It’s Time to Pass the Reins For #EdCampMadWI

Four years ago, I caught a tweet from the incredible Jess Henze wondering if anyone would be interested in bringing an EdCamp to the Madison, WI area.  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I immediately replied yes not knowing what to expect.  Soon Kaye Henrickson and Emily Dittmar joined our team and for the past three years we have been the driving force behind this incredible event.

Now with huge moves (Goodbye Jess, Montana will love you), almost new jobs (Emily spreading her magic in Muskego) and crazy busy lives (how many things can Kaye magically organize?), we are ready to pass the reigns.  This event should not die out, but instead should be taken over by a new team of amazing people that love EdCamp as much as we have.

So leave a comment, tweet us, or email us and let us know if you are interested.  To the lucky people who take over, we will give you the domain, the background info and any support you need.  If you are just curious, you can contact us as well.

I am so thankful to the three women I got to run this with.  We have shared many emails, voxes, Google docs, laughs, and even frustration, but it has never been a chore working with you.  You are why education has a chance to make a difference.  You are true leaders and I am proud to have been a part of this with you.

You Have Two Choices

This morning my car died.  Right in the middle of traffic.  On a highway exit.  In rush hour.  Yup.  While my first instinct was to cry because how could this happen, my rational brain luckily took over and I called the police.  When your car is blocking a lane of traffic, you don’t have that many options.  So as I stood by the side of the road waiting for the sheriff, a lady stopped in front of me.  She rolled her window and proceeded to scream: “Get back in your car!  How dare you do this!  Your hazards aren’t working and you are breaking protocol!”  I was shocked, momentarily, then apologized to her, told her that the police had told me to exit the vehicle and that my hazards were indeed on.  She didn’t care, she was clearly frustrated and drove away as the light turned from red to green.

Shaken, I glanced up as a semi-truck driver rolled down his window.  “Great,” I thought.  Instead he asked if I was ok.  If I needed help and what had happened.  I told him of the sudden death of the car, and he proceeded to stop his semi behind the little car, get out and check the car for me.  He then asked me to get in so he could push it out of harm’s way.  He didn’t know me,  nobody told him he had to do that.  He could have gone around, I am sure he was busy, but instead because he took the time, traffic could flow again and the car wasn’t stuck in the middle.

It took two hours but the car got to the shop thanks to a helpful sheriff and an even more helpful tow truck driver, and this experience left an impression on me.

When we are faced with obstacles in our way; which person do we become?  Who do we choose to be?  Because it is a choice.  The woman who screamed at me had to make many choices; stop, roll down her window, formulate the words, and shake her head.  The man who stopped to help had to make equally as many decisions.  Had to spend a little more time, but because he saw a way to help the problem rather than complain, it was better for everyone involved.  That’s a choice they made.  That’s a choice we make every single day.

When we are faced with hurdles in our day, what do we do?  Do we get angry, lose control, blame the problem?  Or do we stop, reflect, and try to come up with a solution? I think it is easy to choose the first, but the second one is the way we actually solve the problems we face.

This afternoon, I emailed the company of the semi truck driver to let them know how he had helped a stranger.  I told him thanks but I didn’t get his name.  When our path gets hard, we always have a choice of how to react.  Make sure to make a good one.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

3 Non-Ice Breaker Things to Do the First Week of School

I always wonder how students felt about doing the ice breaker activities I had planned for them.  How I asked them on the very first day to let loose, lighten up, and live a little.  How some of them seemed to light up while some barely went through the motions, no amount of coaching from me helping them. And some just stood there mortified.  I figured a little embarrassment didn’t hurt them that much.

Then I was asked to do ice breakers myself.  To share something I had never told someone else.  To take part in a scavenger hunt where I had to do things I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I didn’t feel like I knew people, I was mortified.  That night I swore to myself never to do anymore ice breakers, at least not in the traditional sense.

Yet we still have to break the ice.  We still have to plant the seeds of community.  So while I have discussed what I will be doing on the first day of school already here, here are three more ideas for forming a community with your students.

How We Are Connected Web

I wish I could remember who taught me this one, but I cannot.  You take a large piece of paper (bulletin board paper will do nicely) and then every students gets a sharpie.  All students and you sit around the piece of paper and then write their name down in front of them.  A students will then share something they like or dislike, if you agree with their statement you draw line from your name to their name.  You then go around the paper until everyone has shared.  In the end you will have a spiderweb image on your paper showing just how many things you have in common with each other.

Find A Picture Book

It is no secret that I am obsessed with picture books, so I love this way to get a hint at their personality.  All this requires is a lot of different picture books spread out.  Tell the students that they should find a picture book that speaks to them in some way, perhaps the cover reminds them of something, perhaps they remember it from their childhood, perhaps the story connects to them?  Once everyone has found a book, have them gather in groups and share why they selected the book they chose.  Students get a chance to speak about themselves and it is a great way for them to get excited about the books they will have access to.

The Circle

This is taken straight from our restorative circle program at school, an incredibly powerful program.  All members sit in a circle and one person holds the talking piece.  A question is asked such as; what is your favorite memory or something else non-threatening, and students take turns sharing and more importantly listening to each other.  We use circles all throughout the year and the way they build community is extraordinary.  Students learn to be a part of a protected environment where they can share whatever they need to share and know that their words are private within the circle.

Building community and getting to know students should not be something that embarrasses kids or leaves them riddled with anxiety.  It should be a positive experience that sows the seeds for the community you will build the rest of the year.  So be mindful of all of the students, not just those that you know will love the games.  Make sure they all feel accepted or you may be causing more rifts than building connections.

