Dare to Care

Creating, Contributing, Communicating, Connecting, Collaborating & Curating

16/May/2015
by Denise Krebs
4 Comments

More Genius Hour in Kindergarten

Gregerson Quote

I don’t want children to stop asking questions. I want to be the teacher that welcomes provocative questions. That’s why I so firmly believe in getting out of the way of children and letting them question and learn. Genius Hour has been a way to affirm this in my classroom.

I’ve been wondering how to do more Genius Hour in my kindergarten class. It was great with junior highers, but kindergarten has been a steep learning curve. I’m still on the uphill. Faige Meller has been a great resource for me and others. She is an active Kindergarten Genius Hour teacher! I’ve had some successes with making; I wrote about it here. I thought I’d share some more that we’ve done in our class. Perhaps some reminders for me when I start with next year’s class.

First, just like with almost any activity in kindergarten, we don’t want to start Genius Hour until we have established rapport and routines with our young learners. They need to know they are in a safe learning environment where they are loved and trusted. They need to thoroughly know and practice the community’s expectations for behavior and how they get along with others in their new learning space. This will take weeks or for me and my children, maybe months.

In the meantime, during all of your days, starting on Day 1, we want to be sure to nurture young learners’ curiosity. Welcome questions, dive into inquiry, and laugh, learn and love with your students.

My students and I adopted this “Genius Hour anthem” from Debbie Clement,  “You’re Wonderful.” It’s a conversation between teacher and students:

Teacher: I think you’re wonderful. I think you’re marvelous. I think you’re beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams.

Students: You think I’m wonderful? You think I’m marvelous? You think I’m beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams?

Students: You’re right, I’m wonderful. You’re right I’m marvelous. You’re right I’m beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams.

It continues with the children telling the teacher she’s all these things, and then together they affirm they are all wonderful, marvelous, beautiful, magical and filled with curiosity and dreams. Singing a song like this has been a good reminder that we—teacher and children—are on an amazing and extraordinary adventure of learning together.

After building rapport, establishing routines, and celebrating love of learning with our students, we can start “Genius Hour” doing a group project replete with choices and high-interest. Choose a topic that has captured children during regular school day activities. Or survey students with the simple question, “What do you want to learn?” or “What problem do you want to solve?” and then choose a popular group topic from their responses. Tell the students they are going to do a group “Genius Hour” and that they can learn whatever they want to about the topic/problem.

Before they start, gather resources–a stack of nonfiction and fiction books, art and building supplies, videos, appropriate web pages, etc. Then allow students to choose between the different resource “centers,” real choices based on the group topic/problem.

In my kindergarten English class, which includes 100% English language learners, we did two group projects for Genius Hour. One was a big numbers project. For weeks, two children had been interested in big numbers. About every other day, they would come to me trying to tell me about a number larger than the one they told me before. A thousand, a million, a billion, a billion and one.

One day I asked one of my little number engineers if he had ever heard of a googol. His eyes lit up with curiosity as he laughed at the funny word. I showed him a googol on Wikipedia. When he saw how long the number was, he was rightly impressed. He went right to work writing a one with 100 zeroes following. The learning was contagious; others joined around the computer as I read to them about this big number. Still more became interested as they learned about the nine-year-old boy, Milton, who named the large number. It turned into our first group project. One small group joined the first boy on the floor writing out a googol on long strips of cash register receipt paper. Another group wanted to put together number puzzles. Still others wanted to count to 100 with the Macarena song we had done for our 100 Day Party.

She started with 10 and added 33 sets of three zeroes, each separated with commas--one googol!

She started with 10 and added 33 sets of three zeroes, each separated with commas–one googol!

When asked later to complete the sentence, “This year, I learned____,”  one of the big number children wrote, “…how to count to a googol.” Now, I realize, of course, that he didn’t really, but for this five-year-old child, the big numbers project was a significant and memorable learning experience.

The second project the kindergarteners did centered around “zig zags.” One girl brought in a zig zag for show and tell during Z week. The next day she brought strips of paper and asked if the other children could make them too. I made time, and they all created zig zags–some more springy and shapely than others. Later, these zig zags, plus many more, turned into animals, pop-up books, greeting cards and more fun maker projects.

