Category Archives: Genius Hour

Cross-Curricular Connections

Whenever I’m asked to share about our redesigned BC curriculum with other teachers, the first question I’m often asked is: “Can you show us examples of planning?” I struggle to answer this question for a few different reasons. First of all, planning is personal. I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to planning, regardless of what your curriculum looks like. Secondly, if I truly shared my mind’s journey as I plan, I think I would frighten people. Finally, finding cross-curricular connections is something that I feel is crucial to planning with this redesigned curriculum. This takes some effort and thoughtfulness on the part of the teacher who will, in fact, be teaching whatever is being planned.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity this year to be working with teacher candidates one day per week at UBC. This means I get to play with different ways to think about this redesigned curriculum in addition to what I am trying in my own Grade 6/7 classroom. Last week, we explored how mind maps might help us visualize connections between Core French and other disciplines. Through facilitating this exercise, I realized that this simple method of brainstorming could be a powerful tool for helping all teachers beginning to think about cross-curricular connections that could eventually lead to large scale inquiry.

Learning Intention:

I can create a mind map that highlights opportunities for cross-curricular connections between Core French and other content areas.

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By simply identifying curricular competencies and content that work together from a couple of different disciplines, we can begin to understand how this way of approaching teaching and learning is more efficient and more effective for our learners. For example, teacher candidates quickly realized that francophone culture – a big idea in most Core French curriculum – is a great entry point for inquiry. This can be combined easily with competencies in Social Studies or Language Arts to create a deeper, more meaningful understanding of cultural stereotypes, traditions, or historical events. Cross-curricular connections are also what free up time to allow for other creative experiments such as Maker Spaces and Genius Hour, so it’s a win/win situation.

The key to finding solid cross-curricular connections is being intentional. How can we scaffold student learning to ensure we’re targeting all disciplines involved? How can competencies be combined to allow for a single learning intention? With Core French, it’s about connecting communication with context. For example, using language structures such as les verbes à l’impératif with directional vocabulary in French can help us teach communication through P.E. skills. Students practice giving and responding to instructions while focusing on movement. Other disciplines and other classes may look different and that’s ok. Ultimately, it’s about exploring these connections so we can create the most powerful learning experiences for our students. So pull out some art supplies and start envisioning the possibilities! Exploration leads to innovation.

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Photo Credit: Questions to consider when planning @beverleybunker

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Why My Comfort Zone is Not Important

Kids are amazing. Without fail, they exceed our expectations whenever given the opportunity to try something they’re interested in at school. Without fail, they step up to the plate and help each other learn in these instances so no one is left out. They usually do this when we have managed to shift their perspective of school from this thing they have to do every day to make it personally meaningful and relevant to their lives, passions, and curiosities.

This year, I’ve tried to have my kids learn things that make me uncomfortable. One example is coding. Not knowing where to start, we participated in the Hour of Code using tutorials from Khan Academy (available in French). The first experience was amazing for some and frustrating for others; however, they were all engaged in problem-solving and most were collaborating with a partner. Even though I know absolutely nothing about coding, I thought “Good, we tried it! I think we may do that again sometime.” What I learned 3 weeks later when we came back to it again was that the experience had sparked a passion in several of my students that I didn’t even know was there. One girl is pursuing coding daily in her spare time as part of her Genius Hour and thinks she may want to be a software developer. Another group of boys is trying to design their own video game using Scratch. How powerful is that? All because I was willing to give something that is outside my comfort zone a try.

It doesn’t take much effort, only a willingness to be the one without the answers. What have you tried with your kids lately that makes you uncomfortable?

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cc Photo Credit: Finn Vargas – Deviant Art

Moving Forward

I have a secret….

I dream big dreams!

As a child, I believed that I personally had the power to change the world.

Luckily, I had a mother who encouraged my creativity and my big dreams. I also made friends with other big dreamers. Together, we were unstoppable! What could we NOT do? We had a solution for everything!

I never really thought that it wasn’t possible…

Until I entered the “real world”… Until I became a teacher.

What happened to their creativity, their resilience, their perpetual optimism? Where was their sense of adventure? How were children being stripped of these wonderful qualities? I became angry. Frustrated. How could I help them unlearn “school”? How could I make them believe again?

I understand that my dream is big. But why shouldn’t it be?

Although my perspective has changed over the years, I will still find a way to change the world.

I will continue to tell my students that they can change the world too. I need them to believe. We all need them to believe.

It may not happen overnight… I can admit that I HAVE learned that much.

But by taking one small step at a time, we can create change.

We can help each other move forward.

Isn’t that really all anyone ever dreamed of?

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Genius Hour In Progress!

I’ve mentioned before how excited I was about Genius Hour in September. However, for a variety of reasons (illness, students needing more support developing inquiry questions than I anticipated…) the actual genius part of Genius Hour – you know, the fun, pursuing our passions part – seemed to be delayed time and time again.

No longer!

Today, after a rough draft prior to Christmas break, we finally had our first complete, successful session of Genius Hour! I conferenced with each group and everyone is now officially learning about one of their passions. Creating DIY fashion from recycled clothing, constructing a soccer ball, exploring how helicopter motors work, and testing the validity of horse statistics on Wikipedia with real live horses are just a few of students’ amazing ideas. I am genuinely impressed with the questions my students are now exploring; They certainly aren’t projects I could have developed! Here’s to 4 weeks (and the rest of the year) of pursuing awesome passions!

Feel free to check out our project outlines at http://www.kidblog.org/mmebunker. We welcome any feedback all you French speaking students or teachers out there can offer!

How are you helping your students pursue their passions?

Work in Progress

I have been one excited teacher this year. There are just so many inspirational people and ideas out there! I’ve been told to focus on one thing at a time, and my response is always “…but I want to do it all!” The challenge I’m encountering is that there are sometimes too many things on the go and I’m feeling as though my students and I don’t have many “finished” products to show for our efforts.

1. 60 Second Digital Storytelling

Immediately after Surrey’s first Engaging the Digital Leaner session, I began making my own personal video and introduced the concept to my Music and Media class. They spent 5 class periods working on their videos about a day in our school. Some completed the full 60 seconds and many did not. I soon forgot about finishing my own project as well. At first, I was frustrated… but I still think the experience was valuable. There’s something to be said for exploring our creativity from new angles. Here is my unfinished digital story.

2. Genius Hour

Thanks to Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) I stumbled across Genius Hour on Twitter this summer. I introduced it to my class the first week of school and many students were enthusiastic about passion based learning. Then I realized… they had no idea how to get started! It’s almost as if they didn’t know what to do with all of the freedom and creativity that Genius Hour offered. Having heard so much positive feedback, I had jumped in head first without considering this potential obstacle. We put Genius Hour on hold for awhile…

We did make a Curiosity Wall and a Wonder Wall, but we have not yet made it to the actual project stage. Hopefully within the next week we’ll be there, but here’s to sharing what we’ve done so far!

Curiosity Wall
http://wallwisher.com/wall/mur-idees

Wonder Wall
http://wallwisher.com/wall/poser-des-questions

We are always asking our students to take risks and put themselves out there. Are we as educators doing the same thing? What work in progress have you shared recently?