Night Zookeeper - Mrs. B's First Grade

Night Zookeeper

Want to learn about the best new thing in our classroom? Read on...
It all began before World Read Aloud Day. I saw on Skype in the Classroom that several authors were willing to Skype with students to celebrate the day. You plugged in your information and you got to pick up to seven authors to contact. We got an amazing response back. I set up four different Skype sessions for my students during the week. I hope to blog about it very soon... The last Skype call we had that week was with Night Zookeeper Paul. I knew from the moment we Skyped with him that it would turn into something big for my students.

Early in the week my student teacher and I tried to navigate the Night Zookeeper website and get our students started before the Skype call. I hate to admit it, but we found it a bit confusing. We decided to just go for it with them and hope that it would all make sense. As soon as our students opened the website, they were easily able to figure out how to start playing and what to do. I should have remembered that even with my technology skills, my first graders can still teach me!

My students were enjoying their start on the website and were therefore excited to Skype with Paul. During our session, he played the part of a Night Zookeeper perfectly. He had his hat on and flashlight shining with background noise and picture of a night zoo. He called my students up and read their work to them. Their faces were priceless. He even pointed out parts of good writing which made my teacher heart happy. As soon as we were done with the call we just had to put our plans aside and get right back on the site!

After the Skype call I learned more about the site and program. My students were participating for free for World Creative Writing Month. They were having a competition that I *think* around 400 classes ended up participating in. Classes were involved from all over the world. The initial goal was to have the students participating to write a total of 100,000 words combined. Eventually the goal that was met was OVER 1,000,000 words! There was a leaderboard of the top 40 schools in the competition. I am proud to say that my first graders were on the leaderboard wavering between 20th and 15th place for most of the competition! We ended up in 19th. Night Zookeeper Paul even Skyped with us a second time as we were ending the competition. 

My students were, and still are, obsessed with working on their zoos. They beg me during the day to get on the site and spend time during recess and at home on it. The best part? They are working on their writing the whole time. On the site students create a zoo. They create animals to put in their zoo and write stories about them. I can see the stories through a teacher page and assess/give feedback.

The competition part of the program sparked my students even more. The Zookeepers were/are very active with us on Twitter and often gave us challenges to complete. We responded with challenges for them which they completed also! Our second grade class ended up joining the competition. They were hooked just as fast, if not faster, as my students. The friendly competition that went on between our two groups was fun to watch.

The bottom line is that there is not another program on the internet that I can recommend more than Night Zookeeper. I have never had an interactive writing program (or math and reading) that has hooked my students more - and kept its appeal. The people behind Night Zookeeper are wonderful and make us feel as though we are friends. PLEASE let me know if I can talk to you more about it! Definitely check it out!!
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