Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Day 167: One book that connected the county

For 7 weeks this Spring, over 90 Grade 5-8 classes from across Simcoe County read the same book during our first ever SCDSB Read Aloud.  The inspiring novel that was chosen for this exciting event was Walking Home by Eric Walters.  

The story is about a thirteen-year-old boy and his younger sister who, as a result of political unrest, go on a journey of over a hundred miles across Kenya to find their relatives.  The children encounter many challenges along the way.  A companion website brings the novel to life, through photos, videos and maps.

This project came about after a small group of teachers and teacher librarians were inspired by the Global Read Aloud and wanted to do something  similar here in Simcoe County.  After choosing the book, it was decided that all Grades 5-8 classes would be invited to participate. Melanee Vandermolen's Grade 5 students at West Bayfield Elementary School created promotional posters as part of their Media Literacy program, which were copied and sent to all schools to promote the project.

From the beginning, the organizers felt strongly that they wanted to be inclusive of all Grade 5-8 teachers and students, regardless of  their comfort with technology.  The priority of this read aloud was to put the focus on the book itself, rather than the technology tools used for exploring and connecting.  Just over 90 teachers responded  to the email invitation by signing up on a Google Form.  From there, the organizers used that list of contacts to keep the project moving forward.  Teachers were asked if they wanted to connect their classes with another one and share ideas about the book.

The culminating activity was a very special video conference on Google Hangouts on Air.  In preparation, the teachers were asked to work with their students to come up with rich questions and share them with the organizing committee.  A few classes were chosen to go "live" with Mr. Walters and ask the questions submitted on behalf of the contributing classes.

Photo by S.English - used with permission

If you missed the conversation with Eric Walters and would like to watch a recording of it, click below to access the video on YouTube:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter to watch for updates for next year.  The organizers welcome others who wish to join in so that the SCDSB Read Aloud can be expanded to include more grade levels. Be sure to complete our feedback survey if you participated in the Read Aloud in any way this year.  We want to hear your voices before making decisions about next year's project.

A big thank you to all the classes who participated, especially to those teachers and students who shared ideas with others.  

Students!  Teachers!  Teacher Librarians!  Please leave us a comment.  What did you like most about the SCDSB Read Aloud?

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