Tagged with "reading"
6 Mar
2017
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Genius Hour and Growing Lifelong Learners

I want my kids to love learning for the sake of learning and to hunger for knowledge. School projects that actively enforce those principles  are my favorite. Genius Hour is a prime example.

The idea behind Genius Hour has been utilized in corporations to increase productivity. Employees are given a set amount of time each week to work on pet projects in their field. Google has seen success with this route. Gmail anyone? I’m more motivated to apply myself to tasks I have vested interest in and passion for than something that’s assigned. Wanting to do something as opposed to being told to do something can make a huge difference in the quality of the outcome.

Genius Hour is used in educational settings to allow students to be creative and self-directed. Our 4th grade son’s class finished their Genius Hour presentations last week. Students were told to choose a project topic they were passionate about, and topics were approved by the teacher. One hour of class time each week for the last few months was devoted to researching and developing projects.

student sharing a Genius Hour project

Our son is a young World War II scholar. He devours books on the topic and chose to research Kamikaze pilots for his project. Not only did he work on his project during Genius Hour at school, but we found him at his computer on Saturday mornings and after school researching. He was passionate about what he was learning and self-motivated by the topic. He was learning to learn.

Students were given creative license to decide how their final projects would be presented to their classmates and parents. Our son chose to create a PowerPoint presentation and a battleship and plane from LEGO bricks for his presentation. Projects from his class included growing crystals, researching the history of baseball, and comparing different animals. One student built a chair and another built a bear for a baby sibling who will be born this summer.

Students present their projects individually in front of the class and then collectively, science fair style, for parents. I know public speaking tends to make people nervous, especially children, but it’s one of the most valuable life skills to teach young people. I ask questions. It’s the reporter in me. I enjoyed talking with the students about their projects. It’s interesting to see who picked what to study and why. I learned several things from those 4th graders that I’ve never thought to ask about.

Our elementary school isn’t heavy on homework. Our 1st grader has a weekly spelling test, other than that, no homework. This makes me ridiculously happy on many levels. Genius Hour gave us an avenue into our son’s school week that he willingly shared instead of me pestering him with questions attempting to drag information from him past good, fine and great to describe his school days. He shared photos, videos and an abundance of stories he found while researching. He sought an older brother’s advice when building his battleship and plane. My involvement in the project was limited to listening, reminding him how and where to properly use commas, and transporting LEGO creations from home to school and back. Other students worked more closely with a parent for their projects. Building chairs requires tools and supervision. Other projects required specific supplies. I love that their was room for family members to share expertise and support throughout the process.

Our son thinks he solely learned about Kamikaze pilots and had an excuse to play with his favorite toys. In actuality, he honed his researching, writing, and speaking skills. He learned ways to organize information both to be easily understood and aesthetically pleasing. Building with LEGO bricks is math disguised as play. Genius Hour is an avenue for adults to step back and see how unique and capable students are if we give them the opportunity to direct their learning.


 
Favorite Books of 2016
By     |    Dec 30, 2016
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Favorite Books of 2016

I’m a bibliophile. I have a rotating stack of books on my bedside table, a never-ending list of books on hold at the public library and keep track of the books I read each year. This year I read 60 books, not including the countless books read to and with children. What follows are my favorite books from 2016: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman This is not only a favorite book from this year but one I’ll be... [Read More]

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May Madness
By     |    May 13, 2016
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May Madness

The month of May is when I’m in high-mama gear. Four school-aged children means that on any given weekday from now until the last day of school, someone has a field trip or track or junior Olympics or an assembly or a concert. Some days it’s multiple children requesting a parent make an appearance. If field tripper was a profession, that would be my career in May. The build-up to the end of the school year starts at the beginning... [Read More]

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Just One More Quarter
By     |    Apr 6, 2016
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Just One More Quarter

