As part of our school-wide focus on reading this year, and our organizational goal of ensuring that we engage our highly able students, two of our grade 5 classrooms are creating a collaborative Ning to allow our “high fliers” to share and communicate with each other – even if they are not in the same class. And then of course, we have the fabulous added benefit of being able to connect with other students from all around the world!

The goal is to allow the students to start communicating about their reading, to ask leading questions, to facilitate discussions, to broaden their reading choices, and generally go deeper with their thinking. We are going to model this kind of thinking for the students in the beginning and then ask that they take a leadership role in directing and facilitating their own forum discussions on our Ning. We decided that Ning would be a good tool for us because it allows all students to feel on equal footing (ie: there is not one single owner of the space), allows for easy to manage threaded forum conversations, and has tons of embedded features that may come in handy as the project develops (direct video upload, groups, blogging, etc).

We are planning to start the project only with our highest level reading groups (for a total of about 20 students in our grade 5), many of whom are reading on a sixth or seventh grade level, and then add in the rest of the students as they progress with their reading. During our literature circle times, these high fliers will be introduced to Ning, while the other groups are continuing with their normal discussion groups. Eventually we were thinking we could even add some sixth or seventh grade students into the mix – those that are reading at grade level – to help facilitate discussions and broaden our fifth grader’s reading choices. To get the project started, we will begin with just our students here at ISB, that way we have time to work out the kinks and really plan something exciting and engaging with our global partners.

Speaking of our global partners, so far we have made connections with Jess McCulloch in Australia, Tod Baker in China, Sharon Tonner in the UK, and Linda Nitsche in the US. A pretty well rounded collaboration considering that the idea was born a mere 12 hours ago. Thanks to the power of Twitter (another post in the making) – and one quick “tweet” at 9:00 this morning – we have all connected at some point today to talk about how we can connect our students to talk about reading. I love our network!

Anyone else interested in joining?

Tags: elementary, 21stcentury, globalcollaborations, internationalschool, flatclassroom, collaborations, Ning, jessmcculloch, todbaker, sharontonner, lindanitsche

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