First grade teacher and Southeast alumna Dena Shelton recently collaborated with Dr. Julie Ray, Southeast assistant professor of early childhood education, to publish an article in Young Children. The journal is published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and focuses on developments in childhood research, theory and practice.
The article chronicled an innovative and effective home-school communication strategy developed by Shelton in her classroom last year. The idea began as an electronic pen-pal program that was part of a social studies unit on communication, and it evolved into an interactive and successful home-school communication method. As a bonus, the project proved to be an exciting and resourceful learning tool for her students.
“The project had many benefits, some unanticipated,” Shelton says. “Our e-pals were located around the world, and the project continued throughout the school year. The increased involvement with families, including parents who lived apart from their children and extended-family members, was one of the first benefits.”
Shelton integrated the information from the e-pals into the curriculum in numerous ways. She used the e-pals’ global locations to teach her students how far away their new friends lived. The locations also became the reference points for Shelton’s discussions on weather, topography, time zones and geography. The first graders even cultivated a greater appreciation for family and cultural diversity through the project.
Furthermore, the student’s constant, virtual communication improved their vocabulary, writing, reading and technology skills. Coming full circle, the project allowed family members to become teachers and the world to become the classroom.