I sat in our vehicle on our way home from a week-long spring break vacation believing I was rejuvenated. Spending time with my family, traveling and enjoying the outdoors free of distractions speaks to most of my love languages. I felt waves of anxiety flow away and tense muscles relax over the course of those eight days. There are eight weeks of school left, and I was prepared to bring my A-game to the final quarter of the school year.... [Read More]

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5 Book Recommendations from 2015
By     |    Jan 7, 2016
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5 Book Recommendations from 2015

Most nights I find myself awake long past any reasonable bedtime hour. I unwind reading on the couch until I begin to doze off. Only then do I know I’ll fall asleep and stay that way until morning. My late nights lend themselves to a lengthy list of read books each year. The following 5 books top my list of books I read in 2015: All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr — Those who know me well... [Read More]

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Tips for Visiting Kennedy Space Center
By     |    Nov 19, 2015
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Tips for Visiting Kennedy Space Center

I recently finished reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir. I was skeptical I would enjoy a book heavy on science, space science at that, but I devoured it. The main character is compelling and funny, even in dire circumstances. There were science and math sections that didn’t hold my attention, but nothing that kept me from needing to continue with the story. I had to finish it. I was invested in Mark Watney. Those last 50 pages had me simultaneously... [Read More]

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Taking a Chance with School Involvement
By     |    Oct 5, 2015
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Taking a Chance with School Involvement

We’ve had children at the same elementary school for eight years. I’m comfortable with the staff. I have a good understanding of how things work, how I can be involved as a parent, and the best avenue to take when issues arise. We’re in year two of middle school. I was more nervous for that first day of middle school last year than our son. I was clueless on what to expect from parking to volunteering to knowing teachers. I... [Read More]

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Small Acts of Kindness, Big Effects
By     |    Sep 29, 2015
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Small Acts of Kindness, Big Effects

I rarely ask for help with the logistics of running a family. We have no grandparents to give us a hand, so all chauffeuring and encouragement at activities falls fully on Craig’s and my shoulders. It’s exhausting and rewarding and really exhausting to be the only ones who are there to watch the kids succeed and, sometimes, struggle in their various activities. Sharing the load makes for less stress and frees room for more enjoyment. I’m looking forward to having... [Read More]

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Lessons from “The Nightingale”
By     |    Sep 18, 2015
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Lessons from “The Nightingale”

I read the words, “I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.” I slowly inhaled and gently closed the book. To be known, for someone to clearly and completely understand who you are, and love you anyway, this is what I want. I found the words for my feelings on the fourth page of Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale.” The story is lovely and sad, but honestly,... [Read More]

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Not Celebrating the Start of School
By     |    Aug 27, 2015
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Not Celebrating the Start of School

I don’t share the same sentiments as some of my mama friends as the new school year begins. I won’t be celebrating my children heading back to school. I’ll be wondering where the last three months have gone and cursing the quick passage of time. Our youngest heads to kindergarten this year. Next week marks the first time in nearly 13 years that I’ve been without an extra shadow. There are no more little hands to hold as I run... [Read More]

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The Great Bedroom Swap
By     |    Aug 7, 2015
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The Great Bedroom Swap

I stood in Menards looking down a long aisle of shelving possibilities wondering why I was even at a home improvement store. The day started with the sole intention of moving one bed from the spare bedroom to the tween’s room. I was looking for shelving while the basement at home was filled with multiple dismantled bed frames and a dresser stood smack-dab in the middle of the upstairs hallway waiting to make the journey downstairs. This is exactly why... [Read More]

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Summer Reading with Children
By     |    May 15, 2015
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Summer Reading with Children

The school year is winding down and papers are arriving home with ways to keep children reading over the summer months to avoid the summer slide. Public libraries run reading programs along with publishing companies and book stores. There are quite a few options, more than I remember as a child. Reading is part of our family lifestyle. We have bookshelves, book baskets, book bins and use books for decorating. We’re known to ask our children to put the book... [Read More]

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