Category Archives: Motivation

Genius Hour Update, Part II

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I would be trying a “Genius Hour” with my 5th grade GT students.  You can read this post and this post to find out about the origins of this idea.  Click here to read about The Beginning of our project.
First – a little background.  I teach 13 5th grade Gifted and Talented students once a week from 8:45-1:30.  Many of these students have been in my GT class since Kindergarten, so they know me and the other students fairly well.  All of these factors might make it a bit easier for them to take risks than students in a regular classroom.  

The Middle

As our Genius Hours continued, the students began to get interested in each other’s projects.  Many of the kids were using Weebly for the first time, to create websites.  They would end up criss-crossing the room to consult each other on such things as how to make logos or to embed games into their sites.  Several of them were confounded by our district’s filters as they tried to access sites they could easily jump to at home, and quite a few of them got lessons from me on copyright violations.

A few of the groups decided to make websites that linked to fun games.  This led to not a little time being spent on playing the games to “make sure they are appropriate for school”.  We ended up having a conversation during one of our feedback sessions about whether or not they were making the best use of their Genius Hour by doing this.  They agreed that the games could be explored at home during the week instead.

The one student I absolutely could not help was fortunately one of the most self-motivated.  He had decided that he was going to make a remote-control robot.  He brought all of the materials from home, and took them back home each week so his grandfather could aid him with the tough parts, like welding and figuring out electrical circuits.

Two other students had selected a project that would be done, for the most part, outside of Genius Hour.  They wanted to start a tutoring group to help kids with Science.  They used their Genius Hour time to make a poster advertising the tutoring group, write letters to the teachers explaining their proposal, and to find support materials.

One of my students wanted to design a video game, so I introduced him to Gamestar Mechanic.  He basically got all he wanted out of it in three sessions, and started wandering around to help others with their projects.  Then I showed him Sketch Nation Studio on the iPad and he was back in business.

The variety of interests and projects was exciting.  We were all learning, and I kept hoping that an administrator would walk in during our Genius Hour to observe the engagement amongst the students.  When I was a little girl and pictured myself as a teacher, this was exactly the image that I had in my head – kids enthusiastically taking responsibility for their own learning.

Come back tomorrow for the final post in my Genius Hour series!

The “homemade” logo made by one pair of students for their gaming site

Inspiring Note

This note, according to an Instagram user, “M”, greeted him on his first day of work at Apple.  Jon Russell recently wrote about it in his column on Next Web, which you can see here.  Mr. Russell challenges other companies to follow suit, and I would like to see teachers do this as well.  What inspiring note could you leave for your students to read the first day they enter your classroom?  I realize that it is near the end of the school year for many of us, but this could be a great idea for your “Things to Try Next Year” list!  If you have any ideas for what this note could say that would motivate and inspire our students, I would love to read your suggestions in my comment section below!

Classroom Game Design

Classroom Game Design“, a TEDx video presented by Paul Andersen, suggests an interesting idea for organizing your classroom.  Why not leverage the fascination that many youngsters today have with gaming by making your own classroom a video game?  Have your students earn Experience Points to “level up” and gain new freedoms (and responsibilities) in the classroom.  This is an idea that does not even require any technology in your classroom – just a willingness to motivate your students using a language they understand very well.

If you are unable to see the video embedded below, here is the link:

Differentiated Furniture!

One of our 1st grade teachers, Mrs. Cunningham, is piloting an unusual classroom at Fox Run Elementary this year.  Much of the furniture is on wheels – including tables (instead of desks) and dry erase boards.  She has just posted an awesome video on her blog showing the amazing ways this has transformed her room.  From the beginning of the day – when the students walk in and immediately begin rolling the tables around to suit their morning routine – to their center activities, the students in Mrs. Cunningham’s video show the versatility such a classroom allows.  Two tables easily make a computer pod, a dry erase board becomes a station, students who have demonstrated responsibility roll their tables out into the hallway to work, and anyone who learns best by standing or sitting on the floor is welcome to abandon his or her chair.  You will also note that students who are commenting at the end of the video are using the microphones that go with her classroom amplification system – yet another powerful tool.

Our principal, John Hinds, saw a classroom similar to this at a university, and realized its potential.  Coupled with a teacher who works tirelessly to provide a differentiated learning environment for her students, this classroom is an ideal example of student-centered learning at its best.  Kudos for Mr. Hinds for having the vision (and providing the funding), and to Mrs. Cunningham and her students for being the trailblazers for our campus – and hopefully for many more elementary school classrooms in the near future!

If you are unable to view the embedded video below, please click here.  Also, I am sure Mrs. Cunningham’s class would love it if you visited their blog and left a comment here.

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An Awesome Book

An Awesome Book was recently featured on the blog iLearn Technology, by Kelly Tenkely.  This book, written by Dallas Clayton for his son, is about dreaming big and dreaming different.  It is about being creative and not restricting yourself to society’s norms.  Clayton originally self-published the book, unable to find anyone to take on the project.  After making an impact around the world, he was finally contacted by a major publisher.  The book is now available for purchase at major retailers.  What is fabulous, though, is that Clayton and the publisher also agreed to make the book available for free online.  You can go here to view the book and a short video of the author.  Kelly Tenkely has a few recommendations for how this resource can be used in the classroom on her blog.  This book will inspire you and your students!

Imagine: How Creativity Works

Imagine: How Creativity Works is the title of a new book by Jonah Lehrer.  In this short video by Flash Rosenberg, the main idea of the book is summarized in an entertaining use of live-drawing.  I first found out about this video on Free Tech 4 Teachers, and immediately showed it to my 5th graders, who are currently working on their Genius Hour projects.  It’s a great way to justify my refusal to give them the answers immediately when they encounter obstacles, and it’s a much better explanation than that I am just being a lazy teacher!

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.