We've been a little behind on posting about our Mystery Skypes! Here's Oliver's guest post on our Skype from Jan. 11, 2017.
Mystery Skype 10
Let’s get ready, we're ready to get started with Mystery Skype 10. We are ready and here it comes...Wait! We have to wait another 5 minutes. Now they’re ready.
Our first question is, “are you in the USA?” They say, “Yes.” Now it’s their turn. His name is Asher and his question is, “are you in the US?” We say “Yes”. Next it’s our turn which is, “ are you east of the Mississippi River?” Their turn...the questioner’s name is Megan and their question is, “Do you live west of the mississippi river?” It’s our turn. We are say, “Are you north of Tennessee.” and their answer is yes. Now it’s their turn and their question is, “does your state border another country?” and our answer is “No.” Now it’s our turn and it’s, “are you one of the original 13 colonies?” Now their answer is no. They are next and their question is does your state border an ocean and our answer is, “yes.” Wow this is so fast. Now it’s our question and it is “are you west of ohio.” They said yes. This is hard! Now it’s their turn and the question is, “are you part of the original 13 colonies?” and our answer is “Yes.” Now it’s our turn and it is “are you in Michigan?” That is no. Now it’s their turn and their question is...wait they’re still thinking. Wow finally a breather for me! Now their question is, “Does your state began with a vowel and our answer is no. Now it’s our turn and it’s are you in Illinois?” Now it’s their turn and it’s, “Are you north of Virginia?” Wow they're closing in. Now it’s our turn and it’s, “Are you in Wisconsin?” their answer is no. Now it’s their turn and it’s are you in maryland. Now it’s our turn and it’s are you in Indiana. Wow, we guessed their state! Now it’s their turn to guess our state and there question is, “Do you live north of massachusetts.” Our answer is no. Now it’s still there turn and it’s, “are you in New jersey.”
They live in Indianapolis
It’s home to the Indy 500
Jesse: We squeeze the country
Julia:I think we research team worked well together
Sayanti:I think the research team did well and We need more people
Charlotte: I think that we got to the state quickly
Mr.Ullman:I think that the research captain worked well being runner
Isaiah: CJ and I did well
Nikita I think the research team did really well with the squeeze method
Sawyer:I think we did well in squeezing
Elinor I think the research team did really well with coming up with question.
Mr.Ullman I think that we need to respond less like mooing. We have to be less like robots.
Photos from our Mystery Skype
Videos from our Mystery Skype
Here's Oliver's live blog of our latest Mystery Skype on December 21, 2016!
Reporting by Oliver
We’re ready and here it comes! The Mystery Skype has started! Their first question, are you landlocked? No is definitely our answer. Our question is: are you in the USA? Their reply...uhhh they didn’t hear us so we had to say it again and it’s yes. The question is coming...Do you border, We didn’t hear them so we asked them to repeat…the question is, are you west of the Mississippi? Our question: are you west of the Rocky Mountains? No is the answer from them. We’re ready for their question and their question is, are you in the central time zone? No is our answer from them. They’re ready for our question, which is: Are you landlocked? Their answer is Yes! It their turn and their question is...Are on you bordering the Atlantic Ocean? Our answer is yes. They’re ready for our question: are you north of Tennessee? Their answer is yes!
We’re probably pretty close now time for us to start guessing. What next for them? Well, it’s are you in the northeast region? Uh oh! They're closing in to just a few states! Our answer is Yes. Now they’re ready for our question…are you west of the Mississippi River. Their answer...That’s a trick question for us they can’t say yes or no. Which means that we’re very, very close because there’s only a few states that aren’t east or west of the Mississippi. It’s their turn and hey! The next questioner is named Jesse! We also have a Jesse! His question is does your state have two words? Our answer is yes. They’re ready for our question and our question is… do you border Canada? Their answer...Yes! The next question is from Sofia and the question is does your state start with an N? Yes! Now our question: are you in Minnesota? Their answer is…YESSSS! We did it! We got their state!
