10 Genius Hour Projects

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Genius Hour was such a hit in the classroom! Student engagement was at an all-time high! The only problem - getting my students started! I had to get them to wrap their heads around what they COULD do, not had to do - a very tricky concept for some students. Here are a couple ideas to help you and your students get started!
1. Give students the opportunity to create a craft! Two of my students took this route and I already had the materials in my closet!
2. Let students cook a meal! I brought a crockpot into the classroom and we all got a taste it was delicious! I had another student back a Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!
3. Another student put together a gum ball machine. It was tricky, but he worked it out!
4. A student went down to the workroom with our amazing para and learned how to use the binding machine. (I don't even know how to use it!) She had a great time and showed us all how to use it after she was finished.
5. Two students worked together to create a character from their favorite video game. They have been carrying it around ever since!
6. A student built a volcano! She spent so much time on it and after she was finished, we went outside to watch it erupt!
7. A girl in my classroom taught herself how to fold origami. All the kids were hooked and wanted her to teach them.
8. A boy in my classroom loves to build things. Here he built a boat that would float when placed in water.
9. Puppies! How could I say no?!? This kiddo brought in his new puppy and wrote up a whole presentation about how to take care of his puppy.
10. Another student built a sculpture of a character he enjoys. He spent so much time perfecting the details!
Each of these ideas were student led and we asked for resources around the building to help them! I hope these ideas help you and your students get started!

Check out my Genius Hour product HERE to get you started! The blog post describing it all is HERE! :)

10 Classroom Management Strategies

Thursday, May 5, 2016
1. Structure and Organization
A classroom that is organized, de-cluttered, and labeled makes for happy students. Students are able to find materials quickly, they know where to go for information and with less clutter comes less distractions. Structure is also key - a classroom schedule and calendar is great for students to know what to expect throughout the day. Stick to that schedule as much as possible. Of course, things come up, but set them up for success by communicating any changes in schedule or change in routine.

2. High Expectations
Challenge your students! Be sure to model those expectations and practice! Students need to know what those expectations sound like, feel like and look like before they're able to follow through with them. Same goes for lessons - be sure to model!!!

3. Be Consistent
Be sure procedures, routines, expectations and consequences remain constant. If you find something that doesn't work for your students, then of course, change it, but be sure to stay consistent with your high expectations mentioned previously! Wavering in those expectations means they can get away with a lot more.

4. Hold Them Accountable
Don't allow for opt out situations. During lessons, pick popsicle sticks for students to answer, have students turn and talk with THINKING PARTNERS or give choral responses (all students must respond before moving on) to give students several opportunities for buying in. Make sure they don't have the option for opting out of a lesson, discussion or project because you're prepared with multiple opportunities for them and they know your expectations.

5. Follow Through
Empty threats are the worst for students. If you threaten to call their mom and they don't turn it around, DEFINITELY call. If you ask them to turn their body to face their partner, make sure they are doing just that. If you ask them to complete a task before moving on, come back to be sure it is happening. If you tell them something will happen, then follow through. When students know they got away without follow through, behaviors don't change.

6. Be Firm, Direct and Explicit
Battling it out with students, power struggles, and yelling do not work. During a misbehavior, be very specific about what you expect, be firm and to the point then move on. Dwelling on a misbehavior, ridiculing students and getting cranky with them can ruin a relationship and make a student more reluctant to change.

7. Know Your Students and Build Relationships
Figure out what makes your kids tick, what gets them excited, what irritates or frustrates them. Ask them about their weekend or remember special dates. Listen to them and connect with them on things that are important to them. Also, know that what works for one student in terms of classroom management may not work for the other. What you might be able to say to one student might not affect the next student at all.

8. Pick Your Battles
Not every little thing that drives you crazy as a teacher needs to be addressed. When a misbehavior is disrupting the entire class, then yes it needs to be addressed. Some misbehaviors are not intentional on their part, so a quiet reminder or quick discussion often works. Also, be absolutely sure of what you are redirecting. They are innocent until proven guilty. You must have clear evidence of what you are redirecting before doing so, otherwise it will cause more issues and throw a wrench in your relationship with that student.

9. Be Subtle
Redirections can happen in subtle ways. One thing I often do during a whole group discussion is say something like, "Jasmin, can you hold your thought to share with the group? I want to make sure everyone is giving you respect and following expected behavior." Using this strategy doesn't directly call a student out for poor behavior and generally sends a clue to the whole group. I also give praise to students who are following expected behavior. "Donte, you look like you're ready to learn and be a leader in the classroom." This gives other students a model of how they should be acting and they generally follow.

10. Respectful Talk
Encourage respectful talk in the classroom. Model it for them and practice it with them each day. Have students practice respectful and encouraging talk to each other and to you. Going back to #1, they need to know the expectation that disrespectful talk and remarks are not acceptable in your classroom.

Hope these tips are helpful for you!

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