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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Genius Hour - Year 3 Reflection

Was this really only the third full year I've experimented with Genius Hour in 7th grade ELA?

Well, I'll just say it up front - this was my toughest year when it comes to Genius Hour. This post will not have the depth the last two year's posts have had (year one part one, year one part two, year two), as I am EXHAUSTED. This focus will be primarily on the presentations, as that is where most of the change occurred. Note: Mrs. Rehberger is my co-teacher for one class, and Mr. Slowinski is the other ELA teacher on our team.

What I think went well...
   * Mrs. Rehberger stuck with us through it all. It was tough for her, as it was her first experience in the classroom with Genius Hour.
   * One class had a Skype visit with Julie Haden's kiddos, and certain students shared their projects.
   * One class had Grammie visit the last two months on a consistent basis.
   * All classes worked harder when Jen Vincent and Drew Gollias visited and asked questions.
   * Students appreciated being able to change projects when theirs wasn't working out for them.
My student's first concert!
   * I really got to know one of my students and attend her first concert! I was also put in charge of staying the entire time to video record and take photos, since her mom could not stay...
   * Vimily was a great tool to use for students to advertise their presentations - thank you for your examples and guidance, Paul Bogush!
   * Mr. Slowinski and I did not need to sit through (or put the kids through) four straight days of presentations. Instead, we had a full day of presentations throughout the school on the third-to-last day - again, thanks to Paul Bogush.
   * I have great plans for if we ever want to present in this manner again. (I actually have plans for a substitute, should we need one again!)
   * Two parents thanked me for doing this type of activity in ELA class. One even asked who brought this idea to the school. I was very proud to say it was ME! I am prouder yet that we now have our five 7th grade ELA teachers doing this, and one 8th grade science teacher! We are able to share our struggles and celebrations with each other.
   * We had a variety of projects once again, ranging from drawing to making a business.
   * We even had dogs visit (outside) and show the tricks they were taught!

What still bothers me...
   * I still had that one student who did nothing. This is one too many. Even with two teachers in the room, he fooled us all, up until the last moment. I asked him to present to me only, and then tried to explain the importance of effort and honesty and making the most of your time in life. I begged, cried, put on my "teacher face," and tried to get my message across. Kudos to him for keeping eye contact with me the entire time.
   * One of our team teachers took the day off when students were presenting. (This made me sad that this teacher did not want to see our students share their ideas.) This means the substitute had a group of boys at one point who walked all over her and the presenters. (This angered me - I would think they would know how to act.) I only know this because of a parent email sent to our principal.
   * Sadly, Mr. Slowinski and I needed to prep the students better for what type of questions (as an audience member) are appropriate and which are not.
   * I never got to see _______'s (insert MANY of my students' names here) presentation.
   * I never got to see the "Packages for Patients" presentation that five of Mr. Slowinski's students put together.
   * It took me 3.5 hours to set up the original schedule, and I had help from my sister-in-law.
   * It took me over twelve hours to schedule the rest of the students as audience members.
   * It took too, too long to set up this one day and help teachers feel comfortable with it.

Changes I'm considering for next year...
   * Mr. Slowinski and I have discussed separating each quarter into something different. First quarter, I'd like for students to MAKE something, culminating with the Cardboard Challenge. We can then have a "teach your talent" quarter, where students share their "genius," and work on presentation skills. Third quarter can have more of a research focus.
   * More photos. More sharing between classes. More posting on the bulletin board what we are doing. I feel like I need a publicist for Mondays! It may just be a new job I create for students...
   * As for presentations, I think we should have them in our classes, during the last four weeks or so of Genius Hour. The presentations that students think are "worthy of the world" will go on and present at the end of the year in some fashion. It would be great if we could have an hour or so on one of the last days to share these amazing presentations, while inviting the community.
   * Getting more parents involved. Having visitors really helped students step up their game. They also loved the one-on-one attention.

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