Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Lesson About Google or Googol?

Just need to reflect on today's lesson because I still can't believe how well it went and it had absolutely nothing to do with me but everything to do with the students.

Today was a day that I sometimes find difficult because I have first grade gifted students.  I often find myself scratching my head after my time with them and wondering if I am challenging them at all.  My previous experiences have always been with older students and working with younger students can be challenging to say the least.

But today was different. I have been reading a blog called Seeds for Learning written by Kimberly Hurd Horst.  On her blog she shares about Genius Hour with first grade students and how she has made this work.  I was in awe of her as I read about Genius Hour as well as a 1st grade EdCamp.  I had been using Genius Hour with my older students but was intimidated by the thought of allowing my first graders to tackle such an open ended project. I had introduced the idea but was hesitant to jump in.  However, the more I read, the more I realized that it was realistic to believe that my first graders could not only do this but they could do it well.

So today, I had two goals - introduce the Wonderwall to my students and show them the basics of using Google.  I had read about the Wonderwall at Seeds for Learning .  I read about how she allowed students to post wonders and then chose one to research together. And that's exactly what we did.  My students came up with wonders, we wrote them on sticky notes, and stuck them on the board.  I closed by eyes and chose one of the wonders.

The wonder:  When do numbers stop?

Our next step was to use Google to search for our answer.  We talked about the basics of searching and then I let them go for it.  Before long, we had found a website that they thought would be most helpful.  The website was about infinity and introduced another funny word - googol.  If you don't know (like me), a googol is a 1 with 100 zeros behind it.  Don't ask me how we were lucky enough to stumble across this but remember I didn't plan this at all. This was a random wonder written by a student.

We noticed that googol sounded a lot like Google but weren't sure of the connection until we visited a wonder on Wonderopolis and watched the video.  The wonder was titled How Many is a Googol but the video actually explained how Google was created.  It also explained how Google got its name and you guessed it, googol was their inspiration.  We were so excited to learn about how the words were connected.  I was excited that the random wonder that we had chosen tied in beautifully with the lesson and gave me an opportunity to talk about math and technology in a way that was meaningful for the students.

I feel like I am rambling on and this might not make any sense at all but I wanted to share because letting go of the reigns and allowing the students to lead the way, led us to a great learning experience today.  I no longer doubt that my first grade students can handle Genius Hour. We will move slowly and it will require patience but we can do this. I hope to share lots of exciting projects soon!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Happy Classroom

As I watched this student share about his school experience, I couldn't help but wonder why we can't give every student the opportunity to be happy in the traditional school environment.  I asked myself why we aren't teaching students to be happy and healthy and what I as a teacher can do to ensure that my students are receiving the opportunity to be creative.

If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that we recently started Genius Hour in my classroom.  I honestly feel like this has given my students the opportunity to find what makes them happy and use creativity to explore their passions.  I am so thankful for my PLN because without them, I still would not know about Genius Hour and the impact that it has on learning.

Since allowing my students to be creative, I have noticed major changes in their ability to share, reflect, and create.  Just today, one of my students shared her one word for 2014 on her blog.  In reading her words, I realized that they have a desire to make a difference.  They long to change their world in ways that we can't even imagine.

I have spent the last few weeks taking in all that I can about finding ways to encourage this type of learning in my classroom.  I have been forever changed as a teacher as I have read the amazing things that people are using in their classrooms to give their students the best learning experience possible in spite of testing expectations and other challenges that are present in the traditional classroom.

I recently stumbled upon the 7 Habits of Healthy Kids.  I know these have been around for awhile and I had seen them before, but for the first time was compelled to use them in my classroom.  I think it was because of my new ensure that my students are happy and exploring their passions in creative ways.

If you haven't seen these before, you can check them out here.  I printed out posters and posted them in our classroom so that we would see them every day.  We will be focusing on one habit each week and learning how to put that habit into practice.  If you would like a copy of the 7 Habits posters for your wall, I found a freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Check it out HERE.

I also read Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers and was inspired to implement these into our classroom as well.  Reading this book had a huge impact on my desire to change the way that I was teaching.  The book addresses habits/attitudes that give students the skills they need to be 21st century learners.  Understanding the importance of these skills has also given me the the tools that I need to ensure that students are happy and exploring their passions in creative ways.

I think I will always refer to this part of my teaching career as my awakening.  While I always knew that I needed to be doing more and giving more to my students, it wasn't until now that I realized how I wanted to do that.  I am still learning every day and definitely have days when it's hard and I want to throw in the towel.  However, reading blog posts like the one above reminds me that what I am doing is what my students need.  Watching them work on their Genius Hour projects with passion and drive gives me the boost I need to carry on and stay the course.  I can't wait to see what is still to come!

When was your awakening as an educator?  Have you had that moment yet when you realize what it is that you REALLY want for your students and how you are going to go about sharing it with them?  If you haven't, I would encourage you to take some time to do just that.  Happy students make for a happy teacher which in turn creates a happy classroom.  What will you do to create your happy classroom?
Thursday, January 2, 2014

One Word...Change

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Change - this is my one word for 2014.  As I read several of the #oneword tweets yesterday, I was inspired to come up with a word for myself. I thought about it all day yesterday and slept on it.  As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I knew my one word had to be change.  

I recently read a blog post written by Jimmy Casas on his blog, Passion...Purpose...Pride, titled Leaders Strive to be Tomorrow...Today. As I read his post, I realized that I have spent much of my educational career worrying about what others think and I have given others the authority to take away my passion. I have hesitated to do anything outside of what is expected for fear of being thought of as different or eccentric.  I have wavered in my resolve to share things like Twitter and my PLN because I knew that there would be those that would say I spend too much time working or I was trying too hard.  When in reality, it's not's learning.  It's taking time to make myself better by learning from others...learning from some of the best in the world.  

Like Mr. Casas, another educator's comment helped me put things into perspective.  A couple of weeks ago, a past superintendent sent me a message on Facebook that redirected my thinking. Mrs. Kucera told me that I had "a passion for the work that lies ahead."  I immediately thought of what I had been teaching my students lately about finding their passions and how important it was to engage in activities that were meaningful to them.  Had I been hypocritical in asking them to do so when I wasn't even doing this myself?  How could I tell them to step out there and become innovators when I was too scared to do so?  Mrs. Kucera was right...I do have a passion for what lies ahead. So, why in the world have I been afraid to share that passion with others?  

So back to my one word...change. The definition of change is "to make or become different."  So, starting today, I will spend my career trying to make things different. Our education system needs to change.  Our students deserve change.  It's up to us to cause that change and make education different for students in our classrooms today.

In reading Jimmy Casas's blog, I was also reminded of Gandhi's words - "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  Being the change means not being afraid to think outside the box.  It means not being afraid to try new things and share them with others.  And most importantly, it means being yourself and taking back the authority to be excellent.    

Right before the break, I joined Twitter and began building my PLN.  I have learned so much from people like @donwettrick, @techbradwaid, @techminock, @techninjatodd, @daisyray215, @kleinerin, @joykirr, @paulsolarz, @terrieichholz, @venspired, and many more. While I have only learned from these wonderful people virtually by reading their blog posts and tweets, they have all played a role in my desire to change the way I teach as well the way that my students learn. They have inspired me to become different, to make things change.

Thank you for taking time to read about my one word.  What is your one word for 2014?  Please feel free to comment below and share your word.  I would also love for you to follow my blog and/or follow me on Twitter.

Happy New Year!