Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mystery Hangouts - Bring the World to Your Classroom

Mystery Hangouts 
Connecting Outside the Walls of Your Classroom

It is so important as educators, who connect daily with a classroom full eager learners, that we provide global learning opportunities for our students.  Teaching in a "World Classroom" makes learning relevant and engaging for our students. Breaking down the walls of our classroom helps students develop a respect for different cultures and ideas. After two years of having my students participate in Mystery Hangouts I have learned a lot, side by side with my students. 

What is a Mystery Hangout
I have found most Mystery Hangouts last about 30-45 minutes.  You connect with another classroom from around the globe to guess their Mystery Location.  You can connect through Skype or Google Hangouts depending on what your district allows.  The goal is to have your students guess the other school's location before they figure out yours. Students ask each other yes and no questions.  You can guess their state, country, town, city or even their school name depending on the amount of time you have allotted for your hangout.  

Getting Started 
How to Find Classrooms to Participate in Mystery Skypes and Hangouts
 Google+ Communities - Connected Classrooms
Skype Classroom Website - Skype in the Classroom
Mystery Skype Website - #MysterySkype
Mystery Hangout Community on Google+

Twiter is another favorite of mine to find classrooms to connect with. Tweet Out for Specific States/Countries - You can get a huge response from classrooms around the world.  Also follow @MysterySkype and @SkypeClassroom on Twitter. Use #MysterySkype to get 


Generate a List of Questions
Examples of Questions Students May Ask

How to Contact other Classrooms for the Mystery Hangout
When connecting with other classrooms I use either Skype or Google Hangouts.  It depends on what specific districts allow.

Please feel free to copy and modify as needed.

Greeter - Introduces the class without giving away any clues or information.  My students typical do Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who asks the first question. I also have the greeter answer the questions using Yes, No, and We are Thinking Signs.  I always have them answer and restate the question asked. Example: No, we are not east of the Mississippi River.

Inquires - They ask the questions.

Question Keeper - Responsible for answering questions about our state and coming up with new questions that can be asked. I have students keep track in a shared Google Doc.

Logical Reasoners - This group comes up with questions to ask the other class based on the information already shared. They work closely with the mappers.

Runner - When students have questions the want to ask, they write it down on a stick note. These elevates some of the noise. The runner collects the questions and takes them to the inquirers.

Mappers - I have maps that students use dry erases markers on. Students keep track and mark off states and eliminate places from the questions asked. They keep track of the clues.

Videographer/Photographer - I try to have students create a Movie Trailer for each Mystery Hangout and another student create a Pic Collage. We like to share these with the classes we connected with.

Backchannel - I don't always use this, it depends on the other classroom. When I do, we use www.todaysmeet.com and students chat with the other class during our Mystery Hangout.

Mapquester - We were using www.mapquest.com for students to locate the school we are Skyping with. Now we use Google Earth.

Closer - The closer will share Nebraska history with the other class. Examples: Famous Nebraskan's, Bellevue Facts, Important Landmarks, Information about our School

Lessons Learned
  • Have students practice in the classroom prior to their first mystery hangout.
  • Don't assume your students know proper etiquette. Practice with students. Example: If they can't hear the question from the other classroom. "Will you please repeat your question." We've had other classrooms yell and say "We can't hear you!" At times, they also need to be reminded that the other class can hear and see them.
  • Students love to begin mystery hangouts with "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who goes first.
  • This year we started using sticky notes for students to write down questions for the inquirer to ask. In the past the runner would share answer and questions, and it always got too loud.
  • The hardest part for me is to keep my mouth shut. I am always tempted to answer questions for student when they seem to be taking too long. Give them time to research and find the answers to questions. As they gather new information, time is need to generate new questions.
  • You can mute the speaker if necessary to talk with your students.
  • Leave some time at the end to share information and facts about your community.
  • Have students share a Pic Collage or Movie Trailer with classrooms they connect with.
  • Keep track of all the classrooms locations you connect with over the school year.

We also have a map in our classroom on a bulletin board to keep track of all the places we have traveled on our adventures. We learn the regions of the United States in fourth grade. We used color-cordinated push pins for each specific region. Next year I will use a world map.

My Students Created a Movie Trailer a Few Years Ago of the Jobs Involved in a Mystery Skype

Examples of a Few Movie Trailers Students Created

Mr. Smith's Classroom from Australia @mrsmiths56class

Mr. Wigmore's Class from Canada @JayWigmore

Mrs. Boehm's Class from New Jersey @boehmj 

Mr. Flore's class from Kaiserslaurten, Germany

Additional Resources

Most importantly, have fun! I have learned so much along side with my students.  I would love to hear how your are using Mystery Hangouts and Skype's in your classrooms.