halfway through the novel, we discovered a fantastic site called Flipgrid. This is a paid website but offers a 21 day trial. I used my flipgrid account incessantly during this 21 days and will absolutely be buying a paid account in 2015. I can see so many possibilities for this amazing tool.

Flipgrid enables educators to make grids of questions. The students film themselves responding to the questions and the responses form a grid. We posed questions such as “Be someone’s hero” is an underlying theme in One for the Murphys. Who is your hero in life? Share reasons why.

It was fantastic to see our students from opposite corners of the globe lined up side by side, sharing their reflections on the novel. Their responses were often very personal and the students have requested that I don’t embed the grid into this post. However, here is a screenshot for those of you who are curious to see how Flipgrid might look.

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“One for the Murphys” is a compelling and emotional story which touched all of us very deeply- it is so moving that I often had to give the book to one of my students to read as I experienced “sweaty eye syndrome”. Having another class with a different perspective and set of life experiences to discuss the book with was a very special experience and one I would love to repeat. There were challenges along the way and things I will do differently next time but despite this, the collaboration between us has been powerful and made our experience of an amazing class novel significantly richer.

Ok, so I've cheated for today's #28daysofwriting challenge by posting something I had already written. It is Waitangi Day here and after a huge couple of weeks at school, I've had a fantastic day with my we all should on Waitangi Day. ;)


  1. I just finished readingThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane today. The kids and I were sad to say goodbye to Edward but happy he found a good end to his journey.

  2. Love that book! We used to read it as a bedtime story at Year 5 camp. Such a great story.