Their First 15 Minutes; Identity Day

As June goes in schools, it is an extremely busy month.  I have been in schools where we are just trying to make it to the end, but 5 school days from being over, I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the most memorable days in my teaching career.  Forest Green hosted it’s first “Identity Day” and it was a tremendous success.  This was from the hard work and culminating effort from the ENTIRE school community but was led by my fabulous Assistant Principal, Cheryl Johnson.  This was all her idea and she had put in a lot of work ahead of time to ensure the success of the event.  She not only came with up with the idea, but she brought everyone together which led to an amazing day.

The Idea

The thought behind Identity Day was that every single student and staff member would share something that they were passionate about and create some type of display or presentation to show this interest.  This would be similar to a science fair, but it was specific to the interests of each individual.  This was done for all grades from 1-6 and all staff.  Although there was certain criteria that was expected to be met for this day, there were no marks for the projects.  It was all about learning about other people in the school, while also learning about yourself.  Basically, you could share anything in any way you wanted.

The Process

Since it was the first year of this school-wide initiative, our Assistant Principal went around with each class and discussed the project several months ahead of time.  The process was simple; you were to collect items to show one thing that you were passionate about and write a short paragraph that said what it is you were sharing and why you were sharing it.  This made it simple enough that all ages could do it, but also ensured that it was powerful for all students.

In our school today, we started the day by having all students prepare their projects for display for the first hour of school.  After that, the entire school went through each classroom from youngest to oldest.  This ensured that each class would have an opportunity to look at each student’s display.  Teachers and Educational Assistants each had their own display in their homeroom.  I was lucky enough to see EVERY SINGLE DISPLAY during this day.  There was even a time when office staff had their displays set up and shared them for students to look at (I did mine on the love of the Lakers).

The Benefits

Through this day, I learned so much about our students and our staff.  I already discussed one AMAZING student who elicited a very emotional response from myself and others with her display. I did not know that we have a grade 2 girl who is a provincial champ BMX racer and I never even knew this!  We had a staff member who shared her passion and love for her grandparents (this was a touching display).  I was also proud to see many students sharing their pride in their own heritage.  One student shared their hope to become an inventor and built his own catapult project to show his talent in this area.  Another student created a “prezi” on his love of hockey (I showed him how to do this in 1 minute and he created it on his own).  I felt that with every display, I was connecting more with each person in the building and was thinking that we need to do this WAY earlier in the year.

Although I know some parents helped their students plan their display, I believe that this was great! Parents got to work with their children on their passion while connecting their learning from home to school.  Ultimately each child had to stand by their own display and present.

Another reason I loved this project was because it built community.  We had parents, staff, and students all connecting with one another in ways that I have never seen before.  I saw so many students show a different side and one parent commented to me, “I have seen these kids at my house several times and I was blown away by what I DIDN’T know about them”.  One teacher brought in her record player and shared her love of music.  Although I knew she loved music, seeing how passionate she was about it was inspiring.

This was their (first) 15 minutes of fame and each child was SO proud to share what they loved.  I was so proud of how each student glowed with what they were sharing.  I was also proud of how they listened and learned about other students’ passions as well.  This project was relevant to them and had nothing to do with marks.  It was just about their passions.  This has shown me that we need to continue work on tapping into students’ passions in the classroom and let them develop their leadership skills.

I want to commend my staff for not only facilitating such a great day but for also sharing personal pieces of themselves. Thanks to all the students did a tremendous job with their displays; I learned so much about each one of you.

It was an amazing day and I hope that you can do the same in your school communities.

(If you have any questions about this day, please do not hesitate to ask!)

Forest Green Identity Day on PhotoPeach

  • http://fcinternet.hwdsb.on.ca/~aviva.dunsiger Aviva @grade1

    Wow! What a great blog post about a great day! I already e-mailed the teachers and administrators at my school and shared your Photopeach slideshow with them, and I'm going to share this blog post with them too. I hope that we'll be able to do something similar next year. I may very well be in touch with you for some more details. I also tweeted about the possibility of having a number of schools do their Identity Days on the same day and share the "Identity Days" on a global scale using Skype. I think this would be a great way to celebrate a "school community" but also a "global community" too. If we're able to arrange this Global Identity Day, I hope that you'll be a part of it too!

