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, September 11, 2016

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I'm not going to call our time "Genius Hour" this year.

Catalysts for this change:

  • No longer will we have one day (= one hour) a week dedicated to this time.
  • Last year, my priority was getting this whole "no grades" routine to work, so I feel that our Genius Hour time suffered as a result. I need a fresh start, with a new focus, so it is more successful for more students this year.
  • I needed to move this time to the end of the quarter, so I could have time for conferences with students about their choice of final grade, and look through the evidence they'll have collected. The time allotted students will still be the same amount.

What was NOT a catalyst of this change - the name "genius." I've written about it before, and still stand by these ideas. I do believe you have to buy into a name before you can expect students to do the same, so this was a difficult endeavor for me.

So, after scouring this page on the LiveBinder for other people's ideas (yes - I not only curate ideas on that behemoth of a binder for parents and teachers, but for myself as well), I've decided on "Independent Inquiry." I'm wondering why it wasn't already on the list! We're going to break the year into four different Independent Inquiry projects. Quarter 1 will be focused on creativity - and may end with the Cardboard Challenge. I'm not sure of the date for it yet, or how it will come about, but I'm going to try and see if students can focus on creativity. Quarter 2 will be focused on teaching their own talents, or teaching a new skill. Quarter 3 will focus on a 20-day challenge, or ways to improve ourselves, and Quarter 4 will be more wide open. Hopefully students will be able to use something from their "wonders" that we'll be accumulating through our articles of the week. All of these are very, very sketchy plans, and I'm ready to change them when I see a different idea I can steal! (Comments below are ALWAYS welcomed!!)

Since the focus will be the last two weeks of each quarter, plans will be structured differently, and hence the different themes, if you will, for the learning focus. I do not have it planned out yet, but my goal is that it be structured as such: A mini lesson / reason for learning each day, then time to work independently. Each day will also include a reflection or exit slip. The last day or two of the quarter will be reserved for sharing our learning.

Whatever the focus will be - it will be based on student curiosity.
Whatever the focus - it will be independent for the most part.
Whatever the focus - my goal will still be to encourage students to be life-long learners.
Whatever the focus - students' ideas will be honored and celebrated.

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