Tag Archives: I Am Malala

Genius Inspiration for Middle School Students

Genius Hour happens every Friday in my classroom and this year I have required my students to choose a new Genius Hour or Passion Project every ten weeks. Genius Hour allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. The genius project is self selected, as long as it taps into one of the menu choices below.

Make the World/Community a Better Place – A genius solves a problem in a way no one else could.  A genius looks at a problem with fresh eyes.  A genius is ready make a unique impact on the world; solve a problem in a new way. For this genius project choose a problem and find a solution that will benefit others on a community or global scale.

The UnGoogleable – A genius begins with a question that hasn’t been answered anywhere, ever. A question that takes time to answer. It has an UnGoogleAble answer. This genius hour project requires students to research something that goes beyond facts and summary but requires analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Students will look at multiple theories and present their findings.

Learn/Master – A genius seeks to gain knowledge about something that interests them. It takes 10,000 hours to get to mastery. For this genius project students will spend their hours practicing and mastering a personal passion of theirs.

Create/Innovate – A genius gives the world something it didn’t know was missing.  For this genius project you will create or make something. You can build, design, or create something from scratch.

Always looking to inspire my students and to show them Genius projects presented by other teens, I have collected a few videos and websites that highlight the amazing potential of teenagers. Below are TEN that I have shared with my students this year to wow them and show them that teens can make a difference, start a business, master a skill, and empower others.

Mr. Cory’s Cookies – For those who love baking and want to take it to the next level.

10, 000 hours equals mastery is showcased in this YouTube video:

Shelterpups.com – She wanted the perfect stuffed dog that looked like her own mixed breed. So, she created her own and started a business at the same time.

York School Student Projects all focus on helping others and the community.

Jack Andraka is a High School Student and Cancer Researcher. His memoir Breakthrough is a great read for middle and high school students.

Malala’s memoir  I Am Malala is one book that my students read as a part of a unit on social justice and courage. The Malala Fund helps young people understand that one person can make a difference.

Thomas Suarez designed his first app at 12 years old.

So you want to be a filmmaker. Zachary Maxwell shares insight in this TEDx Talk.

 

Seventeen year old Patricia Manubay is making learning exciting with “Dream Boxes” by helping young people get the school supplies they need.

Teen singer, songwriter, and superstar, Shawn Mendes.

 

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Promoting Democracy and a Culture of Caring Through Literature

“They cannot shoot my dreams, they cannot kill my beliefs, and they cannot stop my campaign to see every girl and every boy in school.” — Malala Yousafzai

In light of what has happened in Paris, France this week, the freedom of expression, the power of literature, and promoting empathy among my students is key. This week didn’t spark this objective, it has been my objective teaching middle school English these past two years. The books that I have decided to teach all focus on the central idea of peace, acceptance, and the power of words.

My eighth grade students began the school year reading To Kill a Mockingbird and are now reading the memoir Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals about her experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine integrating into an all white Central High School in Arkansas in 1957. Many of my students are also reading the young readers edition of I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick and participating in weekly twitter chats to discuss the book all month long for one of the “Going for the A” assignments. [Students contract for an A or a B for 40% of their quarterly grade. The assignments are for students interested in taking English honors in high school next year.]

While watching on the news and reading news feeds about the tragic events that happened in Paris, There are many parallels with Malala Yousafzai’s experiences as a target of the Taliban in Pakistan and Charlie Hebdo. Malala’s interest, passion, and mission is in the education of all children, girls and boys. From the time Malala was little she learned that words are powerful. Melba Patillo Beals also shows in her memoir that words can hurt and words can help change the world.

Steven Wolk writes in Caring Hearts & Caring Minds: Literature, Inquiry, and Social Responsibility (2013), “After reading a good book we can be changed.” Reading both fiction and non fiction with students allows students to question, think, and analyze. As much as teachers are teaching reading skills these days, teachers need to address and explore topics relevant to what is going on in our world today and social responsibility with the texts utilized in the classroom.

Introducing diverse texts into your classroom is the first step in promoting democracy and a culture of caring. It is also what you do with the literature once you have students read these texts. We want students to read critically and question the texts that they are reading. Make connections with larger world issues and inspire students to want to help make the world a better place.  Let students research and report on topics that are important to them with project based learning opportunities and Genius Hour. At the end of the school year I not only want students to be better readers and writers, but my hope is that hey never lose sight of their dreams and know they have the potential to make a difference in the world.

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