The purpose of the classroom partnership is to exchange letters/videos/cultural presentations between the students to facilitate language learning and cultural understanding. These tips are most relevant for foreign language classrooms, but may also be helpful for classes of other subject areas.
1. Whole class exchange instead of individual student exchanges
Pairing up individual students from the classes could create a logistical nightmare in terms of compensating for the different number of students between the classes, monitoring student exchanges, and dealing with technical issues associated with students trying to contact one another. In addition, privacy issues are increased, and students may be disappointed if their partner does not respond. By doing a whole class exchange, any writing, speaking, or presentations that students do will be directed toward the other class (instead of a particular student), and everyone in the other class can benefit from the variety of communications sent their way.
2. Request specific topics for communication
For language classes, students will be likely communicating half in their native language and half in the target language for the exchanges. It makes a lot of sense to request your partner class to focus on an upcoming topic in your curriculum (eg. sports, food, travel) when they communicate in your class' target language. This way, when your class studies the upcoming unit, you can examine the communication from your partner class in more detail and have authentic examples to learn from. Even for other subject area classes, it would still be a great idea to request the partner class to communicate about an upcoming topic in the curriculum (eg. government, ecosystem, geography).
3. Consider recorded video exchanges
Live video exchanges are exciting and allow real time interactions; however recorded video exchanges also have many benefits. On the one hand, recorded video exchanges deal with the time zone differences that often prevent live communication between classes of different continents. On another hand, doing a video recording also alleviate some pressure off of students to speak, especially when they are not completely comfortable communicating in a foreign language. Finally, archived videos could be analyzed at a later date to achieve other learning goals.
4. Make a few exchanges go a long way
When the school year gets busy, having reglar exchanges throughout the year may seem daunting. However, instead of focusing on the number of exchanges, even a few quality exchanges can go a long way in terms of helping students to become acquainted with the other culture and providing authentic language learning experiences. So take the pressure off of yourself for having a certain number of exchanges, and dig deeper with students into every set of communication you receive from the other class. For example, a set of letters can be distributed at different stations for students to examine and read. At a later date, some of the same letters may be examined for examples of target vocabulary and language structures used. - feel free to use the videos/letters/emails received more than once to teach different aspects of the language and of the students' lives.
If you have any advice or experiences to share about your partnership with another class across the globe, please do leave a comment below! This is a new experience for me, so any tips or advice would be much appreciated.