Connecting with Canada

Several of Mary Mason’s third graders have never been to the beach, let alone another country.

The ability to connect with students thousands of miles away was a key factor in Mason signing her class up for Global Read Aloud 2017.

This is the second year Mason has participated in Global Read Aloud, a project where teachers around the world read the same book aloud to their students and then use technology to share the reading experience with other classrooms.

The free six-week program began October 2. Each week, Mason reads several chapters of “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown to her students. Afterwards, her third graders discuss their thoughts and feelings on the book with a classroom in Ontario, Canada.

During their video call, students discussed their thoughts on the book’s main character Roz, a robot who has woken up on a remote island inhabited by unwelcoming wild animals.

“I really liked hearing their opinions,” Keira, a student in Mason’s class, said. “Even though they were in a different country, we thought some of the same things about the book.”

Classes in kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade are participating in Global Read Aloud at Jonathan Valley Elementary. While the upper grades read “The Wild Robot,” the lower grades are reading a series of picture books by Mem Fox.

Mason signed up for another year of Global Read Aloud with the main goal of exposing her rural students to a world beyond Haywood County.

“The experience is a way for them to feel like they are exploring the world, while learning about a different culture,” Mason explained. “I think today my students realized that although there were some cultural and language differences, they had more in common than what they anticipated.”

Mason believes that her students are not the only ones learning from the project.

“I tell everyone that Global Read Aloud is one of the single best things I have done as a teacher,” Mason said with a smile. “It was not only great for my students, it was great for my own professional development.”

Mason encourages other teachers in the county to get involved in the project next year and not be afraid of the technology.

Last year, Mason’s class enjoyed their partner classroom so much that they frequently communicated through the rest of the school year about different books outside of Global Read Aloud.

“Global Read Aloud is a great opportunity to use literature and easy-to-use technology to forge connections across cultures,” Mason said. “The project promotes empathy and understanding among students and helps them think more critically.”

This year, more than 600,000 students from all across the world are participating in Global Read Aloud. Since the Global Read Aloud’s inception in 2010, more than two million students from more than 60 different countries have participated.