The Genius of Genius Hour

Contributed by Donna Kouri, elementary librarian

This year our elementary school implemented Genius Hour for students in grades 1-5. We hold it three times a week for 40 minutes each day. All students have it at the same time which has been a wonderful, although unexpected, gift.

During Genius Hour, students work on a project that is of interest to them. It is their chance to explore something they are passionate about but that may not be covered in class. The only requirements are that the project must have a research component and there must be some type of presentation where students share their project with others. 

Failure is fine during genius hour, a philosophy that aligns perfectly with the new Creation Station that our LMC put in place this year. Failure is a point to start, not to end, and even projects that do not work out the first time can be tweaked and altered and lessons can be learned.

The LMC bustles during Genius Hour in the best possible way. Students drop in to use all sorts of items from the Creation Station. They may come to use technology, to hook into the collaboration table to project their computer onto a larger screen where all members of the group can view it, to film in front of the green screen, or to work on building a project that supports their research.

Every day there is something different happening. The only constant is that the library is full of students thinking, problem solving, creating and learning.

One benefit of having genius hour at the same time is the cross grade teaching that occurs. Fourth grade students came in to work on stop motion animation. I had not done this before and offered to help them research and learn how to do it. I also told them that students in fifth grade were already creating stop motion animation projects and might be able to teach them. That is exactly what happened. Students are learning from each other. My role as the LMC director is clearly not to teach them how to do their projects. Often what they come up with is something of which I have limited knowledge. My role is to facilitate their learning and experimentation and to help them answer their own questions. I may help them refine a search, but they are the ones that are doing the searching.

Genius hour has been, quite frankly, genius. We remodeled our LMC to make it Future Ready but, as we all know, that does not make a difference if students are not using it for the intended purpose. Genius Hour has helped bring us closer to our goal of being a Future Ready Library and empowering our students to be Future Ready as well.

 

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Students use the Bloxels app to create a video game. They quickly became experts at this app, and willingly taught others how to use it.

 

 

girls

These girls love gymnastics. They used the green screen to film themselves talking about gymnastics and added clips of themselves executing the various tricks. This was their first experience using the green screen, and they worked in WeVideo to create their final presentation. 

spark

These students loved using the Sphero Sprk, so they researched and learned more about the device. They wanted to know how far away from the Sphero they could stand and still control it. 

 

Providing Opportunities for Students in a Creator Space

Contributed by Blaire Ranucci, elementary librarian

We have been very fortunate in my K-5 building to have received funding to launch a Creator Space. What began as a set of maker resources from our district (robots, osmos, makey makeys, etc) has expanded into a place of exploration in my building.

To fully get the idea of our Creator Space, you have to picture a building with an atrium style library. We have one designated wall and hallways with classroom off of them on three sides. In one of those hallway areas, we have created our Space. When our Creator Space was in the idea phase, the Principal, LMC Director and Technology Liaison worked together to determine how to spend district and grant funds to best meet our needs. We repurposed tables and storage to provide the most ease of access and space for the students. A committee of interested teachers have worked extensively from the idea phase until now to sort through manipulatives from previous math curricula, unpack new kits and supplies, organize storage space and create new challenges across all STEAM areas.

But all the ideas, money and searching through blogs, Pinterest, professional journals, etc does not make for a successful space.

What makes the space successful is the commitment of the Principal, teachers and parents to changing the mindset in a school.

In our building, interested 3rd-5th graders could sign up for Recess Creator Club, which allows them to explore, create and keep projects from week to week. There were no restrictions on which interested students could participate, only that they regularly attend to keep their spot. We have had students across all academic and accommodation levels chose to participate and find success. Not all students thrive during recess, but this has provided another outlet for them. In addition, each grade level has designated time each week to come down. Teachers send students on a rotation, so all students have exposure to the rotating activities and materials that are in the space. Students who are normally pulled out of the classroom many times a day will still have the opportunity to participate with their peers..

It is a work in progress, but this year has been so exciting, and has sparked something in many students who do not always shine. Creator Space has been such an opportunity to add to the definition of lifelong learning and has enhanced what the library can offer a school.

Ethan’s Efforts Making a Difference in our MakerSpace

Contributed by Natalie Hoyle Ross, NBCT and elementary librarian

It is not unusual to see a librarian advocating for the LMC’s MakerSpace; however, it is quite another to have a student take on that role.

Our biggest advocate of our Spring Brook MakerSpace is Ethan. When Ethan realized we were featuring one of his favorite pieces of technology, Osmos, he was thrilled!

However, his idea of a MakerSpace was that the area would be in use the entire school day.  He was disappointed to see that some days the MakerSpace was not being used at all.   It was at this time that Ethan set a personal goal to make our MakerSpace more popular!

His first step was creating an enticing public announcement to lure students to use the MakerSpace.  By making the announcement from the perspective of the Osmo, he explained to the entire school that the Osmos were lonely and wanted to have someone play with them.  Almost in a commercial like manner, he explained how much fun Osmos were and how all Spring Brook students should try them out today! 

