Video conferencing is a good way of bringing schools together. At Christ Church Church of England First School, we decided to have a two-week literacy project for Year 3 with nearby Tittensor First School in Stoke-on-Trent around the theme of traditional story writing.
In teams of six, grouped by ability, the pupils had to come up with a story in collaboration with their counterparts in the other school.
The lower-ability group had to create a story with an ocean theme; the middle and above-average groups were expected to write stories based on ones they had previously read (such as Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel); the above-average group had to come up with a good twist at the end.
We introduced the topics to our respective classes via video conferencing so that the children knew what was expected of them and that they had to impress not only their usual teacher but another teacher and a "real" audience.
This proved to be a crucial motivator, and the children were spurred on to share their results with their e-buddies from the other school.
For most of the two weeks, we used the video conferencing to focus in on each group. I took the lower-ability group, my teaching assistant looked after the middle, while my above-average group worked at the front of the class via video conferencing with their counterparts at the other school. The children did a shared reading exercise while picking out key phrases and vocabulary related to description of characters.
We then swapped around so that each group had its turn video conferencing.
Suzanne Byatt, the Tittensor teacher, and I tried to make sure that all the groups had plenty of input and coverage. We found it useful as teachers to be sharing the lesson and swapping expertise. I am more technically-minded, while Suzanne has imaginative ideas to develop story-writing.
Adam Hindhaugh is a Year 3 teacher at Christ Church Church of England First School in Stone, Staffordshire.
You know the lesson is going well when the children are keen to share their work with the other group. It helped to develop their speaking and listening, which is good for their self-esteem.
Global Leap, a not-for-profit company funded by schools' subscriptions (currently pound;295 plus VAT per year for UK schools) manage video-conference links lessons in a wide range of curriculum areas. www.global-leap.com.