Last week, Jordan, one of my fifth grade girls, was caught doing something without permission! AND I LOVED IT!
Jordan’s classmate, Koral, was on a trip out of town to attend a funeral. During our book clubs (literature circles), I noticed that Jordan had propped her iPad up in front of her and was talking to Koral on FaceTime. Jordan knew that our class was a safe place to try something new. She also knew that I would approve of anything she did that enriched her education or that of a classmate. So here is Jordan reading Chomp to Koral, separated by a measly 1000 miles.
With over 19,000 followers on Twitter, Erin Klein is a gifted communicator, passionate educator, and curator of excellent EdTech ideas. Watch as Tim and Scott have an EdChat with Erin about social media, PBL, and more!
Coming May 3: Alex Kajitani, Rappin’ Mathematician and 2009 California Teacher of the Year!
Dena Glynn shares her experience trying a Kids EdCamp with her class.
We are working on a trimester-long research project. Each student chose her/his own topic. I wanted to see how much they knew about their subjects already AND see what they didn’t know (via other student’s questions). Kid EdCamp seemed to be such a cool way to showcase the learning and reveal the holes in their research.
I had been playing up the idea of a Kid EdCamp with my class since I first read about it on TimBedley.com but didn’t give the students much info. I told the kids, “There are some people who think kids can’t do this.” The night before, I assigned them a homework project to create a short (under 2-minute) movie, a collage, or a ShowMe about their topic. I thought these would make good introductions for Kid EdCamp presentations.
The Day of the EdCamp
I made the matrix schedule board (out of butcher paper) but left off the locations of the sessions. The sessions took place in six locations, four in my room and one in the adjoining library. Only 30 of my 35 kids were at school, or else I would’ve needed two library locations. We held five 10-minute rotations.
Students who wished to lead a session put their names and topics on large sticky notes. I selected students randomly to place their stickies in the matrix. I explained to the class that a session might include only one person or more (I didn’t set a limit because I wanted to see how it played out.) I expressed my desire to have every session with at least one attendee. I also explained that it is more important to choose a topic one is curious about, know a lot about, or want to learn more about rather than being with one’s best friends. Then, all students wrote their names on mini post-its and placed those in the boxes they wanted to visit. One tricky part was getting the students to NOT place their name sticky on a session time slot in which they were also presenting. The kids created new blog posts on our class blog entitled Kid’s EdCamp. Each student had to type the times, places and locations of the sessions they would attend. This was done to save time during the EdCamp. I didn’t offer the option of spontaneously changing sessions. I didn’t even know if this whole thing would work. Perhaps I will allow students to vote with two feet at future EdCamps.
I instructed the session leaders to take charge of their group. begin the conversation, and keep the discussion focused on the topic. Other students could ask questions and share experiences. The participants had to take notes during the sessions on their blog. We used this same blog post as a reflection at the conclusion of the EdCamp. When we started, I was so excited! I made that very clear to the kids. I told them I was most excited about the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
How did it go?
It was AH-MAZE-ING!! All students took ownership. One of my resource kiddos, who barely scrapes by, led a talk on candy and was basically as knowledgeable and well versed as Willy Wonka. The Dragon Fruit session got interesting when one person asked what they grow on. This led to Googling images of the plant and being grossed out at the sight. The parkour group hadn’t seen the YouTube video about the parkour dog, so I had fun showing them that.
What I learned
I learned by letting kids’ passions surface, it is miraculous. Everyone was able to be an “expert.” I had three sessions on”dogs” and they learned from each other. If we could tap into that intrinsic passion and align it, somehow, with other subjects, the potential is astronomical. I thought the 10-minute time frame was perfect. I started ringing the bell to rotate about a minute before.
The kids behaved ridiculously well. Visitors stopped by at different intervals and commented on the high level of engagement. I walked the course and some of the groups needed reminders to take notes but no incredible goofing off was noted. At the conclusion of one of the talks, the speaker shook hands with the audience. One thing I wanted was the leaders to be “higher” (either standing up or on a stool if they were on the floor) than than rest of the group. That way I could instantly see my speakers. The other thing was that the groups naturally were between 1-6 people, without my interference. I think a group larger than 8 is too big and more easily distracted.
This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I told them I think we’ll do something similar at the end of our research project but invite other classes to be a part of it. Maybe we could use our multi-purpose room and have different stations.
Guest blogger Dena Glynn is a 4th/5th grade teacher at Tierra Bonita Elementary School in Poway, California.
