Sunday, June 26, 2016

Genius Hour: What I learned this year!

Genius Hour. Passion Projects. 20% Projects. All of these names are different, but the soul of each name is allowing students to dive in deep about one of their passions and let them FLY. If you are not familiar with the idea it is based off of Google’s 20% rule. They give their workers 20% of their work time to work on a project that they are passionate about as long as it is connected to Google in someway. For example GMAIL came from a 20% project. Over the past few years Genius Hour has become part of classrooms all over the world!

I have done some sort of Genius Hour project in my classroom since I started teaching back in the 90’s. I worked in Mexico for my first 10 years of teaching and we used the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). SEM provides opportunities for students to explore their interests in topics through Type 2 and Type 3 projects. If a student was interested in a topic he/she would work in the Center of Excellence (COE) room with the Gifted teacher. We strongly believed that ALL kids showed giftedness in different areas at different times. So the COE was a revolving door of sorts. Kids would work on projects for a few weeks and then a new group would come in.  I love so many aspects of using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. I especially LOVED the training we received from Dr. Renzulli and Dr. Reis from The University of Connecticut.  If you ever want to attend a tremendous training on differentiation, curriculum compacting, passion projects, creativity attend CONFRATUTE! It is worth every single penny!

The difference between our Type 3 projects from long ago to Genius Hour now is that we are ALL working on a project in our classroom. I love this inclusion piece. I love how we all help each other. I love when a student is researching for his own project and he runs across something for someone else’s project and is SO EXCITED TO SHARE. I love how we celebrate all of the stages of a Genius Hour project for every student.

I have learned so much about my students through Genius Hour this year. Genius Hour is always popular in my class, but this year it just exploded of happiness and rigor! I have been reflecting on what made this year different and am excited to share with you what I have learned.

In the book “Kids Deserve It!” by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome they talk a lot about finding your tribe. I sometimes feel lonely in my work. I tend to do things a bit differently and don’t always know whom to talk with to reflect on how things are going. This year I started using Twitter and Voxer on a daily basis. This has provided a tremendous support for me. When I came across a situation with Genius Hour I could tweet out to #GeniusHour to ask for some help problem solving. Or I could Vox with some teachers who use Genius Hour. I think I thought I needed to figure things out on my own, but have found this year that having a tribe is SO MUCH better.
I love the book “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” This quote has been my guide for a long time, but I hadn’t realized how much it relates to Genius Hour until this year. Giving students a CHOICE is an uncommon experience for them. Letting them choose their topic, how to present their learning, and where they want to present their learning are THREE different uncommon experiences for them in a school setting. It was a lot of work to schedule 23 different presentations, but it was worth all of the time and effort it took! We had students present in each classroom at our school. Students presented at the middle school and even at a senior citizen home in town.
“I do not need to be in control!” Let me repeat that again “I do not need to be in control!” This was my biggest lesson during Genius Hour this year. I do not need to make decisions for the students. I do not need to tell them how to present. I do not need to take over their project. By letting go of the control and letting the students choose what they wanted to learn about we had students engaged, students giving their best, students stepping out of their comfort zones, and the list goes on and on.

I learned so much about each of my students this Genius Hour round. I was able to have these great conversations with them about their passions and why they were interested in certain things. I was able to connect them with other adults in our community who have the same interests!  In "Kids Deserve It" the authors talked about relationships and how they need to be at the forefront of what you are doing EvERY DAY! Genius Hour provided that for me this year. It takes TIME, but it is so worth it. 

The presentations blew me away this year. I know I keep saying that, but they truly did. Just to give you a sample of what the students accomplished. I share this with you to show how DIFFERENT the presentations can be and how AWESOME that truly is! 
A student created a Japanese meal for his favorite teachers and his mom!     
A kiddo created his own bakery! He made up his own currency for kids to use. Baked cookies and brownies. Learned about giving change back. SO FULL OF CONFIDENCE!

Another student learned about gold and he taught first graders about different strokes! He had them all try them out!   

This sweet girl created her own cook book and COOKING SHOW! It was amazing!
Jakin's family is moving to Costa Rica this summer, so he spent his Genius Hour time learning Spanish! He then worked with a small group of 1st graders and taught them several words in Spanish. 

There are so many resources out there to help you with this process! 
The Genius Hour Handbook was just released last November and I read it in three hours! I LOVED it and it is chock full of resources, best thing is it was written by TWO TEACHERS! Also has a truckload of free resources for you to use! I would highly recommend jumping on Twitter and search for #GeniusHour as you will find tons of people ready to help you get started. Jen Rundee of Rundee's room has some wonderful support for Genius Hour on her blog!

