I’ve been hearing a lot about a project-based learning model known as Genius Hour (or 20 Time or Passion Projects), and I really wanted to give it a try at my school this year, but I wasn’t sure how to best go about it. Last month I finally took the plunge with a class whose teacher was willing to give the idea a try.
The stars just seemed to align with the following events happening within a two-week span:
I was inspired to plan a 4-week project that would get kids thinking about making a difference in the world, and would lead into their upcoming class project on designing and “building” a musical instrument.
Week 1 involved introducing the Doodle 4 Google contest, hearing from several Google artists via video about the sources of their inspiration, and engaging in some collaborative brainstorming. Kids discussed what inspires them (music, nature, books, etc) and we made a rule that no one would say anything negative about someone else’s idea. Students wrote their answer to the writing prompt “The world would be better if…” and then we passed the papers around for five minutes to give everyone time to add a response to the ideas on the papers at his/her table. (Click here to see my presentation and notes.)
Week 2 involved a pep talk from Kid President, a look at some real inventions at the Inventive Kids website which were created and marketed by kids, and a Book Pass using books about inventors and inventions. Several students ended up checking out books to take with them, and many were surprised to learn that kids have successfully created and marketed real inventions! Making a real-world connection was very motivating! (Click here to see my presentation and notes.)
Week 3 was “get down to business” time! We heard from Kid President again as he embarked on his own journey to create an invention that would make the world a better place for his cat, and we discussed the idea that sometimes an idea won’t work, and you have to try something different. Then students finalized the details of their inventions and completed any necessary research. Finally, everyone drew a picture and/or diagram of the invention, and wrote a paragraph explaining what it is and what it does.
Week 4 was done in collaboration with our school’s art teacher as she helped them transform their invention ideas into Google Doodles. She guided the students to think about ways to turn the letters in the word GOOGLE into invention components and how they could convey the idea of their inventions visually. There was a definite buzz of excitement in the room as the students traded ideas and drew their Doodles, and at the end of it all they were really proud of what they had created.
In designing the project, I tried to focus on the key ideas that with Genius Hour projects there is no one right answer, and that working together and encouraging one another allows everyone to achieve better results. Since we met in the library, we were able to spread out and have noisy tables and quiet tables, group areas and independent work areas, research areas and drawing areas, etc. This busy, noisy, creative atmosphere was a change for the students from the “eyes on your own paper, write the correct answers to these questions, turn in your work so I can grade it” atmosphere that is so often required at school!
Throughout the sessions, I tried to keep in mind these words from Matthew Winner:
“Guide your students, but allow them to try new ideas that may lead to both successes and failures. Your students will be challenged (as will you), but will walk away with a sense of pride and ownership in all they accomplished.”
In reflecting on the time I spent with the students, I feel like it was perhaps a little more structured than is usual in Genius Hour learning. However, I think the specific goals kept the students focused on their thinking and learning as they adjusted to the idea of greater freedom in how they approached the project. The group activities reinforced my message of collaboration, imagination, inspiration, and creation, and I believe they were necessary for students to be able to work productively outside the box.
We actually could have used one more session for students to really polish up their ideas, but we lost some school days due to bad weather and we were up against the Google contest deadline so we had to finish up more quickly than I would have liked. In the future I will budget more time than I think we will actually need, which I find is helpful with most projects!
Have you done a Genius Hour project with your students? Please leave a comment — I’d love to hear about it!
I’ve heard a lot of buzz over the past year or two about using QR codes in various ways with students: linking to library scavenger hunts, online book request forms, book trailer videos, etc. What I haven’t heard much about is using QR codes with teachers.
Our 5th grade teachers are covering World War II in social studies right now, and I offered to pull some additional fiction and nonfiction books for them to use in their classrooms. As I was mulling over follow up activities that I could recommend for some of the books, it occurred to me that I could give teachers a “twofer” by including a QR code with a link to an online resource for each book.
While exploring the best way to create the QR code stickers, I discovered that Avery allows you use an online template to create and print labels; you just type in the product code for the type of labels you’re using. What’s really nice about using their service is that in addition to adding text and graphics to a label, the software will generate QR codes for you! I’ve tried (and liked) a few different QR code sites, but I couldn’t beat the ease of copying-and-pasting a URL and having the QR code pop right up on the label. You can save your projects at the Avery website, or download them to your computer.
I hope the teachers will enjoy the convenience of holding a book in one hand and a smart device in the other and previewing lesson plans, discussion guides, author information, YouTube videos, and related websites, no matter where they are.
How are you using QR Codes with your teachers? Please share in the comments!
p.s. If you’re interested, you can find the books I’ve QR Coded so far on my WWII ThingLink Channel.
Over the weekend I added a new “Channel” to my ThingLink account for World War II books from my library. Our 5th grade teachers are covering WWII in social studies, and I wanted to share links to lesson plans and discussion guides. All the images are set to Public so you can view and use the resources I’ve collected for each book. I’ve enabled the editing rights as well, so if you have a good resource for any of these books please share your links!
