Global Learning with GATE Icons

Grab these posters HERE!
As I type this post, I'm actually in Helsinki, Finland, which feels very appropriate, given that I'm sharing about GLOBAL learning!  I love to bring the world into our classroom and I love to show the world to my students.

But how?

There are many ways to incorporate global learning but this is one of my very favorite ways.

We use GATE icons in our district, which is awesome because students enter fifth grade with years of knowledge and exposure.  However, if that's not an option, you absolutely could launch these wherever you are at!

Ultimately, the icons are, to me, prompts that encourage higher level thinking and push students to learn at a much deeper level.
This is an example of using a picture book (Fly Away Home) to dig deeper with the icons.  I just type up books and we use these after it's been read out loud.  You'll be amazed at the conversation that will ensue.
We use these icons throughout our day and across all of our curriculum.  The more you use them in your writing, reading, and dialogue, the more your students will seamlessly adopt them and apply them, too.

Another student example of using icons to annotate text
We read picture books all the time and one of my favorite things to do is type up the story.  Once we've read and shared the book together, they dig in to the text, searching for bigger meaning, theme, symbolism, or life lessons.  We really lean into this work the first month of school because it sets the tone (and expectations) for the whole year.
I keep the icons on the top of our board.  They're on magnets, making them SUPER easy to move around!
I always make sure that our icons are in prominent locations throughout the room.

I use THIS resource, print, laminate, and hot glue magnets on the back.

I also have THESE printed and laminated and hung in the BACK of our room, too.

Students DO need to know and understand each icon, so if these are new to you, you'll want to spend time going over them.  Again, using shared and common text is a great way to do that.
We track the places we've visited by adding a sticky on a giant world map.
Because these icons encourage so many higher levels of outside the box thinking, it's always made sense to me that there's a seamless connection with them and the world.

I began using these with global learning years ago when I taught second grade. I was quickly blown away by the depth and breadth seven year olds were tossing around and when I moved up to fifth, I knew it was something that would become a part of our day.
I love using composition books for our studies.
About once a week, we end our morning meeting (you can read more about that HERE) a little early and head back to our seats.  A student turns off the lights and I project a photo on the board.
The pictures on Bing are of places, animals, or phenomenon!
You can use so many things for this.  You can use a historical picture or painting (grab a social studies textbook or Google it), you can use one of your own travel pictures, National Geographic online, or you can project a quote, or you can use my favorite: Bing.

No one is paying me to say this (I wish!) but I love the search engine ( because each day, they display a brand new photo, taken somewhere around the world.  They are high interest, engaging, beautiful photos that provoke thought and discussion.

Before the students enter, I will select a picture (you can usually see the past 5 or 6) and quickly read up on it.  They provide descriptions and links to further learning.  This takes me 5-10 minutes and I love it because *I* learn something new every single time!
Details and unanswered questions are always filled in but I include a blank one HERE, too.
When students are returning to their seats after morning meeting, they come up and grab a quadrant frame and add the icon of details to one square and unanswered questions to another.

I give students anywhere from 2-3 minutes to jot down only things they notice (details) and things they're wondering about (questions).  This is done silently because I want them to, initially, sit with their thoughts.
For this, we'd used a quote by Benjamin Franklin.
Then, we begin sharing out.  I'm recording thoughts under the document camera or on the whiteboard.  Students talk about things they're seeing and bounce ideas off each other (the beginnings of the best part).  We fluidly move between details and questions, with me recording their questions and initials because they love to see their question "documented" this way.  Through our discussions, I DO share details of the photo (location, era, ect) and the add those facts to the detail quadrant.

At this point, you really have to act responsively because you have two more quadrants and for me, the goal is global exposure and individual duty as a world citizen.
Sometimes, I'll record on giant anchor chart paper, depending on how we can link this to other content learning.
What I mean is this: If I'm showing a picture of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, you might instruct students to add the icon of impact and work with table groups to jot down long-reaching effects it has had/will have on the environment.  Or, maybe your students seem fired up by the actual animals and you steer it another direction and have them add the icon of across the disciplines, having them discuss ways that a ruined habitat could affect trade, commerce, or science.

Basically, you have to really think on your feet.  The more deeply engaged the students are, the deeper they'll go.  Be fearless because your students are ready (either to discuss or absorb) information that might not regularly come up in your curriculum.  Let their voices and thoughts and opinions be heard.  Give them a chance to share out.

That does leave one final quadrant and you can do as time permits.  If the discussion is leading somewhere, add an icon and encourage healthy debate.  If you're running low on time (like I usually am), add the icon of original.  Let students draw a picture, make a model, write a hashtag... Anything to wrap up their learning.
We can just move the magnets and students can come up to add their thoughts.
From start to finish, this activity takes us no more than 20 minutes.  Could it go longer?  Absolutely yes.  In fact, I usually want it to but I stop it.  I stop it because I want to keep them slightly agitated that there is so much more to discuss.

Because of that, I always have learning extension opportunities available to them.  I use the resources in HERE and they can complete or work on them during "May Do" times of the day.  It's not a requirement, nor is it graded, but I like to throw the bait out there.  If they do the further research, they become our expert and can present during a morning meeting time.
All these materials are available HERE.
Not all students will do it.  Maybe you'll only have a few but the important thing (to me) is that you're giving them a CHANCE.  You're igniting a little spark that can easily turn into a fire.

And I truly believe that their fires can change our world for the better.


  1. Could you please share links to the text evidence starter pencils and the figurative language squares you have on your board? I would love to have those resources!!!

  2. I would also love to know where you got the circles to label the parts of speech! I LOVE your board, if you can't tell! :-)

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