Now it’s their turn to ask…are you in NEW JERSEY? Our answer is YESS. Now we ask, do you want to guess our town? Let’s get the map of Minnesota so we can guess their town. They’re going to let us guess their region. So, does your region start with an N? Their answer is No! Their question is, are you north of Trenton? Our answer… That’s hard to guess we have to dig deep to get out answer. Our answer finally is Yes! We are north of the capital Trenton. We’re waiting for their question and that is...we need them to repeat the question, however they’re asking what do you mean by region because they don’t know what it means. What we tell them the area or part of a state. We have an issue with this. We have to clarify the issue. Their question, is your town along the coast.
Now they’re ready for our next question…are you north of St. Paul, they needed a clarification. However, their answer is YES! Well that clears up a lot of confusion. Now we're ready for their question are you north of Washington, New Jersey? Well, that’s deep down hard for us. However, our answer is…we still have to wait. Now our answer is no. Now our question is, are you north of St. Cloud and their answer is no. Wow we narrowed our search by a lot. Now their question is does our town border NY? No is our answer. Our question is does route 212 go through their town. Their answer is No. Their next question is are you north of New Brunswick? We say no. Our next question is does route 12 run through your town their answer is...No is their answer. Now they’re asking what are good questions that they can ask. Now their question is, are you in Princeton? Our answer is YESS, they are soo happy that they got our town!
Now it’s our turn to ask our question and that is does your town start with a p. Their answer is Yes. Then we ask, is your town Princeton? - yeah!! OMGOMGOMG THEY LIVE IN PRINCETON, TOO!!!
Now they’re going to tell us some information their capital is St. Paul their state muffin is blueberry they are near the Mississippi. They also have the Mall of America.
What did we do well?
CJ: All the jobs worked efficiently. All the questionnaires and research had a steady communication line.
Ted: I think we worked well by giving a variety of questions
Sawyer: I think that Nikita and I worked well together when we had question we asked each other.
Erin: I think that the questioners spoke loudly so the other class could understand
Elinor: I think that we did well trying to talk to the questioners
Sayanti: I think that the research did well because not many people we at the map and we switched jobs.
What do we need to improve on?
Jesse: I think that we really that we need Mystery skypes to be less tiring.
Mr. Ullman: We need to keep our energy up
Charlotte: We need to be closer together.
Ted: We need to rotate questioners around, like we’ve seen other classes do.
Charlotte: Then the questioners will also double as a runner
Sawyer: One thing that the media team needs to take more pictures
Mr. Ullman We should upload the photos to Google Drive once in a while instead of at the end.
Erin: The media team should be closer to the research team.
Mr. Ullman: We have to be very careful on the questions they ask, we should think about the question together. We also should keep our look better, we also have to work on our “end game.” By the end of the mystery skype we were flopping around…we should be ready to give the other class some information about us.
Here are pics from our Skype!
And here's a playlist of videos!
CJ's guest blog on our Mystery Skype with Ms. Smith's class on Dec. 20:
So it’s getting started and the commotion in here is rising. They let us take the first question. Are they in the USA? Yes!
Then they guessed our same question. Then we asked: Are you east of 98 degrees longitude? Huh? I don’t know what that is. Oh it’s a Yes!
They ask, “Are we the original colonies?” Yes, we are. Oh, no!
Our turn, and we ask if they are in eastern time zone? Yes, they are. This Mystery Skype is going fast!
They ask, are you from the confederacy? No we are not. That we a hard question. We ask, are they in the southeast region? Yes! They ask, are we landlocked? No. If you know where we are don’t tell them. Okay a break, they’re ready. Are they a landlocked state, no they aren’t. Does our state have the word “new” in it? No they’re getting closer, Are they north of 32 degrees latitude?
They’re ready. Are you guys in New York? Nope.
NOOOOOOO!!! We’re the Garden State and they said that!!!!
But YESS!! We got their state. They’re in Virginia!
But NOOO!!! They have our state! Some chips for me. Are they east of 78 degrees longitude? Yes!! I think we're winning. OMG!! Biggest break ever- they question, is our city major? I don’t know what that means maybe population or something else. Does their country start with the letters J - Y? Yes!!
We are winning! Is our city larger than 18,000 population? No.
