Sunday, July 24, 2016

Genius Hour Homework

I'd been reading about Genius Hour all over the place and decided I wanted to implement it in my first grade classroom.  As with most things I try in my classroom, I read a bit here and there and then make it my own and run with it!
What I decided to do was "Genius Hour Homework" in place of our normal weekly packet for a three week period.  I'd like to get rid of homework altogether, but that's another post for another time...
My hope for this project was to give kids time to explore something they're passionate about or interested in.  I absolutely LOVED the end result!  It was really fantastic...two of my colleagues tried it after me and loved it as well.  My plan for next year is to do one Genius Hour Homework assignment each trimester.
Here's how it worked:  First, we brainstormed things we were passionate about and things we were interested in learning more about.
Then, students had one week to make a plan and two more weeks to work on the project.  Here is the handout that was sent home that first day to explain the directions to families.

Then, students presented to the class.  I broke it up into four presentation times so students would not have to sit for too long at one time.  Students received a homework "grade" for completing the assignment and a Speaking and Listening grade for their presentation and participation.
We had baked goods (a delicious cake AND some scrumptious cupcakes), an Empire State Building 3-D puzzle, a how-to draw dinosaurs chart, glitter bracelets (one given to each student!) a Hawaiian lei, gymnastics (a model of a gym AND multiple cartwheels across the classroom!!), a model airplane, a handmade pillow, World Trade Center models made of popsicle sticks, singing (via Power Point and LIVE!), a toy car racetrack, Lego structures, and a chart about how to build a skateboard...OH MY!!!

It was even better than I expected!  I know that homework can sometimes become a tedious job at home, even though I try to make mine a quick and fun review.  The best thing about this project was that families were spending time together, reading, having fun, learning, and exploring..."stuff" that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
I received a lot of positive feedback from parents who had a great time.  If you're able, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying this.  It was definitely one of my favorite days of the school year.  You really get to see your kids in a different light and it lets the kids know that learning can be achieved in so many ways!!  Click here to try Genius Hour Homework in your classroom!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Friday Free Book Drawings!

I decided to give my Free Book Drawing Box a makeover this summer, to match my new room decor, and I thought it would be a great time to blog about my Friday Free Book Drawings!
For YEARS, I was buying cheap, useless trinkets to put in my Treasure Chest because that's what I'd always seen in Treasure Chests.  When I came to Las Vegas, however, I taught at a very at-risk school and decided that those kids needed BOOKS more than anything else!  So, I started using my bonus points when I had them and also shopping for $1 books through Scholastic.  I loaded up my Treasure Chest with awesome and popular books.  The kids love it, the parents love it, and it makes me feel like they are getting something useful and long-lasting from their Treasure Chest choice!

So, how do kids get to go to the Treasure Chest?  Well, this can really be achieved anyway you prefer, but I do a weekly Friday Free Book Drawing.  Kids can earn free book tickets to enter into the drawing throughout the week.  I distribute tickets for good behavior, turning in homework, class participation, winning a game, or whatever. 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Free-Book-Drawing-Tickets-Apple-Theme-2629939
Free Book Tickets-Apple (click to get them FREE)
The kids fill in their name and put the ticket in our awesome "furry rainbow box"...previously, it was a "furry blue box", but I changed it up this year...I have WAY too much fun making these things!
Then, on Friday, I have kids come up and draw 2-3 (or sometimes more) winners.  I list the winners and the titles of the books they chose in our weekly newsletter.  I LOVE keeping the Treasure Chest stocked up...it's not a chore like it used to be when I was always having to run to the store and buy cheap toys!
Definitely worth trying in your classroom if you're tired of stocking up on toys or candy and looking for something more meaningful for your Treasure Chest.  You can use raffle tickets or tickets of your own design.  I have several sets of tickets for the free book drawings in my store for you, too!  They're FREE and themes available include:  apple, pencil, superhero, safari, sports, owl, star, and monster!!  I print mine on different colors of copy paper, cut, and store in a baggie so they're ready to hand out when I need them.  Enjoy and give this a try in your classroom!