Here’s an example of a ThingLink-ed image. I uploaded a photo of the book cover, then added the links you see on the right of the picture when you hover over it with your mouse. Just click the link to access the resource.
I celebrated the First Day of Spring with 1st grade in the library today!
I read excerpts from two books that offer colorful descriptions and vivid details to get the students thinking about spring :
A New Beginning by Wendy Pfeffer
This book uses poetic language and form to celebrate all the signs of new life that spring brings.
“Leaf buds uncurl on bare branches.
Frogs leave their winter hideaways,
hop to the nearest water, and lay eggs.”
When Spring Comes by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
A young girl mired in the cold of winter looks forward to all the delights that spring will bring.
“When spring comes, Grandma and I will walk to the high pasture to pick wild strawberries that glisten like rubies.”
Then I asked the students to think of one springtime word to share so that we could create a word picture about spring: something they look forward to doing in the spring, or a word to describe spring. As students called out their words, I typed them into Wordle. We then experimented with different fonts, colors, and layouts until the students were satisfied that we had caught the essence of spring.
Here are two examples. Beautiful!
I’m so excited about the Creating Poetry in Your Library session led by author and poet Kami Kinard that I attended at the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) annual conference last week!
She has perfected a process of poetry writing with students that combines research with writing to enable even the youngest student to create non-fiction poetry. Kids use short magazine articles (such as those found in Ranger Rick and National Geographic for Kids) as a springboard for poetry writing by isolating the important words from the article and then using one or more of the principles of poetry (repetition, rhythm, alliteration, etc) to rearrange those words into a poem!
This activity encourages close reading of the text and improves comprehension. (Hello, Common Core!) You can also have students reading from a variety of sources including newspaper articles and books, and older students can handle reading and taking notes from more than one non-fiction source. Students can create a poem in a surprisingly short amount of time. Her SCASL session was only one hour, and she had time to share this technique with us, along with a couple of other poetry-writing ideas, and still allow us time to read an article and create a poem ourselves!
You will want to take a look at the blog she created for a poetry residency she did at Summit Drive Elementary School and see examples of these “found poems” that she guided students to create. I will definitely share this with my teachers — I think it will make a great collaborative project!
Whooo hoooo! I’m looking forward to attending the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) annual conference this week in Columbia, South Carolina! Our theme is Leadership @ Your Library and we have some great speakers lined up including Ann M. Martin, author of Empowering Leadership; and Gail Dickinson, the current president of AASL!
I’m also excited about presenting a session this year titled PUTTING THE “TECH” IN POETIC. I’ll be sharing lots of online poetry resources, as well interactive tools that will inspire students to write and share poetry. We are using Edmodo at the conference this year, but I can’t post my group code online since it’s just for attendees. However, all of my resources can be found in this Poetry LiveBinder which I’ve made public so that you can add it to your own collection of Livebinders and edit it to suit you.
I’m planning to “tweet the conference” using #SCASL14, but sometimes it’s hard to listen to a session and tweet it at the same time, and sometimes the technology just doesn’t cooperate. We’ll see how it goes!
Our school hosted a Pajama Day Read-In to celebrate Read Across America Day, and boy did our kids have fun! Everyone in grades K-5 (and teachers and staff, too!) wore their pajamas to school, brought in a pillow and/or blanket, and spent the morning reading together. Here are some of the highlights!
For Read Across America Day (RAAD) today, I wanted to provide some snacks for our guest readers from Alice Drive Middle School that would highlight a few books by Dr. Seuss — after all, RAAD was founded in honor of his birthday! So here’s what I came up with:
Here are some close-ups:
Cat in the Hat hats (strawberry and banana slices)
and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (goldfish)
Hop on Pop Popcorn
Brown Bar-ba-loots (chocolate teddy grahams)
Pink Ink Drink (strawberry soda)
The middle school students ate every crumb and drank every drop! Mission accomplished!
For week 3 of the World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) blogging challenge, bloggers were asked to “post a photo that gives readers a glimpse into your reading life.” I decided to go with this screenshot of my NetGalley bookshelf, since this is a relatively new addition to my reading life.
NetGalley is an online service that “delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles.” Members look through the available titles and request approval to download the ones that look interesting. There is no cost to join or to preview books.
I haven’t been a member for very long, but it’s a lot of fun to get a sneak peek at upcoming books, and it gives me a little edge when I’m preparing book orders. Perhaps it’s something that you’d like to try!
For week 2 of the World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) blogging challenge, bloggers were asked to answer the following questions individually and with a child or children:
1. I think everyone in the world should read…
2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be…
3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is…
4. The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is…
5. My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is…
I decided to open up two of these questions to the students at my school, and I created Padlet walls where they could post their answers. Here are our results!
Click here to view our 3rd Grade Wall
Click here to view our 4th Grade Wall
Our students were excited about the opportunity to share their opinions with the world, and I think some of our teachers will begin using Padlet as a class brain-storming tool. Win-win!