Does their county start with J- O? I don’t know let's finds out! Yes. Is our town larger 9,000? Yes and no. Because, we actually used to be a township and a borough, but we merged a few years ago. Some population information we get will be wrong. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Ullman!
Keep going! Does your county start from J-L? Yes. Are we near Success Lake? Within 10 miles? NO. Does your county start with J-K? No. Does your county start with the letters K-U? Yes.
Is your second letter in their county O? Yes! They’re in Loudoun County. Yeaah…
Our we near Princeton- ohno - Airport. Okay. Does their city start with A-N? Are we in Princeton William County? We don't think so, it was hard to hear that question. No. does their city start with R or M? No. We take our last guess...are they Stone Ridge? No...so close! Their town is Sterling, Virginia!
What went well?
Jobs went well...people did their jobs
NO mass of people near map!
What to do better next time?
We got tired near the end
Get a better “thinking” sign...their class had good “yes” and “no” signs, too!
Here are some photos from this Mystery Skype!
Here are some videos!
Here is CJ's guest post on our Mystery Skype from 12/13/16:
So we’re just getting started and everyone is excited. We’re introducing the other class...oh, they’re in the USA.
Oh what a break!! They asked the same thing! Now we ask, “Are you east of 98 degrees longitude?” NO. There was a mix-up...we’re up by 1 and we’re doing good. Their turn: Are we west of mississippi? NO. Our turn.
Are you in the central USA time zone? Yes. It’s getting close to us. Are we in the Northeast region, oh no they got our region. We say, “Are you southeast region? That doesn’t make any sense, we already correctly answered to central time zone. They said are we east of the Hudson River? No
Our turn… “Are you in the mid west region?”
Things are getting hot, oh no they know that we border the ocean.
Our turn, are you north of Iowa? Yes.
Is you state name two words? Yes.
Are you in Minnesota? NO. We’re getting closer to the jackpot. It must be Wisconsin...but our question failed.
No, they found us! We ask, “Are you in Michigan?” Our turn again. Request of finding town failed. North Dakota and South Dakota...oh we got them! South Dakota!
Info on De Smet, South Dakota
Their school is real small and it is 203 students.
33 3rd graders.
They have a really small town in their school they have 203 students
Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote Little House on the Prairie lived there.
What we did good:
Researchers sharing ideas
What we need to get better at:
Before mystery skype stop goofing around.
Runners stop and remember what the researchers say.
Don't go your own way
Questioners need to be louder
Two research teams
Here are some photos from our Mystery Skype!
And here are some videos!
Sawyer's post on our 4th Mystery Skype, from 10/28/16:
They went first. They are in the United States of America. They are east of the Mississippi River. They ask very good questions. We need to do better with the squeeze method. Wow, they guessed New Jersey in 6 questions. But we got Georgia in 6 questions too. Now we will do towns.
We are doing better with the squeeze method. It turns out states are easier than cities for both of us. They gave us a hint to speed up the process. They got our town but then we got their town, Thomasville, Georgia. The school they are in is Brookwood School.
Here are some videos from the session:
Here's Sawyer's post on our third Mystery Skype to Ann Arbor, Michigan on October 19, 2016.
Today is our third Mystery Skype. Some of the goals from the past Mystery Skypes were more teamwork and doing our own jobs. We started out with the standard country question. They are in the U.S. In a few questions Nikita pulled Michigan out of thin air and it was right. Now that we got their state it is their turn. They asked are we in the United States. We are in the United States. Soon they got New Jersey.
Here are some photos from this Mystery Skype:
Here is our video playlist from this Skype:
Hi guys, Avi Weiss here! Mystery Skype is starting soon. Please stand by. Update: 3 2 1.... And we're live! Update: Introductions. The other class asks the first question: are you in Canada? A: No. Our Q: Are you in the USA. A: No. Their Q: Are you in USA. A: Yes. Our Q: Are you in Canada. A: Yes. Update: Things are getting more and more tense... We just made a mistake. Slight understanding... It's fixed now. Their Q: Are you near Wilson lake. A: No. Update: Our Q: Are you in Timon. A: No. Update: Someone made a mistake. We are in recovery. Back to asking questions. Our Q: Are you in Toronto. A: Yes! Now only they are asking questions. Update: Their Q: Are you east of Idaho. A: Yes. Update: Their Q: are you north of South Dakota. A: No. Their Q: Are you east of Michigan. A: Yes. Their Q: Are you east of Pennsylvania. A: No. Their Q: Are you in New York. A: No. They are so close! Their Q: Are you in NJ. A: Yes! They got it we say our goodbyes and then close the Skype. Avi Weiss signing off... For now.