Finally, after several months of 1) setting up our loving and safe learning environment and 2) doing group projects, I started having students choose their own individual or small group projects.

I introduced personal Genius Hour during what was called “activity time” in the kindergarten schedule. (It is perfect because I only have half of my class of 26 at a time during activity.) We have access to an ongoing supply of art supplies, building materials, and former trash for rubbish re-creations. Our class library has books on subjects of great interest to the children.

During an earlier activity period, I had told the students that their interesting art projects reminded me of Genius Hour. (I actually had not called our group projects Genius Hour yet.) “Maybe next activity time we will do Genius Hour,” I said to them, marveling about how creative and curious they were.

One little guy asked, “What is Genius Hour?”

“It’s a time when you get to learn or make whatever you want to.”

“I like that,” he said.

Who would not like that?

08/May/2015
by Denise Krebs
0 comments

The Genius Hour Guidebook – Coming Soon

(Originally posted at geniushour.ca)

Genius Hour Guidebook

Click book cover for link to Amazon!

By Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi

A few years ago the two of us took a risk in our practice–we asked our students what they wanted to learn about and let them take the reins and direct their own learning. Shortly after, we began the collaborative Genius Hour website geniushour.wikispaces.com, and then the monthly Twitter chat using the hashtag #geniushour.  Along with our friends and fellow Genius Hour teachers, Hugh McDonald and Joy Kirr, we began to share Genius Hour with all the teachers that would listen.  We are both so passionate about Genius Hour and found that it not only benefited our students but also changed everything for us!

The two of us wanted to spread the Genius Hour love with even more educators, so we decided that the next step was to write a book about Genius Hour.

We have been working on this book for a couple of years now and are really honored that it has now gone to production by Routledge and MiddleWeb.  We truly hope that it will help educators implement Genius Hour with their students. Our hope is that one day all students will have the chance to work on their own Genius Hour projects.

We are so excited to announce that The Genius Hour Guidebook: Fostering Passion, Wonder and Inquiry in the Classroom is now available for presale and will be available this Fall.

Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi

26/Apr/2015
by Denise Krebs
0 comments

Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Engagement/lessons/tips/tricks/ideas for spring fever – age specific.

Funny, just last week, I found three ways to keep K-2 students engaged at the end of the year. Those are three things that I’m doing with my kindergarten students now. I wrote about them here.

Engagement for All Ages!

Those were for K-2, but today I’ll consider one way to engage all ages in true learning, even at the end of the year.

First of all, for all grade levels, they will be motivated if you let them have autonomy, let them have time to master, and let them choose the purpose of their learning.

From Dan Pink’s web page, the “Cocktail Party” summary of his book Drive:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I believe his connections to the business operating system can be equally applied to much of the educational operating system. People, including students, are truly motivated intrinsically, not by dangling good grades, stickers, candy, or small trinkets in front of them. That doesn’t work and often does harm. Children in school need the “new approach” to motivation, as well.

At the end of the year, when motivation is not usually at a high point, it is a perfect time to allow those things that will motivate. Give more choices, ask students what they want to learn, and then get out of their way. Here are a couple ideas to get started.

1. Ask them what they learned or did this year that they would have liked to learn or do more. Perhaps it was when they had a measurement lab in science, and they got to measure all kinds of liquid and solid ingredients. Let a small group measure some more.

Maybe some others are interested in the Civil War, but you didn’t have time enough to spend on it to satisfy their appetite. Let them pursue more about the Civil War.

Maybe you have some writers. Maybe they even wrote a novel in November, but they haven’t had enough time to devote to finishing it, revising it, or starting another one. Let a small group dive into writing.

2. For those who can’t think of anything that they would like more time with, ask them what they did not learn or do this year that they wish they would have. Perhaps some of them will come up with topics of interest to them that weren’t in your curriculum. If they have chosen it, they have some purpose in learning it. If you really meant it when you asked them, let them have autonomy to make a learning decision.

If you happen to be in classroom with access to enough computers, you can let them choose something from Gary Stager’s list of things to do on a laptop.

3. Finally, as soon as everyone has something they are interested in learning, step aside and let them learn it. The teacher becomes facilitator, resource finder, cheerleader and sometimes gofer. Some of us call this kind of learning Genius Hour.  If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #geniushour and see all kinds of amazing students all over the world learning with motivation, especially this time of year.

