Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Promote global-mindedness and geography with #mysteryskype

Teachers often cite the diverse student body as an advantage of the international school environment. One way to extend our students’ global mindsets even further is to do a “Mystery Skype,” a game in which classes from two different countries each question the other to figure out where their partner is. It’s a great way to practice critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and geography, and it usually ends with both classes hollering and jumping up and down when they figure it out!

Here’s how it worked in Aafke’s recent class:
  1. Find a class to work with. We found one by using our PLN on Twitter.
  2. Figure out a time. Each teacher should list several times that work, and list the times in both time zones to minimize confusion.
  3. Work with your class to generate a list of 10-20 yes/no questions that could help them narrow down the location. It helps to make a decision tree or order the questions from general to specific. Emphasize that the questions should give some idea as to location - so, “Do you take art?” will not be as useful as, “Are you above the equator?”
  4. Also generate hints you can give if the other class is stuck, and general questions (don’t have to be yes/no) about life in their country.
  5. Designate certain students to be recorders, writing down the answers; other roles should be “questioner” and “answerer.” You could have your students take turns asking and answering questions.
  6. Before you get online to make the call, make sure your profile does not include your location, or choose a false one (Skype displays it by default), so you don’t give away the mystery!
  7. When the Skype begins, you may do introductions if it’s a small class; otherwise, have each child introduce him or her self when they ask or answer a question.
  8. Take turns asking/answering questions. Coach the kids to wait for the other side to be quiet and to speak slowly, loudly, and clearly.
  9. Your goal is to figure out the city in which the other class lives. If one side figures it out before the other, the side that has guessed correctly can then ask general questions about the way of life while the other side keeps guessing.
  10. This whole process can take 30-60 minutes.
  11. You could extend it by having the kids correspond afterwards to work on any number of written and visual literacy skills.

At the elementary level the most helpful questions will be about geography. However, you could make it more difficult for older ages by prohibiting such questions and only allowing students to ask about language, religion, culture, etc; this would require a great breadth of knowledge.

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