Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Genius Hour in Kindergarten?

This is my second year in kindergarten.  That means it's the year to get organized and start working on creating more meaningful and/or complex activities for my students.  After learning about the Genius Hour work upper grade students at my school have completed, I began to discuss ways in which my team could incorporate it into the kindergarten curriculum.  What?!

What is Genius Hour?
What is Genius Hour?  Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on their own projects.  This is how things such as Gmail and Google News got started.  It was designed to increase productivity among employees and is hugely successful.  Now teachers are implementing it in schools.  Read more about its origins HERE.

How do teachers implement it in their classrooms?
At my site, our upper grade teachers encourage students to determine what they want to learn or how they want to make a difference.  They are directed to choose something very specific (not Save the Dolphins) and not "Google-able", meaning they can't choose a topic they will simply research in order to regurgitate information in a presentation.  Students spend time each week learning and creating on their own or with the help of parents who come into the classroom.  They often spend time at home working on their projects because it's so exciting.  When they are ready to present their projects, they do in a variety of ways.  Read HERE about how to introduce it to your class and be sure to show this video:

Students have made stuffed animals for children in a hospital, Lego cars that run on batteries, garden art (someone learned to weld!)  and many more interesting things.  Sometimes it involves technology, such as creating movies in iMovie, but that is not a requirement.  Imagine the possibilities!

How to implement in kindergarten?
My grade level team is eager to develop Genius Hour this year.  Obviously, students at this time of year are learning how to be students in school so it's a bit early to start, but this is the perfect time for planning and preparation.

1. We will begin by offering specific choices rather than leave things open-ended for our young students.  Ideas may include learning how to cook/bake something, engineering and building a Lego structure, planting a miniature garden, creating a piece of artwork using specific techniques, or creating a movie using an app on an iPad.  Later we will allow them to come up with their own ideas with an upper grade buddy.

2. We will invite parents and/or community members in to teach students how to do the things they want to learn about!  I know of bakers, chefs, building contractors, engineers, techies, and others who would love to spend a little bit of time teaching the foundations of their craft to children who are more than a little eager to learn.  Every community has those who give their time when asked, so why not ask?

3. Children will spend time each week in their learning groups to create, create, create.  However far they get is up to them and they will report to the class what they have learned along the way.  If they are able to look at books, videos, etc. to learn more as they progress, that is wonderful.  If they prefer to learn through hands-on experiences, that is OK, too.  Genius Hour is unstructured. 

4. When children have exhausted an idea, they choose a new one.  Anyone remember Project Based Learning

Building a Foundation
As always, we are preparing young students for whatever comes their way as they grow older.  Genius Hour in kindergarten may not be completely open-ended or unstructured yet, and they may not choose to do something to change the world due to their egocentric nature, but why not start to encourage them to ask questions, search for knowledge, and see others as possible informational resources?   Is it too early?  I don't think so. 

How do you or would you use Genius Hour in your classroom?  Please share below!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Storing Classroom Pointers Is a Breeze

Welcome to another Bright Ideas post and to a new school year!  I have joined over 100 other bloggers to share classroom tips that will hopefully save you some time this year.

Storing pointers can be such a pain in the neck!  Pointers leaning against the wall, resting on whiteboard ledges, lying on the floor, etc.  In my classroom I have several that we use for different purposes, but they need to be kept in one tidy place in order to prevent me from going nuts.  I like my students to choose which one they want to use during calendar time, so having them accessible to kindergarteners is also a must.

Containers and tall vases inevitably tip over, but this storage crate doesn't!  I simply turned it upside down and slid the pointers into the openings, which keeps them in place.  It's so easy to store many different pointers (time to make another trip to the Dollar Store) and my students easily find what they are looking for each day.  We are in our fifth week of school so I can safely say it works!

This particular wire basket came from Ross, but a plastic file crate or something similar would work just as well!

If you like this Bright Idea, consider joining me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more ideas.  For more bright ideas from other bloggers, browse the link up below and find some that speak to you.  This is my favorite part!  Happy idea shopping!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's Time For Some Spring Cleaning!

