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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Virtual Field Trip

    At this point in the year it can often be hard to keep students' attention- especially with 6th graders who are ready to move to middle school… so it was time to come up with something that they had never done before that could get the buy-in I was looking for. Enter iPads, Chromebooks, Google Earth, and a good novel!
   This past week we have packed our imaginary suitcases and have taken off on the longest field trip ever! A virtual field trip! (Talk about saving money on buses and admission!) We have just begun reading the story Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, and are totally immersing ourselves in the story by following the path which the main character, Esperanza, takes on her journey from Mexico to California.
                        

     In order to do this we are utilizing a GREAT resource, Google Lit Trips.  This resource has tons of pre-made virtual field trips that allow students to actually explore the setting of the story and put themselves in the character's shoes. Along with utilizing Google Earth to do this, the authors of the Lit Trips have embedded mini-lessons, questions, and discussion points along the way. My students have loved this experience so far, and their connection to the story has them wanting to read further in the book every free moment they have.
                        

                        

       In conjunction with the Lit Trip, our school was also lucky enough to purchase a class set of Chromebooks. Since most teachers aren't using these yet, my class has jumped right in and taken full advantage. In our district, each student is given a Google Drive, so we quickly became acquainted with yet another new form of technology, and are using these to answer comprehension questions and collaborate with our classmates. I am simply making a Google Doc with the comprehension questions from the Lit Trip that I deem are most useful to our study, and then sharing it with my students. They each make a copy of my document and work from there to complete their work. Before they can share it back with me, they need to share it with another classmate, read their answers, and leave thoughtful and constructive comments that further the discussion on their document. Following that, they then share it with me, and on Fridays we have a larger class discussion. Since we all have those students who don't like to talk out loud (or those that talk too much) this format gives everyone an equal playing field to have their answers heard and participate in the discussion whether they feel comfortable doing it orally or not.
                         

    So far I have been impressed with the Lit Trips and I am excited that they are a free resource. The only downfall is that in order to get to the download, you need to answer a survey each time. My recommendation would be to bookmark the final download page immediately so that you have easy access and aren't filling out the surveys every time someone accidentally closes out of the page. Even if you don't have access with the iPads for each student, I found projecting it from a teacher computer can be just as valuable, so don't let that stop you! The best part is they have books K- Higher Ed!
     This project doesn't take long to set up, so if you're feeling that Spring Fever setting in… hopefully you can take your class on a virtual field trip to hook them back in! Good luck and as always, if you have any other ideas that you have used or that you think would improve this project let me know. I'm all about sharing ideas and lightening the load!

     This past week we also did one of my favorite interactive, grab their attention, and learn at the same time lessons… edible cells!! Check out my blog post from last year where I explain all the steps to implementing this lesson yourself. It was a huge hit once again!

                                                                Edible Cells Blog Post