Such a Simple Question: What Action Will I Take?

Image tweeted by Angela Maiers

Last night during our Genius Hour Twitter chat and book study of Angela Maiers and Amy Sanvold‘s The Passion-Driven Classroom, I was inspired by passionate educators who inspire passion in their students. I wondered how to help young teens harness their energetic spirit and begin to use it to make the world a better place.

How do I inspire them to act? Could they ever be ready for Angela’s Quest2Matter?

Well, little did I know that I would come to school today, and they would be thinking the same thing I was. How did that happen?

I do have an idea about what inspired them, and it’s very simple. And unrelated to my pep talks.

In science, they were working on a researcher’s workshop project on something related to genetics, DNA or heredity. After watching a recent video interview with Paul Solarz, I had decided to try the KWHLAQ he had learned about from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano on her site. (Awesome resources coming from these great connections!)

Well, when they got to the “A” column – “What action will I take?” – they took the chart seriously. That’s when they started brainstorming. Five of them had chosen to study some aspect of Down syndrome, and they were working on the same Google Document. I started hearing things like, “Let’s go on a Buddy Walk.” “Let’s have a car wash and raise money for GiGi’s Playhouse.” “Let’s play games with the residents at Hope Haven.”

They didn’t stop with Down syndrome. They continued their conversation the next period in study hall and came up with this list. (They said we can do some of the list next year. 🙂 Thank goodness! Since school is out for summer in three weeks!)

Screenshot of their Google Doc with their “ACTION” ideas.

When I met up with them again, they had shared the above Google Doc with me, talked to our principal, emailed a principal at a sister school to see if their 7th graders could join in, emailed the manager at a grocery store to see if we can have a car wash, contacted GiGi’s Playhouse, and…who knows what else!

I loved the conversation I heard: “Can we keep working on this sixth period?” “How about tomorrow? We can work on it in Genius Hour, right?”

Here, I would have thought I was trying to inspire this kind of action all year. If I would have known, I would have tried the upgraded KWL chart months ago!

I love my genius students! And my genius PLN! And, yes, I think they will be ready!

Making Progress! Leadership Day 2012

Today is Leadership Day 2012. Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency 8 in Iowa, has been calling people to write Leadership Day posts since 2007. (This year’s post is here.)

Last year I wrote my first Leadership Day post as an open letter to my administrator whom I had yet to met. I didn’t know anything about her. Now, I have had the joy of meeting her and working with her for one year.

As I re-read my post from last year, I am excited! A lot has happened since then, including some great professional development last year. We took a quick tour of the five Characteristics of Effective Instruction described in the Iowa Core. We also did some technology trainings. And, one of the best things, we bought two new laptop carts with Macs. One is housed in my room, with easy access for my students!

My class became more student-centered, due in part to our in-school PD, but even more as a result of my PLN and all I’m learning and sharing as a connected educator. This year I am excited to work more on rigor and relevance in my student-centered, genius classroom. We’ll be studying that characteristic in depth at school. I know I will grow yet again as an educator. I have appreciated our new administrator’s leadership.

And, bonus! On Monday I came into the office after the summer and she told me she was tweeting now. I was tickled! She is becoming a connected educator, and she’s already been tweeting out resources for others to benefit from! I’m looking forward to the new things we will learn together. Follow her at @LisaHamerlinck1

Tonight is open house at our school.

Lisa, I am planning to spend tonight and the first five days of school inspiring learning in my geniuses, not telling students what they can’t do. When they come into my room, this slideshow will be rolling.

Read more Leadership Day 2012 posts here.

Genius Hour Report

Well, today was the day! It has been three weeks since I decided to hold #geniushour with the junior highers. (I’m spelling it like the Twitter hashtag–join us by sharing on Twitter your #geniushour comments, resources, and activities.)

Over the past three weeks, I gradually introduced the students to the idea of #geniushour, and they began to let their ideas percolate. Finally, this week, I suggested students get a pretty sound idea ready. I wanted them to get right to work when it was time. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do or not. I was surprised that about three students told me this morning that they didn’t know what they were going to do yet. That didn’t last long, though. With a little discussion, each one soon had an idea or a partner to join.

I took Nancy’s advice and allowed them to choose partners based on interests. It certainly made more sense like that. The way I initially envisioned it was to put them into random groups of three on the morning of #geniushour. The day would have been totally different that way. As it turned out, on Monday some of them had already recruited a partner and decided what supplies to bring. I hadn’t thought of supplies–time wouldn’t have allowed us to wait until #geniushour started to gather supplies.

Students and I had created this Rubric of Creativity a couple days ago, so they would be able to prepare for and later evaluate their #geniushour work. I promised them that no grades were going to be recorded for their work today, but in future #geniushours we might need to record grades. If so, I will definitely let them grade themselves using the rubric, for honest self-reflection is a characteristic of creative genius.

We had about 1.25 hours scheduled for #geniushour and we could have used more! We even dipped into our sharing time to finish up some of the videos and other presentations, so we actually went about 1.5 hours. One thing is true, #geniushour was exhausting. We were energized with learning, but we were tired afterwards.

I warned students before they started reporting that they were not to say any version of “Huh?” or “That’s not genius” or anything that remotely resembled disrespect! As soon as they started sharing, though, I could tell that it hadn’t been necessary. The students were nothing but respectful and engaged during the sharing process. They loved seeing what their classmates chose to do. We ran out of time, though, so they will finish sharing on Monday because we are now on a long holiday weekend. (Another post later on the products of their labor.)

Comments from teachers who were involved:

  • One group of kids changed their idea after re-reading the rubric.
  • They continued to talk about their project with other students after their presentation was done. They were still talking when they went into the lunchroom.
  • They were able to decide what they were going to be “learners” of instead of us.
  • I saw engagement and student-centered learning. I saw excited students holding themselves accountable! (from our principal)

I Want to Do That

When I showed my students the list of  “ten things to do with a laptop” that Gary Stager showed us, they were immediately engaged. More so than I thought they would be. (Watch Gary’s ten things keynote here.)

The next day, I overheard them talking. One boy said, “I want to build a killer robot.” Another, “I want to make a video game.”

Ten Things You Can Do on a Laptop by Gary Stager

OK, I owe it to them. I’m the one who showed them the list after I returned from ITEC11. We have laptops. What’s missing? Nothing. They need to be let loose to create.

So, we are having our first genius hour. Next week. Our first, but not our last.

Images by Denise Krebs edited on Polyvore, Big Huge Labs, and Photovisi, shared with CC 3.0 license.