International Day of Friendship Early Years Collaboration
Posted: 12 November 2019
- Communication skills
- Appreciation for diversity
- Problem solving
- Sense of responsibility
- Commitment to sustainability
A group of teachers from Round Square schools have been working together on an Early Years collaboration to create a resource bank of lesson plans themed around the International Day of Friendship which is celebrated on the 30th July each year. The Lesson Plans generated and shared through this collaboration link back to the Round Square Discovery Framework, and are now available the Resource Library on the RS Web site. Having connected online via videoconference to discuss the broad theme and explore different approaches to it, the teachers that took part then wrote their own lesson plans designed to develop young learners’ understanding of the value of friendship, considering how they can be good friends to those around them, and swapped, piloted and refined among the group.
The broad objective of this collaboration was to identify a model for collaboration that enabled teachers to connect at a professional level and explore and develop a cross-cultural theme together before developing (and sharing) their own approach and resources – to “think global, act local”. In identifying a focus theme for the collaboration, the group aimed to create shared purpose and choose a topic that would be age-appropriate, versatile for any teaching and cultural context and would result in lesson plans that could be easily implemented either as stand-alone or combined into a unit of work. A broad cross-section of schools were invited to participate, with a focus on those that were already experimenting with Round Square for early years, or were keen to do so, and with an objective to ensure cultural diversity within the group, enabling sharing of different perspectives from around the world.
In our first videoconference call (conducted online via “Zoom”) we introduced ourselves and got to know each other whilst also opening our discussions on theme for the collaboration. We also swapped and discussed ideas for the structure and approach we should in order to make it workable for all schools involved, and agreed on a format. We discussed the chosen theme, the lesson development and feedback process, the expected timelines for the collaboration and the overall aims and outcomes for the project. This was a great way for us all to have a clear understanding of what we were committing to whilst developing a shared understanding of the outcomes and group expectation before we got started.
From this point onward, we held four collaborative calls using Zoom, in which we discussed the following
- In-depth exploration of the Podio collaborative platform
- Exploration of lesson planning process
- Allocation of lesson themes
- Discussion of timelines for lesson submissions
- Discussion of ways in which students could connect and collaborate
- Peer review and feedback process
- Positives and challenges of lesson development
- Discussion and evaluation of collaboration process
- Discussion of next steps
These calls enabled to support each other through the collaboration, asking and answering questions, seeking clarification and ensuring that we were all on track with all aspects of the collaboration. These calls also provided us with a space to discuss any challenges, flexibility required and to learn more about each other’s school and teaching context.
To facilitate our collaboration, we used an online platform called ‘Podio’ which enabled us to share our lessons with one another in a shared space (private to our group) and provide feedback, add suggestions and additional resources to lessons that had been shared by others. We also used Podio as a central filing system for Zoom call notes, timelines and for sharing opportunities for students to connect. Podio allowed everyone on the collaborative team to access the collaboration in a protected space and in their own time, ensuring that emails could be kept to a minimum and messages and updates did not get lost in email inboxes.
Lesson plans produced:
You can log onto the Round Square website and visit our resource library to view the lesson plans produced by the teachers that took part in this collaboration. Please try out some of their lessons and let the collaboration group know what you think by using the star rating and leaving comments on the resource library entry, including any additions/ amendments you made for use in your own:
What are the qualities that make a good friend and a lasting friendship produced by Siobhan De Jager, Early Years Teacher at Dainfern College:
International Day of Friendship produced by Sonia Thakur, RS Rep and Early Years Years Teacher at KC Public School:
Our Friendship Village by Norma Alexanders, Early Years Coordinator at Westfield School:
Lessons produced by Aimee Theodore at Round Square
Some of the feedback from lessons includes:
‘This lesson plan provides a very useful and important link between the Round Square Discoveries and friendship. ‘The Friendship Tree’ serves as a good visual reminder of behaviour that fosters friendship and should aid in making the classroom feel like a safe and welcoming space for all the children. I think that the extension work with the sticky notes will help to keep the lesson relevant throughout the term and to recognise positive behaviour. Depending on the age of the students the teacher could also discuss the idea that a tree is a living thing that is affected by it’s environment. What can the students do to help to create a good environment in the classroom, which will help the Friendship Tree and each other develop and grow?’
