Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wonder Wednesdays

Last spring, I tested Genius Hour in my first grade classroom. We had recently studied non-fiction texts and my students were enjoying reading more about topics that were interesting to them. I learned about Genius Hour from a Twitter Chat - #1stchat - and decided to look in to it more. Each week, we tried a step and before I knew it, my students were asking to work on their projects during Work on Writing in Daily 5. Once a week wasn't enough! Due to students being pulled for a variety of reasons, Wednesdays were a good day since most were present during this time. We decided to call it Wonder Wednesdays (although later it was also Think About It Tuesdays and Fantastic Fridays... you know how schedules go towards the end of the school year) Anyway, here are the steps I took as we began our journey with Genius Hour.

Week 1: We watched a motivational speech from Kid President (if you aren't watching @iamkidpresident with your class yet, please start now... it's wonderful!) We searched some books and apps (such as Wonderopolis and News-o-Matic) for ideas and things we want to know more about. We came up with 3 Steps for our Genius Hour: 1. Ask a Question (fat, not skinny... it has to be a deep question, not something with a simple answer) 2. Look for Answers and Information (using books, magazines, observations, experts and searching online - we prefer to use Kidrex to search safely) 3. Create a Product and Share It (products can be digital, paper or verbal and you can share with the class, the school, on Kidblog, our class Facebook or Twitter) Students had the opportunity to add their WONDERS to the Wonder Wall all week.

Week 2: Our Wonder Wall grew all week long. At our next Wonder Wednesday, students decided on their questions and also decided to work solo, with a buddy or in a small group. We discussed that we must be engaged in our learning in order for Genius Hour to be beneficial. I didn't experience much off task behavior - which I believe is due to their high level of engagement since they were working on meaningful subject matter to them. We discussed proper ways to find and use information and photos while respecting others and their copyright. I enjoyed observing my students. I was able to make notes while they worked on skills that were in need of additional work (capitals, periods, sentence structure, etc) and could address those during Writer's Workshop. We did have our C.O.P.S. on patrol once but it was a bit distracting and put pressure on my students while they WONDERed. (C.O.P.S. walk around and help remind peers to use Capitals, One Space between words, Punctuation and best Spelling) I enjoyed watching how students searched for and recorded information. Some students watched videos while some read books, some students created posters while some created iMovies.

Weeks 3-?: Students continued to observe, collect and record information. Our Plan changed as each week went by. Some students wanted to work solo or change topics. Some wanted to research together but create their own products. I continued to be amazed at their level of engagement and the information they collected. We checked Wonderopolis almost every day to continue to feed their desire to WONDER. Wonderopolis is an incredible site and app. They also respond almost any time you Tweet them. My students LOVE the connection Wonderopolis provides! (They also have Camp Wonderopolis in the summer - check it out!)

Week ...: Since this was last year, I cannot recall exactly how long this went on. I know it was at least 6 weeks but we only took one hour of class time each week to focus on our Genius Hour projects. As students completed their work, they shared it with the class, on Kidblog or with a group. Students researched topics such as 'Why do penguins waddle?' and 'What is the fastest animal?' (which led to what is the fastest land animal and what is the fastest water animal...and I learned a lot!) One student studied the water cycle and created a diagram on a poster to share. Another student studied sloths and wondered why they are so slow. She created a book to read. One student wondered how airplanes fly. He created an iMovie with diagrams of airplanes that he labeled and explained himself. Incredible!

As we completed the presentations, I was simply amazed. They had choice and control of their own learning and spent the time collaborating, creating and sharing their learning. My students and I greatly enjoyed Genius Hour last year!

This week I began Genius Hour with my second graders. It is off to a super start and I look forward to seeing where it takes my students again!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stuck in a T.V. Show

I was searching for a fun prompt to use for Writer's Workshop, and spied an idea on Pinterest:
"If you could be stuck in a TV show for one month, 
what would it be? What would happen?" 
I immediately thought this could be a fun way to get to know my students, plus what a BLAST! I thought they would enjoy imagining this. So, I prepared a little hook, complete with directions using Powtoon. Watch it by clicking HERE.  
(If you haven't checked out Powtoon, please do! It is pretty easy and makes for a fun way to present information and ideas - to your class, your peers, parents, etc!) 

