As teachers, we are not always comfortable venturing into the unknown, but this is the perfect opportunity to do just that! Teaching and learning cannot be done as they have been in our classrooms, so don’t expect it to look the same. Now is the time to try out some of those online tools or open-ended activities that you have not had the time to explore with your students. Some of my favorites are Genius Hour, blogging, and creating videos. I’m not telling you to toss your standards by the wayside, but why not engage your students in a way that gives them some control over their learning?
Genius Hour is one of my students’ favorite activities. In fact, they have been asking me to assign it since we left the classroom. Based on the 20% Time projects from the tech industry, these are student-directed, inquiry-based projects that allow students to go deeper into their interests. Students choose a focused topic to research, and then share what they learn with their classmates. You provide structure along the way and benchmarks for them to meet, while incorporating reading, writing, math, and speaking. Depending on the topic, science and social studies can also be integrated. In my class, we use Kidblog to document our process and reflections; create visual presentations with Google Slides and Drawings; and record video presentations to share with classmates using Screencastify or Flipgrid. Topics in my classroom were diverse, ranging from the Egyptian pyramids to a feud between two social media influencers. This one project can check multiple boxes on your list of standards, while the students are highly engaged in their learning, often going further than you would have asked of them.
Teaching these days can feel overwhelming, but our students are still thirsty for knowledge. There are so many online tools and resources that can facilitate the quenching of that thirst. Let’s become the teachers we’ve always wanted to be without the confines of the four-walled classroom. Let’s forget about those workbooks that are stuck in our classrooms and allow our students (and ourselves) to discover more about our world in authentic ways.
This entry is written by Sabrina McDaniel, an instructor for KCI’s EMpowered 4/5 math program, a MERIT Fellow, and an alumni of both FAME and MADE Science. She is a 6th grade teacher at Ledesma Elementary School in San Jose, CA.