Tomorrow I will be in my classroom working to prepare for my kiddos to come back next week.  Spring Break is nearly over and I want to do some spring cleaning in the classroom and on TpT.  I can't wait to take advantage of the awesome sale my friends and I are throwing all weekend! Click on the image below or scroll to the end of this post to see a list of stores on sale.  There will be tons!

To Do List:

1. Clean out my wish list. Not even sure what's in there anymore.
2. Make sure I give feedback on all items I have purchased on the website.  Want those credits!
3. Move all of my most wished for items into my cart. 
4. Shop for items in the following stores that will be on sale ALL WEEKEND (see link below).
5. Make a big purchase and download everything all in one shot.  Yeah, right!  It will take me all weekend, but that's OK.

Ambitious of me to do all this before doing anything else in my classroom, but I have to take advantage of the amazing sale going on.  Stores will have up to 20% off and mine is included!  All of my products will be 20% off March 28-31.  I'm planning on adding a spring item to the mix, so watch for that!

Happy shopping!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Organizing Student Work and Parent Forms

Welcome to the Bright Ideas Blog Hop!  It doesn't matter where you start because this linky is circular.  You will end up back at the beginning after visiting each blog.  If you don't want to visit all blogs, you can choose the topics you want to read by viewing the links at the end of this post.  Thanks for visiting!

Keeping track of paperwork is an issue for us all!  When I started teaching, I began to glue check off sheets to a manilla envelope, laminate it, score the opening with a pair of scissors, and voila!  A perfect place to store important papers.  I used it to check off who turned in field trip permission slips, emergency forms, reading logs, etc. by simply gluing a list of student names onto one side and laminating the envelope.  It was great to be able to write on it with an overhead projector pen and then wipe it off when finished.

It evolved into much more.  Here is an example of my field trip folders that parents bring with them on trips:

These puppies have been around for sixteen years and are still going strong! 

I began to use these manilla folders to store worksheets and activities that students could complete for extra practice when they finished their work.  I line new ones up each month on my whiteboard edge and students love choosing activities if they have extra time.  I never have to worry about losing the master because it's on the envelope!

Two years ago I realized that I could eliminate the need to laminate folders if I purchased these fine folders on Amazon or my local office supply store:

These are amazingly helpful!

I also use them to collect work from students.  I can keep track of who turned in paperwork that way.  I love this system!

Thanks for reading my bright idea post!  The next bright idea is from Tanya at A+ Firsties.  She has a great post about guided writing journals.  Check it out!

You can also search by topic using the link ups below and move along to any other blog in the blog hop!

Thanks again for visiting my blog!

Friday, February 28, 2014

What Have You Bought on TpT?

I love a good sale!  My cart is full and I am still looking for more must-have products from sellers.  What are your favorites?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are You a Google Ninja?

Have you attended a Google Summit training for educators yet?  It's all the rage right now and my district is definitely jumping into it with both feet.

It began with a training at my district office to learn how to use Google Drive features with my students in the classroom as well as to share docs with parents and teachers.  I teach kindergarten so I didn't expect to hear that I could use the Drive with my kiddos, but the trainer is a K teacher who gave me some great ideas.  Just uploading a simple doc that they can practice typing word family words onto is fun for them.  Best of all, I received a Samsung Chromebook to use in my classroom!

My principal is really into Google and Twitter so eleven of us (yes, eleven) were able to attend a Google Summit training for two days in Napa.  No, there was no time for wine tasting.  :(

One of the speakers was Jaime Casap, who is inspirational to say the least.  He refers to himself as a "Global Education Evangelist", which I love.  Here is a link to one of his presentations at a TedxTalks:

We saw several presentations each day at the Summit and learned a ton about how to use our new Chromebooks in the classroom.  I even got this snazzy travel bag for my device.

Since we are not a 1:1 school, we were amazed at what other schools are doing out there with technology.  I would love to know if you are at a 1:1 device school and, if so, what is your favorite activity to do with your students?