This post is in two parts-
Part 1 The EXPERIENCE!
Part 2: The How's, What's, Why's, Future Tweaks, Etc.
Last Fall was my first experience at an edcamp other than at a virtual one. Inspired by Glenn Robbins @Glennr1809, and many others in my PLN, the one activity that I wanted to try before the end of the year was an edcamp. So, knowing basically nothing, I decided to jump in any way! I'm not sorry that I did. It was a WONDERFUL experience for me and my students!
I tweeted out the night before that there was a possibility of an epic fail. I wasn't sure how to physically arrange my classroom. I didn't know if my scheduling would work. I didn't know if we could have six "classes" simultaneously being taught at the same time. I worried about the amount of noise that might happen. The safety of the students because of the furniture placement concerned me. It was crowded. I worried about those "blindspots" and wondered if kids would take advantage of me not seeing them and goof off. I hoped that my students would have a good experience. I was confident and apprehensive at the same time about our edcamp. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable has become just a way of life for me. I dreamed edcamp all night long. My brain couldn't quite shut down. I problem-solved. Some dreams were sweeter than others.
PART 1: The EXPERIENCE!
My modified edcamp was a blend of Genius Hour projects and an edcamp. Students had complete freedom of topics and choice for how to present their lesson. Most kids chose some type of multi-media presentation along with their demonstrations.
The day before our edcamp, I let the kids sign up for the classes that they wanted to attend. I held my breath hoping that no one would be left out, but still had a quiet confidence that my kids would shine and make sure that every person had a few people in their class. I was not disappointed. I didn't even have to say anything. All of our lessons and practice of being good citizens throughout the year paid off.
After a few ground rules, we were ready to start! I had a parent there to help if I needed it, but it wasn't necessary. The kids were WONDERFUL! They were polite, spoke with an appropriate voice level, came prepared, and genuinely appreciated each other for teaching them something interesting!
Their reflections are amazing! I'm posting some excerpts.
What I Learned As Their Teacher:
- Have high expectations for students. I think the success of our edcamp was in large part because the kids already knew expectations for behavior, presenting/speaking, having a conversation, sharing, etc.
- The more I keep making the shifts to a more student-centered classroom, the happier I am as a teacher. I see so many positives!
- Students always surprise me when they speak about their passions!
- The extra time and effort to create a meaningful experience is well worth it every time! It's the end of the year and I'm exhausted. But, making every day count is energizing! When I'm with the kids, I'm "on"! At the end of the day, I collapse until I get a second wind. But I feel fulfilled and grateful that I have the amazing opportunity to work with kids every day.
- There is nothing like the energy in the room when students are teaching and learning from each other. It's palpable!
Officially, I guess I couldn’t call this experience an edcamp. The students didn’t have the freedom to leave a class if they felt like the class didn’t meet their needs. They also had prepared presentations. The presentation was left wide-open. The students knew that they had a 15- minute window to present/teach their students in any way that would engage their learners. I think the structure of having a prepared presentation helped my fifth graders have a little more confidence that they could facilitate a discussion for 15 minutes. Most were a little “freaked out” when I first said 15 minutes. They didn’t feel like that they could teach for that long. In the end, they were surprised by how quickly those minutes passed and how easy it was to talk about one of their passions.
This was NOT their first experience sharing a passion project. Plus, we’d also given other types of speeches throughout the year. I actually began the year with the challenge to talk 120 seconds. We built from there.
Little Things I Did That Made A Difference:
- The kids wrote their topic on a sticky note. After school, I drew a schedule (grid) on my whiteboard and placed the sticky notes in the various boxes. Then, I moved around the sticky notes so that when the kids signed up, the classes would be balanced. So, for example, I knew that some topics would be more popular, so I placed three of them in the same time slot. I knew that a few kids were a little more popular, and so I put them in the same time slot. I didn’t want students signing up for a couple of classes and potentially leaving someone left out with no one signed up for their class. We’d worked all year building team spirit and citizenship. I wasn’t too worried, but I didn’t want to take the chance of someone not having a good experience.
- I also arranged where each class would be taught. For example, I scheduled a lot of the crafty presentations at our back table. I scheduled the topics centered around sports in an area where the teacher would have a little more room to move/demonstrate.
- Once I knew the schedule, and where each student would teach, I rewrote their names/topics on colored sticky notes. Each time block was a different color. I planned 15-minute blocks of time, and that seemed to work beautifully.
- The next day, I had kids sign up for their classes. I took all of the 9:00 classes (sticky notes) and had a group of kids sign up for a class. I rotated groups of kids so that everyone had a chance to be the first to sign up for a class in a particular time slot. Based on a suggestion from one of my students, after four people signed up for a class, kids agreed to sign up for an alternate class so that everyone would have at least three students. After everyone had signed up, I had the kids write down their schedule.
- The day of the edcamp, I had kids put their backpacks on the backs of their chairs. I did this mainly because I’d put storage items under the coat rack but it worked out great because kids had all of their teaching “stuff” with them.
- When we were ready to start, I had the teachers rotate to their “station”. Everyone else stayed seated. I did this mostly because our room was crowded, but once again it ended up being a little bit of structure that prevented some potential chaos. For each rotation, I had the teachers move first and then the class members. I also had a designated seat for the teachers. I strategically placed the teachers where they could teach without distractions from another class. I provided them with a white board, but they didn’t have to use them.
- Before we rotated, I played a chime as a signal to wrap up. Then, I asked the teachers if they were ready to switch. There were only a couple of times when a “teacher” asked for one more minute. Once everyone was ready, teachers rotated first and then the rest of the class.
- Before we ever got started, I talked to the kids briefly about safety procedures. The classroom was crowded with only little walkways because of making six different distinct areas. I didn’t want students to try to rush out in an emergency. We used the “emergency procedure” to exit the room for recess and again for entering. Basically, it was just an order to exit and enter.
- Just before the kids arrived, I turned on some music to set the mood and made sure that the room smelled good. I wished that I'd had more time/energy to make or hang up motivational posters or something. But the room looked great and I was excited!
Learn More Here: See what Glenn Robbins is doing in his middle school here. Their school will inspire you! Mariana also sent me this tweet. They are also doing something similar. You can check out what they did here.
I'm very grateful for my PLN who continue to inspire me and challenge me. Thanks everyone!