Student Led Learning-Genius Hour Style (with The Friendly Teacher)




This year I started using Genius Hour in my classroom. Now, I teach third grade so my genius hour isn't anything advance. But, the students have fallen in love with the fifteen minutes a day that they get to work on anything that they want to learn about.

The whole idea of Genius Hour is that the students pick something that they want to know how to do, they do tons of research on that topic and then they actually create it. When they are done they present this whole process to their peers.

Chris Kesler has put together some great introductions on this topic so check out this video here to learn more about it!!

I had students brainstorm things that they wanted to learn about. Then, they had to pick a topic that was signed off by me and their parents. We have a 15 minute period of the day that is no new instruction while I work with a small group. So, during that 15 minute period students are instructed to do the research on their topic. Then, once I see that they have a extensive amount of research they can actually create the project. For me, this is done as a early finisher of sorts. If you have everything done that needs to be turned in then you can work on your project. So, for most students this project is taking them over two quarters to complete. Which for me is great!


So far this year I have had a student make me a blanket!


A student make a potato clock!


Other things my students are creating are:
1. Google Site
2. Online Game
3. Stuffed Animal
4. Powerpoint explaining how to care for zoo animals



I love Genius Hour because it is a simple early finisher that allows students to work on something that they are passionate about, it drives them to want to finish their work so that they can work on it and it has helped them to learn new skills and create new things!

Student Led Learning {Teach Two Reach}




Allowing students to be in charge of their own learning is a win-win for everyone. I love to incorporate projects and activities that allow the kids independence and encourage inquiry. One way I do that is through teaching the Scientific Method. 

Students in 2nd grade KIND OF know what the Scientific Method is or have done some steps of it at least in other grades or projects, but I've never had anyone that can tell me all or most of the steps when I'm ready to introduce the topic. Just giving them a list of the steps means nothing to them. They can't see it in a tangible way. So one way that I love to allow students to lead their own learning - especially when it is time for the Science Fair, is to do a whole class experiment going through each step and creating a mock mini Science Fair board. Working in small groups, they make their way through each of the Scientific Method steps, through out the week and at the end, have a board that they have created on their own. This gives them a great stepping off point to go home and be able to do the real Science Fair experiment and set up without their parents doing ALL the work.. ;) 

To introduce the scientific method. I showed them the amazing Youtube video by Have Fun Teaching It's the Scientific Method Rap! They love it and we watch it over and over. The students learn the steps pretty quickly this way. 

First we set up the mock board.  Everyone gets to make their own so they can take it home and have a sample. The boards I got were from Michaels and they came in a pack of 5. I think it was under 3 dollars. Don't forget to use the 40 percent off coupons and teacher's discount!
 Next, we folded the board into three sections to resemble a trifold board, and then we set up the labels and added the sticky notes. I used sticky notes under the headings because it was quick, colorful, and fit very nicely into the small poster sized boards. 

All the kids do the same experiment but work in groups. Their task to see which type of gum will make the biggest bubble. It's a pretty simple and straight forward experiment. They had to come up with the title of their experiment, write out the question that they want to solve, list the materials they were given, and come up with a procedure of how they would solve this problem. 





For the hypothesis, I told the students to decide with an educated guess which type of gum; chewing or bubble (Juicy Fruit or Bubble Yum), would make the biggest bubble. They HAD to tell me why they thought that because it must be an educated guess. I liked some of their responses such as "I think the bubble gum would make the biggest bubble because it is bigger and has more sugar." Well, most kids chose the bubble gum, but two did choose chewing gum! Then we came up with the procedure and materials (gum and ruler). Only 5 kids in my class could blow a bubble. So I made 5 groups of 5 or 6. Everyone got to chew the gum, but the bubble blower in each group would be in charge of making the bubbles, and the rest of the group mates would take turns measuring the bubble from side to side in c.m. They had to do the trial 5 times and record the results for each type of gum. Then, we regrouped, analyzed our results and realized that bubble gum was the overall winner, and came up with our conclusion of whether their hypothesis was correct or not. 