    Thanks George for another inspiring blog post!

    Aviva

    • George

      Thanks Aviva! It was SUCH A GREAT DAY! I am still buzzing. I am so proud of my staff and students and like that I am feeling this buzz going into summer instead of that dragging feeling we sometimes get as teachers. I think the Skype idea is pretty cool but we have to do some upgrades in hardware to make sure it would look great. Let's see if we can start something with a Global Identity day :)

      Thanks for your comment!

      • http://fcinternet.hwdsb.on.ca/~aviva.dunsiger Aviva @grade1

        George, I think that a Global Identity Day would be a wonderful one! You can tell from this blog post and from your comment that it was an AMAZING day, and I think it would be awesome to be involved in it too. I'm still thinking about this Skype idea, but if we were to do it, I think it would almost be as a "small group Skype call," where someone could go around with a laptop and an external webcam (better quality picture) and share what some students created with a few comments from students too. The idea is just starting to form, so I'll have to do some more thinking over the summer.:) Thanks for getting me thinking though and sharing this wonderful day with all of us!

        Aviva

  • http://www.goodrich.k12.mi.us/Oaktree/Staff/third/kalford/index.htm Kelly Alford

    Great idea! I think that is a great way to get to know the whole school community! Sounds like you have an amazing staff!

    • George

      You have no idea! I am so blessed :)

  • Melody_ugdsb

    Wow! What a wonderful idea! It sounds like your school had such a great day! I would love to do something like that next year. I'm thinking that it would be a really good way to tap into my students' passions early in the school year…a way for me to really get to know who they are and what they love. I'll definitely be speaking with other teachers at my school about this idea. The 'wheels are turning'! Thanks, George!

    Melody

    • George

      Passion is so important and if you can tap in early, you will have an amazing year. Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Greta Sandler

    This is just amazing! I bet it must have been one of the most incredible experiences! I was also really touched by Marley's story.

    I'm an ESL teacher, from Bs. As. Argentina. We are doing a project on teaching social skills in the classroom, and I really hope I can do an Identity Fair with my class. I'm definitely sharing this with my school.

    Thanks for sharing all your wonderful ideas with us. You have no idea how inspiring they are.

    Congrats to you, your staff and your students!

    • George

      Thanks so much for your comments. We were very proud of Marley as we were all of our students! They did an amazing job!

  • http://thehomeworkdog.blogspot.com/ TheHomeworkDog (aka

    George,

    Thanks for sharing your special day with us! I enjoyed the pictures you tweeted during the day. With each picture I imagined how I will be able to bring this to life in my classroom. It may not happen school wide, but I would love to do this at my grade level at the beginning of the year as a way to get to know the students. Your passion is contagious!

    Cheryl,

    Thanks for the work you put into making this day happen. It's a great idea!

    • George

      Thanks Lisa…I think that the seed has been planted and that you will do an amazing job with this in your classroom. I think passion is easy when you derive your enthusiasm from kids. They get so excited about the little things that it is impossible to not do the same. I appreciate your comments!

  • http://teachers4higherplay.wordpress.com/ Geoffery Kehrig

    Great post and an amazing idea. It is such a great way to build a community!

    • George

      Thanks Geoffery! Great to hear from you again!

  • http://www.ncte.ie Fred Boss

    Enjoyed following this on Twitter last night and thanks for posting about it in more detail today on your blog.

    Well done to all involved and especially to your Assistant Principal, Cheryl.

    • George

      Thanks Fred…If the tweets only inspired one person to do the same in their classroom, then posting them was worth it!

  • http://www.jaccalder.com Jac Calder

    It is very rarely that I get totally surprised by something. This shocked and impressed me so much I actually had tears (happy) in my eyes at the thought! Absolutely fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing your AP's WONDERFUL idea! I'm awestruck…

    • George

      Wow Jac! Those are extremely kind words. It took me awhile to come down after the day since it was so great to get to know everyone. I was so happy with how everything turned out. It is so important that you have a great staff working together to do these things; I am blessed to have that!

