Here's what we did: I created a symbaloo (You can find it here.) for each of the partnerships' topics. We also have another free trial of PebbleGo for the next week or so. We set each partnership up with a computer, showed them how to get to the symbaloo and PebbleGo, and set them to work. Lori and I had both prepped our kids to record any new information they learned about their topics. It was amazing to see how much they wrote down!
The day held many surprises for us, though. Surprises like:
- Each computer only had one set of headphones. Since many of the links on the symbaloos are videos, they had to figure out a way to share the sound. It didn't take long for a handful of them to discover that they could twist the headphones in just the right way to give each partner one earphone. This way, they could listen at the same time. The second graders were bent over and the kindergartners were sitting straight up so they could each reach the headphones. Teamwork, like that, doesn't always happen in my classroom. It made my heart smile to see it happening!
- Some of my toughest kids were working harder than anyone. They were focused, following directions, working with their partners, and, most importantly, learning all kinds of new things! As I stood by watching one challenging student writing information down and cooperating with his partner, I almost teared up. When we got back to the classroom, I called him over to my desk and we sent an email to his dad. There was no way I was keeping what I saw to myself; that type of thing needs to be shared.
- I watched as my kindergartners took pride in their knowledge of technology (especially in PebbleGo, since the second graders had never used it) and started to teach their older partners. If a second grader accidentally clicked on the wrong link, the kindergartner helped get them back to the right screen. Together, the partnerships shared control of the computer so each person had a chance to make choices.
- We worked right through kindergarten recess, so Lori invited the kindergartners to come outside for recess with them. My kiddos were through-the-roof excited for this! As we got back to our classroom and started to get dressed to go out, there were many shouts of, "We get to go on the big kid playground!" and "I'm going to find my partner!" When we got out there, most of them did seek out their partners. What I saw happening between those partnerships was the coolest thing I've seen all year. They were chasing each other around and playing together all over the playground. The highlight of my whole day happened here: three boys (two second graders and one kindergartner) have been learning about football, and during this recess, they grabbed a football and started to practice what they had been learning. They were including my little guy in with their game and he was smiling away. He's probably the quietest kid in my class, and he was having so much fun he was starting to get a little wild. That's when I knew we had created success!
In my conversation with Lori after school, she talked about how she felt the real "genius" in our genius hour has way more to do with the interactions we are seeing than what they are learning. I think she is absolutely right! My students are thriving off the collaboration time; they are building relationships with older students and using these relationships to create something awesome. They look forward to this time more than any other time in my classroom, and it has helped them grow in ways I never would have predicted.
I can't wait to see where this process will take us. I know big things are in store, and I am hoping I'll be able to find the best way to help these students successfully manage them. Like I said in my last post about Genius Hour, this is a risk. I don't know for sure how it will turn out; I simply pray that it continues to go as it is to take us somewhere amazing!