Genius hour is a chance for students to express themselves and allow their passions to come alive!
Click on the image below for a link to a quick video explaining the origin.
What is GN?
Literally, students get to design, plan and execute their entire project. They may choose to learn about a topic, learn a new skill, make or create something, test or experiment and/or make a change in the world. Students are in the process of creating incredible projects.
Here are a few examples:
Why partake in GN?
At QAE we use Blooms Taxonomy to help guide our teaching and design opportunities for students. Bloom's taxonomy (pyramid below) is a way of distinguishing the fundamental questions within the education system. It is named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators that devised the taxonomy.
Genius Hour is a perfect project for students to reach the top of the pyramid. We love that creativity is the highest level of learning!
While students end up producing some sort of product, its more about the process, reflection and gain of 21st century skills.
Here is a list of skills students will gain:
Generating Ideas (brainstorming)
Originality of Ideas
Risk Taking/Problem Solving
Notes to parents:
This is a student driven project yet you are encouraged to be involved. Rather than solve problems for students, ask questions instead.
What inspired your idea?
What is your plan?
What aspect are you most concerned about?
What aspect are you most excited about?
How can you add on or improve your project?
What aspect are you proud of?
What aspect have you pushed yourself on?
In our classroom, it is clear that students have embraced the reading culture and vibe I was hoping to create. We are sharing books constantly through conversation, discussion, and book talks. Numerous books have waitlists posted in the back.
We have been reflecting on the Wild Reader challenge (40 books in a year) and how to plan to read from all genres. Graphic novels are definitely popular in our class. While I absolutely want to introduce students to the joy of straight print, I am planning to take advantage of their obsession. I have ordered some classic literature in graphic novel form, which may help them fulfill the classic literature goal.
Here are a few examples of GN classics:
While I try to stock our library with books that kids will buzz about, I can't afford them all. Students are allowed to take my books home. It's an honor system. If you happen to see a book with my name on it, please help your student remember to return it. Likely, another student is waiting for it.
Please talk books with your student and spend time exploring books they may love. I like to check out Good Reads (children's lit.) for ideas and reviews.
Another great place to check out books is Common Sense Media. It's a great source to check out reviews but also find out if the book is age appropriate.
Students should be reading every night. Independent reading, reading out loud and listening to read alouds are all beneficial. If students are independently reading you can help them think about their stamina by making a plan about building in breaks if needed. Many students can work on fluency by reading aloud (to parents, siblings, dogs). Listen for accuracy and flow in their reading. If you are reading aloud, its okay to stop and ask questions. Try to keep questions simple.
Try these out:
What do you think? This question can provide plenty of opportunities for students to make sense of and apply new information. It's also great for building ideas with each other.
Why do you think that? After students share what they think, this follow-up question pushes them to provide reasoning for their thinking.
How do you know this? When this question is asked, students can make connections to their ideas and thoughts with things they've experienced, read, and have seen.
Can you tell me more? This question can inspire students to extend their thinking and share further evidence for their ideas.
What questions do you still have? This allows students to offer up questions they have about the information, ideas or the evidence.
Remember: Students have Reader's notebooks where they keep stats of their reading. Ask them to bring it home to view and chat about it. Keep in mind, it's okay if students are reading more books from their favorite genre. Eventually they will see their gap and can make more challenging book selections.
Assessing: I have nearly completed fluency and comprehension assessments. I will be sharing more details during conferences.
Homework is starting this week! Check out my website under the 'Homework' section for more about philosophy. Students will always have reading and math each week. In addition, students will almost always have an additional task connected to the curriculum, class happenings or 21st century skills.
Reading - Read each night for 30 minutes. Students do not need to keep a reading log. However, they can record books completed in their Reader’s Notebook. Students have a Wild Reader Challenge (40 books) this year and books read at home will count. Some students will choose to bring the notebook home and others will choose to keep at school. Feel free to ask your student to see their progress but please help your student return it back to school each day.
Math - Every couple weeks students may receive a math challenge from Ms. Francisco, our math specialist. This is an optional activity but I encourage students to be up for the challenge. Feel free to help the students with the thinking and reasoning by asking questions and working through it together. The challenges are about deep thinking, making mistakes, trying new ideas or strategies, and using symbols/words/numbers, etc.
ST Math - We expect students to spend 90 minutes a week on ST in order to keep up with concepts and make the time valuable. We will spend 45 minutes/week on it at school so another 45 minutes/week will need to take place at home. If you need help accessing this program, please send a message to Mr. Jeffrey (librarian).