4. Have everyone choose a way to share their learning with the class.   They can write a blog post. They can make a presentation, demonstration, or model for the class. They can make a movie or photo essay of their learning.

Enjoy! Your students will love you for it! The year will be over soon, so if you haven’t tried Genius Hour before now, this is a perfect time to do a beta version of Genius Hour. Save all your notes for next year to make it even better.

Do you have any other advice for engagement / lessons / tips / tricks / ideas for spring fever?

21/Sep/2013
by Denise Krebs
4 Comments

If you had $3000…

What a fun question I received in a tweet today:

“If you had $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program, what would you buy?” Thanks, Rhonda!

I just had to write a blog post to answer that question. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this list is exhaustive or that I won’t think of something additional tomorrow, but for now a couple things immediately come to mind.

First, I hope you already have access to great Internet connectedness and laptops for your students. If not, I’d start there with extra bandwidth and a small set of laptops or Chromebooks or iPads.

If I had enough computers for at least part time access for students, then I would get:

  1. A pro account on Edublogs and pro accounts for any other tools that you and/or your students love. They can each have their own snazzy blog and  join a world-wide authentic community where they will grow in reading, writing, presenting, and 21st century skills.
  2. Video recorders and editing software.
  3. A huge collection of Legos Mindstorms robotics, software, and Legos for students to tinker and create.

How about you? What would you do with $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program?

08/Sep/2013
by Denise Krebs
14 Comments

Our Expectations of Creative Genius

Ouch…I just re-read Ewan McIntosh’s post, “20% Time and Schools: Not the Best of Bedfellows.” I must say, as much as I respect his work, I disagree with most of this post. Especially this bolded line, jumping out at us in his first paragraph: But in schools, [20% Time] often seems to fall short of our expectations of creative genius.

When I started genius hour with my students in 2011, I did not have expectations of their creative genius. I had expectations that they would learn to learn and become more creative. That’s all! To go in with set expectations of what creative genius looks like in our students is dangerous to the advancement of creativity and innovation. Every one of us who dares to become a teacher better acknowledge the fact that we will have students smarter and more creative than ourselves. (At any age!)

Giving students time for genius hour is tantamount to creating a climate of creativity. It’s not about EXPECTING students to create works of genius, that I would then set against my standard of what hits the mark of genius. My goal is always that they will grow in creativity. Big difference! Ewan said, “…there are moments of genius…but they are by a small proportion of students, with the vast majority of ideas failing to hit the mark.”

From The Passion-Driven Classroom by Amy Sandvold and Angela Maiers

From The Passion-Driven Classroom by Amy Sandvold and Angela Maiers

Of course only a small percentage of students are going to produce amazing “genius” inventions in elementary or high school. Only a precious few 4-year-olds are going to spend hours begging the world, “Don’t kill animals,” like Hayley did as described in The Passion-Driven Classroom. Our students are not ALL going to be the next Albert Einsteins or Marie Curies or Steve Jobses or Grace Murray Hoppers. However, they can all grow more ingenious, inquisitive, original, flexible, adaptable, persistent, willing to take risks and live with ambiguity. If given enough time, they can become an expert in something they love, which leads to even more creativity, and possibly to genius inventions and problem-solving further down the road.

My goal in promoting genius hour is hopefully to help stop the insanity of coloring in the lines and getting candy for doing worksheets and lining up in straight rows and doing only what the teacher says. Remember, that’s dangerous, for many of our students will eventually out-think, out-learn, and out-perform their teachers. We have to encourage that to happen, not stifle it!

This fall I had the opportunity to talk to four new kindergarten students, all with different teachers. My standard question for them was, “Do you learn how to color in the lines in kindergarten?

“Oh, yes,” one said. “Some kids try to color too fast and just scribble to get done so they can do what the teacher said you could do after we finish coloring, like read a book, use the white boards, and stuff like that.” I heard something similar from all of these kindergarten friends.

Yes, kindergarten classrooms are full of amazing supplies and “stuff like that.” How about if we let them use these things, even before they color in the lines with colors that make sense? What would happen if we let them make some learning decisions about coloring or reading or writing on white boards or using Legos or making art or inventions or what have you? I know all the schools aren’t Montessori, but can’t we just let them have some time to have fun learning to learn what they want?

