Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
The kids were stoked. A published author was asking them to review her book? Well, that awesome! When I presented the opportunity to the kids, a half dozen hands immediately shot up. They wanted to read and review the book.
The day the book came to school, I opened the package in class and gave the book to the first student in the queue, Emily. She has reviewed books in the past and has done a great job. Her reviews are funny, clever and well-written. Her reviewer pseudonym is E. M. Wolf.
Today, E. M. Wolf shared her review of Xodus. I posted the review to the Teen Lit Review immediately, tweeted out the link to our followers and, within ninety minutes, we had 45 page views of that review. Certainly this event is evidence that our kids have a voice and others want to hear their thoughts and opinions. When a published author solicits our kids' opinions, it really boosts their self-image.
Those who want to see some great thinking by teens about YA Lit should subscribe to the Teen Lit Review and follow them on Twitter (@teenlitreview).
Friday, September 18, 2015
Several years back, I started using a little block of time on Fridays for something I called Creative Genius. My intention was to feature some big ideas that would get kids thinking about project ideas for school and also things they might want to pursue for the rest of their lives. I think it is crucial for us to get kids thinking about their strengths, passions and intentions for a fulfilling life. So far, we have seen ideas about Nike making shoes for a 16 yo boy with cerebral palsy (here), seen an Elon Musk transportation idea called Hyperloop (here), watched the Abbot and Costello routine "Who's on First" (here), seen a video about the potential of solar highways (here), watched an artist convert computer circuit boards into artwork (here), watched a video about "Shoes that Grow" (here), seen a fire extinguisher that puts out fire using sound waves (here) and watched a short video about a designer who created the Solar Puff Lamp for those who have no access to electricity (here).
Why is it important to expose kids to these kinds of ideas? Well, we know that kids will be doing jobs that don't even exist yet and we have to prepare them for those opportunities as best we can. I want kids to think of the seemingly impossible, to stretch their imaginations and know that just because something has not been done yet does not mean that they cannot do it. Instead of relying on others to create the next wave of great inventions, they can see themselves as capable of inventing those next great things. All kids need is an imagination and an unshakable belief in themselves.
The time we spend on Creative Genius is time well-spent. Sure, it takes a bit of time away from the regular class period activities, but I think it is so essential that I am glad to dedicate time to these fascinating ideas. I want kids to see that genius has many manifestations and that each of them has genius within them. I want them to take risks, try to translate their imaginations into something tangible and show them that their own ideas are worthwhile and valuable. I want kids to learn out loud and be fearless in their learning. If they fail, so what! Those who invented the things we show in our Creative Genius time failed many times and look where that failure lead them. The kids are starting to get it. Many of them are already starting to think of ideas they can do for projects and even their 20% Time projects that they will do later in the year. If I can get them thinking creatively, then I consider that a huge win.
Friday, September 11, 2015
I didn't have to do anything. They bounced ideas off of each other and built one idea on top of another. The magazine idea evolved into an online magazine using Flipboard. The show idea became a segment on the school's "This Week at Hixson" Friday morning show. The kids who wanted to do animation will contribute to the Flipboard magazine and also have a stop-motion animation channel on YouTube.
We'll see how these ideas evolve. Some will probably succeed and some will probably fail. There is a greater chance of the kids following through because they were the kids' ideas and they are very excited about them. We know from doing so much personalized learning in class that the fuel for the follow-through has to be ownership of the idea. The kids do indeed own these ideas. I will encourage them but I cannot push them too hard. The execution has to be on them. I can cheerlead, guide, help and match kids to resources, but I cannot take over the idea. My role is to inspire.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
We did not fill our time with talk of the Stone Age or the Copper Age. Those are good to know about but not essential. The kids can Google facts about those ages if they want. No, what I am more interested in the kids learning is the problem-solving that goes into acquiring new knowledge even if there are no accompanying written documents. Our overarching question for the unit has been "How do we know what we know?"
We watched the fascinating film about Otzi the Iceman. The kids were amazed by the archaeological discoveries made through observation, testing, forensics and developing and testing dozens of hypotheses. We saw some video from the Discovery Channel about a cold case death and the forensics involved in that event as well. The kids also did their own archaeological dig so that they could experience first-hand the thinking and hypothesis testing that goes into discovery learning. Through all of our learning activities, we kept in mind the "hows" and "whys" behind the learning. The kids experienced as much as possible in the time frame that we had.
In today's assessment, the kids wrote for a class period to the question "How do we know what we know?" They were able to use their archaeological dig experience, the film they saw, the puzzles they worked, the games they played and the texts they read in order to expound on what they knew about the subject. I expect that the writing pieces will be of good quality because they have written about things they've seen and done themselves. They experienced the learning. Experiential learning sticks!
Here are some scenes from our archaeological dig.