Since I loop up to 5th grade in August I will get to be with my same kiddos! SO EXCITED! I have some new goals for Genius Hour time for this next year. 1) I want students to blog about what they are learning during the process 
2) I would like to see their presentations be in front of authentic audiences! I want people in the audience that are truly into what the student is talking about. For example if a student does a project on CrossFit then we will contact our local CrossFit Box to see if they can present there. 
3)Really want to spend more time with kiddos that are struggling with what to do. I don't want to rush them to pick something.

Have you used Genius Hour in your classroom? What was your learning? What are you struggling with? Share your comments below and let's help each other!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Year with Flexible Seating!

 “What she wanted was a classroom where students could move around freely, sit comfortably, and work together. The more she thought about it, the more she knew she wanted her classroom to have a similar feel as the children’s section in Barnes & Noble or a creative play space in a museum.” –Erin K, Teacher and Technology Expert

A couple of years ago I started seeing a lot of posts in Instagram about #FlexibleSeating or #AlternativeSeating. I was intrigued by the idea, so I started researching a bit more about it. I had a lot of questions, but I knew that my heart was sold on this idea right from the start.

Heavy Influences:
Edutopia: Learning Environments

Cult of Pedagogy

A Principal’s Perspective

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George  Couros 

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student  By: John Spencer and A J Juliani

My first year teaching, 20 years ago, I had my desks in rows, but that just never felt right to me, but I didn’t know what to do about it. My 9th grade students would turn their desks to form groups almost every day. It never occurred to me to leave the desks in a group setting.
I have come a long way from those cemetery rows in my classroom! The past few years I have used The Daily Five approach in my reading instruction and it has expanded to my math instruction as well.This allows for a lot of flexibility of where students sit and learn. Our main space “The Gathering Place” is a constant, but where students sit to read, write, and share does NOT have to be at a desk.

As I became more and more immersed in The Daily Five philosophy I realized how important student choice is. I also saw that by giving student’s choice I was getting back much more quality work and engagement. Kayla Deltzer (@TopDogTeaching) says “The more power I give up in our classroom. The more I get back.” #TRUTH

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year I knew I wanted to dive into Flexible Seating options, but I also knew I wanted my students to be a big part of the process. We started the year with our desks in groups, but students ALWAYS had the option to sit where they wanted. We spent MUCH time at the beginning of the year creating expectations for the different options in our room. We used the approach of “What Does it look Like, What Does it Sound Like, and What does it Feel like” when I working in this space. 

We did this not only for spaces, but for ALL THINGS: Read to ME, Read to Someone, Technology, Math Centers, and the list goes on  and on. There was not a question about the expectations as we could refer to our charts we created at anytime. 

I tend to do most of my whole group teaching at The Gathering Place (no more than 15 minutes at a time) and then let the students head off to their individual work or group work. This is where it became so much fun! We talked a lot about how the whole purpose of this was to find the BEST PLACES for you to work. We talked a lot about how that could be different for different assignments. I  picked five students to track where they sat during the year and it was so interesting to watch.  One student ALWAYS sat a table/desk when she was doing math, but for writing she had ALWAYS had a clipboard, a blanket, and a pillow, and for reading you would ALWAYS find her in one of the comfy chairs. Whereas another student was all over the place for things and he did just fine!

This is the day we found out we got the grant! The kids went CRAZY! 

Remember that at this point I still had 22 desks in my classroom, but also let students be where they wanted to be when working. In October we found out that we received a grant from the McPherson Education Foundation for $1,300. The kids were JUMPING UP AND DOWN. We decided that we would do a SLOW process of #DitchingTheDesks. We took five out that first week and added in  four IKEA tables and some stools along with some more pillows, and bins.

Over the next few weeks we added in more options and took away desks. Please note that the students did NOT have to get rid of their desk. Remember this was ALL about having the BEST SPACE for learning for each child. I had three students who kept their desk during the school year. They didn’t always sit at their desk, but they liked having THEIR space.

By January all, but four desks where out of the room. We got more bookshelves for #ALLTHEBOOKS and also went back and forth on how to store our supplies. We purchased bins from Really Good Stuff that we loved at first,  but changed over to the 10-Drawer Carts from Sterlite by the end of the year. They seemed to work better for us. WE also used a Community Supply model for pencils, pens, markers, scissors, etc.

