Empowering students with Genius Hour—Part 2: Accelerating your genius

Today’s post is written by Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM and fifth-grade teacher in the Manteca Unified School District and Educational Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin in Stockton, California.

This is part two of a three-part series taking an in-depth look at actual in-class lessons from “Liberating Genius,” Angela Maiers’ free e-book (in OneNote format). For more guidance, access my updated OneNote lesson plans, which include “Part 1: Accepting your genius” and “Part 2: Accelerating your genius,” here.

It’s been said that a person must hear something positive about themselves 17 times before they believe it. After implementing “Liberating Genius” (which is part of Genius Hour) in our classroom, it’s taken far fewer times for The Room Nine Kids, a fifth-grade class in Manteca (California) Unified School District, to believe that their genius, ideas and passions are valuable. They have put that genius to use for the good of others.

Accelerating genius by helping others

And because they embraced it so fully and so quickly, we were able to extend our lessons from “Accepting your genius” to “Accelerating your genius” when two timely opportunities arose.

First, when I passed out the typical annual holiday canned food drive flyers this year, I was shocked when my class didn’t just put the flyers in their backpacks. Students asked about our local food bank and how many families it serves. They wanted to know how many items it took to feed a family of four for one day. They wondered if they could collect more items this year than any other year.

In just a few days, the students had taken this project into their own hands: researched our local food bank, Second Harvest, both online and in person; calculated how many items it would take to feed a family of four for one day; and used what we had studied about propaganda (i.e. advertising) to design a window display and newspaper article alerting the people of Manteca about the food drive (our window looks out on a major street in our town).

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Second, we had the chance to join the 2015 World Wonder Day Global Project, because they had the same mission as ours—feeding the hungry. We paired up with a classroom in Greece to share our “Wonder” questions and our findings.

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When we looked at the data, we were amazed at the final count: We had more than doubled the amount of food that we had collected last school year! You can check out the Sway we made to celebrate our success!

The Room Nine Kids have now witnessed personally the results that are possible when you embrace the idea that “You are a genius, and the world needs your contribution.”

Self-awareness—silence is golden

One thing students are not used to is silence. Every waking moment of our day seems to be filled with some kind of input.

Since the lessons in the “Accelerating your genius” section call for students to spend some quality time thinking about their inspiration, passion and strengths, I decided we needed to talk about the importance of silence. This prompted me to use the “Self-Awareness” lesson as the introduction to the “My Passion Profile” lesson.

Before we took the self-assessment on Thrively.com, we had a class discussion about that “inner voice” that helps guide us in our decisions. Using another specially created Sway, we looked at the amazing amount of input/noise that surrounds us every day. Students were stunned when they came to the realization that they virtually had no quiet time in their lives. I told them a story about how I discovered the value of silence when a big project was due and then asked them to give silence a try for this next lesson.

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Students then signed in to Thrively.com and took their self-assessments in silence—truly concentrating on their honest answers.

When they finished, they were rewarded with a screen that told them their five best traits, along with a narrative that described their strengths and how they could put them to use! My students were so energized by their results they asked how they could capture them to take them home and show their families. Since the next step in the Liberating Genius lesson was for them to reflect on their Thrively experience in our OneNote Class Notebook, I encouraged them to take advantage of the Screen Clipping feature in OneNote. That way, each student had his/her results on the page to both help them write their reflections and to share at home with their families, whether they had Internet access or not.

Open up your genius and your heart

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What really set the stage in our conversation about our “inner voice” was the lesson, “My Passion, My Heart,” in which students were challenged to reflect on the things that are important to them and that influence their decision-making. The Room Nine Kids were so pleased with their final artwork that they asked to display it in the hallway so the whole school would be inspired. They even asked to share the lesson with their KinderTechBuddies, which shows that when you share what’s in your heart, it grows and touches others.

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—Tammy Brecht Dunbar

Follow and check out our social feed @OneNoteEdu, so you don’t miss the final post of this series!

Tammy teaches fifth grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin in Stockton, California. She is a popular presenter and trainer around the country. She presented at the 2015 Microsoft Global E2 conference (where she earned two global awards for project excellence) and will be presenting at ISTE 2016 (with Angela Maiers), CUE 2016, ETC! 2016 and CTA’s Good Teaching Conference 2016. Follow her @TammyDunbar or find her at www.teachergeekischic.com.