Sitting on the shoulders of giants
The Common Core State Standards emphasize the need to “prepare all students for success in college, career, and life.” In today’s workplace, that means communicating across a variety of platforms. Jobs are no longer location-based, with all members of the workforce in the same building at the same time. Instead, a number of digital tools, such as email, voice-over-Internet calling and web-conferencing software help colleagues connect across space and time. These tools can be put to effective use in the classroom too!

One way to share the love of reading with others is through video conferencing. Teachers can begin to build the transliteracy skills students need to connect and collaborate with digital tools using a free resource like Google Hangouts. Hangouts is a powerful tool that offers an opportunity to introduce a wider world to your students by connecting with classes in another state or country.

Teachers and students can use Hangouts to send messages, make voice and video calls, and share photos. Whether you are connecting to another classroom in your school or have found another classroom across the globe, using Google Hangouts to discuss literature can enhance the book experience by encouraging a broader audience. When teachers and students connect with another classroom via Hangouts, they are creating an interactive environment that promotes literary response. Classes that are reading the same book or genre can discuss the literature together and also suggest books to one another.

BEFORE THE HANGOUT. Teachers should work with their respective classes to brainstorm a set of questions they want to ask their Hangout partners. Once the question sets are completed, send them to the partner class through email to allow adequate time to organize answers.

DURING THE HANGOUT. Students should take turns asking and responding to the questions. If students have not “met” the partner class, make sure students take time to identify themselves prior to speaking. Consider recording the Hangout and exporting it to YouTube for review at a later time.

AFTER THE HANGOUT. Each class can provide constructive feedback on the response to literature based on the Hangout dialogue. Each class can send their feedback through email, they could post it on a class blog, or they could leave the feedback in the Comments section of the YouTube video.

The possibilities for using Hangouts are limited only by teacher and student creativity. Get started by connecting locally and as you and your students gain experience with the tool, look to build connections with classrooms from other geographic areas. Hangouts is available as a browser-based tool for desktops and laptops and as a mobile app for Android and iOS devices. This transliteracy tool is a capable resource for strengthening the appreciation of and response to both narrative and informational text.