This weekend I had the joy of being a part of edcamp Cy-Fair. If you’ve never attended an edcamp, it is a gathering of educators who come together with no agenda – to learn and grow from the knowledge each person in attendance holds. We brainstormed topics we wanted to discuss, created a schedule of what would be discussed in which rooms, and had real conversations with other hard-working educators. I loved hearing what others are doing in their schools and classrooms that work and brainstorming together ways to improve things that aren’t working. Here were my 4 biggest take-aways from edcamp Cy-Fair 2019:
Positive Note Entrance Ticket
A teacher from Wells Elementary shared this strategy which she uses once a week to foster a positive classroom culture. Before class, she writes each student in her homeroom’s name on a sticky note. As students come in, she hands each child a sticky note at random. Students then write a quick note of encouragement to the student they received. Following morning announcements, students trade and get to start their day reading a positive note from a classmate. The teacher who shared this strategy even shared the fail-safe that this ensures that ALL students get that positive because if there are any absent students, she writes notes for the remaining names. What a great way to start the day for all students!
Table Top Twitter
During the Writing in All Content Areas session, we discussed a strategy I’ve heard of before (and you may have, as well). The true purpose of an edcamp shined during our discussion (that the knowledge of the room is greater than the sum of its parts) because during this conversation we collectively came up with a way to push the idea even further.
The original strategy is that the teacher places butcher paper on one or more tables or up on a wall. The teacher writes a question in the center of the butcher paper and then challenges all students to write an answer at the same time without discussing it aloud. They are encouraged to write back and add to each other’s thoughts on the paper – all in silence.
In this particular session at edcamp Cy-Fair we were discussing ways to get students to write in all academic areas. As we brainstormed, we realized that we could get students to write more and reflect more deeply using this activity by altering it slightly:
- Put out enough butcher paper so that each group has one.
- Write different questions that pertain to your lesson content on each piece of butcher paper around the room.
- Give students one to two minutes to silently write their answer to the prompt.
- When time is up, have groups move to a new butcher paper and write for 1 minute adding on to an answer already written.
- The first time you do this with a class, you may need to give them ideas for how to add to such as
- I agree…
- What about…
- This reminds me of…
- I see what you’re saying and…
- As students move around the room, it will become harder to think of more to add.
Not only does this activity get students writing, it gets them reflecting and recalling. Like a Brain Dump, this is a great way to get students to really dig deep and remember as much about a topic as they can. Research shows that when we struggle to recall – that moment – that struggle – THAT is when we grow and will remember more next time.
We also felt this same activity could be done as a brain dump – simply write a topic in the center of the butcher paper instead of a question. Interested in learning more about Brain Dumps? Check out the research at retreivalpractice.org and have students try the collaborative Brain Dump template below:
Plot Your Year with Google My Maps
During the Google Tools session, Tom Spall (@tommyspall) shared the idea to use Google My Maps to plot places and track travel both physically and through books and study throughout the year. If you aren’t familiar with My Maps, it is a really cool Google tool that allows you to drop pins in different places and add information so that when you click on the pin it will give you more information (such as this is where the character traveled in the book you are reading as a class).
Tom suggested creating a class My Map at the beginning of the year and asking everyone where they went over the summer and dropping a pin on the map for each location. Then, each time a student travels somewhere throughout the year, take a quick moment to add that location to your map. Additionally, each time you read a book, drop a pin on the map and explore the area. When you study about a specific location in history, add it to the map! I loved this creative way to document the year and expose students to maps.
Wondering what a My Map looks like? Here’s an example I found showing some sites around Ancient Egypt:
The Hero Pass
This fun positive incentive came up during our discussion about Culture Building. Two different campuses shared having an incentive that students could buy (for quite a high price) in order to be the class hero. If they choose to spend their school currency on a Hero Pass they can buy their entire class a popsicle or provide their entire class with an extra recess! I love that it gives the students a chance to do something for their whole class!
While these were MY biggest take-aways… there was so much more learned and discussed at edcamp Cy-Fair that you can benefit from.
Something I love about edcamp Cy-Fair, in particular, is that we put all of our shared notes on our website so ANYONE (including YOU) can access the notes taken on EVERY single session – even if you weren’t there! Check out all the session topics from edcamp Cy-Fair 2019 here – and click on the topics you’re interested in to access the notes! Happy learning!