‘This is a lovely lesson to build on discussions about friendships and a visual reminder to promote positive behaviour. I really like the idea of promoting the tree as being a living thing which is affected by its environment – explaining to the children that it needs love and care to grow and thrive just like we do. In place of the sticky notes, you could add paper leaves to the tree with examples of acts of good friendships so it grows throughout the year.’
The main challenge encountered by the group was the impact of different time zones when trying to get together for video-conference Zoom calls as we were all available at different times and our schedules were then further constrained by teaching commitments during the school day. To combat this, we identified the time that worked best for the majority and then scheduled every call for that same time so that there was consistency and we could plan ahead to be on the call. We also built in a degree of flexibility so that if an individual teacher was unable to make a specific call, they could connect with another member of the group at another time to pick up details of the discussion.
For the adults involved in the collaboration it was great to be able to discuss the approach to a theme with colleagues around the world to build in an international perspective before developing resources, and more interesting to develop and co-create lessons with other teachers across the network. Feedback from students suggested they enjoyed the range of activities provided by the sharing of resources and teachers found that the lessons complemented existing activities and programs seamlessly. The exercise of connecting classrooms across the Round Square network, when explained to the students, generated excitement, captured their imaginations and held their interest in the initiative.
We felt a sense of camaraderie through sharing the positives and challenges of our teaching days and exploring together how to develop lessons that would inspire and engage not only the students but the teaching staff as well. One participant, the only teacher in her year group for a single form entry school, commented that this collaboration ‘was the highlight of my teaching year,‘ because of the genuine sense of support and encouragement she felt from the other teachers in the collaboration team. She explained that Round Square ‘has opened me up to talking with teachers not only in my school but across the world.‘
Another participant said “I loved the idea of an early Years Collaboration with other Round Square schools as often the younger children are not as actively involved with RS activities in school. It was very interesting to have access to and to share ideas and lesson plans from such a wide range of settings around the world. The children had a wonderful time, engaging well with their school “Big Sisters” to explore the theme of friendship.”
“On Tuesday 25th June 2019 Key Stage One and Lower Three did exciting activities with our Little Sisters and the other little ones. The theme was friendship because of the International Day of Friendship. We used our communication skills and teamwork skills in our groups for our final activity. Overall I loved this fun morning and I would love to do this again!” By Maddie.
“I enjoyed building a den village with the younger girls as we all viewed things differently and have different ideas. It was interesting to see how our group solved problems and all of the different techniques they used.” By Ariadne
Long term outcomes
This collaboration has produced a model for interaction between teachers at a professional level that then has spin-off benefits for students when the resulting lessons are shared and delivered. It is one that we will recommend for RS schools to use in the future as it is a relatively contained and structured (and manageable!) way of connecting classrooms that then has the capacity to lead on to student-to-student collaboration at the next stage. The energy, camaraderie and positivity that was generated through the process made for more creative and inspired outcomes in our resulting lessons and this made the exercise worthwhile in itself. In addition, a professional support network was created with teachers that participated now having counterparts in other schools around the world that they can call on in future for collaboration, guidance and advice.
- Each participating school should identify a lead contact who will be able to commit to the collaborative initiative and drive it forward
- Where possible, support the lead person with a small team in each school to spread-the load (and the love!);
- Make it manageable – don’t be over ambitious with your initial plan – start with an easy objective and then build from there;
- Develop a clear structure for your collaboration with opportunities for teachers/schools to bring their own creativity to it;
- Set clear and manageable timelines and stick to them – if one person is late it holds up the whole group;
- Be aware school calendars – avoid known pressure points and be ready to extend working periods to allow for holidays;
- Think about how students can go on to collaborate – what opportunities are there to connect your classrooms?; and
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t all go according to plan – any small “win” is still a “win” and the obstacles are learning experiences in themselves!