The Genius Hours

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

The devil is in the details

on August 8, 2013

This week I’ve spent time beefing up my TED-Talk spreadsheet, putting my classroom together, watching Stargate SG-1, and going through our standards and Descartes (we use the MAP test) to pair my units with standards. The thing I love most about teaching language arts is that though I have standards I have to cover, how I do that is entirely up to me. That was certainly true when I taught history, but there is a very definite sense of freedom in language arts that I didn’t have in history.

Medieval Torture

During last night’s genius hour chat I was reminded of an assignment I did before I knew about genius hour. I handed my students copies of the standards we had to learn and asked them to brainstorm ways we could a) learn them and b) show that we’d learned them.  I think students learned a lot about what was required of them to do well. They also were able to take ownership of their learning and really think about what they were doing and why they were doing it. We also had a lot of fun creating these assignments. You’ll see in this picture, one student believed that a demonstration would be a good way of showing what she’d learned about medieval torture. Silly, sure, but we had a constructive conversation about considering your audience and appropriate ways to share what you know. In the end, this student ended up doing her project on Viking sagas.

I realized that there was a purpose and a benefit to showing students where they should be by the end of the year right from the beginning. I’ll have to go in and tweak some of the assignments that went with the stroll through the standards, but I think it’s worth it. I’ve been working on all of the big picture items until now. I am at the point I need to start working out the details. This is a good place to start.

Details yet to be sorted out:

  • 40 book challenge
    • genre requirements
    • how to introduce it
    • do I use badges or no?
  • Reading  & Writing Notebooks
    • how to get students to buy in
    • what are some must-haves in each one
  • Shakespeare
    • A wide range of abilities in my class – how can I make it work for all of them in a way that is respectful of where everyone is and what they need
    • I want to move toward more of the drama piece, rather than just reading
  • Essential Questions
    • For each unit?
    • For the whole year?
  • Vocabulary
    • Biggest need for differentiation
    • How to make this flexible yet structured

So…just a few things to figure out in the next day or two.


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