After they viewed the Powtoon, we met to brainstorm shows that we would love to be stuck in. Some of their choices were surprising, probably because I was thinking Little House on the Prairie or Full House. ; ) We made a circle map with a wide variety of choices. The rest of the day, they had Free Choice Writing because I wanted the wheels to turn in their heads, to gain ideas for planning their stories. 

The next day, I modeled a plan. I decided I wanted to be stuck in 'Dancing with the Stars'. I modeled how to plan my story, then I sent them off to begin their plans. Most knew what they were going to do right away, but a few needed more time to think. 

The following day, plans were still in the works so I modeled my story. We discussed writing with an opening, first, next, then, last and a conclusion. I turned them loose. They worked and worked and WORKED on these stories. 

I love Writer's Workshop. Everyone works at their own pace and I can observe and work with each student as needed. Over the next few days, we reviewed what we already know about writing a story and how to edit. After each mini-lesson, it was back to work. 

Once stories were complete, students created products to show their stories. Oh my goodness!! I am so impressed with how hard they worked. They were collaborating so well to teach each other how to use various ideas and each student created a product of his/her own choice. 

Students selected a variety of products, such as PicCollage, iMovie, Educreations, and more. One student drew pictures on paper, then made a movie using her pictures while she narrated her story. Here are a few examples:

What a fun way to get to know my students a bit more while also practicing our writing skills! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Doctors Are In!

Second graders are tons of fun to teach! They still have an imagination but also have enough background knowledge to fuel an activity. It has been a while since I taught contractions, but I remember doing an activity that was fun with my class years ago in second grade. (Plus, I had a refresher when I viewed this on Pinterest.) However, I do not recall going to the extent as I did this year. We had a BLAST!!

When I need my students' attention, one of the commands I say is "Doctor's hands!" and they carefully drop everything and put their hands up, like a surgeon with clean hands. So, my students were all working in their Daily 5 activities. All was calm. Usually I shake a tiny maraca to get them to clean up and meet me for a mini-lesson. Instead, I stated "DOCTOR'S HANDS!" and they cleaned up super fast and met me on the floor. I was waiting for them with a face mask on and wearing gloves. I instructed them "Doctors, quickly! Form a circle! This is an URGENT matter!" and they giggled to the floor in a circle. I told them there are many words in need of some surgery. In order for them to make it, we will need to form them into contractions. We quickly reviewed contractions - "Doctors, what IS a contraction?" and I listed some on the easel. (We had studied a bit the day before, plus we watched Brain Pop Jr. and took notes) I had many words written on sentence strips, such as 'he  is', etc. I modeled it first. "Nurse! Nurse!" I said to the boy sitting next to me "Nurse, I need the scalpel. Scalpel!" and whispered "Put the scissors in my hand." and they giggled. I told the sentence strip "This won't hurt a bit." and cut the 'he  is' in half, cut off the i, and reassured my 'patient' "This is almost over." and stuck the 'he s' together with a band-aid, which represented the apostrophe. "Good as new!" and held it up. They were pumped! "I want to do surgery!" they said. 
So, I passed out supplies:
And after a quick picture, I gave each doctor a 'patient' and sent them to the OR (their tables). They were so serious, cutting and repairing the words: 

Once the patients were 'out of surgery', they went to the 'recovery room' (or tiny table, as it is known for being tiny - had the legs removed so they can sit on the floor and work) As the doctors completed surgery at their own pace, they moved on to more surgery with words of their choice - from the chart or from their notes they took while watching Brain Pop Jr. 

We had SO much fun! I kept several new contractions and displayed them on the wall. When we have our spelling rule for contractions, it will be fun to refer back to the day we all performed word surgery in class!