Reflex Math – This is a fact fluency program. It focuses on speed and accuracy. We expect students to spend about 15-20 minutes three times/week. Students will work on Reflex two times/week at school so they only need to complete once/week at home. Students should play until the green light in the upper right corner turns on. This will show that the student made the proper amount of progress for the session. Ask your student to show you their progress (they can access it). If you need help gaining access, please let me know.
Other- In addition to reading and math, students will have other tasks. These tasks will be sent home on Mondays and should be returned on Fridays. The tasks can be found in the orange folders. Each Friday, students will reflect on own progress, share with others and build on skills.
Our class is participating in a week of math through YouCubed from Jo Boaler at Stanford University. New discoveries have been made about our brains, mindset and learning so YouCubed produced videos and activities to prove it. Teachers around the country (and at QAE) are raving about the results. So, I decided to try it!
Students are taking their learning home, revisiting ideas and expanding each day. I'm thinking our "week" of YouCubed could easily turn into two weeks!
Here is a bit of info from the YouCubed website:
This week is about inspiring students through open, beautiful and creative math. We have chosen the different tasks so that students see math as a broad, interesting and visual subject that involves deep thinking. Students will learn important growth mindset messages that will help them feel confident, try harder all year, persist with open and difficult problems and embrace mistakes and challenge. All tasks are low floor and high ceiling – they are accessible to all students and they extend to high levels.
Each activity has a math focus and a mindset focus.
Here is an outline:
Day 1- Four 4's - Our brains are plastic and we can all achieve in math if we continue to return to ideas and push through. We can change our mindset about math.
The task: By using only four 4's try to create and equation equally the numbers 1-20. We explored by using operations they we know (+. -, *, /), Then, we incorporated parenthesis, square root and exponents! While the board looks messy, its also a sign that students put in a lot of effort and extended their thinking!
Day 2 - Numbers made of dots - If we can work to cross our brain by seeing symbols as numbers and drawing at the same time then we will likely understand material better.
Task: Find the symbols and numbers by studying and coloring. What patterns do you see?
Task: Add three consecutive numbers to find the sum. Compare the sums until you see a sequence or pattern. Can you predict the sums without actually adding?
Day 3 - Folding geometry - Deep thinking is NOT fast thinking.
Task: Construct a sqaure (cut from edge to edge). You can fold and write on the paper as needed. Convince a friend or skeptic its a perfect square. Hint: Think about the properties of a square (degrees of angles, equal lengths of sides, equal diagonals, sides are parallel).
Day 4 - Exploring patterns - Patterns and sequencing can be found throughout our world (nature, art, etc.)
Day 5 - Seeing shapes grow - Perseverance - We looked for sequences, and patterns, rules. Then, students created their own.
Remember: If you want to see students in action, more photos are posted on the 'photo gallery' section of the website.
When I was growing up I spent most of my free time outside in the woods or in my room with the door locked. I remember playing for hours and hours with no adult interruptions. In fact, my most memorable childhood memories come from those opportunities. I remember constructing a full set of braces out of paperclips and staples, making paper dolls with detailed outfits out random materials from around the house, playing Barbies with my neighbor and reenacting all the drama at school, catching a fish with a pole completely constructed of natural materials found in the woods, and rerouting and damning a stream to make a "swimming pool." I'm sure you can go on and on about your similar memories too!
Research shows the importance of unstructured play for our learners. We want to support the idea and participate in this movement. So, the 4th grade classes, as well as a few other grade levels, have decided to participate in the Global School Play Day on Feb. 4th. We are dedicating the morning (10:10-12:40) to this idea. We are encouraging students to bring toys (no electronics), materials, and supplies that they help them explore. If you want to stop by and play, feel free. I think I might bring in blankets and build a fort!
Students had a great time at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. First, students gathered to solve a "history mystery". They worked in pairs by following clues and using tools (artifacts, ephemera, newspapers, , magazines, photographs and books). The end result was the discovery of Fort Nisqually, which was the first European settlement on Puget Sound. After the mystery was solved, we had time to learn more about the Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade through a role play scenario.
Students were excited to make connections to the previously studied Lewis and Clark journey and our current NW Coast unit. The experience was fascinating and packed full of information!
You may have heard by now that our NW Coast unit has begun. Students are learning about NW Coast natives by participating in a role play story that twists and turns based on the tribes responses to critical incidences.