These are some photos from our second Mystery Skype
Here is some footage we shot of our second Mystery Skype!
Alright it's the first mystery Skype of the year. Avi Weiss here, for the blog coverage of the mystery Skype. We are going to start in a few minutes, so please stand by. Update: Everything is ready. We will start in about five minutes. Update: Start in three, two, one... Update: We are online I repeat we are online. Update: Richard won Rock Paper scissors. We go first. First question: Are you in America. Answer: yes. Progresses is good. We think we are zeroing in. Update: Question: Are you in the southeast. Answer: No. Q: Are you north of Maryland. A: No. Update: Q; Are you north of Massachusetts. A: No. Update; The other school is getting close... They barely missed. They said Rhode Island. They ask Vermont. They are getting warm... Update: We ask Ohio. They say no. They guessed it!!!! NJ was correct. Then we guessed the correct one!!! It was Illinois. Avi Weiss signing off... For now.
Here are some photos...
And some videos...
Let us know if you want to Mystery Skype with you!
The first week of school is in the books. In some ways, it was brand new, and in other ways, it was like riding a bike...you just never forget some things. This year, like every year, I kept some things that I always do, but I also did some editing and some tweaking. Here were some things that I did differently this year than in years past:
Emphasizing Procedures: One of my early goals for my class is for them to be able to carry out classroom procedures automatically...so much so that they could do them even if I wasn't there. From the first day of school, we modeled and practiced the things that the students should do from the moment they walked in the door. On the second day, I asked the children how much they thought they remembered from the previous day and had them evaluate themselves, reminding them that the first few days and weeks of school are practice. By the third day, nearly every student had remembered most of what we do!
Likewise, we have certain procedures that we practice in the afternoon. The end of the day had always been a little chaotic in years past, and I wanted to see if I could change that. I borrowed heavily from the methods the incomparable Paul Solarz outlines in his book Learn Like a Pirate to institute a new afternoon ritual...students will get their homework assignments; then join in a discussion that recaps what was learned and accomplished; evaluate how they acted that day (for example, were they kind to one another? Did they accomplish the work they set out to do?); and then reset and straighten up the room, retrieve their mail, do their classroom jobs, and finally line up for dismissal. The challenge? This all needs to be done in 15 to 20 minutes. In the first few days, I've been leading these discussions, but soon I plan on handing much of the responsibility off to the students.
Specifically Teaching Academic Conversations from Day 1: Student-to-student conversation is a key component of a lot of instruction in my class. It has become apparent to me that these skills should be specifically taught, practiced and reinforced from the first day of school. On the first day of school, we talked about what an academic conversation should look like and sound like and how it differs from a social conversation. Throughout the first three days, there were lots of opportunities to practice...as math instruction and reading and writing workshop all begin, these conversations will become critical ingredients.
A New Read-Aloud: Read-aloud is an important component in my reading instruction. It's a great way to model reading fluency practices as well as making explicit the kind of thinking that should be going on as students read. For the past few years, I had started with RJ Palacio's Wonder. It's a great book, but this year I decided to put it off until later in the year for a few reasons. First, I am planning to launch my first Reading Workshop unit soon, which ties with another fantastic book, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. Also, in October, my class will be participating in the Global Read Aloud, in which we will be reading Pax by Sara Pennypacker with other 5th grade classes across North America. Since I wanted to make sure our slate was clear, I chose to read Zen Shorts, a wonderful short illustrated story by John J. Muth. The story is presented in a series of vignettes, with each one providing opportunities to practice those academic discussions!
