Saturday, April 23, 2016

Our first STUDENT led EdCamp!

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend EdCamp Chicago in Elmhurst with a group of fantastic educators in my district. I had done EdCamps before, but only the ones my district held during teacher institute days. I was excited, and a little bit nervous not knowing what to expect. It was an amazing opportunity for me to learn things I was interested in, and be a part of important conversations. I left that day inspired, refreshed and motivated.

While all the sessions I attended were seriously fantastic, I left one especially eager to try IMMEDIATELY in my classroom - EdCamp in the Classroom.

In this conversation, we talked about the benefits of EdCamp. What drives so many educators to wake up early on a weekend, not get paid, drive far away, for professional development? Answer: Magic. 

Like Ben Hartman said at EdCamp, "The magic is not that it's EdCamp. The magic is you all."
The people who attend and are passionate is what makes the experience, as one of my students would say, majestic.

Teachers decide what they want to learn, what they want to talk about, and literally drive the way they talk about it. It's a building full of people who's goals are the same as yours - do better for the kids. Teachers have voice and choice.


Sounds familiar? I think so! These are currently huge buzz words in education. In order to highly engage our littles, we have to let them take responsibility for their learning. We not only want this as teachers, we want this as humans. 

So after being in a room with a group of about 10 educators and not really coming up with a *perfect* plan to running SLEdCamps, we decided that it was best to just try it and let each other know how it went. So that's exactly what I did this week.

I started the day by telling them about how amazing my conference was. To which they responded "Why didn't you take us!?" So they were super excited when I told them we were having out OWN EdCamp. EdCamp 3CA.

As soon as we got back from lunch/recess it started.

I explained the rules:

  • Everyone participates
  • Only 5 people per "class"
  • Vote with you feet 
  • Choose your session based on what you need, not based on where your friends are. (I had to add this, because, they're 9)

On our white board (I should have done it on the Apple TV with cute font, but oh well, next time) I made boxes for 4 "classes" and 2 sessions. Then, I asked students what they wanted to learn. To my surprise, two hands shot up immediately. After that the ideas kept coming!

Here is what my board looked like when all classes were filled up.

Translation :)

I did not give the kids input on what the sessions should be. I really wanted them to take ownership. Coming up with the sessions was not hard for them because these are things we had already been working on for the past few weeks. And because of all the formative assessments and conversations we've had, they knew exactly what they needed to practice.

Note Session 1, Class 1 - The Whole. This consists of drawing the whole with a given fraction. This is the skill they consider to be the hardest. I was so proud when it was the first suggestion.

I gave each session 15 minutes, which was perfect for this short unit. I went around and labeled each of my tables according to the class number. I had two tables in use, and my two rug areas. I provided each student with a dry erase markers and laid out white boards in the rug areas. Then, I called up students by table to walk to their first session.

Students did a really good job of separating themselves evenly, then begin to work right away. I did have to help a few groups get started with a problem, then they were able to make their own for the rest of the time.

Class 1- The Whole

Class 2 - Fractions on a number line
Class 3 - Drawing Fractions

Class 4 - Coloring and making your own fractions 

At the end of the 15 minutes, it was time to switch. This caused some issues because I had half the class wanting to play the "I have, who has" fraction game. It worked out fine, since I have two sets of the game, I had two groups playing that. Only two students decided to use Khan. 

In the second session, I had a few of my friend begin to lose interest, and start to goof off. And while I gave them all the option to "vote with their feet" they decided to stay where they were. I did have to sit with a student in order to coach him to use his kind words with peers. He gets really excited sometimes. :)
Class 1 - One of the "I have, who has" groups.
(And Class 4 - Fraction word problems all the way in the back there)
Class 2 - IXL 
Class 3 - Khan Academy
We ended with a little reflection. Students answered 3 questions on an index card:
Did you learn something? Why or why not?
What about EdCamp did you like? What can we change?
What other EdCamp themes would you like to try out next?

Overall, my students enjoyed the experience. They liked that all students were participating and helping each other. I heard a lot of math vocabulary being used, a lot of accountable talk stems being used. We loved it, and they want to do it every day now! They truly made this experience majestic for each other. 

Using EdCamp as a review before an assessment is a great way for students to self-assess and then practice what they need. I highly recommend it. However, I am always looking for other ways to incorporate this model in the classroom! Please share your experiences with Student Led EdCamps!


  1. Great way to empower students and personalize it! Nice job!

  2. Extremely inspiring Theresa! I'm looking forward to seeing your students grow as a result.