Return to Headlines

3rd-graders pair with NY special needs class for The Global Read Aloud

Photo of student asking question to students on video screen

Making connections is as big of a part of education as learning to read, which is why a third-grade classroom at Mary Endres Elementary School took an international reading initiative to another level sharing a beloved book with special needs students more than 600 miles away.

The pairing was made through The Global Read Aloud — an online initiative seeking to connect classrooms across the world with a six-week conversation about a particular children’s book. Those conversations often take place through one-way video questions and answers sent back and forth.

Dual Language teacher Karen Petersen had participated in The Global Read Aloud program before, pairing her students with a classroom in Canada. But this year Petersen decided to make a new connection with students who face communication challenges because of their disabilities.

“The Global Read Aloud is just a great way to connect students so they can read together despite the communication means,” Petersen said. “With this group of students, it was neat to see that we could all read the same book.”

The student all read “A Boy Called BAT,” the first in a series about a boy on the autism spectrum, which was written by Elana K. Arnold.

Susan DeJohn, a special education teacher with the Monroe 2 Board of Cooperative Education Services in the Rochester, New York area, said her students communicate in many ways including sign language, computer-synthesized voices controlled by eye movement and other means.

“Since my students use different methods and strategies to communicate, it has given Mrs. Petersen's class a chance to learn about students with different learning abilities, just like BAT,” DeJohn said. “It is also fun to have friends in another state.”

After students exchanged thoughts on the book via Flipgrid videos, the teachers decided to get both classes together for a live video chat. They were able to do that on Dec. 18 to the delight of both teachers and students.

Excited students and teachers waved to each other through their laptop cameras and quizzed each other with book trivia.

In a computer-synthesized voice, one of the New York students asked his friends at Mary Endres what BAT stood for. One eager third-grader knew the answer: Bixby Alexander Tam.

“That’s correct!” the boy responded with his computer device as Mary Endres classmates cheered.

Petersen said her dual language students may understand better than some that people communicate in many ways. but those barriers can be overcome and students from anywhere can enjoy a book together.

DeJohn said she and her students really enjoyed reading with their new friends in Woodstock. “The opportunity to work with Karen’s class was invaluable to us,” she said.


Photo of teachers and students watching video screen   Photo of teachers asking students questions