We did have a BIG challenge with the Fire Code! My classroom was written up in January for having to many flammable items such as blankets, pillows, furniture, and rugs. I was in a bit of a panic as I knew what I was doing was the BEST decision for my students, but I also needed to follow the  law.  We worked to find places to store our pillows and blankets  so that when we were not using them they would be in a cupboard. We got rid of a few chairs that we were not using very much. A few of my teaching colleagues helped me greatly with looking at different ways to organize things. The students helped as well. It was a total community effort. In the end it worked out, but I do have to admit there were some moments of panic!

I am teaching the same group of students again next year as I loop up to 5th grade with my kiddos. At the end of the year we did dream and discuss changes we wanted for the upcoming school year. We use the app SeeSaw A LOT so the students would like to have a recording booth of some sort.  Also they want to have an additional bungee chair (the most popular seating choice in our room). We wrote a Donor’s Choose grant from some wobble stools, I am really hoping to get them!  Students also wanted to be part of setting up the room from the beginning!

We will for sure have some new friends join us this next year, so we will need to do a good job of going over expectations and helping our new friends understand the reason WHY we have the different seating options. I think at the end of this NEXT year I will have students make movies about how to use the different seating options for my new group of students coming up! I love that idea from @mrvesco from #KSEdChat. 

I am looking forward to August 10th when students come in from summer break and help set up the classroom. I have a feeling it will be the easiest classroom set up yet! Can’t wait to see what they decide and how our classroom changes throughout the year!

I am SO GLAD I took the risk to try this. I am a better teacher because of this. I think about my students FIRST now, I use to think I did that, but now I know that I do. I have learned so much more about teamwork in the classroom and how to create a culture of learners and team players. I love watching the creativity of the kids just blossom because they are not confined to a desk. I can't wait to see what happens next year!

Have you jumped into Flexible Seating? What have you learned? What has been the best learning for you in this process? Share in the comments below! Let’s help each other!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Classroom Room Reveal Part 1 & a Giveaway!

Welcome Back to School Friends! 
I am so excited to share with you my classroom-my home away from home for this school year! Last year I spent a ton of time revamping my classroom. This year I had some tweaks to make, based on how things worked last year, but I did keep the same color scheme and patterns! 

I have been researching a lot about light and colors and comfy chairs this summer. I tend to work better if I go to Starbucks. I like the big tables, the comfy chairs, the dim lights, and of course the Venti Iced Coffee. I wondered if my kids would work better in this type of environment, well minus the iced coffee!

I went to garage sales and found lamps and I just quickly spray painted them! I was able to find some additional comfy seating from pillows to chairs. I still have desks, but I am in the process of writing a grant to get more forms of alternative seating and hopefully say good-bye to most of the desks!

I am so blessed to have a BIG classroom and only have 20 kiddos this year! I know! I know! I hope that when they walked in on that first day they felt PEACE and HAPPINESS and that this is a SAFE SPACE.

I will share with you some of my favorite spaces in #4Z this year! 

 I love so much this quote my Kid President! This quote is right away our focus board! We see it everyday! My hope is that we all will do just this! I used the amazing chevron designer letters from Creative Teaching Press. Oh I love theses letters!  

 I love the chevron BIG library pockets! I am using this year to house our Daily Five reflection sheets and centers! I teamed them up with Daily Five signs from Rachelle at What The Teacher Wants. I just LOVE the mason jar cut out as well! It is just so darling! 

When I saw the Painted Palette Social Media Motivators Headlines in the Creative Teaching Press catalog in May I KNEW that I had to have them! My teaching partner and I developed our entire classroom theme around # because of these headlines! We our the #FantasticFourthGrade! I just love how their are so many colors in the signs! I teamed it with a fun lime green border. This space is a CHALK BOARD! AHHHHH! I bought some of the dry erase sticky paper and made each end of the chalk board into a dry erase border! It has been WONDERFUL to have the extra writing space!  

 I love so much the Inspire-U posters! Teamed up with the wavy borders and chalkboard on polka-dots you have a WINNING combination! I love the POP of the wavy border! Just love this bulletin board so much! 

 I love these posters from Top Dog Teacher and the social media headline was just a perfect fit with this section in my room! 

 I think this is my most favorite bulletin board ever! I made this last year, but I just couldn't take it down! I love the flowers, I love the chevron, I love the quote. It is just perfect!

Congrats to Creative Teaching Press on their 50th Year! Just feel blessed to be able to showcase some of their amazing products with each and everyone of you!

