What’s expected in your weekly blog post?

With Genius Hour, there’s no curriculum for me to measure you against. There’s no quiz or test I can give you to check if you’ve learned what you set out to. Instead, you have to demonstrate your learning with your weekly blog post. There are two key elements I’d like you to cover: evidence of learning and reflection on learning.

Evidence

Give me some proof that you’ve been working. That evidence might take the form of photos or video. That evidence might be a copy of the email you sent to an expert. It might be a description of a conversation you had with an expert. Don’t be afraid to showcase your first attempts and your failures; they’ll help to make it obvious that you’ve learned and improved by the end.

Reflection

Think about what you’ve learned. Here are some possible sentence stems to include in your weekly post:

  • I was surprised…
  • … was harder than I expected.
  • … was easier than I expected.
  • Next time, I will…
  • If I were to do this again, I would…
  • My next steps will be…
  • I need to change…

Genius Hour Planning

In your blog post today, please share your plan. Some things to include:

  • What  are you going to learn about in the next few months?
  • If you achieve your goal, what will it look like? What will you have made or be able to do?
  • What are some of the steps you’ll need to make to get there?
  • What supplies will you need?
  • What might you need help with?

Back to Genius Hour

After a few years away from teaching the Gifted and Talented grade 8 class, I’m happy to have the chance to facilitate Genius Hour again!

Students will complete two Genius Hour projects this year, presenting the first in late February and the second mid June.

Genius Hour is a ‘learn to do’ project rather than a ‘learn about’ project. Students choose their topic, determine what they will learn, decide how they can demonstrate their learning, and plan the steps necessary to get there. Every Wednesday morning students will have a period to work on their project.

Students have the choice of working with a partner on one of the two projects or working solo on both. Regardless of whether or not they have a partner, each student will blog weekly to demonstrate their progress and reflect on their learning. Positive comments and questions are welcome.

After students present their learning, they’ll negotiate with me for their grade. Our decision will be based on use of class time, quality of blogging, evidence of learning, and quality of presentation. Some may not achieve their goals. That’s okay if their blogs demonstrate their efforts and their adaptations to their plans.

Grade Negotations

Here are some things to think about when you’re coming up with a percentage with which to open negotiations:

  • Did you write a solid inquiry question?
  • Did you post a plan page in January?
  • Did you edit and update that plan as you made changes?
  • Did you put enough effort into connecting with an expert?
  •  Did you blog regularly?
  • Did you reflect on your learning in your blog posts?
  • Did you document your progress and provide evidence that you were working?
  • Did you do a reasonable amount of work for an eight week project?
  • Did you challenge yourself?
  • Did you achieve what you set out to?
  • If you didn’t, are there good reasons for changes to your plan? Did you explain those in your blog as you went?
  • Did your presentation grab and hold the attention of your audience?
  • Did your presentation showcase what you’ve accomplished?

Here are the questions I want you to consider as you plan for your Term 2 Genius Hour project.  Answer them with a blog post of your own:

  • What do you know about the topic already? What background knowledge do you bring to the problem?
  • What do you want to know? What will you need to figure out in order to get started on solving your problem?
  • How will you find out? Will you be doing research? Do you need to do some observation? Will you be experimenting? Are you going to try a combination of approaches?
  • As you go, update your blog with what you’ve learned!
  • What action will you take? What will you do with what you learn?
  • As you go, update your blog with new questions you realize you need to answer and new things you’re curious about.

Thanks to Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano for the KWHLAQ chart idea.

My Own Genius Hour Project

I have two teen-aged children of my own and they’ve been grumbling because their teachers don’t do genius hour. I told them they didn’t need a class, just an hour of their own each week. My eldest decided we should have family genius hour.

My project will be baking breads from scratch. I know a little bit about it. I have a bread maker and sometimes use it to make the dough and finish the loaf or buns by hand. I’ve also made cinnamon buns using my grandmother’s scratch recipe, but I’d like to really explore bread baking.

Today I started by reading a couple of articles about how to bake bread from scratch. I decided to start with a French style loaf since that suits tonight’s supper well.

I was surprised to learn how much kneading is required – 10 to 13 minutes if you do it by hand! That’s a pretty good workout!img_1343

Kneaded and ready for rising

I incorporated a couple of tips that were new to me: I warmed my bowl before mixing the dough by pouring hot water in; and I covered the dough with plastic wrap for warming. In the past I’ve used a tea towel, but I have had the dough stick to it a couple of times.

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Punched

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A little uneven, but ready for the oven

I tried the steam feature on my oven as I read that improves the crust.

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Oops, cooked a little more quickly than expected. I think I’ll drop the temperature next time.

I’ll do a few things differently next time. I’ll knead directly on the clean counter top like the recipe suggested. My rolling mat just kept sliding around, annoying me, while I kneaded. I’ll also do some research on kneading techniques since my dough didn’t past the kneading test even after 14 minutes of kneading.

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Supper – my bread and the leftover ratatouille I made for my Grade 8 French class

The Trouble with Reading Aloud

My first read aloud this year was Patricia MacLachlan’s Edward’s EyesI was reading it for the first time as I read it aloud to my students. I knew from reading reviews that the title character dies (oops, maybe I should have prefaced that with a spoiler alert!), but I assumed he died early on. Instead the author made us love Edward, and then killed him. I had to read aloud, forcing the words around the lump in my throat and sniveling. I did only slightly better when I read it to my second class.

As I read aloud Chapter 7  of Orbiting Jupiter this week, I had a similar sensation. I have not read ahead, but I’ve heard enough to make me fear that the story ends tragically. There was such a strong feeling of foreboding in the pages of this chapter. I was at least as close to tears as the librarian/foster mom. Maybe I was even as teary as Jack. There was so much tension in the scene with the police officers; though I must say I’m glad Schmidt didn’t portray them as bad guys. I was honestly surprised that the chapter ended as positively as it did for Joseph.

Still my worry remains, there’s the loose end of Joseph’s father, there’s Nick Porter and his friends, and there was a hint that Mrs. Stroud might be thinking about moving Joseph. How will it end? You can bet I’ll be reading that last chapter aloud first thing Monday morning.

Orbiting Jupiter, week two

Mini cliff hangers? This book’s got them. There was nearly a mutiny when I closed the book after Chapter 3, after the words “Joseph told us everything. Everything.”

Emotional impact? Orbiting Jupiter‘s got that too. Rarely is a classroom as quiet as it was today when we read Chapter 4. There was a quality to that silence – focused, filled with curiosity and then dread.

What’s next? We think more trouble’s coming, from the eighth grade boys, from Mr. Canton, maybe from Joseph’s dad. It’s hard not to read ahead!

Global Read Aloud: Orbiting Jupiter

When I was setting up this blog, I came across the Global Read Aloud. I truly believe in the value of reading aloud to students of all ages. I’m always looking for suggestions of new read alouds. I think there’s an art to choosing a read aloud. I think it needs to be short; otherwise the read aloud drags along for months. Short chapters help to create natural breaks. Mini cliff hangers are a bonus. I think it needs a strong emotional appeal whether it’s humour or tragedy. The text can’t be too description heavy, lots of dialog and action. You can’t just flip back to check something in a read aloud, so it shouldn’t have too many characters to keep track of. I was excited to see what was selected for junior high audiences and to see how it fit my criteria.

Beyond just reading aloud, I liked the idea of having students converse about the book they’re listening to, not only with their classmates, but also with other students from around the world. I hope we’ll get some responses from students in other schools, provinces, countries! We’ve also had a few Twitter interactions. Check out @8geniuses.

I’m enjoying the book so far. I’m having a hard time not reading ahead!