Campfire Collaborations

One of the the things that we do as teachers is tell stories. We share so many stories on a daily basis. It is what we do as teachers. It does not matter on the type of stories that we share. Short stories, long stories, real stories, made up stories. You name it we tell stories.

We tell stories for fun; we tell them for reflection purposes; we tell them to share our point of view or someone else’s point of view; we tell them so that we or others can begin to build explanations or make connections. Stories are fundamental to our and others understanding.

Sharing stories is a great way to learn. It is a great way to collaborate. It is a great way to connect. But there is also science behind it.

When listening to a story

you are literally using more of your brain when you are listening to a story. And because you are having a richer brain event, you enjoy the experience more, you understand the information more deeply, and retain it longer. 

Photo Credit: jasimsmarthd Flickr via Compfight cc

School Stories

School life is busy. It can be hard to find the time to share stories form our learning spaces. It can be challenging to carve out the time to share what went well or what went badly in our classrooms. But sharing stories is fundamental to education. It is the stories (both short and long) which moves the thinking and learning forward in our schools. It is the stories that build relationships. It is the stories which create and define a schools culture.

Thinking about stories in our schools. I think there are three different types:

  • Teacher to student

These can be books. There are so many awesome books to read to and with students. Here is one of my favourite books to read in class . Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.

They can be stories that a teacher has created or borrowed to share some information or build curiosity. It is in our nature to tell stories and inform others of our life events. Storytelling, whether factual or fictional, is an intrinsic human characteristic. This is the Campfire element in the classroom.

  • Student to teacher

These are the stories which students share with us. They can be short or long. They can be at any time in a day and it is crucial that as teachers we tune into them and are ready to listen actively to what they are telling us. It is a way of listening and learning from our students. Listening closely will build trust and our relationships grow.

  • Teacher to teacher

I am talking about the types of conversations about our practice, about pedagogy, about the things that we have learnt or tried in our classrooms recently. Sharing these stories makes a difference. It makes a difference to the person telling the story as they reflect meaningfully on what was happening. It makes a difference to the person listening as it gives colleagues ideas and allows them to make connections to things that have been happening in their learning spaces.

These are the stories that build a culture in a school. They grow a community. They share things that have gone well and things that have not gone well. They make a difference. I am calling them Campfire Collaborations. 

CC. Created in Typorama J.Bevans

Last week during our Faculty Meeting we shared some of these stories. We  reflected, we connected, we collaborated, we listened and we shared our stories to develop our school culture.

Here is what we did:-

  • Take time to remember a moment in your classroom –  a moment where your students were thinking deeply. What type of thinking was happening and how do you know that they were thinking deeply ? Record this on a post it note. Now…
  • Let’s go speed dating…
  • Tell a friend about that thinking move with your students. Tell a friend what type of thinking the students were doing?Tell a friend about how do you know they were doing that type of thinking?
  • So we are going to ask you to stand up and move about. Find a some one to tell your story to. When you have told your story listen to there story. You have 3 minutes.
  • When you have both got to the end of telling your story then decide if you want to keep your thinking move or swap it with your friend. You are going to have 3 opportunities to do this for 3 minutes each.

It meant that every person in the room in around 10 minutes had heard 3 different stories that they could relate to, that they could connect with, that they could use again.

The room was a buzz.  The whole room was engaged in listening, sharing, learning, reflecting and connecting. It was awesome to see.

Sharing our stories with our colleagues is such a crucial component to what we do as teachers. Stories are teaching. Teaching is stories.

We need to allow for these campfire collaboration moments to grow a schools culture. After all stories

provide guidance for daily decision-making as well as the motivation that comes with the conviction that the organization’s work must go on.

How do you make time for campfire collaborations in your school?

2 thoughts on “Campfire Collaborations

  1. Hi Joel,
    Great post for helping us to sustain and grow this story telling culture at ISL. It made me connect to this weekends PD with Will Richardson and raising the bar on our branding #communityconnections.


    1. Hi Suzy,
      Thanks for reading Campfire Collaborations. I think storytelling is such a big part of who we are as individuals and as a school and I love the link with the branding idea (from Will Richardson) for a school.
      There are so many of these FAB stories ( Ewan Mcintosh) in our school – how can we capture them all?
      Thanks again,
      All the best, Joel


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