So there is my classroom! I will be back to talk about some of the new organizational sections are working and if I am actually able to go #deskless! 

What is your favorite Creative Teaching Press product and why? Comment in the section and I will use number generator to pick a comment and send you a $15 gift card! Giveaway ends on Tuesday evening (Sept 2-15)

Several of my blogging friends are linking up to showcase how they use some of the cool products from Creative Teaching Press! Head on over to Keeping Up with Mrs. Harris for some more great ideas! 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Creative Teaching Press Fun! $50 Giveaway!

EDITED: Contest is Over! Congrats to Katy G! Can't wait to see what you get with your gift certificate! Even if you did not win, it's not too late to find some wonderful products! Click on the PRETTY, PRETTY PINK chevron border to take you to locator to find a store near you!

Happy Sunshiny Day, well actually in Kansas it has been raining buckets for days! To be honest, I kinda of like the slow start to summer, that we actually get a spring!

These first few days of vacation II am thinking of all of the fun & relaxation that will take place, but my mind always turns towards thinking about my classroom décor for the next year as well. 

Did you know that Creative Teaching Press is proud to be celebrating 50 years of teachers helping teachers?  This is my 19th year of teaching and I think I have always had CTP products as part of my classroom! 

As an exclusive CTP blogger I am thrilled to share with you some of the new products and  give you a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to CTP!

Last year my classroom was decorated with a mix of the chevron and the BW collection. I acquired a lot of chevron this past year in terms of rugs, lamp shades, along with pretty much everything that CTP has of  chevron: borders, library pockets, name tags, labels, and my favorite ABC stickers! My students and I loved our happy, bright, vivid classroom! 

This next year I am leaning more towards mixing the
Painted Palette and Chalk It Up! collections together! More than likely I will add some chevron in there as an accent! I can't wait to start decorating! 

Mason Jars? I thought I had died and gone to heave when I saw theses Designer Cut-Outs So many ideas! I can't wait to start creating with theses!

I am in LOVE with the Dots on Chalkboard from the Chalk It Up! Collection. So many color choices and the color just adds that POP to a chalkboard themed classroom!

Do you see how this PINK CHEVRON goes with the Chalk It Up! borders? I just can't even! If my kids thought last year's classroom was bright and vivid ...just wait! 

One of my favorite things that CTP created last year was the Inspire U Posters. I love the chalkboard design and the touch of color!

There are SO MANY posters in this collection and I LOVE each and every quote that was selected for them! The posters truly DO INSPIRE myself and my kiddos! I have all of the posters hung up around my room, but we would have one poster that was our "Focus Poster" every two weeks or so. 

We had a routine with our Focus Poster that honestly I just loved! 

This routine became part of our classroom culture. At first students where shy about sharing their viewpoints, but within a short time frame students felt safe and they started sharing. I love so much how our chalkboard became decorated with all kinds of compliments for classmates and teachers/staff.  I am beyond excited about the many additional posters this year! 

There are so many more AMAZING products that CTP has created for this special 50th Anniversary! If you had $50 what would you buy? You have the chance to WIN your dream list! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And guess what???
You can earn even more chances to win Creative Teaching Press items by visiting the sites of other exclusive bloggers!
Head on over and visit my friend Cindy at Mrs. Price's Kindergators to see the wonderful products see is featuring! 

Happy Summer Friends! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Blogger Match-Up!

I LOVE March Madness!

There are so many fun things to do with your students during this month!

I am really excited about the March Blogger Match-Up that The Creative Classroom is hosting! 

64 bloggers signed up and were each randomly given a team to cheer on during the tournament! If your team loses then you share a product with the blogger that you were matched against! As well, we will be giving the same products away on our blogs! You have a chance to WIN a LOT OF PRODUCTS this month! SO FUN! 

Now I am from Kansas! So WE KNOW BASKETBALL! In fact I got to check out a big item off my bucket list in December when I got to go to the FAMOUS ALLENFIELD HOUSE and go to a KU game! The great thing is that Kansas doesn’t just have our beloved Jayhawks in the tournament, but also the fantastic WSU team! We really couldn’t be prouder of our Shockers! Although I have to admit we are a little upset that they just MIGHT be playing each other! Who will win?  #rockchalkjayhawk #playangry #shockers

Now with our Blogger Match-Up I got paired with the North Carolina Tar Heels! I didn’t know much about the Tar Heels, but I am pleased to find out that they are ranked #4 and did you know that they have a passion for service! They do all KINDS OF SERVICE projects! I just LOVE THAT! So tonight I will be cheering on the TAR HEELS!
Insert picture!

