Education, K-12, Motivation

Step Right Up to the Genius Bar!

Remember this?

The kind-of-before pic of my classroom Genius Bar
The kind-of-before pic of my classroom Genius Bar

It turned out like this.

Click on the picture so you can see a slightly bigger, though still kind of unfocused, view!

This is our class Genius Bar, inspired by the classroom make-over mentioned in this post.

I apologize for the blurriness of parts of the picture.  The lighting in my classroom is not the best – plus I’m a horrible photographer!

close-up of the Quote of the Day frame I am using - with a quote from Kid President
close-up of the Quote of the Week frame I am using – with a quote from Kid President
I put chalkboard paint on top, and the students will have a question they can respond to with the neon chalkboard markers each week.
I put chalkboard paint on top, and the students will have a question they can respond to with the neon chalkboard markers each week.
I found this picture, and made it my desktop pic on the laptop to reinforce my theme.
I found this picture here, and made it my desktop pic on the laptop to reinforce my theme.

How do I plan for the kids to utilize the Genius Bar?  I will be “gamifying” our classroom, and the students will get privileges at each of the levels.  One privilege will be to access the reference materials, including the computer (and I will probably add an iPad) whenever needed – as we do not, unfortunately, have a 1 to 1 classroom.  They will also be able to use the neon chalk markers to respond to a weekly question.  Another level will allow them to access the “fun” books and games.  And, yet another level will allow them to check out the books and games for home use.  (I’ll share the “Level Up” poster as soon as I finalize it.)

And what’s a Genius Bar without the advice of a Genius?  I am thinking of using the info from the “What are My S.K.I.L.L.Z.” sheet, and letting kids sign up to get advice from one of our resident geniuses on a topic.

I’m still working on other parts of the room (school has started, but I test for the first few weeks, so I have a bit of time before classes begin.) And, if you recall, I mentioned that I got permission to use the classroom next to me.  I’m going to have the kids help me create a Maker Studio.

Do you have any other suggestions for our Genius Bar?

(Update:  I just saw this post from Erin Klein on her own classroom transformation that you might find interesting.  Her pictures are much better than mine!)

Education, K-12, Teaching Tools, Universal Design for Learning

Rows of Desks are SO Yesterday

Remember the post I did on adding a Genius Bar to your classroom?  Well, I decided that I must do exactly that.  So, I have been working on re-purposing an old bookshelf to become the countertop of my Genius Bar.  Have I mentioned that I am not very good at DIY projects?  First of all, I often forget to do a “Before” picture, so I only have a “During” one.  Secondly, it’s possible I killed more than one brain cell while I spray-painted this monstrosity – and that’s slightly ironic considering the fact that I am calling it a “Genius Bar.”   However, I cannot wait until the students see the finished product.  Maybe they will be so excited that they won’t notice my diminished capacity…

My Genius Bar in progress!
My Genius Bar in progress!

I am doing my best to re-design my classroom this year to support the type of learning that I plan to facilitate during the next nine months – lots of collaboration and creation.  I just got some great news – I will be able to use the empty classroom next to me, as well!  I am brimming with ideas.  Unfortunately, I am not not brimming with finances for this endeavor.  I am going to see how much I can re-purpose to create my “Learning Studio,” and then work on getting financing for the rest – perhaps through Donors Choose.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

Speaking of Donors Choose, check out the #RemakeClass Photo Sweepstakes sponsored by Edutopia, in which you can possibly win a gift card from Donors Choose!  If you’re like me, and don’t think you can get it together by the August 25th deadline, you might still want to visit the site to take a look at all of the fabulous photos for some inspiration.  If you are interested in entering the contest, here is a link to the F.A.Q.’s. (Also, here is a link to Edutopia’s weekly giveaways, which also includes a Donors Choose gift card this week for $500!)

For more inspiration, here are a couple of other articles that have great ideas for classroom makeovers:  “How to Make Your Classroom a Thinking Space” by Suzie Boss, and “My Top 10 Learning Spaces – A Universal Design in a Gifted Classroom” by Zoe Branigan-Pipe.

Behavior, Education, K-12, Motivation, Teaching Tools, Universal Design for Learning, Videos, Websites

How About Adding a Genius Bar to Your Classroom?


Ever since my former principal, John Hinds, recommended a book to our staff, Spaces and Places, by Debbie Diller, I have looked at my classroom with a brand new set of eyes.  I’ve tried to break out of the traditional mold, and to create an environment that promotes engagement, collaboration, and curiosity.  I still haven’t attained the ideal classroom, but I like to think that I improve each year.

This isn’t about themes or decorating.  This is about placement of furniture and learning tools.  It’s about visualizing the kind of learning that you would like to see happening, and then designing a space that facilitates that.

My ideal classroom would have mobile furniture, like the one I described here.  But, in the absence of that, there are still things that I can do to project the aura of a synergetic learning enviroment.  For example, this recent series of videos posted by Edutopia showing the transformation of a middle school teacher’s classroom gave me the idea of adding a “Genius Bar” to my room.   (I suppose, if one is worried about the implications of the word, “bar”,  “Genius Counter” might be a good substitute.)  In the video, it is one wall with a long dry erase board over a counter and two computers at either end.  What a fabulous idea!  This would help me with my efforts to encourage the students to consult each other to help with problem solving, rather than to immediately refer to me.

Most of us do not have the resources to design a classroom from the ground up, but this is a great time of year to consider getting rid of, or re-purposing, what we don’t need and finding the best placement for what have.  I know many teachers who have surrendered their teacher desks and/or filing cabinets because these pieces of furniture no longer serve a helpful function in the learner-centered, 21st-century classroom.

Instead of walking into your classroom and mechanically dragging desks into rows this year, consider what physical changes you can make to galvanize your students to become the kind of learners you have always imagined.

Since most of us don’t have a design team to consult, I highly recommend Spaces and Places as a more economical alternative.  Also, Classroom Architect is an online tool that you may find useful as you plan the structure of your classroom.