The SWCOLT conference in Reno a few weeks ago was awesome for a million reasons, but my highlight was keynote speaker Akash Patel who totally inspired and dazzled all of us! During his keynote address, he invited 4 “Mystery Guests” to join us via Zoom, and the audience was tasked with submitting questions to figure out where in the world our Mystery Guests were joining us from. It was the coolest!!
Akash shared with us his vision and passion: building empathy by connecting classrooms with volunteers across the globe FOR FREE! Did you catch that?! FOR FREE!
During the conference, I was lucky enough to attend his Focus Session: Connecting your Classroom to the World where Akash shared stories about his adventure and how Happy World Foundation grew from a network of global friends, first formed to introduce his students in rural Oklahoma to the wider world, to over 1,000 volunteers in 150 countries, ready and willing to meet your students and answer their burning questions!
All you have to do is request a Happy World Volunteer, give them a date, a time and a target language or country, and they’ll get you the contact info of a volunteer. Send an email (email@example.com) or send a private message to the Twitter account @happyworldinc or Facebook group and they’ll be happy to set it up. It’s best to contact them the week before you’re hoping for your guest…they don’t need a lot of lead time. (And did I mention IT IS TOTALLY FREE with no strings attached!??!?) Too good to be true, you ask?!
Last week I requested our first guest, and Gabby from Costa Rica zoomed with my AP Little Darlings. I have to admit, before our video call I was nervous: What if the internet cuts out? What if my kiddos are too shy to speak? What if she doesn’t show? What if I suddenly forget all my Spanish and I can’t say anything to her?! What if…what if…what if… But the internet didn’t cut out, she did show, I could still speak Spanish and my students were excited to chat with her! IT WAS SO AWESOME!
Before Gabby joined us, I put my students in groups of 3 and gave them a bit of time to brainstorm questions to ask Gabby, to figure out where she’s from. When she joined us, each group took turns asking a question and everyone listened carefully to Gabby’s response. When a group thought they had her country pinpointed, they jotted their guess on their paper and raised their hand for me to confirm (or not!) and we continued questioning until most groups had narrowed it down to Costa Rica…at the end I asked Gabby to give us a few clues to help the remaining groups. We asked her questions for about 15 minutes, then Gabby graciously shared some pictures and info about Costa Rica before we said goodbye. I planned 30 minutes for this part of my lesson and Gabby chatted with us for about 25. It went much smoothly than I imagined it would, and Gabby couldn’t have been kinder! (I’m pretty sure the pictures Gabby shared were an added bonus, because she is a teacher herself! Your volunteer may or may not have a presentation prepared, but either way, your volunteer is there to answer your students questions and put a face to the cultures you’ve learned about in class!)
My students loved it so much! They’re asking for another Mystery Guest and I’m excited to set up another as soon as we’re back from Spring Break! (And I’m also inspired to sign up to volunteer myself… I want to share with kiddos around the world my language and my culture, too.)
Now, I did this with my AP Darlings, who have a good deal of Spanish, but I think this would be really neat in lower levels as well, and I’m planning on requesting volunteers to chat with them in the coming weeks. Here’s how I’ll set it up differently for my Littler Little Darlings:
I will still introduce our volunteer as a “Mystery Guest”, but I’ll request a country that we’ve talked about this year, so they’ve got a bit of background information. Before the guest joins us, we will brainstorm questions as a class and write them out on the whiteboard, Write & Discuss style. I’ll put students in small groups, so they can process the language together and think about our guest’s location, but I’ll let anyone ask questions- no one has to but anyone can, using the questions on the board for support. I will inform our guest that it’s a novice level class, and if our guest’s responses are not comprehensible, I will summarize the answer so everyone understands. If students think of additional questions they can ask in English, and I’ll be ready to jump in to interpret. What a cool opportunity for my kiddos in rural Nevada to make global connections!
If you’re looking for a little boost to get you through the final push of the hardest year of our careers (lives, maybe?!), request some Happy World Volunteers and open up your kiddos eyes to Spanish that is bigger than your classroom!
Take care, dear friends!