Sunday, January 27, 2013

Genius Hour #1 Completed

For several weeks the topic of conversation in the class surrounded our trial of Genius Hour.  Students were excited about being given the time and opportunity to pursue topics of interest to them.  They LOVED the term - Student Driven Learning!

Most students had an idea right away - while others needed time to think and plan.  Some students decided to work together while others chose to work independently.  Some students would use the computer, while others would use different tools.

Our 'hour' began at 1:45 p.m. Students excitedly collected their supplies and went straight to work. The level of engagement was something at which to marvel.  For over an hour students were completely engrossed in their learning while they created comic strips on the computer, sewed a pillow, researched hedgehogs, experimented with volcanoes, created mazes from wood, researched a Brazilian Gospel singer, created powerpoints about dry ice, geocaching, created posters about WWII, the Model T and many other topics.
Poster about the Great Depression

Experimenting with a Volcano

When the bell sounded,  signaling the end of our school day and thus the ending of their Genius Hour there were audible groans and moans.  The disbelief that the 'hour' was up was clear by looking at the disappointment on my students' faces as many had not accomplished the tasks they set out for themselves.  They wondered if they could have more time the following day.

Appreciating the level of involvement in their learning I decided to give them some extra time the next day to 'finish' their Genius work.  When I announced it in the morning there were fist pumps and 'yays'!  When the time came, students again began to work diligently.
Learning about Pearl Harbor Attack

Over the next couple days there was time for students to quickly share their learning with their classmates.  Students listened intently and asked thoughtful questions. At the end students all wanted to know when to expect the NEXT Genius Hour.  This makes me realize the power of allowing and trusting students to follow their interests and passion.  Success in learning!

Genius Hour is here to stay! I am convinced in this first showing that students need time to pursue their interests.  I am convinced that allowing them time will further promote their curiosity.

Do you have any comments or questions about Genius Hour?  Would love to hear how Genius Hour was perceived at home.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

National Geographic Bee - School Competition

School Champion: Grace
From November 12, 2012 to January 15, 2013 schools all across the nation are participating in the National Geographic Bee.  The Bee which has been in existence since 1989 challenges students in grades 4 - 8 on the geography of the world.  Participating schools hold Preliminary Rounds with all students and then conduct a Final Round with up to 10 finalists.  The 10 finalists compete until a School Champion is determined.

The School Champion then goes on to take a 60 question multiple choice test for entry into the State Level Competition.  The top 100 scorers compete for entry to the National Level Bee.

Questions for the Bee are rather tough.   Some are multiple choice and some are not. (Final round questions are NOT multiple choice and students must provide answers.) Some examples:
  • Which state is a part of the Delmarva Peninsula? Virginia/Maryland/Georgia
  • Which agent of erosion is primarily responsible for creating limestone caves?
  • Angkor Wat and Cappadocia are World Heritage sites found on which continent?
  • Which of the following countries has the longest coastline? Iraq/Iran/Kuwait
Boyden has registered to compete in the Bee for over 15 years and yesterday the students in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes watched as the four 5th grade Class Champions and the four 4th grade Class Champions competed for the title: School Champion.  After several rounds the group of eight was whittled down to three (Max, Kyle & Grace) who competed in the Championship Round.

Congratulations to Room 310's very own Grace who is the 2012-2013 Boyden School Champion of the National Geographic Bee!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Introducing Genius Hour

The Genius of Stonehenge
In honor of of the New Year I decided to try something that many colleagues around the nation are talking about.  Hopefully, you have heard the term "Genius Hour" from your child! 

Genius Hour is something I have wanted to try since November 2011 when I read this blog post from a member of my PLN, Denise Krebs.  In it she describes her first attempt at this type of activity with her 7th grade class.  To this day, I follow posts and tweets about this 'Genius Hour' in the hopes of one day trying it with my fourth grade students. 

What is Genius Hour?  Click on the link to read in depth how one teacher, Gallit Zvi describes it and it's origin.  In a nutshell, it is letting students follow their passion using inquiry to "work on new designs or master new skills".

Genius Hard at Work!
This is it - this is the year! As discussed with the kids, sometime in January, they will have the opportunity to explore/learn/create/design something of interest to them.  My job will be to provide guiding essential questions for their learning/creating.  Sharing will be one of the components of Genius Hour.  The students will have an opportunity during a different timeframe to share their findings/presentations/works of art.

Students will be allowed to work with a partner (if their topic is the same) or individuallyt.  Several students have already shared their ideas with me (to be fine tuned of course).

What do you think of Genius Hour?  What do you think your child would like to explore?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

Before the holiday break our school was approached by Mrs. Fair, who heard about the "Snowflake Project" that was being organized in Newtown, CT in an effort to lift the spirits of the town.  Of course we decided that we would participate and we would create some fabulous 3D snowflakes upon our return to school in January.   

Under the direction of Mrs. Marinelli, our art teacher, and with the help of the Fourth Grade Teachers, other Boyden Staff and Mrs. Fair, the students begin cutting and cutting, and taping and taping, and creating and creating!  Each student made 6 smaller pieces which when put together would make one large snowflake.  Students chatted, worked together,  helped each other and were just generally congenial as they felt a sense of pride knowing these were 'special' snowflakes.  There was a true feeling of caring.

At then end of 45 minutes the fourth grade had built over 80 snowflakes.  Later in the day, during our art period, the students created an assembly line to add the finishing touches to these works of art. The flakes were then carefully and reverently placed in several large trash bags, awaiting transport (along with the fifth grade students' 80 + snowflakes) to one of the neighboring towns of Newtown where Mrs. Fair's mother owns a restaurant.  (We learned that Newtown is asking folks not to send anymore donations as they are inundated with the generosity of the rest of the country and the world.) It is our hope that Mrs. Fair's mother will display the snowflakes at her restaurant and sell them for a donation of $1.00.  Any money collected will then be sent off to the Newtown PTA.

Perhaps this small act of kindness will somehow brighten the day of those affected by this tragedy.   How could one not smile looking at those beautiful creations made with hearts as innocent as those  who lost their lives on that December day.

As always you would be proud of your children's efforts today!