Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Off-Task" Students

Last night was the monthly #geniushour Twitter chat, hosted by @gallit_z and @mrsdkrebs once again. This time, I took away ideas regarding students who are considered off-task during the genius hour... 

First, what is considered "off-task" ? In my classroom, we currently do genius hour differently than others. (I'll get it together next year!) So in my room, "off-task" is...
a) when a student comes unprepared - with nothing to read b) when a student has no idea of what he/she wants to read c) when a student spends the hour socializing or sitting with no real goal.

So what should we do to prepare, so we don't have much off-task behavior? Ideas were garnered last night...
1. The freedom can be overwhelming. Give these students some scaffolding, so they can take one task at a time. In my case, that could be generating answers on an interest survey of some sort first.
2. Allow more time to plan, chunk, or outline.
3. Students can work with a partner, or in a group of three. This may help... or hurt, in some cases? Give it a try.

More ideas I received 5/4/12 from my PLN on Twitter, @HHG...
4.  Visual reminders... i.e. kids write current task on a post-it note on their desks
5.  Different work environments... i.e. stand up work area, yoga ball to sit on, etc. (I - Joy - received a grant this year for 5 yoga balls, and I have two rocking chairs being used already!)
6.  Allow students to self-select "body breaks" - teacher allows student to take 3min timer and do physical activity as needed
7.  Some students benefit from "fiddlers" - something to occupy hands to allow for better concentration (hence the squishy apples in my room)
8.  Sit students by organized friends

I look forward to our #geniushour Twitter chat each month, and I gain so much from it! Join in the first Wednesday of the month at 8pm CST! -@joykirr


  1. Joy,
    You have lots of great ideas here. I don't know that there is a "right" way to do genius hour. I think it will constantly be evolving, don't you?

    I like the idea of yoga balls. I need to find some interesting furniture for next year. This year we have a "lounge" with easy chairs and love seats. However, we have to get rid of them for fire safety. :( I think the yoga balls and beach lounge chairs might have to do the trick!

    Thanks for summarizing and adding to the great discussion last week.


  2. I think having a stand-up area is what some students need in order to focus. I'm thinking of the boys who tipped their chairs back repeatedly throughout the block...always the same ones, too. I know they would have benefited with a stand-up area. Love the yoga ball idea as well. I'm so glad you summarized what you gained from the genius hour chat as I didn't begin until June.