Videoconferencing with Elementary School Students

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to connect and collaborate with teachers and students from Lima, Peru and Buenos Aires, Argentina. We connected Preschoolers (4/5 year olds), Kindergarteners (5/6 year olds) first (6/7 year olds), and 6th (11/12 year olds) graders.

The success of these Skype connections are due mainly to the planning and commitment of the teachers involved on both sides of the webcam. I know without a doubt that their enthusiasm, adventurism and even blind trust in me with whatever I throw at them, contributes to being able to expose our students to a classroom open to a big world out there.

Here goes my shoutout to Heidi Musteros from Argentina, Tatiana Ugaz from Peru, Kathy Balek, Jane Cassette, Lisa Cronin, Allison Weaver & Terry Pickering from the USA. Without them, I would not have been able to see and hear our students so excited, surprised that the kids on the screen are “real”, learn about cultural differences and similarities and simply becoming “aware”.

An invaluable resource for me in preparing and setting the conferences up was Kim Cofino’s post 4 Steps to a Skype-tastic Video Conference. I set up 4 “hot seats” in the first row. The webcam was directly aimed at them, while we set up a few more rows up behind them for the rest of the class. It only took one time to show students that how to enter and exit efficiently out of the hot seat row.

6th graders from Buenos Aires and ours were the “guinea pigs” of our first skype conference. We wanted them to introduce each other and get a feel for the other group that they would be working on a video for, describing what life was like around the city that they lived in. On Halloween we received a invitation to skype the kids in Argentina again, as they had a “surprise” …. they dressed up in masks for us,

6th graders had never thought about the fact that Halloween might not be celebrated outside the US. How do you explain to someone “Trick or Treat”? What? Ring people’s doorbells and get candy from them? Maybe that might sound strange to someone else.

With the Kindergarten class we planned three Skype sessions with a class in Lima, Peru. The first one we wanted to play a game, where the five year olds would be able to introduce themselves. We lined up in a half circle on either side of the webcam and used a counting out rhyme in Spanish. The child that was picked went to the webcam and introduced themselves with “Me llama” or “My name is..”. The other side welcomed each student then personally with an enthusiastic “HOLA”.

For the second session, the class learned together with our Spanish teacher , a song in Spanish called “Una mano, dos manos”. Tatiana in Peru had also prepared the same song with her students. It was great to be able to sing together, although we were on 2 different continents, thousands of miles apart.

The students in Peru then taught us another song in Spanish called “La vaca Lola”

From that song, we asked each other what kind of sounds do other animals make in our countries. We found out that the dog says “wau-wau” in Peru, while in the USA it say “woof”. Cats in both countries say “Miau”, while a rooster will say “cacadoodledoo” in the USA and in Peru will sing “Kikeriki”.

Each class had a chance to ask questions : What is the weather like today?, What time is it?

We finished the video conference by singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in English and Spanish.

We can’t wait for our next videoconference with Peru next week as we will have a combined bilingual storytime.

Another video conference took place between two first grade classes (Argentina/USA). This time the children did not have one language in common. I started out by showing Google Earth on our screen and pointing the webcam at the screen at the same time, so both classes could see. We zoomed into Florida all the way to our school campus and then “flew” to South America into Buenos Aires.

We planned on a TPR (Total Physical Response) style lesson for both students. We gave each other commands, such as stand up, sit down, touch your nose, turn around, clap, dance, etc.

The realization that the kids on the screen are real and are watching us the same way that we were watching them came for the students, when they would sit down or touch their noses at the same time as we did.

How exciting to watch and hear the little ones talk about playing and talking with kids in Argentina and Peru, like it is the most natural thing in the world!

Looking forward to continuing to expose our elementary school students to something that seems to come so natural to them.