We Learn Best From People
I have a few grade two students in my classroom this year for the first time in half a dozen years. Since the last time I had a grade one/two split, the curriculum has changed. Naturally, I have spent time reading through the grade two curriculum. But when I have specific questions about what my seven year olds need to know, I don’t usually try to find the answer in the curriculum. I just walk across the hall and ask the grade two teacher. She explains it well and gives me the practical information that I need. She is also likely to add a few things I had never thought to ask that will help me to be a better teacher of that concept. Learning from her is much richer than the answer in the curriculum guide.
My students learn best from people as well. When some of the students wondered aloud about what it was like to move, I had some picture books handy, but the learning was far deeper when we asked a student in my class who had actually moved. Even the best book or digital program is no match for personal contact.
I’ve noticed this online as well. People often ask a question on Twitter that can easily be googled. I’ve done this myself. Somehow we feel more confident in an answer when another person is directly involved. We like to be able to question and push back. Simply put, we learn from best from people.
Because I want this best learning, we often use Skype as a learning tool. Skype connects us to people. I made the following video for my about-to-be-published book to show some of the ways we use Skype in our classroom. As always, my students say it best.
OK… But Literacy?
Skype is also one of the tools in my literacy instruction. The listening and speaking components of Skype are obvious ones, and we use it often that way. We learn about similarities and differences and ask and answer questions with others from far away. But, we have used Skype for more traditional literacy activities as well.
- Many times, teachers or others have taken the time to read my class a story or poem via Skype. These experiences have introduced us to books and authors we would not otherwise have encountered and enriched our learning as a result.
- People have been willing to listen to my students read via Skype, helping them to increase their confidence and their reading fluency.
- We have done Reader’s Theatre with a class from Alabama.
- We have shared reading strategies with another class, marveling that they used the same strategies that we did when working to improve their reading skills.
- We have made reading connections with various classrooms. “Hey, we like that book, too!” or “we have a books by Robert Munsch in our library!” We have even learned a special silent hand sign to show we had made one of these links from the Kinderkids in New Hampshire. (We make a signed y with our fist and rock our hand back and forth in front of our chest—it saves a chorus of comments like the ones previously mentioned.)
- Later this week my class will be making up some nonsense silent e words to see if some students in South Carolina can decode them. They’ll do the same for us.
Can you teach literacy with Skype? You bet. We learn best from people, and Skype connects us with people.