Learning From Each Other

Despite our best efforts to lead engaging camp staff meetings and orientation sessions, there are times when discussion is less than energetic.

Liven up your staff training.

Whether due to the time of day, the information being shared or any number of other possibilities, it can be frustrating when no one wants to listen.

Ironically, this is what I do all day, every day: bring the otherwise mundane content of English to life for my students.

So when I set myself to thinking about the occasional withdrawal of interest of my camp staff at certain times of the camp week and compared it to

my classroom, I realized that the activities I implement in class are not what I generally do with staff.

My students often lament the end of my class because they’ve become so engrossed in their work or discussions that they want to stay despite the bell signaling the end of our daily 42 minutes together. Wouldn’t it be great if orientation sessions were as thought provoking?

So I wondered: Is it possible to get that same degree of buy-in from staff by using similar, familiar activities I use in my classroom on a daily basis?


These two activities make excellent conduits for discussion and interaction regardless of content or age group. Each method works well with specific types of information and requires very little time to grasp.

The results, however, are quite powerful and lower the resistance of even reluctant participants. Try one or both of them at an orientation session or meeting and see what works best for you.

Tabletop Blogs

Best for getting multiple opinions, drawing connections and gauging the understanding of participants on a specific topic or several related topics in a manner that invokes a community feel in a somewhat anonymous manner.

In the middle of pieces of chart paper or large sections of butcher paper, write a question, thought or problem, one to a paper. This works well if you have three to four items to discuss.

Place each paper on a separate table or tape in intervals on walls around the room. Hand out pencils/pens and divide groups equally at each table/station.

Instruct participants to read the topic you’ve written on the paper and add a thoughtful comment, response or answer to the paper. They can feel free to add more than one response if they like.

After a minute or two, have groups switch to the next table and do the same, only this time instruct them that they must not only respond to your topic but to one of the responses from the previous group as well. If they can illuminate connections or help develop bigger thoughts, encourage them to do so.

Continue this movement, commenting and connection until everyone has had a chance at each station, then have participants cycle through the stations once more to see where their initial ideas ended up.

Rotate among the papers as facilitator, reading the comments and inviting further discussion.

Speed Dating

Best for an icebreaker activity, generating discussion, sharing opinions and ideas and improving listening skills.

Prior to the speed dating activity, generate a list of discussion topics. If you’re using this as an icebreaker, you can go with topics like “What was your favorite vacation as a child and why?” or “If you could solve one world issue, what would it be and why?”

If you choose to integrate this into an orientation session, you can prompt with topics such as “How would you deal with a homesick camper?’” or “What is the key to being an effective counselor?”

Each prompt or topic will take approximately four minutes to discuss between pairs, so prepare with an adequate number of topics.

Invite a third of the participants to make a circle facing outward. Instruct the remaining participants to complete a circle around the outside of them, facing inward. Each participant should be face-to-face with another. If not, have the circles adjust to meet this requirement. Then, tell participants the rules:

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