To begin, the students created characters (traits, skills) and family structures (roles and responsibilities). Then, they figured out how to live off the land and use natural resources to survive. They built longhouses and established totem poles to represent their clan.
The next step was to select a chief of the tribe. They discussed different traits they wanted to see in a leader (so insightful).
Then, they looked to their own clan members to see if they had any qualified members. It turned out that there were several so I left the decision up to the students as to how the chief would be chosen (I am the narrator at this point and stepped back to let them figure it out). They decided to hold a meeting/council and allow for tribe members to speak about why they would be a good choice as a chief.
Note: Sorry about the video footage (can't figure out how to rotate the videos). The most important part is the audio so at least that turned out!
Sometimes learning and collaborating can be noisy! Stay tuned to hear the results as we ran out of time and had to stop our story with a cliffhanger!
It is clear to us at QAE that we need to equip our students with typing skills so they can communicate all their ideas in great detail rather than feel limited. With ipads coming soon we are even more excited about this opportunity. Please encourage your student to begin the training at home and practice as often as possible.
Instructions for parents, logins and passwords were sent home today (small slips of square paper). If you need extra assistance you can check with me or Mr. Jeffrey. Also, note that you can add the program to any device as a web app.
Every winter break I have big plans for all that I want to accomplish (professionally and personally), but inevitably I fall short of meeting my goals. Instead I look back and realize that I spent a lot of time relaxing, socializing and celebrating. While I wished I could stick to my plan, I still feel really good about how much I enjoyed myself. I hope you and your family can say the same!
I want to thank you for the generous and thoughtful gifts before the holiday break. I received many sweet treats (written notes and edible delights). I also am very excited to spend my gift card for REI from the class ( I can't decide what to buy!). I have been using my beautiful purple thermos as well. Thank you for thinking of me and being so generous!
I haven't been the best at communicating all the class happenings in the past few months so this is my attempt to catch everyone up.
WA State History Museum - We have an upcoming field trip to the WA State History Museum in Tacoma on Thursday, Jan. 15th. Students will embark on a mystery tour where they use their detective skills. We are very excited to connect this trip to our Northwest Coast People unit.
The permission form was sent home a couple weeks ago with pertinent information. It turns out that about half of you responded (completely understand as it went home right before the holiday break). I will be resending to students who did not return. Please note that we will need drivers (all day) and there is a $7 fee.
Children's Theatre - We also have an opportunity to go to the Children's theatre for a matinee showing of Mwindo, which will connect to storytelling during our NW Coast unit. This field trip will take place on Feb. 6th. Please look for the permission form this week, which will include details about chaperones, metro fares and admission fees.
Upcoming Units -
NW Coast People - This unit will continue. With some brief exploration (Burke museum and art), the students are very excited for this unit to kick into full gear. They have built some background knowledge about the Lewis and Clark expedition with a read aloud titled Streams to the River, River to the Sea. Next they will partake in activities that build an understanding of the forces that threatened the NW Coast culture.
Reading - Students will continue to partake in the 40 Book Challenge and focus on reading books for meaning and purpose. They will also continue to participate in the read aloud with deep thinking prompts and responses.
Writing - Students completed the persuasive essay unit and we celebrated before break. They were quite passionate and convincing about their topics. Next will be literary essays, which will be based off of our read aloud book. Students will each select a theme and find examples from the text. Another celebration will take place and students will be able to select which essay to share.
Math - The multi-digit multiplication unit wrapped up for the most part. However, students will continue with Reflex math and practicing algorithms. Next they will learn division! Forewarning, this unit always tends to be frustrating to students initially because it takes practice. They will get it in time!
Homework - During conferences several students and parents suggested giving more time for homework because it can be difficult to complete on time with other activities and commitments happening throughout the week. So, I have decided to send homework home on Fridays! This means your student will have an extra couple days to work towards completing homework. Homework is still due on Fridays.
Photos - The photo gallery on my website has been updated. The photos certainly don't capture everything but it's still fun to see what we have been up to this year.
Blogs - Student blogs have been linked to photos on my website. Students can work on their homepage by describing themselves as a person and learner. They can add photos or videos from their/your personal library. All images should have a description. Please discourage your students to add random images from the internet.
Portfolios - Students will eventually be adding their work to their blogs. We have been storing it in files and binders in the meantime (this is why you have not seen anything come home). We, as in the 4th grade team, have been holding out for ipads, which will be so easy and less time intensive than scanning each students work. Stay tuned!
Bio (kind of the long version)