Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#DitchThatTextbook Chap 4-7

Can I tell you how much I love this quote? I'm not one to pretend that I know everything. My students are always asking questions and I don't always know the answers. So I say, "Why don't you look that up?" or "Why don't you Google that and share the answer with us?"

It is all about teaching students where to find answers, not act like we know all the answers. I've had several parents tell me when they ask questions at home their child will say what I say, "Why don't we Google that?" I love that they are taking the initiative to find the answers to their questions.

I started doing #GeniusHour last year and my students loved it. They couldn't get over the fact that I would allow them to research and share information about anything they were interested in. We did have the discussion that their projects had to be school appropriate but they were super excited! When I first started planning to do this I had no idea how I would fit the time in. We have specials 4 days a week (45 minute block) but one day a week we don't. I normally used that time to catch up on social studies or another subject if we needed extra time. But I decided to make that our Genius Hour time and my kids never let me forget. There were days when we were out for weather last year and they would give up recess time to make it up. They were allowed to research something they were passionate about and I loved seeing their excitement.

I started by having them create a heart map. They drew a large heart and filled it with all the things they were passionate about. Then I had them write a wonder on a post it note. That would be the guide for what they wanted to research. They posted their post it note for everyone to see and they organized their plan using our class Trello board.

There were so many different things the students shared with each other. Once they finished we would let them share with the class and post about things on their blogs. There are areas where I need to improve and work on some mini lessons to help them grow beyond their basic questions. But for the first year, I'm tickled with the way this turned out. I'm planning to do it again this coming school year and I love learning what my students are passionate about. This last year we learned about aquatic animals, how to draw, break dancing, and many other things!

While I wasn't ready to make my class completely self-directed, I did find a way to allow students to find their passions. With a few little changes I made it work. I'm going to do things a little different this year, but I was willing to start. That made such a big impact on my students. I loved watching them work together to find answers, learn how to use new technology, and share what they discovered. So if you're thinking about finding a way to empower students to find their passions, this would be the route to go! Your plan doesn't have to be perfect!

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