I start by telling the students how excited I am for today’s learning by saying, “Boys and girls…. I can’t WAIT to share with you what we’re going to do today! Today, I’m going to share something special with you that I’ve created-just for you! I have created a virtual field trip for you all about the ocean!”
My students are familiar with virtual field trips (VFTs for short) because I make them fairly often, and they love them! A virtual field trip is really just a fancy name for online experiences that enhance a student’s understanding of a concept or topic in an engaging way through the use of technology! When I create virtual field trips for my students, I use an online, website building service called Wix.com. Here, I create websites for my students that include pictures, video links, interactive activities, links to various websites, and more to try to “take them to” the learning, therefore it's a “virtual” field trip. I always share any virtual field trips I create with my entire team, so that all the students in our grade level can benefit, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from kids and parents alike!
Here’s the link for the virtual field trip I’ve created for my students on Oceans if you'd like to check it out: http://mrshesemann.wix.com/ela-unit-2
Before unleashing the students with a new VFT, I always begin by modeling how to use each one. I try to create each VFT in a student friendly way, where navigation is easy enough to do, but, I try not to create them in the same format each time. I want my students to gain skills that will enable them to navigate through different websites, and as we know, all webpages do not look the same. I want to provide enough support that they’re successful, but still allow them a little room to grow by forcing the exploration process a bit! Today, I walk my students through how to navigate the new VFT by pulling it up on our SmartBoard and having students help me click through various parts.
As the students help me work our way through the VFT, I will ask questions like, “Oh, look at this tab I’ve added for you. It says, “Ocean Animals”. What do you think you’d learn about if you click on that tab?” Students giggle and one says, “Well, of course, Mrs. Hesemann, you’d learn about ocean animals!” I say, “You’re right! That is what you’d learn about here! And, while some of you may think that was a silly question for me to ask, I’m very happy that you were feeling this way! This means, that you’re using text features, such as headings and tabs, to help you navigate through digital resources like this virtual field trip, just like we’d use text features in an informational text, such as our KD Magazine: Oceans!” I walk the students through a few more text features, showing them diagrams, photographs, videos, and links to other websites that I’ve included for them.
Once I think my class understands how to navigate through the new VFT, I say, “Okay, third graders! It’s time to dive deeper into our critical thinking and see if we can answer any more of our questions about the ocean today using our VFT! Pull out your post-it notes from our work so far! We will take these with us to the computer lab today to see if we can get any more of our questions answered!” Students quickly get their notes out and are ready to go! Technology is so motivating for my students! We line up and head to the computer lab, where students log in, get online, find their way to our classroom website, and then, begin to explore the new VFT!
This part of the lesson is so fun! I love seeing how excited the kids are about getting online and exploring! While the kids are using the VFT, I walk around and remind students to make sure that they’re looking for answers to the questions they’re still wondering about! I challenge them to see if they can get all of their questions answered, and remind them to use the text features, such as hyperlinks, sidebars, captions, maps, diagrams, photographs, videos, etc. to help them find their answers!
At the end of our allotted time in the lab, I tell the kids, “Alright third graders! Time to log off!” I remind them to treat our lab kindly by returning headphones, pushing in chairs, and making sure they’ve taken all their notes with them. Before we leave the lab, I tell the kids, “On our walk back to our classroom, I want you to think of one thing you learned today by exploring our virtual field trip! Sharing this with me when we return to class will be your ticket in!” I use this as an exit ticket strategy, and when we get back, each student tells me something they’ve learned on their way back into our classroom. I even have to remind some students to tell me just one thing for now-they’re so excited to share even more!