Jenn Gonzales from Cult of Pedagogy just published “Icebreakers That Rock” – check out her post too for more inspiration.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

On the First Day of School

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Today I was reminded of the stark reality that is the 45 minutes blocks of time that I teach in every day.  As I sat and planned my first quarter, or at the very least wrote down some of the ideas I have, I kept glancing at that first day; the one that seems so magical.  I have so many ideas.  So many things I would like to do on that very first day.  Yet, the 45 minutes really stifles a lot of creativity.  The 45 minutes really forces me to see what is most important.

On the first day of school I don’t want to do activities.  I don’t want to play games.  Nor do I want to fake my enthusiasm.

On the first day of school I don’t want to force student into awkward ice breakers, while they hope the teacher will forget it is their turn next.  I will not force them to bare their soul, nor to share their dreams.

On the first day of school, we will not have many things planned.  We will not spend precious time listening to me drone on.  We will not run around hectically trying to figure it all out.

Instead, on the first day of school we will sit quietly and listen to a book read aloud.  We will have the time to speak to one another.  We will cautiously start to feel each other out, find our friends, glance at the new people.

We will ask the questions about 7th grade that we have, not because we have to but because we will take the time if needed.  Students will set the rules of the classroom, as always, and it will take as much time as it needs.

The first day of school is meant to be a great experience, but that does not mean we cram it full of things to do.  That doesn’t mean that we put on our entertainer hat and try to juggle as many balls as we possibly can.  Instead, it means that we take the very first step to get to know these students that have been thrust into our lives.  That they take the very first step in trusting us and trusting the community.  That can only happen in a genuine way if we take things slow.  If we allow time to just be, to just sit, to just talk.  So as you plan for the very first day of school, plan for the quiet, for the reflection, for the conversation.  Don’t spend so much time planning for all of the things.  Because this isn’t about how to prove how fun you will be this year, it is about showing the kids that you care.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

My New Favorite Picture Books Part 2

As promised, I have more great new (to me) picture books to share.  This collection of funny, moving, and stunningly beautiful books are a must add to any classroom, not just the middle school one.  And yes, I purchased almost all of these myself, and yes, it cost a lot of money, but the experience it will provide my students with is worth it in the end.  I only feel bad because I am not sharing them as much with my own kids.

The Day I Lost My Super Powers by Michael Escoffier is a book that tells a familiar tale of childhood imagination.  I hope to use this to bring my students back to when they thought anything was possible and to reignite their passion for thinking they have the ability to make a difference in the world.

I love how A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell reminds me of Battle Bunny in all the best ways.  I love the message of working through adversity and the book is just downright funny.  My 3 year olds laughed at it, so I cannot wait to see what my 7th graders will do.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett is stunning. The story about a boy who is afrid of the dark is sure to elicit conversations about our fears and what we can do to conquer them.  I cannot wait for my students to discover all the details of this book.

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson is a book about unlikely friendships and loneliness, a theme that is so important to discuss with students.  I love the illustrations as well as they tell the story even more.

In the last 24 hours, we have read Shh!  We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton 5 times.  I think I loved it more each time.  Again the amazing illustrations tell half of the story and the simple language means that my youngest can read it by herself as well while giggling out loud.  You know a book is good when the minute you close it, the kids yell “Again!”

Language surrounds us all but by middle school certain words seem to lose their off limit-ness.  That’s why I love Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant.  This book will give us a way to discuss what our language says about us as people and how our casual conversations can harm others.

I remember seeing a preview for The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, The Exploding Eggs, The Wolf and Grandma by Diane and Christyan Fox a year ago and then promptly forgot all about it.  Rediscovering it on my wish list I took a chance and ordered it, and I am so thankful I did.  This book is laugh out loud funny, even after you have read it once.  It speaks aloud so many of the questions my students have when it comes to the original fairy tales and will be a perfect match with our gruesome fairy tale unit (even though this book is not gruesome at all).

An amazing wordless picture book by Jon Arne Lawson and Sydney Smith that tells the tale of Sidewalk Flowers and what happens when we are too busy to notice the world around us.  As we discuss purposes for our devices, this will be a book to facilitate that conversation.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

How About a Mystery Vox?

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The power of Skype never ceases to amaze me and I have loved doing Mystery Skypes for many years now.  So as I started to plan for back to school I knew I wanted to participate once more in as many Mystery Skypes as possible, but I also wanted to try a different approach; the mystery Vox.

What is Voxer?  It is a free walkie-talkie app that allows you to leave messages asynchronously or even a 15 second video if you would like to other users around the world.  For more information or to download it, go here.

What is a Mystery Vox?  Using the power of Voxer, students would take turn leaving clues throughout the day, checking in when they could in order to try to guess the geographical location of the other classroom.  The questions still have to be in a yes or no format and students may still not google each other.

Why do this rather than Skype?  For me it allows multiple classes to collaborate throughout the day trying to piece together where a class is. It also works around the timezone issues that can limit where we do a Mystery Skype with.  Students will not have designated roles like they do in a Mystery Skype; anyone can guess, anyone can ask a question.  I also love that students can digest the clues before they ask the next question.  However, I still plan on doing lots of Mystery Skypes too!

How will this work?  Sign up below on the form and then go to the form responses to find a match.  Reach out and set up the day or week you would like to do this in.

To see the form responses and find someone, go here.

To see more about Mystery Skype, go here

What will this look like in my classroom?  I will have a running list of clues and answers on the board, as well as questions asked.  I will probably have students do this for me.  I may even put it in a Google doc.  I will alert kids to it throughout the day and ask them to come up with a question and an answer.  I will use my own voxer account as I do not feel like setting up another one, right now anyway, and my students will be the ones leaving the messages.  We will try to have it guessed within a day.  I think that is really it.

Any further ideas?