Here are some pictures of how one board board looked like at the end:

Warning: realllllly poor picture quality headed your way...




 





Ok, FREEBIE TIME!! So the labels I quickly created for my class were kind of dull. I spruced them up. I included colored and black and white versions. Also, if you decide not to do the sticky note method, I provided blank boxes you can glue under the headings where the kids can write down their notes. There is also a blank label for a title. Included subtitles are: observations, background information, question, hypothesis, materials, procedure, data, trials 1, 2, and 3, analyze data, conclusion, bibliography, and acknowledgements I didn't use ALL of these labels on the board, but you can choose what will work for you. Click on the first picture to get you to the product! Enjoy!



I've also created a set of Scientific Method Posters and more that you can check out. 










Student Led Learning {with Aloha to Second}


One thing that I teach in kindergarten is how to be responsible, proactive, and independent problem solvers!  I think being able to work on your own and problem solve is a crucial skill to know!

One way I help my students be independent and lead their learning is by providing my students with various resources around the room and letting them choose what is best for them. 

They each have a writing folder and within the folder they have some resource pages.  They use this one to help them keep track of their stories and to see if they can add more to their writing. 

Students can also use these orange folders to help them with their writing.  They use these to check letters, sounds, and various words.


Each student also has a checklist in their folder to help them make sure that their writing is neat and ready to read. 

I provide the students with various resources, and then it is up to them to lead their learning and push themselves to be better students.  I love seeing my students grow in their learning when they get a chance to be in charge!



Student Led Learning in Upper Elementary

This is my first year teaching in upper elementary. One of the things that I have really worked on is implementing student-led learning in my classroom. It is definitely an area that I am constantly reflecting on because I definitely see a lot of growth from my students when they lead the learning. It also helps make learning relevant to students.


Since it is one of my goals to implement student-led learning in my classroom, it is something that I am studying up on. I love professional development books and this is my current read.  Let me start by saying it is a FABULOUS read! It has so many great ways to implement student-led learning and design thinking.

 Click HERE to see this book on amazon.

One of my favorite student-led learning opportunities is the design challenge. The only supplies that I gave my students were cardboard pieces, masking tape and poster board (11x11). I learned the hard way that the best thing is to cut the cardboard into strips. The students were able to cut the strips into smaller pieces for their maze. If you give them a box to cut, it will be a disaster. Just warning you now!


My students worked with measurement during this design challenge. They used rulers to make one inch marks to draw out a design grid. They also used protractors to measure angles. They also really got a chance to use critical thinking because we had to make sure that we designed a path that was wide enough to fit our ozobots.


After the design challenge, we worked on programming our ozobots to travel through our mazes. It was a great way to make our design challenge relevant.

I hope that you are able to implement student-led learning in your classroom. I would love to hear about your experiences.

Student Led Learning in Kindergarten

My last few years in the classroom I really tried to achieve a more student led classroom, however I have had a really hard time wrapping my mind around how to achieve it on a day to day basis. Because I am extremely type A, I like to plan everything out the best I can, not to mention letting go of controlling the classroom and the content often goes against everything I learned in college. But I know that by focusing on shifting to a more student led classroom students become more engaged, independent, self aware, and able to find and run with their passions.

One way I have tried to "let go" and give my students more control is through the use of inquiry learning. Using this model I still take time to build background with my students on a topic, but then I really listen to the questions they want to investigate and those questions are what fuels our future learning. 

January is when we begin to dive deep into inquiry with our Antarctica unit. After reading and learning more about Antarctica, students decide what they'd like to investigate further.  Some students may wonder what it is like to visit Antarctica while others want to know what penguins do all day.  We then make a plan to find out more through books, videos, classroom guests, and even video chat when we can. Here are some pictures of our learning:
 
 





We do spend time discussing what collaboration should look like, how to be a great group member, and what to do when things aren't going so well in a group. But overall, I am always amazed at how well students come together and collaborate on their final projects. Kindergartners have tons of passion about their learning and it shows when they are given ownership over their learning choices.

