Goals and objectives: Engage students in authentic learning:
· Students will write in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes.
· Students will acquire geographical understanding by studying human systems in geography.
· Students will acquire geographical understanding by studying the environment and society.
· Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the interrelationship between language and culture.
· Students will develop spatial sense and he ability to use measurement to model, describe and analyze phenomena solving problems requiring calculations that involve different units of measurement.
· Students will develop an understanding of the concepts and techniques of data analysis and will use them to model situations, solve problems, and analyze and draw appropriate inferences from data.
· Students will use mathematical processes of problem solving, communication, reasoning, and technology to solve problems and communicate mathematical ideas.
· Students will develop problem-solving, decision-making and inquiry skills, reflected by formulating usable questions and hypotheses, planning experiments, conducting systematic observations, interpreting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.
· Students will investigate the diversity of life.
· Students will observe weather changes and patterns worldwide.
· Students will use technology, information and other tools to enhance communication.
Students will use critical thinking, decision making and problem-solving skills.
Although groups chose a variety of individualized tasks, we discovered that all groups and classes engaged in the following common activities.
· When keypals described themselves, our students realized they needed to convert height and weight of keypals from metric. Students came to the realization that most countries use the metric system. Curiosity about the appearance of keypals resulted in comparing height and weights of keypals by outlining students on large white paper hanging on classroom wall.
· When keypals chatted about the cost of popular music and games, our students realized they needed to calculate exchange rates of currency. Students developed a list of common items to compare. Analysis of email about cost of items resulted in students questioning the causes and effects of cost of living differences.
· When keypals chatted about weather, our students collaborated to ask life sciences questions such as comparing average temperatures and sunrise/sunset times. In the case of our exchange with Japanese students, they exchanged vegetable seeds and recorded the rate of growth and amount of sunlight. They communicated results and analyzed the causes and effects of different latitude locations. When keypals chatted about snow storms, our students compared and contrasted the different ways keypals create snowmen.
· Students often chose to discuss current events. The expressions of sympathy from our keypals after the tragedy of 9/11 resulted in our student discovering they had far more international friends then they first thought. Discussions about the Iraq War lead our students to discover the diversity of opinions around the world. The exchange with keypals personalized the experience for our students and sparked their interest in further analysis of current events in class discussions.
· Students volunteered to exchange gift boxes that included hand drawn greeting cards, coins, and candy. Students enjoyed the challenge of selecting items that represented our culture. The gifts were limited to low cost and lightweight to minimize postage expense.
· Students extended their use of technology to scan images and use Adobe Photoshop to edit the images. They used keypal videos to analyze the differences in language and accents. Netetiquette was enhanced as students discussed ways their email might be misinterpreted. For example, the use of capitalization might imply anger.
This plan is easily replicated and adapted to a wide variety of age levels, abilities and curriculum goals because it provides a structure and strategy that encompasses a wide variety of activities. The strategy of selecting “chief correspondents” personalizes the exchange while maintaining continuity if students are absent or move. Sharing multiple emails with partners helps maintain interest if a specific keypal does not respond when scheduled. Group collaboration allows for the successful inclusion of students with a variety of abilities. We successfully included ESL teachers and their students to assist mainstreamed students in using phrases. For example, Spanish speakers helped us to include greetings in Spanish to our Peru keypals.