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International Teachers, Teaching Resources

Ideas for setting up a successful virtual exchange project

Virtual exchange allows teachers to share cultures with both their own students and students around the world—no travel required! Virtual exchanges can take on many forms, including pen pals, video messaging and even more unconventional projects. Hear from a few Participate international teachers about how these exchanges impact students and discover unique ideas for your own virtual exchange project.

Kathlyn Gourlay, 3rd grade teacher at Stough Elementary from the United Kingdom

For our virtual exchange, I contacted teachers in Scotland, Qatar, London and Abu Dhabi. I set up a Google Slide presentation and compared each of our curricular standards pertaining to multiplication and division.

Each class then wrote a word problem each day, with a focus on a cultural aspect of their town or country. At the end of the day, we exchanged word problems and solved them the following day. For example, some of the word problems were about important buildings in our cities, December weather we experience or games that we traditionally play at recess. We exchanged video greetings and pictures of ourselves solving the problems.

The students thoroughly enjoyed learning about the cultures of the other students, and they especially enjoyed drawing comparisons with their own culture and with the town of Raleigh. Some of my students were very excited to find that children in the other classrooms spoke the same language as them, so it was an unexpected language lesson too.

The feedback from students and parents was very positive, and I plan to execute more virtual exchanges like this throughout the year. It was also fun to collaborate with teachers from other classrooms in order to make this project a success for all our students.

Want to set up your own math virtual exchange? See Kathlyn’s slides for word problem ideas and resources.

Jhaneille Downer, 2nd grade teacher at Pinkston Street Elementary from Jamaica

As part of the second grade math curriculum, students explore concepts of money, including coins and denominations of bills. This unit presented a great opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of U.S. currency, as well as recognize and identify the value of the U.S. dollar to the Jamaican dollar.

In addition, students researched the people featured on the U.S. and Jamaican currency and his/her importance to the history of each country. Students were initially excited about the introduction to another currency, yet as they learned about the exchange rate between the U.S. and Jamaican dollars, students were shocked at the compared value.

During this lesson, students were able to make global connections within our classroom. Although we experienced failure to connect with our partner school in Jamaica via Skype (due to network problems) we were able to send our questions to our Jamaican friends by using WhatsApp voice message, and in return, they responded using video messaging.

Students used this newly gained knowledge along with their prior knowledge to work collaboratively with their peers as they completed differentiated activities. They were able to compare and contrast the currencies of both countries while solving real-world math problems involving money. Overall, the lesson was a success as students expressed eagerness to share the information they learned with members of their families.

See Jhaneille’s collection for photos and details of this activity, then try it yourself!

Monica Espitia, kindergarten teacher at William H. Owen Elementary from Colombia

My virtual exchange activity this year was an interview with Colombian students. I previously talked with my university friend who is an English high school teacher in Armenia, Colombia, and we decided to do a Skype meeting with my 5-year-old students and his students in 9th grade.

First, he talked to them about the virtual connection they would have with American students and I talked to my students about the video conference. They were really excited to use Skype for instant messaging and voice chat. The Colombian students asked some questions to my students like: “What is your favorite color? What is your favorite cartoon?”

My students took turns answering, responding some in Spanish and some in English. They also read a book for them and sang a song, "Buenos Dias." Colombian students were very happy to have a close connection and interaction with my kids.

See a video of Monica’s classroom as they Skype with students from Colombia!

For more virtual exchange ideas and resources, check out this blog post.