The 8 most useful innovation tools for your elementary (and middle grade!) classroom – #3 – The Global Read Aloud

GRA

Pernille Ripp is an education goddess. She saw a need for kids to connect with books and with each other, and she created the Global Read Aloud in 2010. The GRA is about a month long, incorporates really good literature and global connections to others reading the same book(s), and is very low key. There’s no pressure to go all-in with your participation; your level of involvement is whatever you want it to be. If you feel the need to connect books and kids and kids from other places, read on!

After a months-long vetting process (all done by Pernille Ripp herself!), books are chosen in five categories: primary grades author study, primary grades chapter book, upper elementary chapter book, middle grade chapter book, and young adults chapter book. You can choose any of the books based on the level or needs of your students, and, if you get in on it early enough, you can recommend books!

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This year’s books!

I’ve participated in the GRA for the past two years, and I love the way it’s presented. If you’re new, you can keep to your classroom and discuss the book there. If you’re feeling more chatty, you can get on to Twitter and hashtag the book you’re reading. If you’re feeling really ambitious, a group of teachers last year and this year (and maybe before!) have created hyperdocs for the books in order to get kids thinking deeply about what they’re hearing/reading. There are also Edmodo groups where you can connect with other classrooms around the world, as well as Facebook, Pinterest, and WriteAbout.

I’ve participated in both the author study (Peter Reynolds in 2015) and the upper elementary chapter book (Pax in 2016), and I would highly encourage this method of getting connected to other classrooms. Our Twitter responses to the text last year generated questions from other classrooms, Mystery Hangouts, and a general feeling that we were not alone in our 4th grade universe. I attempted to use the hyperdoc last year, but found it too much to manage in the way I presented it. I’ll use some of what is available this year, but try not to overwhelm my students with too much!

At the end of last year, I started reading The Wild Robot to my class. We didn’t make it through, but were already having deeper discussions about the text, and students were begging for more chapters each day. Which is another thing I love about the GRA – it puts on my radar books I might not pick up normally that kids will really get involved in. Granted, just the title is intriguing, and I love what I’ve seen of Peter Brown’s work already. I can’t wait to share it with my new crop of kids, and to connect with other classrooms worldwide.

If you’re interested in participating in the GRA, you can sign up here. Maybe I’ll see you on Twitter!

More about Pernille Ripp

More about the GRA

**Many thanks to the GRA website for the images in this post!**

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Y-presses, Jeff Goldblum, and innovation in classrooms

Jeff Goldblum

As I was moving from one station to another at my kickboxing gym this morning, I noticed that the next station called for Y-presses. Imagine you, with hand weights, extending your arms diagonally out from your shoulders. Like a Y. Y-presses are my new nemesis, and I have vowed not to do them again. My left rotator cuff (and doctor) agree with this decision.   As my husband says, “That’s not a natural position for anyone!” I asked the trainer on duty to please come up with something else I could do.

Once he formulated a satisfactory substitute, I started thinking of Jeff Goldblum and “Jurassic Park”. You know the line: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” I feel that way about Y-presses. SHOULD you actually do them, or is it just something a sadistic trainer came up with?

“Hey! I’ve got a great idea!”

Many innovations begin that way, but as an educator, I feel I need the healthy skepticism of Dr. Ian Malcolm. Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD. One-to-one technology K-5? Terrific. Kids on their iPads or Chromebooks all day long? Not so much. Technology is seen as innovation so often in the elementary school setting, when it truly is a means to an end. If a student is working on a writing piece, Google Docs isn’t innovation; it’s just another way to publish what we used to do on Word or (gasp!) paper. A reading program on the computer isn’t a substitute for me sitting and reading with one of my students. The computer helps identify those skills kids need, but it will not take my place. We run the risk of changing our factory method of schooling to the screen method of schooling. Same content, different delivery.

That said, I don’t want the skepticism to hold me back. I started flexible seating in my room this year, much to the dismay of my long-time teammate. She was thinking logistically (which I tend to overlook at times), and I value her opinion. She made me think of things I hadn’t before (where WILL I put all of their stuff?), but I also realized we are very different educators. I can handle a bit more chaos than she can. I’m willing to try more things that just might fail, just to see if they won’t. I love Project Lead the Way, and project based learning, and 20% Time, and our DIY Lab (until it’s time to clean up, that is). I love kids thinking to solve problems, to design better ways of doing things, to prepare for the real world. That’s what I believe innovation should be – making this thing that we’ve done for so long fresher. Better. More interesting and applicable to the world our kids will live in. And I also believe that the learning standards can follow us there.

I am, however, willing to leave the Y-presses behind.