A teacher willing to jump into a new educational opportunity, do a little creative work, and her students are rewarded with an experience of learning unlike any other. This describes one of our fifth grade teachers recently. Late last spring, I ran across a good international educational opportunity, asked a teacher who is willing to give new experiences to her students, and it turned into a great learning experience. Our application to participate in the UK Poetry Day was accepted. We were put in the session with three other schools from the UK and English poet, John Hegley. The purpose of the conference was to write poems about Europe to share these poems. Mrs. Scott had her fifth graders list the countries in Europe and the facts and well-known landmarks from each country. They used this chart to create their class poem. Meanwhile, I ordered four of John Hegley's poetry books to give the students opportunity to read and be familiar with his work. They prepared questions to ask him about his poems.
Event day had us all excited. The room was set with chairs, one table at the front, and a British and U.S. flag on the table along with two of the poet's books. The students enjoyed hearing the other poems written by students, and they enjoyed the entertaining way the poets shared their poetry. Some read, some sang, and all engaged the audience. Some of the poems were read in English and French and some in Spanish. Many of the presenters allowed the audience to participate by repeating phrases.
This experience had so many levels of learning. The basic reading (the poet's books), writing the poem, thinking about and creating the chart of "what we know" about Europe (social studies), art - drawing pictures to share while the poem was being read aloud, practicing the poem (oral communication skills), and engaging an audience from other countries in other languages. WOW! Oh, and did I mention, it was free! :-)