Another tactic Ethan used was to excite teachers.  He approached teachers and asked them when they planned to sign up for a time to use our MakerSpaceIn a further effort to spread the word about the MakerSpaces, Ethan designed and hung posters outside the teachers lounge and in the main office, encouraging teachers to become interested in Osmos which is leading to more interest in all the devices.

Since then, Ethan himself has taken on a teaching role.  Ethan used his valuable reward time to help other students become mathematicians through using Osmo Numbers and tangram apps.  

With Ethan‘s help, our MakerSpace has become a hub in our school with frequent visitors and a lot of buzz.   

Selfies and Sneak Attacks

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Something that I love doing is taking pictures of my students in action in the library. I catch them reading alone, with others, or just having a fun time in the library. Most of the photos I take are “sneak attacks,” so I can catch them unprepared instead of posing. When I come across a particularly precious moment, I’ll forward it to their parents in an email with a subject of “Today in the LMC.” Parents respond with a huge thank you! I try to send photos to different families each month. I pick a Friday night to stay at work and flip through the photos and choose families to send them out to.

This year I also added a selfie-station in the LMC. It’s a counter-mounted iPad with a Bluetooth clicker. It’s designed for students to take a picture of themselves with the books they check out. You can only imagine the selfies that I see: serious, goofy, extremely goofy, single shots, group shots, etc. I Tweet out the photos using #KendallReaders. Many times I’ll also include the author’s name in the Tweet. When the author responds, I share that Tweet with my students. They are very excited to know that the author of their favorite books “Like” the Tweets and respond!

Using “sneak-attacks” and selfies has been one more way for me to connect to the families that I serve, keep my students excited about reading, and model the types of connections students can make through digital platforms like Twitter.

Happy reading (and photographing!)

Oh, For the Love of Reading

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Meet Asha, one fierce 5th grade reader.

asha

Last year she was one of my top readers. In fact, she read 314 books during her 4th grade year. So far this year, she’s read 87! Ahsa can check out five books on a Friday and return them all read on Monday. Not only that, she remembers details from each book that would boggle your mind!

When asked, “Why do you read?” Asha responded:

Ms. Jenkins, you asked me, “Why do I read?” I read because it brings me comfort. I love the feeling of when I find a good book.

When I read, it distracts me from what is going on in the world. When I read, sometimes it is like time stops. And I like the feeling when you get to that one moment in the book where everything in the story makes sense, and I just don’t want to put the book down.

Also I love all of the information that a book can give you even if it is a fictional book. There are so many books that I enjoy  reading. I like the Maximum Ride books,and the I.Q series. With those books I felt like I had to read and finish each book!

So I will say that I mostly read just for the fun it and not because I have to for school. I do it for the enjoyment!

Asha D., 5th Grader

Future Ready Librarians – Continue building relationships with kids, telling their stories, and celebrating their accomplishments alongside them!

#thinkwriteboard

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Reading and writing are enhanced by thinking! What better way to get students thinking first thing in the morning! Give them a space to express their opinions, thoughts and feelings. I started the year off with this whiteboard. Each day I change the question using an alliteration for the day of the week and a thought provoking question. I Tweet it out every day using #thinkwriteboard.

Student response has been amazing. Each day, they rush to read the question and to get to be the first to write their thoughts. Here are a few examples of our responses:

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Of course, kids will be kids . . . that’s why it’s important to be on an erasable surface!

A #thinkwriteboard is a simple way to get students and staff involved in the library. I  also love that other Future Ready Librarians and teachers alike have seen our #thinkwriteboard examples on Twitter and have started one in their own school too!

Happy writing!!!

 

A Celebration of Picture Books

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

November was National Picture Book Month; my school celebrated it with a challenge!

Students and teachers were challenged to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November! They diligently tracked, tallied, and turned in their numbers each week.

What students read individually was included on the tracking sheet, but also…

  • If families read together, each child in the family could count it.
  • If brothers and sisters read together, they both tracked it.
  • If friends read with each other, both of them put it on their tracking sheets.
  • If any non-classroom teacher read to the whole class in the LMC, each child in the class could count it.

Any type of picture book could be read: storybook, biography, nonfiction, wordless, graphic novels, etc.

We had some special events for the month:

  • November 10 (parent-teacher conference night) – Digital Connections were made with a relative. We used Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout to have a relative read a picture book or two.
  • We made connections with schools in Texas, New Jersey and New York to see how many we could read together!
  • We encouraged students to Read the Author Alphabet – They read a picture book by an author’s last name for every letter of the alphabet!

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The winners . . .

We are all winners because  we read!

But, the classroom that read the most picture books for the month won $250 in Scholastic Dollars to enhance their classroom library. The winning 3rd grade class read  1,859 picture books!

Third grade was also the grade level that read the most, so they won a grandparent read-in event.  They read 3,080 picture books!

It was a lot of fun! Check out our statistics:

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After all tally sheets were completely turned in, we actually read 12,001 picture books as a school! Amazing!!! This means students were exposed to at least 12,001,000 words!

The best part of this challenge was the feedback I received from families. One parent wrote regarding her 2nd grader:

Ms. Jenkins,

The Picture Book Challenge is the greatest idea! Annabelle’s been reading like crazy since, and we need not remind her to read at all!


What a joy it was to connect with great picture books.