Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Choice Words

Professional Book Suggestion: Choice Words : How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning by: Peter H. Johnson   *96 pages and an easy quick read J

One of the professional books I have been perusing lately is Choice Words by Peter Johnson.  This book provides examples of “apparently ordinary words, phrases and uses of language that are pivotal in the orchestration of the classroom.” As I think about providing students with productive feedback and guidance I can understand how the choice in my words can really impact the direction in which the student moves forth. Here are a few examples of teacher talk…

“One of the things people do when they start a story is think of what they know. Mathematicians do this too… Let’s try it.” (pg.45) Here the teacher is reminding the student to begin a new activity by taking stock of what they already know by activating prior knowledge.

“That’s like … OR What if…?” (pg. 46-47) Both of these allow for an imaginative act and can expand context by creating metaphors and making connections which is at the heart of comprehension.

Strategic Questions such as “How did you figure that out? What problems did you come across today? How are you planning to go about this?”  (page 30-32) invites students to review a process or strategy used to accomplish a goal.

One of the most successful teacher talk moments to me is actually not talking at all. “Wait time” or “Thinking Time” conveys the message that the teacher expects a student to accomplish an answer, self-correct or figure something out.  Failure to wait conveys the opposite message. Thinking time allows for more extended responses and opens up the possibility for more collaborative inviting conversations. (page 56)

I would encourage everyone to take a step back and reflect on how you lead your questioning.

Do you allow for students to drive the direction of an answer?

Are you patient with your students when opening up the forum for answers?  

Do you encourage a variety of responses?

The way you question your students is the model for the way they explore their own curiosities. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Everyone Has Genius in Them

Are you always looking for a way to motivate and engage your students? I don’t know about everyone else but once I thought I found the perfect inspirational speech, reward system or negotiation tactic it quickly seemed to have a shelf life and fizzled away. Back to the drawing board I was. We all want to our students to love learning and to want to learn without the need for the speech, reward or negotiating.  Well, what if we looked at motivation and engagement on a larger scale?   Think back to that one student (every year I felt like I had at least one) that is an expert in something... for me it was Evan, a dinosaur expert. He knew EVERYTHING about dinosaurs. I had my very own personal first grade Paleontologist. Perfect. Clearly, he was not discovering his love for Paleontology in my classroom. We had a fully packed schedule that did not offer time for Evan to further his career.  I mention this because Evan is so interested in dinosaurs that he went home and read ; and before he could read words, he was reading pictures and watching videos on dinosaurs; and playing with dinosaur toys; and the best part … he was teaching anyone that would listen about dinosaurs. Evan was a genius when it came to dinosaurs. Evan’s genius did not develop after one project or reading one book.  What if we handed students the time to discover the genius inside of them? What if we gave students the opportunity to teach us something? What if we gave students the chance to engage in learning in a way that interested them? Enter in Genius Hour.

What is Genius Hour you ask?
Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.  In a nutshell, it is letting students follow their passion using inquiry to read, work on new designs or master new skills.

“Genius Hour is a precious time.  It is when students are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore, learn, or create. I want students to be engaged in their learning. This does not mean that we'll be playing games, laughing and joking the entire class period. This means that I want students to be invested in what they're learning. I want them to "own" the learning. “(Joy Kirr - 7th grade teacher)

From what I have researched:
·        * This idea stems from : businesses like 3M and Google
o     3M started it in the 1950's with their 15% Project.  The result? 
 Post-its and masking tape.  Google is credited for making the 20% Project what it is today.  Google asks its employees to spend 20% of their time at Google to work on a pet project...a project that their job description doesn't cover.  As a result of the 20% Project at Google, we now have Gmail, AdSense, Google News, and my favorite, the Google Teacher Academy.  Using 20 Time in the workplace allows innovative ideas and projects to flourish and/or fail without the bureaucracy of committees and budgets.
·      *   Genius Hour is NOT everyday
·     *    Teachers incorporate this concept in many different ways in ALL grade levels
 If you want to look further into Genius Hour start here:
I have also started a “Genius Hour” board on my Pinterest account. http://www.pinterest.com/OAteachcoach/

Instructionaly Yours,