In episode 6 of the Bedley Bros, Tim describes how 2/3 of his students and their parents opted out of letter grades this year. He addresses the obstacles and shares the triumphs of de-grading his class.
As students work in groups, designate one or more students to silently observe the workers. Call them the Super Spies. The Super Spies silently take notes on positive behaviors and then report what they saw to the class. The teacher should be the first Super Spy to model the types of behaviors that should be reported. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it works wonders.
Watch as Super Spies report positive behaviors to class.
For the latest edition of the Bedley Bros. Scott shares a fantastic idea for bringing the community into your classroom for free and with little effort. He calls it the “Artist to Classroom Network.” He also shares a QuickTip about getting free prizes for your classroom. Check it out and leave us a comment!
For the last few years, I’ve been using musicals by Bad Wolf Press. They produce a wide variety of standards-based musical plays for grades K-8. Putting on the shows is a lot of work, but the kids never forget the lyrics nor the experience. A couple of 20 year old siblings were singing along as my students performed California Missions and More. Two years ago we performed a musical on the US Constitution. In May, the kids will perform US Geography for the student body and a night performance for parents and friends. Producing a show like this has several benefits including building class community, connecting the students with the community, and integrating the arts into our busy days.
Would 4th and 5th graders be able to hold their own student-driven, student-centered EdCamp? We gave it a shot this last Friday in room 32 at Wildomar Elementary School. Students signed up all week long to run the sessions. The “poster” was a shared Google Spreadsheet. We held four 15-minute sessions with a 20-minute break in the middle and at the end for reflection. The kids LOVED it as I’m sure you will be able to tell in this 4-minute highlight video of the event. Presentation topics included horses, One Direction band, Scratch game programming, dance, gymnastics, iPad settings, baseball, and Minecraft.
Assessment of the Day
It was a bit messy at times, but overall, the kids were thoroughly engaged and will never forget it. Areas to improve: greater guidance on “voting with your feet,” brainstorm topics before giving the kids access to the sign-up board, encourage deeper topics, and having more time for follow-up discussion and/or reflection journaling at the end. Victories: the presenters took it very seriously, one girl had a ton of research ready to go, one very shy girl totally blossomed and showed amazing communication and leadership skills, 29 of my 30 students present were engaged and learning, no one seemed to be too hurt by participants leaving their session, very little wasted time, took students to a new level of maturity and love of learning.
What about teaching the standards? None of the sessions were standards-based. I’m not sure if this is important, and if I did try to steer the event in that direction, if it would still be this engaging and successful in the eyes of the students. Students were definitely learning habits of mind, 21st century skills, and were totally engaged. Is there a way to run such an event that is standards-based without losing the magic? That remains to be seen. I plan to try it again in a month and include one or two other 4th/5th grade classes.
Many teachers have a D.E.A.R. Day on occasion. Drop Everything And Read. Here are 11 keys to D.E.A.R. Day success in the elementary school classroom.
Schedule the day. Break the day up into 15-20 minute segments. Doing what? Read on.
Rotate types of activities. Yes, it’s an ALL reading day, but that doesn’t mean you want little kids trying to read by themselves all day long. That is a recipe for disaster. Four possible activities include reading to self (silent reading), teacher read aloud, book talks, and read with a friend.
Discipline using an on/off switch. Are the kids allowed to talk or not? Make that perfectly clear and enforce it to a T! If voices are off, not a single student is allowed to say one single word. If it’s time to share, let ’em loose. Don’t tolerate a middle ground, occasional chatting when it’s supposed to be silent.
Maintain your classroom rules. The atmosphere should be relaxed but don’t throw your standards out the window.
Allow soft stuff. Encourage your students to wear their jammies, bring their giant pillows, and cuddle with their favorite stuffed animals. It’s a special day!
Move the furniture. Open up the room so the kids can lounge around on the floor. Join them on the floor (with professional discretion.)
Don’t allow movement. When it’s time to read silently, find a place and stay there until the timer goes off.
Read with the kids. Pull out your favorite book and read it while the kids read silently.
Get the kids talking about their reading. At the end of each silent reading block, ask the students to turn and talk about what they just read. Listen into their conversations.
Take pictures. Pictures send this message to your kids: What you are doing is newsworthy. Reading is a big deal.
Don’t ruin the fun. Stay away from quizzing the kids or giving them “assignments.” Make the day all about the love of reading.