I am going against the amazing Bridget from Hardcore Teacher Resources who will be cheering on LSU!

One of the things I love about the blogging community is how we can all learn so much from each other! When I saw that I was paired with Bridget, I spent ALL MORNING on her blog and in her TPT store! My TPT cart is OVERFLOWING! She has some GREAT ideas and some pretty fantastic products!  Bridget is a Gifted Teacher and oh my the amazing things she gets to do with her kids! LOVE! 

Let’s see who the WINNER will be! Leave a comment with WHO you are rooting for to enter the giveaway! IF the TAR HEELS  win or don't win this game (which I am CONFIDENT they will!) I will give away THREE products to the giveaway winner and of course to Bridget! 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

MOVEMBER FUN! Plus a Giveaway!

Happy November 1st Friends!

The last two weeks have just been a BLAST in our classroom! I wanted to do unit on nutrition in relation to Halloween candy, but I couldn’t find the hook that I needed…until….

Did you know that November is commonly called MOVEMBER? Mo Bros take action by changing their appearance by growing a moustache for the 30 days of Movember, to spark conversation and raise funds for men’s health research. Mo Sistas commit to supporting the men in their lives while helping to promote men’s health.”

I pulled out our fancy mustaches from Creative TeachingPress to add a little excitement to our experiments and discussion in science this week. We talked about MOVEMBER and what is and why it is important. The majority of the kiddos knew about it to some extent, several of the kids knew someone that has participated in Movember at some point. We divded into our learning about nutrition, healthy habits, and a close look at sugar! 

Do you colored pencils or markers in close reading?
I looked high and low for some great passages on nutrition to use with my 5th graders. I was SO excited to find this amazing packet from BIG IDEAS IN TEACHING. What I loved about it was the content was SPOT ON, but I LOVED the strategy to go back and COLOR CODE the answers to the questions. We will be using that from now on. Of course we had to use our mustache pencils to help us with this! I just took a mustache from the 100’s that come in this packet from CTP and hot glued them to the top of each pencil. The kids LOVED using their pencils each week! I loved how motivated they were to do their work! 

Do you know how much sugar is in your favorite snacks?
I have been on a “Let’s Get Healthy” journey over this past year. I look at food labels, plan out my meals, and hit the gym on a regular basis. I WAS SHOCKED by the news that American children eat 116 pounds of sugar every year. I wanted to do something with our favorite snacks and let the students visually see what they were eating! I came across Melissa’s amazing SUGAR SHOCK post.

I knew I needed to do this activity as well.I love a good hands on lesson, but I love even more a lesson that IMPACTS our thinking and IMPACTS our health. I asked the students to bring in their favorite sugary snack. We then used the nutritional information to determine how much sugar was in that snack. Students then had to do a little math as 1 gram of sugar = 4 tsps of sugar. We used graduated cylinders to pour our sugar in. 

We created a nifty display on the center table of our classroom. We just couldn’t stop talking about the results. Whenever someone would come into our room to drop something off, one of the students who ask them to come and look at our display. The kids LOVED sharing the information. We ended up keeping it up for Parent Teacher Conferences and the parents were AMAZED as well. My hope is that students take a closer look at what they are eating. We talked about how it is okay to have a pack of M&M’s, but then you should go and play outside with a friend! Truly fascinating conversations we had this week! 

We mustache you what did you learn about sugar?

So much sugar is NOT needed for your body. It is not good for your systems.

Candy Labs-The Great Motivator
We pulled out our mustaches one more time this week to become Mustache Scientists! I think they would wear the mustaches all day if they could! We have been studying properties of matter in science and I used The Science Penguin’s Candy Lab’s product to help us explore the properties of matter through candy. You might be asking, Did they eat the candy?  NO! We used the candy to help learn about describing matter, but we didn’t eat ANY OF IT. When I did this last year, we did, but this year after looking at sugar, none of them even wanted to (well, maybe a few!)!  We were able to use a triple beam balance, measure the volume of the candies, test for solubility, and look at refraction! Such a FUN week of learning.  I really believe that this week will be a touchstone for us. When we are struggling with understand what relative density is or solubility we can think back to what we did this week!

Creative Teaching Press is behind MOVEMEBER 100%.  So much so they would love to give away to one lucky reader a packet of mustaches & photo booth kit so that you can show your support of this important cause! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can't wait to hear your ideas! Happy Week friends!