Genius Hour…Finally!

I had that “kid on the night before Christmas that can’t sleep” feeling last night! The moment that had been evolving since ISTE was finally here.  It was Genius Hour Eve, and I was one excited teacher! 

Thanks to some incredible resources that were selflessly shared, I was able to quickly put together a Thinglink with videos that could wow and inspire students to take risks, be passionate, and get creative! As I laid in bed, I had to remind myself that this would be a journey.  It would take time and may not be the great unveil I had been expecting.

Genius Hour Thinglink Videos

Since I promised full disclosure of my technology journey, I will be honest in saying the technology part of my lesson was a disaster! The students were pumped after the build up to learning freedom pep talk that my co-teaching partner and I delivered. They bustled up to get their laptops and logon. They quickly navigated to the classroom teacher’s page and clicked on the thinglink that was ready to inspire…and…ALL THE LINKS WERE BLOCKED! 

I was not going to sweat this.  I had just promised these sweet, teacher pleasing students that it was o.k. to take risks. No worries! I had to model this, so my fearless partner and I swiftly began copying links into safeshare.tv. Furiously posting them on her website for all the students to access.  Now all would be well again, but no!  Still no access!?  

We shifted gears again and had kids buddy up with others that had brought devices from home. (Why were those not blocked from the content when they were on the same network with a student login?) Finally, that melodious sound of multiple videos playing at the same time accompanied by kids OOHing and AAHing in harmony at Cain’s Arcade started to take shape.  The magic had happened even though the technology glitched! 

The students posted responses to videos on a Padlet page.  They began to journal lists of what they love to do, interests that are their own, and potential projects they’d like to create.  My co-teacher and I had opened the lesson by telling them that Genius Hour was our Genius Hour project. We have never done this, but feel passionate about it. We are taking a risk and putting it all out there to problem solve together in this journey.  

The lesson wasn’t technically perfect, but it was the perfect first step. Genius Hour is officially alive, and Thursdays will never be the same. Thanks to my partner for believing in this idea and sharing the classroom with me every day!  Let the passion begin and may creativity be ever in our favor!

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Step One-Class Dojo

ISTE seems like it was a million years ago, along with a summer of dreaming that is a distant memory. We have completed a little over a week of school with the kids and a week of preplanning before that. As with most beginnings, a lot of the dreaming melds with a good dose of reality, and a teacher is forced to make some choices. My year has started with an unexpected change in grade level(s) I support as a special education teacher, increased enrollment, and a handful of new students with IEP’s that need to be adopted from out of state already. I find myself at that new beginning I fantasized about this summer with some unexpected twists that were not a part of that fantasy. Do I take the easy, familiar road or do I stick with my mission? Do I make those small steps towards more innovative teaching or use these twists as reasons that it can’t happen right now?

My tiny, first step is official. I used Classdojo today with my second grade math group. The children were beside themselves with excitement when they saw their “monsters” and earned points. This is my first step towards gamification for this math group. There are children that struggle with behavior, children that struggle with math, and children that struggle with both. I am a firm believer in tackling the behavior first, so Classdojo seemed like a no brainer.

I introduced our behavior plan by having the kids walk into a room that was a mess! I acted shocked and surprised about the monster that had come to school today and messed up our room! They were eager to help clean and we read a short book about the monster’s first day of school. The kids loved reading about the monster and were quick to point out that he didn’t know the rules. We used that as a springboard to talk about our listening rules. The students colored in a printable monster and labeled the parts of his body for listening behaviors.

The next day we reviewed our listening rules and added in a video about personal space to help our monster. We role played being out of our space, in somebody else’s space, asking somebody to move out of our space, and apologizing for being in another’s space. These were all things that I had observed being an issue in my little group of friends the first few days we were together.
This all led up to the big reveal of Classdojo. The kids were so excited to see their own personal “monster” that would learn from all of their good choices. The first three behaviors monitored were; good listener, taking turns talking, and stays in space. I showed them how they were all doing all of those things and gave their monster awards. They were in awe! We used the timer to practice for 5 minutes and see if we could earn awards. They all did! We did it again because they begged. They got all their awards again!
I am excited to use Classdojo to communicate with parents, motivate students, and streamline necessary data needed for IEP’s. Small steps lead to the next step. Behavior first, math tool coming up next! I will continue this journey no matter what comes my way. I will not talk about it, I will BE about it! Some days it is hard, but the kids are worth it every day!