When I first started teaching, I thought second grade was about the age students began to lose some of the joy of school. It got too hard or too demanding or they fell behind in reading. Now it seems to be happening with more kindergarteners. All of a sudden, after two years of lining up to teacher expectations in preschool, they are already finished with the joy and now don’t like school in kindergarten! (Speaking of kindergarten, watch this great video about Lifelong Kindergarten.)

Fail
We need genius hour, not because Google or 3M does it. It’s not about taking products to market, as it is for these companies. Ewan suggests that 99% of the products that come from the business world’s 20% time are mediocre, but I disagree that you can transfer that statistic to schools. Student 20% time projects that “miss the mark” or fail to meet “OUR expectations of creative genius” are not chaff, but rather the good seeds of creation.

We are making citizens who can contribute and make a difference in the world. Genius hour gives students and teachers the gift of time to learn to be creative and remember their earlier love for learning.

Give students a class period, an hour, or 20% of their time to learn like this and watch the learning in the other 80%-95% of your week grow and blossom.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

07/Sep/2013
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

A Franciscan Benediction

This seems to be a great prayer for Genius Hour and Choose2Matter:

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep
Within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people
So that we may work for justice,
Freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our
Hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with
Just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make
A difference in the world,
So that we can do what others
Claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to
All our children and
All our neighbors who are poor.

Amen.

Genius Hour

22/Apr/2013
by Denise Krebs
4 Comments

Vincent Van Gogh Persevering

It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.

Mr. Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most famous artists, wrote these words in a letter to his brother.

He speaks of perseverance, grit and stick-to-it-iveness — qualities that I hope and believe my students and I learn during genius hour.

12/Mar/2013
by Denise Krebs
9 Comments

Hope, Engagement, Well-Being, and Genius Hour

I happened to see a tweet from @mrstg recently. She had retweeted @bundtjd message below:

There was “much to think about from this presentation” by Brandon Busteed, education director of Gallup. In the speech, he addresses business leaders about the future of education.

Early in the speech he asked the listeners what they remember about their best teacher. According to people surveyed, teachers care about us. In addition, they know what makes each of their students tick, so they individualize for their students. They are also relational. These are the important things people think of when they think of the teachers that made a difference to them.

He says we neutralize the best teachers because we continually take away their ability and time to care, individualize, and relate. We ask teachers to meet different objectives — those measured by standardized tests, rather than care, individualization and relationships.

The future of education is not about knowledge. We can’t compete on knowledge. “The cost of knowledge is trending toward free,” Busteed said. For instance, MIT’s courses are all available online for FREE. Though you can’t get a degree by taking them, you certainly have access to all the knowledge.

If we want students to be successful, we don’t drive them toward success by working on standardized tests only. In fact, there is a negative correlation in the 30 or so countries that took both the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Measure) and PISA (Program for International Standardized Assessment) tests.

Schools with an over-emphasis on standardized tests neutralize entrepreneurial spirit. Many entrepreneurs and innovators drop out of school or college because of that — Mark Zuckerberg, John D. Rockefeller, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres, Ted Turner to name a few.

According to Busteed, standardized tests can only account for one-third of the success of our students. Hope, he says, is actually a strategy when it comes to school success. We can help students have hope.

As educators we need to get out of the knowledge business and into the learning business. Busteed goes on to say that hope, engagement and well-being account for as much as one-third of the variance in student success. (That’s one-third — the same as standardized tests!)

We can take at least some of our time to give students choice in what they are doing in school.  Genius hour gives students (and educators) hope, engagement and well-being. Read what Melina, a high school senior, says about this kind of learning:

Read more of Melina’s beautiful words on her blog post.

In this age where knowledge is ubiquitous, and no longer belongs to the teacher to dispense during lessons, school needs to change. We need to inspire students to become lifelong learners. Genius hour can begin to do that.

Busteed suggests students have these three rights. They should be able to come into school every single day and say YES to:

Brandon Busteed said every student should be able to say YES to these.

Would your students be able to say YES to those rights?
Don’t we owe it to them to let them say YES?