Today was the final day before the Christmas Break. If you work in a school or with children then you know that it’s a pretty crazy day. The children are so excited and it’s really difficult to get them to focus on any tasks. I’ve done the movie and popcorn on the last day, free time activities, games day. All which are pretty special things that the students enjoy but I wanted to end our 2013 on a real high. If you ask any of the students in the class what is their favourite thing about school they will likely tell you genius time. So I knew I had to something big with genius time.
My initial plan was to just let them go ahead and make their projects. But my wonderful colleague and husband Phil Young had his students engage in a genius time day and while it was a really positive learning experience for the students a few were left frustrated because they used their material to “practice” on but didn’t have successful results in the way that they wanted. With this in mind I realized that many of my students may not have ever baked, or sewn so that’s when I came up with Genius Trial Day. Basically I would supply the materials and group the students by similar topic. This left me with Bakers, Sewers, Builders, Gamers. I had a small handful of miscellaneous students but I let them join whichever group they wished. The groups had a component of working together (some more than others) and had specific materials and a set of instructions to follow. I expected to be really torn between the groups and frantic as I had raced between helping. But that wasn’t the case at all. The builders and gamers didn’t need me at all. Once I set the bakers up with reading and following a recipe and then how to properly fill a measuring cup and use the mixer they were good. The sewers felt frustrated at first but once they got the technique down they didn’t need me either. Except for the odd rethread. Having Mr. Edwards there was a huge help too. The room was busy, and a bit loud but not out of control loud. The buzz was a happy classroom community of students working together and creating something that they were all very proud of!
Their task was to bake chocolate chip cookies. Their recipe was easy and they organized themselves in an order to make sure they all had a fair share of the process. When it was their recess time they all decided to stay in and help me take their cookies to the staff room to bake and wash up the dishes. I don’t think I’ve even seen a group of 8 year olds so excited to bake. The smell wafting from the oven was amazing and they looked great! They tasted exactly as a chocolate chip cookie should. Right texture, right colour they were delicious. The smile on the Bakers faces was priceless they were so proud of themselves.
Their task was to create a mini stuffy out of a simple shape. I first had the students do practice stitches on scraps of fabric to get the hang of it. I purposely used stripped fabric so they could follow along a strip and told them to make their stitches not larger than 1cm (use their pinky nail as a guide). Once they had finished their practice they had to draw their shape on a newsprint, cut it out, trace it twice with a sharpie onto felt, cut out their felt and begin to sew their pieces together. Their instructions said to leave a thumb sized hole to stuff and then stitch closed. It was tricky for them at first and a bit of frustration but they really got the hang of it. Some of the sewers even made a second project.
They didn’t need me… at all. They split into two groups of 2 and their task was to create a lego maze. They had some initial planning and part of their instructions was to use kidrex (safe search engine powered by google) to search images of lego mazes. At first I asked them to use grid paper to plan out their maze but at the last minute I told them to forget it and just build. I’m so glad I did because they came up with really imaginative complex mazes. One was Zombie Apocalypse maze complete with little red lego zombies. The other had moving parts that could seal of accesses to the maze at any time. One of my students who is usually a reluctant learner was totally focused, engaged and immersed in the task so much that he was disappointed it was recess time. Normally he’s the first to jump up and get to the door when the bell rings. The other students when they had the chance to see what the builders were up to were amazed.
Admittedly I may have ignored the gamers but they REALLY didn’t need me. They had such a blast and they were creating games and sharing their games with one another and laughing and talking and it was lovely. The best part is the group consisted of three boys who are friends but don’t make great choices together and a fourth that doesn’t normally get along with the other 3. I was secretly happy that I could ignore them because they were collaborating beautifully I kind of didn’t want to wreck their momentum. The gamers created games using the iPad mini’s and an app called Sketch Nation. I first instructed them to use simple mode and then go onto advanced. They rocked it. For their actual projects I know they all want to create games and apps but I”m not 100% where to go with it but looking for suggestions for sure!
I for sure got my wish. To end the first part of our 2013 grade 3 year on a high. If you can only imagine the amount of fun AND learning that was going on on the last day of school before Christmas break you’d be totally floored. I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with for their individual projects.