Many of my 4th graders embarked on the “Presentation Planning” stage of their Genius Hour projects this week. I require their presentations include an interactive portion for the audience. When they saw “game show” as one of the choices, that became an instant favorite. The problem with this is that the default game show format for my students always seems to be “Jeopardy.” There is nothing wrong with Jeopardy, but I’ve been guiding Genius Hour projects for several years, and would like to see a little more variety in this area.
Thankfully, I obsessively save websites to look at later with my Pocket app, and recalled there was a blog post about game shows. Although the post was written with teachers in mind as the hosts, many of the suggestions in “30 Activities Inspired by Game Shows” are ones that could be used by students.
Another possibility would be to encourage the students to create their own game show format. You never know who in your class might be the next Merv Griffin!
We have been using Skype for a few years in my classroom. Sometimes we have chatted with experts for genius hour projects and other times we have talked with classmates who have moved away. A couple of times we have used it to talk with app developers about products the students were beta testing.
As many educators know, inviting other adults into your classroom, whether virtually or physically, can be extremely unpredictable. While these adults may be experts, that does not guarantee they are able to impart their knowledge effectively to young people. They may have great intentions, but might have a hard time keeping your students interested.
This is what is great about using the resources from Skype in the Classroom. On this site, you can look for guest speakers, virtual field trips, and other classrooms to collaborate with. The people who have volunteered to have information posted on the site are experienced working with students. Your chances of having a great Skype lesson are increased when choosing a contact who is prepared to speak to a young audience.
After each Skype, my students and I felt very gratified that the hosts were willing to volunteer 45 minutes out of their days to help the students understand their topics better. The experts were able to offer perspectives and ideas that were new to all of us, and we agreed we definitely learned quite a bit. I must admit, also, that I was relieved that the presenters were not only very knowledgeable about their subjects, but excellent at communicating with children.
If you want to use the Skype in the Classroom site, you will need to have a free Skype contact already created, and to register with the Skype in the Classroom site. If you are a beginner, don’t worry. There are tons of resources on the site to get you started. In addition, you will find the people who respond to your interview requests are very happy to help as well.
Take your students to places and people they might not otherwise ever encounter with Skype in the Classroom. It will deepen everyone’s learning, including your own.
UPDATE 1/8/17: I just found this fantastic blog post that gives suggestions for Skype Virtual Field Trips from Skype Master Teachers!
As my students begin to do research for their Genius Hour projects, I find it important to help them learn how to find good information online. Over the years I’ve used various lessons and videos, but I recently found this one by Jillianne Jastren that succinctly details what to look for in a reliable website. Although this video uses safesearch.org as the starting place, my older students often use the Google Explore tool (formerly known as the Research tool) in addition to our own library’s electronic resources. After watching the video, the students are able to explain the pros and cons of different types of domains and the tell-tale signs of inaccurate or biased websites. I hear them discussing with their partners whether or not they should trust information that they find on a site or telling them to find a site that is more balanced and less biased. In my opinion, finding reliable websites is a critical survival skill in today’s world – not just for school research projects – and this video gives an excellent brief lesson on how to do just that.
This video does direct the viewers to turn in an assignment on Moodle at the end, but it’s easy enough to say, “That doesn’t apply to you.”
Or I guess you could just look at your class expectantly and say, “What are you waiting for? Follow her directions!”
And they could say, “How are we supposed to put an assignment on a noodle?”
And you could just shake your head and say, “Aren’t you guys supposed to know more about technology than I do?”
And then they will start blurting out how to build rocket ships that make your dinner for you in Minecraft (even though I don’t think that’s really a thing, but I would like someone to teach me if it is).
And your entire lesson will derail spectacularly – most likely all of this happening while you are being observed by an administrator.
In my never-ending quest to refine Genius Hour for my students and make it meaningful, I have created a few new digital resources that I intend to use this year with my 3rd-5th grade students. We will be using Google Classroom, so I decided to design some Google Slides presentations that the students can use for collecting research and keeping track of what needs to be completed. Here is the link to the folder of resources, which you can copy and edit to suit your needs.
Assign the Research Planner as a copy to each student. Reflections 1 and 2 are to be done at certain points as students progress through the Research Planner. The Research Planner also has links to some other helpful resources, and a great activity from Ian Byrd to help write good research questions. This slideshow is not their presentation – just a collection of notes.
Assign the Exit Tickets presentation as one copy to be edited by the students in the classroom at the end of each Genius Hour.
Include the Skype Interview and E-mail templates as assignments for students to complete when appropriate.
Once students finish the Research Planner to my satisfaction, they will be allowed to continue to the Presentation Planner. This includes links to “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” and “The Worst Preso Ever,” both of which are great to show students before they design their presentations. It also includes links to two TED Talks given by students.
After students successfully complete the Presentation Planner, they will be allowed to make their presentations, create interactive portions to follow up on the information given, and rehearse.
Finally, they will present!
If you’ve followed my Genius Hour adventures at all, you know that this plan will not work as hoped. I am pretty sure that it will be an improvement over what I’ve done in the past, though.
Mrs. Lasher’s incredible 5th grade GT students are currently hosting a “pop-up” museum at their school. Inspired by San Antonio’s new hands-on children’s museum, the DoSeum, the students designed their very own interactive exhibits, and invited select guests to visit. Here is the invitation they designed.
The L.E.A.D. (Learn, Explore, And Discover) DoSeum consists of three rooms: The Seeker Space, Puzzle Parlor, and Tech Town. You can see descriptions of the rooms in the invitation linked above.
Mrs. Lasher chronicled the process of creating the L.E.A.D. DoSeum from its inception. You can read her blog posts and see pictures of the DoSeum here.
I think that this is such a wonderful idea, giving students the opportunity to take charge and plan with an authentic audience in mind. It’s also nice to do near the end of the school year, as other teachers on the campus will probably be more than happy to take their students on a tour! Even if you don’t have 3 rooms to spare, you could consider working with other teachers for the last couple of weeks of school to split your students into teams to each design an interactive museum room in their classroom.
Thanks for sharing this, Mrs. Lasher and 5th grade GT students!
Suzanne Horan and her 5th grade class of gifted and talented students were recently showcased on our district website for an outstanding project they did this year. They each planned, researched, and developed products that could make a positive difference in the world. From a 3-d printed model of a staircase that collapses into a ramp for those who are wheelchair bound, to improved fitting for a prosthetic leg, these imaginative and empathetic students created an array of marketable products that could truly be practical and helpful.
The students dressed up for presentation day because they knew their work would be evaluated by an objective panel of judges who would score them based on, among other things, their research, passion for their topic, uniqueness of their product, and its usefulness. For the next stage, Mrs. Horan has invited a patent lawyer to speak to the class about the steps to take to market their products.
This is exactly the type of project that students need to be doing. It is relevant, based on student interests, and incorporates a multitude of thinking skills. I would like to bet these 5th graders will never forget this experience, and that it will inform many of their later important decisions in life.
To read more about the fabulous inventors in Mrs. Horan’s class, you can visit our district website, or their class blog for some great pictures from the presentation day!
KQED Science has a challenge for students ages 11-18. Design a solution to a problem that is in the world around you, and share it on social media using #EngineerThat. (Students under the age of 13 must share through a parent’s social media account.) If you have questions about the contest, there is a live webinar being held this Thursday, January 7th, at 4 PM PST. The deadline for contest submissions is January 24th 2016.
This sounds like a fun activity to help promote creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. For more information, visit their website. Even if you don’t think your students will be competing, it is a great challenge to share with them to see what they might create. There is also a short introductory video.