  Want to know more? Here is an example of how I run a 3-4 week inquiry unit on the butterfly life cycle:





You can find this pacing guide and everything else you need for this butterfly unit here:

And other life cycles here:

I hope you will give student led learning a try in your classroom, even if it is just for one part of the day, you will soon become a believer like I did! Happy investigating!



Teacher Shopping Finds {w/ iTeachSTEM}

Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
It's been a tradition in my family - since I was a little kid - to go shopping the week after Christmas for calendars. Starting the day after Christmas, all calendars at the "calendar store" (aka mall kiosk that sold calendars) were marked down to 50% off. Talk about a deal! I always looked forward to going to the mall with my mom to browse the many colorful calendars and try my best to choose one I would love seeing on my wall all year long. While my tastes have certainly changed since I was little, the tradition is just as exciting for me each year.


Did you know that Go! Calendars (that calendar store from my childhood) sells more than just calendars?!? And EVERYTHING in the store is 50% off starting on December 26. It's hard to resist a deal that good! My new tradition (as a teacher) is to pick out a wall calendar for my home office, a planner of some sort, and a game for my classroom. ALL at 50% off! Of course, my own kids get to choose a calendar for their rooms too - keeping to the tradition from my childhood.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

Here's what I ended up choosing this year.

WALL CALENDAR:
Years ago, my mom worked for a store called The Lang Co that sold beautiful calendars, mugs, coffee and assorted gifts. Maybe that's why I gravitated toward this calendar this year. I love the artwork and the uplifting words on each page.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
My favorite month's artwork for 2017 is May. It's simple and beautiful. But what I love the most is the statement: "Sometimes it's best to just let go." I think this might be my mantra this year. To let things go rather than spending time stressing and obsessing over things I can't change or control.

PLANNER:
Each year I choose an amazing planner with so many awesome pages and features. And I use it religiously on January and less in February and by the time March rolls around I'm back to making multiple lists in spiral notebooks and on Post-It notes.So this year I went a different route when choosing my planner.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
I bought this simple folder planner. I actually think it's going to be ideal for me. I may use it ALL year instead of just the first month or two of 2017. Isn't it cute?!? But in addition to being super cute, it's functional - for me.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Inside is a page-per-month calendar so I can keep track of the date and even jot a couple things on days I have appointments or meetings. Or better yet, the dates I have OFF of school or can wear JEANS to school. It also has a notepad (that can be switched out/refilled as needed and a pen loop so I will always have something to write with. That's it. Simple. Functional. And for me - PERFECT. (not to mention, cheap at 50% off)

CLASSROOM GAME:
I have so many of the classics already: Monopoly, Scrabble, UNO, Twister, Checkers and Mancala. I even have some that my fifth graders make fun of because they say they are "baby games" (as they sit and play them during recess). I've got a few puzzles and several sets of dominoes. So this year I went a different direction completely.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Keep in mind - I teach fifth graders. 10 and 11-year-olds who LOVE stuff like this. I can't wait to see their faces when I pull this card game out. If nothing else, it will keep them laughing during indoor recess.

And for my own kids? Well...

Sammy adores cats and also wanted a calendar that she could fit in her purse. She turns 20 this month, so she is always on the go.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Derek would be happy with anything, but this year chose a calendar that has "activities" for his to do each month. Can't wait to see him try some of these.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Abbie loves all things pink, Frozen, and Barbie. Since her calendar last year was a Frozen calendar, she chose to go with Barbie this year. I personally like the way each month has a positive affirmation along with the Barbie pictures.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

And an added bonus? They gave me an extra 10% off military discount since my hubby is a veteran. Four calendars, a planner, a card game and a puzzle for only $41.79? I'd say that's a deal worth taking!
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
What fun things did YOU snag during the after Christmas sales? Share in the comments below!