Tag Archives: Active Learning

#GeniusHour, Curiosity Time, & Passion Projects

Passion driven learning is essential today. And it cannot just be the teacher’s passion. Students are at the heart of the classroom and in building a community in your classroom all member’s voices and interests must be taken into consideration. Passion driven learning includes student’s passion and interests. Genius Hour and passion projects are one introductory step in helping to cultivate a classroom where passion, curiosity, and creativity are at the front and center.

I was first introduced to Genius hour more than 8 years ago through the buzz that other teachers shared on social media and at edtech conferences. While offering genius hour and curiosity time for my students, I have seen my approach to active and student centered learning evolve in many ways. The end result has always been the same, for my students to know: “You matter, you have influence, you are a genius, you have a contribution to make” (Angela Maier, Classroom Habitudes)

Genius Hour Menu

If we look to the corporate world, Google recognized that workers were more intrinsically motivated and creative when they had more autonomy (freedom). Employees were allowed 20% of their work time to pursue “side-projects” that interested them but were not specifically part of their job description. So, if this works in the business world, why not try it in the classroom?

Would students be more intrinsically motivated to learn?

Would students be able to unleash their creativity and inherent drive to learn, solve problems, and create?

Genius hour and passion projects are all about igniting innovation in the classroom Genius hour allows students to take the reins of their own learning and explore the topics and subjects that are of interest to them. Teachers need to go beyond teaching a subject that they only know because of a test or just to pass the class. School shouldn’t only be about passing a test, but rather creating a culture of learning where students are engaged, making connections, and helping to solve problems that will make the world a better place.

How does one start or kick off genius hour? How does one sustain genius hour throughout the quarter or semester or even the entire school year? These are two questions that I hear often.

First, it is important to introduce survey your students about their own passions, interests, likes. Having students complete student questionnaires & interest surveys are great places to record preliminary project seed ideas. Additionally, I show videos to inspire students about young adult entrepreneurs and social activities. I also read aloud picture books that inspire creativity and growth mindset. Titles include:

The Most Magnificent Idea by Ashley Spires (2014)

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada (2014)

It’s Never Too Late by Dallas Clayton (2014)

The North Star by Peter Reynolds (2009)

I have also curated genius hour resources on these past blog posts.

Through the genius hour models and mentors and completing questionnaires and surveys students might begin to choose a project they want to dedicate some time to. Students then begin researching, creating, and collecting information and inspiration for their own curiosity project. On the Genius Hour menu posted above, you will notice that each project is 10 weeks long and students try a different passion project every quarter. Some students use the same topic in all four projects where as other students like these opportunities to switch things up every few weeks. After four-five weeks of researching and curating, students begin reflecting and thinking how they might share their learning with others. Sharing is an important part of the genius hour process.

Showcasing Passion Projects is an important part of the process, students are going to present their research and findings to a wider and authentic audience. I have had students create blogs about their process and complete an Elevator Pitch. Students have showcased their work in a gallery or expo to the larger school community. Students can create a TED Talk or Masterclass about their project.

After students go through the genius hour or passion project cycle, reflection is a major piece. Reflection can be in the form of a Google Form or Flipgrid video reflection. You might want to have students reflect weekly rather than wait to the very end of the project to divulge their process and final product.

Looking for even more resources, check out these links:

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Japanese Internment Lessons & Resources

For the past two weeks I have been teaching Japanese Internment as an entry for my students to understand World War II. The essential question that guides this unit of study asks:

What lessons from Japanese Internment, the Holocaust, and WW2 can we learn in order to stop the hate and violence that is dominating our current cultural climate?

I wanted to provide all the resources here for teachers who have requested these documents and lessons that I created in one place. Here you can find assignments, hyperdocs, and additional resources for teaching this time period.

Japanese Internment Hyperdoc

Japanese Internment Digital Gallery

Japanese Internment Active Learning Station Rotation

World War II & The Holocaust Hexagonal Thinking

Additional Resources:

The New York Times

The Library of Congress

Zinn Education Project

Facing History and Ourselves

Smithsonian

National World War II Museum New Orleans

PBS Learning Media

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Digital Tools to Support Literacy in the Time of Remote Learning & E-Learning

My mailbox has been full of newsletters and emails about resources for remote learning, e-Learning, and virtual learning, and maybe for you too. In a small amount of time, teachers and school have shifted to online learning to help our students maintain some normalcy, meet learning targets, and support the community.

How do you make sense of all the educational platforms and virtual lessons ideas that will best support your students?

Web20Classroom created an infographic on “Teacher Tips for Active Learning Interactions Online” showcasing four types of blending learning opportunities for students whether we are in the classroom our working remotely: Learner-Content, Learner – Instructor, Learner to Learner, and Learner to Technology. We can think about these four types of active learning strategies when we think about planning our online lessons so that students are still engaged in active and blended lessons remotely.

Learner-Content is the traditional style of lectures and presentations, videos, and readings used to present information. Rather than pushing out a chapter from a textbook, teachers might consider a platform like Edpuzzle that allows teachers to embed questions in videos (from YouTube & TED) to improve attention and comprehension for students viewing. Additionally, if using print text, Actively Learn is an E-reading platform that improves students’ reading comprehension. Teachers can customize instruction, provide. real-time feedback, allowing peers to collaborate, and get analytics on student performance. If you have slide decks in Google Slides or Power points, you can upload them on to Nearpod and create interactive and engaging lessons for students with extended responses, polls, and games. Teachers might also consider making their own video lessons using the Screencastify Chrome Extension. This extension allows you to easily record and screencast your screen with accompanying audio and video commentary to present a new idea, concept, or lesson.

Learner-Instructor connections are so important and we do not want to lose the interaction and relationships among our students. Using Google Hangouts and Zoom  provide a time and place for learners and instructions to connect face to face. Teachers can schedule conferences to check in with small groups or individual students. I currently hold a Google Hangout once a week for questions and check-ins with my middle school and graduate students. I also email and call students to check in when they do not turn in work or seem to be missing days on end.

Learner-Learner is the interaction between one learner and other learners. If you are like me, group work and collaboration happened everyday in my classroom. How do we re-create this in a virtual world? Padlet allows teachers to create an online bulletin board to display information for any topic, use for brainstorming, and students sharing their insight. Users can add images, links, and videos. Flipgrid allows students to share their voice with one another. This social learning platform allows educators to ask a question, then the students respond in a video. Students are then able to respond to one another, creating a “web” of discussion. I use Flipgrid for sharing writing, book reviews, and group discussions. Seesaw  is Padlet and Flipgrid combined. It can be utilized for student engagement and digital-portfolios where students create, reflect, share, and collaborate.

Learner-Technology is about the interaction between learners and technologies to deliver instruction. In this current climate of remote learning and virtual learning we have shifted all our work online. That also means our students are spending A LOT of time online and in front of a screen. With a 9th grader and 5th grader at home, I see how much time we are all spending online — more than 5 hours a day online! Choose assignments that are meaningful and don’t try to fill a 40 or 50 minute time block as if we were still in our classrooms. Create your lessons wisely. There are so many fantastic resources online to support reading, writing, and teaching remotely. Let’s design experiences that are engaging, offer choice (like Hyperdocs and Choice Boards), support ALL learners, and are meaningful.

Looking for more ideas, check out:

 

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