If you are reading this post at the original date of publication, then you’re likely nearing the end-of-the-year stretch and might be in need of a few ideas to keep teacher morale, collaboration and learning strong. And if you’re not, then you’ll find today’s post is perfect for any time your teacher learning community needs a bit of a boost.

I LOVE Edcamps. Edcamps are free events developed by educators for educators. With no plan other than to share teaching practices and learn from each other, educators gather together and create a loose agenda for learning on-the-spot. If you’re interested in learning more, check out The EdCamp Foundation for more about how they work and how to find one close to you.

What’s my favorite part of an Edcamp? The session board! Take a look at this session board created at the annual Literacy Edcamp at the International Literacy Association annual conference.

Why do I love it so? Well, for one, I love organization. There is just something about seeing an organized grid with colorful sticky notes that gets my heart pumping. And for another, the session board is completely participant-driven. The sessions are created on-the-spot by educators willing to share their passions, knowledge and experiences with others, cultivating the expertise in the room. And the combination of those elements is magical.

And here’s the good news: you don’t need an Edcamp to bring the magic of a session board to your teachers. You just need a bulletin board, a piece of chart paper, some sticky notes or a digital Padlet wall or Jamboard to create a #BetterTogether Board.

A #BetterTogether Board is just what it sounds like: a space to curate the expertise in the school with the sole purpose to bring teachers together to learn from one another. It’s a great way to boost morale, honor teachers’ expertise and fuel cooperative teacher learning.

Here are three different ways to give this a try in your coaching: in your coaching space, as an opening move in a professional learning session and as a collaborative activity:

In Your Coaching Space:

Create a display in your coaching space labeled #BetterTogether. You could caption a bulletin board, label a large sticky note or even create a display on the front side of your door for all to see. Keep a stack of colorful sticky notes and markers close by. Add directions on a sentence strip or sticky note to invite teachers to interact with the display: What could we learn from each other? Grab a sticky note and jot down a topic, idea or classroom hack you could share with others.

Now, keep in mind, these topics do NOT have to be education related. In fact, it might be nice to learn about the hobbies and passions teachers have that could connect them together in ways outside of school as well.

Encourage teachers to browse the board for new ways to connect and collaborate with their fellow teachers each time they come into your coaching space. And you can do the same! Snap pictures or take quick videos you could share with the whole faculty to celebrate, with permission.

As an Opening Move:

Creating a #BetterTogether Board is the perfect way to kick off a learning session with teachers and especially, a new topic of study together. What better way to begin than by taking stick of what they already do really well and could share with their fellow teachers?

Recreate the display mentioned above and place it front and center in your learning space when teachers walk into the room for a professional learning session. Add this caption: Who Will You Learn From Today?

As teachers enter the room, ask them to think about what they have to offer in relation to the topic of the session. For example, if you are exploring small group teaching, teachers might have tips for managing students, lesson templates or organizational hacks. If you are exploring math stations, teachers might have station ideas, materials to share or storage solutions. Teachers share at least one thing they have to offer on a sticky note and browse the expertise of their peers. Challenge teachers to learn something new from at least one of their colleagues before they leave the session to celebrate our collective expertise and experience.

As a Collaborative Activity:

Finally, creating a #BetterTogether Board can launch teacher collaboration at ANY time in a session. It’s the perfect way to take stock DURING a learning session after you’ve presented a content burst and want teachers to share what they know. It also works well at the END of a session when you want to wrap-up the content and lead into peer collaboration or later coaching cycles.

Here’s an example of a #BetterTogether Board from Alison Rison, a fellow literacy coach, who shared their passions and expertise with each other:

One last thing: While I’ve described the #BetterTogether Board for in-person teacher learning, it can easily be replicated in an online space using a Padlet wall or Jamboard, like the one below:

So, there you have it! All you need is a simple display, a stack of sticky notes and a few colorful markers, but the rewards of increased connection and collaboration among faculty go a long way to building a culture of shared learning in schools.

Have you tried a #BetterTogether Board? Share in the comments below!

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