There was a lot going on in our first three days together...the students loved creating "extended" name tags, which they later learned how to tag electronically on ThingLink; we opened our classroom library and learned the check in/out system; and we also launched our Writer's Workshop! I can't wait to see what happens when we have a full week to work with!
I had a bunch of ideas to blog about, but the end of the year caught up with me...so instead, I'll write them as a series of year-end reflections. This first one will review my second year of Mystery Skyping!
What Went Well:
- First of all, we definitely increased our volume of Mystery Skypes this year. In our first year of Skyping, we did maybe five or six. This year, we did 13, counting a Mystery Hangout (same concept, just using Google Hangouts instead) and a Skype we did with a 2nd grade class in Illinois for Read Across America Day. We set a goal of 10,000 miles, which we almost doubled in the course of the year.
-One real highlight for us was the Skypeathon, on December 3. We completed three separate Skypes on that day, one of which was all the way to Andhra Pradesh, India. We were treated to Indian students sharing examples of their dance and music, and just the idea that we were making contact with a school halfway across the world was a real eye-opening experience for my kids.
- My students became very adept at working in different roles, and shifting on the fly. There were several times during our Skype sessions when different students had to leave the classroom, and other students just filled their roles seamlessly.
- One thing that was really amazing to see was how the students themselves took control of many aspects of our Mystery Skypes. They made changes to the way we operated that worked best for them. At the beginning of the year, my Question Trackers had two separate Google Forms that they would enter questions into; one the questions we asked, and the other for the questions the other class asked. They would feed into two separate pages of one Google Sheet that the Researchers could use to track the questions. The students realized that there were only a few of them who could type fast enough to keep up with the questions, and Researchers constantly forgot to check the spreadsheet for what questions had been asked already. They decided among themselves that instead, the Question Trackers would simply write their questions on a dry-erase easel divided in half; one side for our questions, the other side for theirs. This fix made it a lot easier to follow the questions. The students also adapted how questions were relayed to the Questioners and also created the position of Research Captain, whose job it is to make sure that the researchers are staying focused and on task. Another student took it upon himself to track the distances we covered in each Skype session and tracked our progress to our mileage goal.
Things to Work On:
- One thing I would like to improve next year is making sure all students are engaged. In every session, there would be several students who would sort of "check out" of the whole process. They were usually members of the Research team who would start to drift off. This in itself is somewhat inevitable, but in some situations, they would begin to distract other members of their team. I know that in any situation, there will be varying levels of engagement, but I'd like to try some ways to keep the maximum number of students involved. One idea I had would be to have two separate teams of Skypers, and with each Mystery Skype, the team that was "off" would watch the "on" team in action in a sort of fishbowl. I would imagine that this would provide a lot of opportunities for reflection and Quality Boosters. Also, less people on a team means more for each person to do.
- For each Skype session, there was a photographer and videographer whose job it was to record our team in action, but often these pictures just sat on Google Drive...I needed to do a better job of sharing these images. This year, I had a map displayed outside our classroom that tracked where we Skyped. Each location was tagged with its name and distance from our school, but it was hard to maintain. Perhaps combining these elements...sharing the photos and videos from each session (maybe combined with some reflection from the students)...and creating a QR code that could be scanned instead of just writing the name and distance of the town that would share these elements. Also, having a student blog about the session is something I'd like to get back to as well.
- Preparedness and flexibility was sometimes an issue. While my students devised a really neat strategy for narrowing down the state and town we were Skyping with, sometimes they would get stuck in a rut and only rely on that one strategy when other kinds of questions would serve them better. I would like to see research teams think one or two questions ahead, so that they would be ready with another question more quickly.
- Finally, I would like to create more lasting relationships with the classrooms we Skyped with. I know that it's hard in the midst of planning everything else, but this really could be an invaluable experience for students to collaborate across great distances.
Overall, Mystery Skype has been a great experience in my classroom for two years now. I'm looking forward to enhancing the experience for my students in Year 3! What have your experiences been? Any suggestions for tweaks and/or enhancements would be welcome!
5th grade teacher in Princeton, NJ. Passionate about education, technology, and the New York Giants!