I Found it! My Genius

Oh, my! You are never too old to believe in your genius! When my 8th graders came in today, I asked them to write down the first ten U.S. presidents. (During the first quarter we memorized those and had regular quizzes, but they hadn’t reviewed for months.) Groans all around!

“No grade given!” I quickly assured them. “I just want to see if you remember them.”

I heard many replies and questions. “Do they have to be in order?” “What if I don’t remember them?” “Oh, I know these.”  And so forth.

After a few minutes of working on their own, they began to collaborate with their neighbors. “Oh, yeah, I forgot that one.” “Yes, I remember that sentence now; I forgot about that.” Bells of remembering, dancing brain cells, presidents quickly written on papers.

After I called time, most students had gotten the first eleven U.S. presidents down on paper. Eleven? Yes, when Allie, who remembered the mnemonic I had taught them–Will a jolly man make a just, but harshly treated president?” –reminded others around her, many students quickly remembered and began recording: So many presidents!Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler and, the eleventh (equivalent to president in the mnemonic), Polk.

“Woohoo!” I shouted. “Who thinks that together we were smarter?”

Everyone enthusiastically agreed.

I continued, “Just like Angela (@angelamaiers) told me last week at my workshop, together we ARE smarter.” And then I gave them the newest installment of my genius speech, inspired and revised daily by Angela and my new genius hero, Kelly Sigler (@kellysigler).

“You know, the future of education is collaboration. We are going to be doing it more and more over your high school and college careers. It’s already in the working world. The very best, most exciting employers right now are looking for great collaborators. Just like you did right now.

“However, they are also looking for another thing. And that would be contribution. You have to contribute your creativity and genius to the “together” part. Those companies, like Google and Apple–they can’t afford to hire leeches. If you don’t contribute your own genius to “together we’re smarter”, you’ll be left behind.

“The exciting companies to work for now are looking for collaborators AND contributors, and we have to get ready for that world. At our school, we want to make sure you are ready to have fun and success in that world where together we are smarter, where everyone contributes and collaborates. The leeches, those who don’t contribute, but just take, are going to be left behind. You all have something to contribute. You are all geniuses!”

I saw the face, Angela. A little more jaded than the five-year-old’s “AHA” face, but it is there nonetheless. They are geniuses and they are going to change the world for good!

My genius speech was to get them ready to start work on a history project on the Give Me Liberty!book Give Me Liberty by Russell Freedman. I explained that we will post the projects (or a digital form of them) for all the world. “Maybe it will help other students to preview or better understand the book when they have to read it in school,” I explained. I’ve posted a video showing their storyboarding. They collaborated and contributed, and I think they looked more like geniuses today than they did yesterday. Check back later for the end products. We’ll be sure to put them out here for you to see.

How are your students showing their genius?

Book cover from Amazon.com
Mt. Rushmore: Royalty free collection from http://schools.iclipart.com

8 thoughts on “I Found it! My Genius

  1. What a fantastic honor!! My husband was in the room while I read this and asked why I was crying… 🙂 I’m so glad your 8th graders are seeing their genius! I don’t envy you trying to change the mindset of kids who have already been exposed to the system for many, many years. In first grade I can tell kids they are geniuses and they just automatically say “We sure are, Mrs. Sigler!” 😀

    We took your Twitter challenge to heart today and made a story for your student’s video with a little collaboration from some sophomore Spanish students – It was pretty awesome!

    Good luck with your projects… I’ll be checking in frequently! 🙂 YOU are a genius!!!

  2. And now I’m crying too, Kelly! Thank you for your inspiration! Denise

  3. That is a great mnemonic device. My kids enjoy having/creating mnemonics, as they find it helpful for remembering. The one I like to use is “What were the MAIN causes of WW1?”
    – Militarism
    – Alliances
    – Imperialism
    – Nationalism

    I also like your collaboration/contribution ideas. That is so important for their future success.

    Great post!

  4. Hi Denise,
    This is such a great post I want to share it with all my colleagues at school. We start back after our summer holiday tomorrow, and this reminder is just the right note to start on. I hope I can inspire and enthuse my middle years students the way you have done in your class. I especially like your point about employers looking for collaborators and contributors.
    My students need to memorise the first 20 elements of the periodic table (Do they really? Well, it’s expected that they know them by Year 9). I use a mnemonic for that, but find it fun if students create their own too. Keep up the great work!

    1. Britt, thank you so much for the nice words! Have a great first day back. My 7th grade science students memorize the first 20 elements too! This is a great age for memorizing; they won’t forget them. I’d like to see your mnemonic for the Periodic Table. Thanks, Denise

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