Teacher Spotlight

Connecting Classrooms

Andria Rogers, 4th Grade, Amsterdam School

Imagine taking your class across the state or even across the country for a field trip! What would your students learn from an experience like that? Who would they meet that would change they way they see the world? Andria Rogers and her fourth grade class at Amsterdam School have visited with a class of fourth graders in Polson, MT and a group of teachers in Thief River, MN without even leaving their building! This year Andria embarked upon a new adventure, for both and her students, into the world of virtual connections. She led her students through two Mystery Skype activities that allowed them to use their map reading and critical thinking skills to guess the location of a mystery class using video conferencing. When asked about trying new things, like virtual learning, in her classroom Andria says, “Bringing new experiences into my classroom for my students brings me a lot of joy--their reactions inspire me.”

During these virtual activities Andria’s students took turns asking and answering questions about their location on the map. They worked in collaborative groups studying maps, searching the internet and taking notes to keep track of information as they learned it. Students were deeply engaged and loving their work. Getting the class to this place of independent workflow was no small task either. It takes a teacher with great skills in flexibility and patience to guide their students through open ended tasks like a Mystery Meeting. Andria Rogers rose to the occasion!

In the days before the Mystery Meeting, Andria led her students through a series of activities to prepare them to answer questions about their own location. Students studied possible questions they would need to answer and even created their own questions to ask the other group during the activity.

Andria could have used more traditional paper and pencil methods to have her students study state and national geography but she believes in giving students hands-on learning experiences. She found that participating in Mystery Skype activities taught her students even more than she anticipated. She says, “Participating in Mystery Skype has helped enhance my students’ understanding of geography and the study of US regions. These sessions have also helped promote speaking and listening skills, critical thinking, collaboration, and research skills. Through this experience my students have been taken beyond the walls of our classroom and had the chance to apply their knowledge in way that is authentic and meaningful.”

Any teacher who takes on a new classroom activity will tell you that the first time you try something new there is always a lot to learn and plenty to change for the next time. Andria’s Mystery Meeting experiences were no exception! Andria gave her class ample time and space to practice talking to the webcam on the computer and she used her observations of those practice sessions to help her find a set of procedures that helped her students to be successful during the live event. She says, “During each Mystery Skype I have learned that it is important that each person have a specific job—this helps keep everyone engaged for the duration of the project. Some jobs I have used include maps expert, note taker, and google specialist. I have tried different groupings and for me, groups of two or three students works best. I have also found it helpful to provide each group of students with a print copy of the slide deck questions we have prepared so they can follow along and document the answers from our mystery school. With every Skype we are learning new ways to make the experience even better.”

Andria and her students are looking forward to more virtual connections with other classrooms this school year. If you are interested in connecting with Andria via Skype for a Mystery Meeting email her at arogers@amsterdamschool.org.

MontanaPBS in the classroom and in the community