California Teachers Association

January / February 2017

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I M A G I N E Y O U R C L A S S R O O M is a place w here students' passion-driven genius work is routine. Students experiment with their ideas, discover new possibilities, and support one another as they share their findings and creations with the world. Fi f th-g ra d e t ea ch er Tammy D unb ar i s a b i g p r o p o n e n t o f " G e n i u s H o u r," a t i m e d u r i n g t h e s c h o o l d a y w h e n s t u d e n t s a re i nv i t e d t o e x p l o re w h a t m o v e s t h e m — t h r o u g h r e s e a r c h , e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n , c o l l a b o r a t i o n a n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n . T h e s t a r t i n g q u e s - tions for each student are: Who are the g e n i u s e s i n y o u r l i f e ? W h a t a re t h e i r characteristics? W hat 's your genius? Dunbar, Manteca Educators Associa- tion, has used Genius Hour over the past four years to great success. It has let her guide students to be effective learners and citizens by helping them connect what they do in school to the broader community. In the process, many do better on tests and develop new leadership skills. "During Genius Hour, they study what- ever they want to," says Dunbar, who will give a presentation on the topic at CTA's Good Teaching Conference North . "It's h eavy on research , skill s-building and problem solving. Students will work hard at something they're invested in." Fo r e x a m p l e , a s t u d e n t w h o w a s i n t e r e s t e d i n a r c h i t e c t u r e f o u n d a b l u e p r i n t a p p a n d s t a r t e d b u i l d i n g small houses. "One boy learned how to make tama- l e s ," D u n b a r re c a l l s . " He f i l m e d h i s grandmother making them and prac- ticed making them , then he made the final batch. He showed us the video of him and his abuela." Love of learning With Genius Hour, students " learn to love learning," she says. "That joy makes th em want to sh are th eir kn ow l ed ge with others." Educator Angela Maiers, founder of Choose2Matter, a movement that chal- lenges and inspires students to w ork collaboratively to develop innovative solu- tions to social problems, helped launch Genius Hour in schools. She wrote Liber- ating Genius in the Classroom as a guide to preparing students for Genius Hour, and asked Dunbar to "test-drive" the lessons. "When she approached me, it was the end of our first trimester," says Dunbar, who in addition to teaching in Manteca Unified School District is an instructor at Teach ers C ol l ege of S an Jo aquin in Stockton. "At end of the second trimester, student scores went up dramatically. ey felt more confident about the skills, talents and gifts they saw in themselves." D unbar al so noticed thi s n e w found pride and confidence in her students' lead- ership efforts, even as they moved up in grades. ey wrote a press release for the local newspaper about the school's food drive, and donations to the drive doubled from the year before. is year, all school officer positions are filled by students from her first Genius Hour year. Genius Hour, says D unbar, de velops a muscle in kids that can last a lifetime. "Educators must craft learning situations and opportunities for students involv- ing stamina and perseverance that will stretch their problem-solving muscle," she says. " You only strengthen a muscle if you use it." Genius! Give students time to find and follow their passion TEACHER GEEK PRESENTATION At Good Teaching Conference North, Tammy Dunbar will also present " Teacher Geek Is Chic!" on how the new standards' emphasis on collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking (the four C's) can integrate with 21st century skills and technology. "I want to make tech accessible so we're not afraid of it," Dunbar says. "It's OK if students see you struggle with it. They'll think, 'Huh, she's struggling and not afraid of failing and learning. I can do that too.' " She will show samples of what tech looks like in the classroom, from free Web tools to Breakout EDU, an immersive game similar to Escape the Room. Breakout lets students use the four C's to brain- storm and solve puzzles using core subject skills. "Students love it," she says. " They don't mind stick- ing with the problem till they find the answer." For Dunbar, these are tools you can use right now. "I like to talk about things a teacher can see at a CTA conference and go back to class on Monday and actually use." Tammy Dunbar will present "Liber- ating Genius" and " Teacher Geek Is Chic!" at CTA's Good Teaching Conference North, Feb. 3-5 in San Jose. For information and to register, see #ctagtc 13 January / February 2017 in the know

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