I’m always looking for ways to engage my students. We have been learning about the Canadian Shield in Social Studies. My student teacher has taken over the unit, but I had to suggest an activity to get the kids motivated and thinking.  We backchanneled with our grade five class while they watched Survivorman.

Survivorman is a program where Les Stroud is dropped into a wilderness situation and has to survive for 7 days.  I use it to teach geography is many contexts.  It shows the land, Les is a fantastic wilderness photographer, and what resources are available.   His arctic episode is great for my unit on the north, the swamp episode perfect for wetlands, and the Costa Rica episode is wonderful for Rainforests.  He even has one where he is lost at sea that would tie into teaching about oceans.  The list could go on…

The idea of backchanneling is one I’ve seen blogged about before, and I was very intrigued with how it might look with elementary aged students.  The moment I showed them Today’s Meet they couldn’t wait to get started.  I chose to use Today’s Meet as my backchannel tool because it is very simple, clean, and not distracting.  The students focus on the message and the information being presented, not ads or flashing banners.  It allows the students to enter a simple name and they are in the chat instantly.  It also displays their name so I can easily track who posted what comment.  Perfect!

My student teacher and I posted discussion starters such as this to get the kids focused in their comments:
The students were fantastic.  They shared ideas, asked questions to each other, and had some very insightful thoughts:
This comment tied the Social Studies lesson back to the novel study we had just completed in Language Arts – yeah!!
This comment showed the point we were trying to make about Northern Canada – trees!!  It’s great when the students can point out the main idea and reach the important conclusions!
The students started to put themselves in the situation:
Another great question!  (Remembering I’m in rural Canada and using animals for food is very much a part of normal life for my farm children)
This was one of my favourites!  A student threw out a fantastic question that led to all sorts of discussion!
Even the basics get taken care of on the backchannel!