As my teaching style has changed over the last couple of years, I can't help but notice a change in my students' thinking. When we first began Genius Hour and Innovations in my classroom, students struggled to come up with ideas. They looked at me like I was insane when I asked them to choose what they wanted to learn about.
However, this year, as we have begun Genius Hour, students seem somewhat comfortable in my classroom. They are open to new ideas and looking for opportunities to make a difference. The students seem more passionate than ever about their project ideas and more driven to see them through.
I'm sure there are probably those that think that my class is simply a time for students to "play on the computer" or "do something they enjoy." But it is so much more than that. You see, there are many standards woven into each project that we work on. We don't cover one standard at a time but instead put many standards into practice by doing something that is relevant and meaningful.
Friday, I was listening to two of my fourth grade students working on their Lego projects. We are using Lego Digital Designer to design our projects before we actually create them. As I listened, I heard them using multiplication to plan out the area for the base of their design. I did not prompt this conversation nor did I interrupt and proceed to explain area and why it is important. I simply allowed the students to see how multiplication gave them an opportunity to plan and create a design that worked for them. The students were able to learn by doing and I trusted them enough to know they had used that opportunity in a meaningful way.
Giving students the opportunity to learn in ways that are meaningful for them is not an easy task. It takes trust, understanding, and an ability to find ways to challenge and motivate learners to stay the course. On the other hand, when that opportunity is taken, students make the connection between learning and life. They understand why they need to know a specific skill and how to apply it.
I still have so much to learn about innovations and I learn more each day. But for now, my classroom is a place where I feel like students are beginning to see the opportunities around them and they are finding ways to open the door. And for me, that is reason enough for me to stay the course and continue to learn about innovative teaching.