Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washougal High School Students Participate in Global Read Aloud

The Global Read Aloud (GRA) program works to demonstrate how one book can connect the world.  Currently the GRA program is connecting a Washougal High School class with middle school students in a French speaking part of Ontario, Canada.

For six weeks, starting October 6, participating classrooms across the world read a book, different for each grade grouping, aloud. Each week has designated chapters to be read.  Students then share their thoughts about the book and its characters with their distant partner classrooms through a safe social media platform.

Tami Grants classroom is reading “One for the Murphy’s” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Her teacher partner is Serena Thatcher who teaches at Duke of Cambridge School (French Immersion Centre) in Bowmanville, Ontario in Canada. “Her students are using this experience to practice writing in English,” Grant said. “This is forcing my students to use proper grammar in order to help their counterparts learn.”

"We are helping them with their English, and in a way we are learning from them as well," said WHS senior, Jenny Wilson.  And because the Canadian students are in middle school, Wilson added that it’s requiring them to be more mature when they discuss the emotional and relationship themes in the book.  “It’s requiring us to be more mature when we talk to them and dealing with hard emotions like adults do,” she said.

A global collaboration such as this shows students that they are part of something bigger than just themselves.  It demonstrates that other kids are like them, even if they live far apart and in different countries. “My ultimate goal is for these students, when they leave high school, that even if they have not traveled that they have an appreciation for people with different cultures,” Grant explained.  “I hope they begin to realize there are many similarities between them and people who live in a different part of the world. I hope they see that it is not so scary in the world once you make connections.”

The GRA project believes that reading books can be a very personal experience, and there is a tremendous impact when students understand that the experience they have with a book may be similar to an experience another child had in another place.

Although the focus is for students to share their thoughts on the book’s characters and plot, the project and discussions go far beyond that. “It is fun to meet new people and help them to learn about Washington State,” said WHS Senior Matt Grant.  “They are very intrigued by Mt. St. Helens and asked us about living next to a volcano.  But it is really no big deal to us.”

WHS Senior, Madisen Baldwin agrees. "I really like how we can talk to people in Canada and be able to discuss mutual things like the book.  It’s also interesting that things we don't think about may be a major concern for them.  The students always ask us questions about Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood and if it’s scary living next to a volcano.  This helped me realize that we live in a completely different culture but we are all connected in some way.”

The class collected Washington items to send to their new Canadian friends which includes Mt. St. Helens ash and photos, sand from Cottonwood Beach and apples. “Students are also feeling a new appreciation for what they have here in the Pacific Northwest,” Grant added.

“Having book discussions online is very interesting and lets you see what everyone’s thinking,” Matt Grant said. “And we see that kids are just kids where ever they live.  It shows how literature can really bring people together.”