Aloha! If you are a regular reader of our blog, you've heard us reference our school's Literacy Committee. This committee consists of teachers from various content areas who work together to help embed literacy (reading, writing, discussion, and critical thinking) in all of our school's classrooms. We are in charge of a lot of professional development and it can be a real challenge to keep things new and engaging. We recently developed a fun, meaningful PD session that could easily be replicated in any building for any professional development content. It's the complete antithesis of sit and get professional development, blending the sharing of strategies (by the experts: educators) and a little whimsy. People walked away with new ideas and new energy, so all and all - a success! If you have a PD session to plan in your future, check out our Literacy Luau. We'll walk you step by step through what you need to do to make this a fantastic PD event for you and your colleagues.
Let's start with the festive stuff. We basically turned our main hallway into a little slice of Hawaii. We used palm leaves, beach pails, pink flamingos, and some Hawaiian decorations we picked up at a local party store to create the vibe. And, no Luau is complete without a Tiki bar. We served delicious pineapple mocktails with cute little umbrellas. Gretchen was our bartender extraordinaire. And as a final touch, we played relaxing beach-themed music.
Luau: Nuts and Bolts
We let people mix and mingle for a few minutes before they began. This gave them a chance to grab a glass of punch and cookies. Then my colleague, Kristen quickly explained the PD steps to our colleagues. We would be speed-dating at the Luau-- meeting with colleagues and quickly sharing ideas with our partner for 2-3 minutes before rotating to a new table. The educators seated on one side of the table stayed put, while the other side of the table moved every three minutes. We ended up doing 5 rotations which meant that we shared with 5 different colleagues. I talked to a Family and Consumer Science teacher, two math teachers, and a PE teacher. I enjoyed these conversations so much because these are not colleagues with whom I typically get the chance to collaborate. Even though they teach different subjects, the teaching practices we discussed were universal.
Wait....What Exactly Were We Talking About?
I think what made this PD session especially powerful is that people came prepared with a strategy and student work samples to share. At the faculty meeting the month prior, we had asked (with the help of our principal) that everyone use a write-to-learn strategy with their students and to then come prepared to explain the strategy to colleagues. Our school's Literacy focus this year is writing and we'd already spent time familiarizing our staff with these strategies. We also encouraged teachers to use different strategies as long as the type of writing students were engaged in was meant to help students deepen their understanding of content. Teachers had voice and choice, which allowed us to take collective ownership of this PD session.
Things to Keep in Mind
You'll want to make sure that there is some kind of reflection in the end. We asked teachers to choose one strategy that they might use in the future (keeping with our theme, they wrote that one strategy on a fun flip flop sticky note). The reflection went on to giant chart paper. We also took this as a chance to survey teachers so that we would have self-reported data about the status of literacy in the school. Extra bonus -- we used the cute sand pails to collect the surveys. Timing is also key with this activity. We didn't make it drag on and on -- it was all done within about 45 minutes (with probably about 20 minutes of that being the actual speed dating). I left wanting to talk to more people -- and that was exactly our goal. Quitting while we were ahead instead of boring people to tears.
PD can be so cumbersome -- so why not try something a little more fun, lighthearted and memorable next time you offer PD in your school? And if not a Luau try a theme that fits whatever you are working on. Here are some ideas off the top of my head.
I'm not going to lie -- if one or two people had tried to do this it would have been overwhelming. But instead we each took bits and pieces and it came together beautifully. It's a testament to the power of collaborative thinking and planning. When it comes to PD, don't go it alone.
What fun PD ideas have you tried? We'd love to hear from you!
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