  • http://mrspripp.blogspot.com/ 4thGrdTeach – aka Mr

    This was a great community builder and I have passed your post on to my principal hoping that we will be able to do something similar. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • George

      Thanks for sharing! We are so proud of the day and look forward to doing it yearly!

  • http://Mrwejr.edublogs.org Chris Wejr

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this truly personal, learner centred educational experience. I may just 'borrow' this one!

    • George

      Don't worry about it Chris…I have a feeling I will be borrowing stuff from you as well!

  • Jodi Gurr

    Wow! This day sounds absolutely amazing! I will definitely talk to my principal about doing a similar activity this school year.

    We are currently organizing our second annual Western Canada Character Education Conference at the Delta Calgary South for Nov. 5 and 6, 2010. I think most of the presentors have been booked for this year but we would really be interested in having you speak at our 2011 conference, if you're interested in sharing the fabulous things going on in your school. Here is the website: http://www.verney.ca/wccec2010/agenda.php
    None of the information about breakout speakers has been added yet but we're hoping it will be soon.

    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful, community – building idea!

    • George

      Hey Jodi! I hope you had an opportunity to catch the session on Identity Day. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the work we have done at our school :)

    • http://www.bing.com/ Wilma

      I could watch Schlinedr’s List and still be happy after reading this.

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  • Jodi Gurr

    Whoops! Just re-read what I wrote and realized I spelled presenters incorrectly! Guess my brain is officially on summer vacation!

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  • http://learningfromeachother.blogspot.com Matt Guthrie

    Hi George, for some reason, I'm just now finding this post. What an awesome idea! As our school moves to a true middle school concept, I'm going to push for this kind of thing. At the very least I know my team will be doing it. Congratulate your AP for me.

    • George

      I would love to see what you do with it in your own school Matt! The kids and staff loved it and it will now become a "tradition" at our school. The nice thing when you let the students lead in this initiative, there is not that much work. The benefits however are endless.

      Thanks for your comment and I will ensure that I share with my AP :)

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  • http://writeforareader.blogspot.com Shelly Burns

    I am just finding your blog post and was wondering if you'd be willing to share some more about this. I think it would be a good culminating activity for the end of the year; a break from all the testing.

    Please email me at shelcows AT gmail DOT com

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  • random person

    wow my school is doing this soon i cant wait

    • georgecouros

      Very cool! Hopefully I get to hear about it!

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  • Allison

    Hi! Cool idea and sounds like it was very engaging and worthwhile. I have a couple of questions: Did all students visit each of the classrooms? Did students stand by their displays and explain them while others were touring around? If students were standing by their displays, how did they have a chance to see the rest of the kids' projects? Thanks for the info. :)

  • https://sites.google.com/a/rocklin.k12.ca.us/mrs-beck-s-calss/Home Kristen Beck

    Hi George,

    It is the end of my school year and I am having an identity day with my seventh graders. It is not school wide, but I am planning on organizing a school wide identity day next year. I am working to become a "school teacher" rather than a "classroom teacher" . Thanks for sharing your identity day with us!!

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  • Y5Teacher

    Identity Day was a HUGE success with my Y5's today. Thanks for the sharing of the idea on Twitter! I will surely do it again in future. Children LOVED the interaction with other children.

  • Y5Teacher

    I took pictures, will send you DM on Twitter, will then mail it.

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  • Donald Grimshaw

    George,
    What do you think about this at the secondary level. I want to try this because I think too many times kids begin to feel like a score on an exam. When we value them, they value themselves. It would also help secondary teachers see the kids in their classroom rather than the subject they teach. Elementary teachers recognize that they teach little kids and will tell you that. Secondary people teach history or science or math unless the have recognized the importance of relationships in the classroom.

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  • Christel

    Hi, I used to do a version of this but at the beginning of the year. I asked students what they were experts in and they had a full week of LA and other time to prepare. It was amazing how all students found their own uniqueness, even those who generallys struggled with self esteem and school studies. The other key point was that I learned alot about my students that I may have never known. Doing this activity at the beginning of the year set the tone for the entire year. From there, we continued to build on strengths and helped everyone belong to our learning space.

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