Tag Archives: classroom connections

Connecting with Authors

Providing students with authentic connections and experiences is one of the benefits of our current technology landscape. Ms. Lentz leads an Exploration of Play Production class whose end goal is to write and produce an original class theatre production. They took advantage of technology by connecting with a couple of authors who had written a musical titled “Understudies.”  After their learning so far this semester regarding the elements of a play, character development, and writing their own short production, the students read this scriIMG_20160310_100035950pt with a critical eye to offer feedback to the writers.

The students then engaged in a video call with the authors using Google hangouts to provide feedback face to face.  Part of the challenge of this experience was providing constructive criticism in an honest but kind manner.  The students commented that it was easy to have very frank discussions during class, but it was more difficult to provide that feedback directly to the authors.

One of the critiques of the play was that the antagonist felt flat.  The students expressed that sentiment to the authors and also explained how the villain was a main component in the first play they had written this semester.

“Our inspiration was fleshing out a good villain,” one student commented. “We tried to explain why he is doing what he is doing and that involved revenge and losing his family.  We started from that and worked everything else around it.”

In addition to the students providing feedback, the authors provided advice to the class about a variety of areas related to writing and producing a play including how to register for a copyright, the importance of networking in any career, and how to get your work out there.

“You have opportunities to easily share things on this ‘internet’ and get immediate feedback and distribution,” one of the writers said.  “It’s so inexpensive now.  We recorded our songs in the kitchen with just a couple hundred bucks worth of equipment, and it does a good job of representing the music.”

By using a video call, the students were able to easily get outside the walls of the classroom and make a connection with people working the field they are studying.


Classroom Connections

One of the great things technology allows us to do is connect with other teachers, students, classrooms, and experts around the world.  It’s just a matter of making those connections.  This post provides a couple ideas on how to do that.

Google +

Many educators are using Google + to create and join professional communities.  Google + is one of the apps available to you through your school account.  If you need more information on getting started, the WFB Technology Support Site can help you out.  Below are a few communities that I have personally used to make connections with other classes.  I make a quick post about the class that’s interested, what we want to do, and when we are available, and responses come in pretty quickly!

Google Hangouts in Education

Connected Classroom Workshop

Mystery Hangout for Schools


There are many hashtags on Twitter used for different areas in education. Check out these articles for lists broken down by topic or subject area to find something that interests you.

The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education

The 10 Twitter Hashtags All Teachers Should Follow

To connect for a mystery call try #MysterySkype  and  #MysteryHangout.

Do you have another great way to make connections around the world?  Share in the comments!

Mystery Call – Part 2

Excited and engaged. That is the best way to describe the 4th graders during our recent mystery call.  Students were assigned a variety of roles including researching, keeping track of questions and answers, photographing and videotaping, and managing a map to keep track of the remaining possible states.

Everyone was able to see the other class projected on the SmartBoard.












The researchers used Chromebooks to look up any information we need.  Which states are considered southern?  Which states contain mountains, deserts, or ocean borders?

Using Chromebooks to research

The map keepers crossed off states that were not possibilities based on the answers we received.  When we had narrowed it down to just a couple of states, the students determined new questions to ask that were specific to what we had left.













There was great excitement when we guessed Texas and when they guessed Wisconsin!


After the game, we had a few moments to share a little more about our school and state.  The students in Texas were just amazed that it was snowing at that exact moment.  The teacher later told me that they were still talking about it as they left for the day.











The first mystery call was a success, but afterwards, the class reflected on what we could do better next time.  We decided to take turns asking questions instead of making that a job for just a couple of of students.  We quickly learned that most students were eager to be on camera and interact with the other class, so taking turns asking and answering questions would give more students that opportunity.

We also decided that we came to the correct answer too quickly!  We only had to ask about five questions to get there, and it made the game very short.  We wanted to learn more about the mystery state through the game, so next time we will start with different questions that don’t eliminate so many states at once.

Interested in having your students connect with other classrooms?  Mystery calls are one option, but there are many possibilities.  Classes can collaborate around a topic or project and provide feedback to one another or book discussion groups can be extended to include students from a different background.  Building a professional network is vital to finding these connections.  Check out this post for some ideas on how to do that and contact me if you’d like some support getting started!

Mystery Call – Part 1

Today Ms. Mergener’s 4th grade class learned about the mystery call they will be having with another 4th grade class somewhere in the United States.  We’ll use a Google Hangouts video call to connect with them.

What’s a Mystery Call?

Mystery calls provide students an engaging way to use their communication, research, and geography skills in a game format to guess the location of the other class.  Remember 20 Questions? Guess Who?  This is the basic premise of a mystery call.  Our classes will take turns asking Yes/No questions and eliminating states as possibilities until they are able to uncover the correct state of the other classroom.


Students prepared by brainstorming a starter list of questions that  they hope will help eliminate large numbers of states quickly.  From there, they will choose from other questions on their list or think of new questions on the fly, with the help of the research team, depending on the states that remain in play.

Here are a few questions they came up with:

  • Do you live east of the Mississippi River?
  • Are there mountains in your state?
  • Do you border the Mississippi River?
  • Are you on an ocean coast?
  • Do you live along a US border?
  • Does one or more of the Great Lakes border your state?
  • Are you in the Eastern time zone?
  • Are you in the desert?


We also assigned roles to each student to help the game run more smoothly.  On this first call, we’ll use these roles, but this may change as we reflect on how well it works:

  • Greeter/reporters – Welcome the other class, observe the game and take notes about what is going well or could be improved, thank the other class at the end
  • Questioners – Ask the questions
  • Question Recorders – Keep a record of the questions asked by the other class for our future reference
  • Answerers – Answer the questions posed by the other class
  • Answer Keepers – Record the answers to the questions we ask
  • Runners – Relay answers among the different teams
  • Researchers – Use online tools to help narrow down states based on answers given and research as needed to provide accurate answers to the other team’s questions
  • Eliminators – Eliminate states from the map as questions are answered and use physical maps and atlases for reference to do so.
  • Photographers – Take photos during the call.
  • Videographers – Record the call for later reflection.

Other Considerations

Students were quick to point out that we should take down the large Wisconsin flag that would immediately give away our location!  They also made sure everyone knew not to wear Packers, Badgers, Bucks, or Brewers gear the day of the call. Some of them even thought they should all try to wear Bears clothing to throw the other class off the track.  Sneaky thinkers!


After the call, we’ll reflect on how well the class worked as a team, what roles could be added, deleted, or changed, and which questions yielded the best results.  Then we’ll re-tool and try to be even better the next time around!