Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box

Having a growth mindset means thinking outside of the box. A box is confining, a set space, a closed lid. And while it may bulge to a point, it can also bust and break. So why not just place yourself outside the box instead?

You're wondering what's inside here, right?
Thinking outside the box = creative ideas and solutions, embracing new opportunities, and a move toward growing and learning vs. staying in one place.

So the question I'm asking myself is ....can I embrace new challenges and stretch myself to try new things? And can I challenge my students to do the same?

YES!  (my next post will address my "issue" with saying yes so much....)


This year I have attempted to step outside the box and try taking more opportunities to be creative and see what happens. So far......

*My team and I have embarked on a 3-month collaborative project with an author, Jena Ball. Our students have read her book, engaged in multiple Google+ Hangouts, and integrated reading, writing, and art activities that will culminate in the production of a student newspaper and a visit to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa to present it next week. This has been a lot of work, yet a rewarding experience for both the students and the teachers.

*My class has been able to step outside their own box to pursue passions of their own during Genius Hour (also known as passion projects). I've never seen so much love for learning and working - the clock most certainly deceives us and the minutes fly by double-time!

One group of girls (my art-lovers) researched how to make homemade art projects. They created their own tie-dye paper and then made an iMovie to demonstrate the steps to the class.

Another pair of students learned about the planet, Uranus. They discovered that living on Uranus would be impossible for humans, so they created animal figures that had special adaptations made for living on Uranus and explained the unique qualities of each figure to the class.

A student interested in the concept of gravity demonstrated how gravity affects a variety of objects, made his own website to share with the class, and concluded by sharing a self-made Google form "quiz" to see if the class was listening to his presentation. It's amazing to see what students will do if given the chance!

*My students have taken the lead to be in charge of the classroom during Mystery Skype. They each have a job to do and my responsibility is to step out of the way and watch them go. It's been great to see how they interact with one another and refine each other's questions.

Students trying to figure out the mystery state (Wyoming).

*As a part of the Global Read Aloud (read more here), my class listened to "The 14th Goldfish" by Jennifer Holm. We collaborated with a small group of schools including students from Minnesota, Texas, and California. The teachers worked together to create discussion questions and the students interacted with one another using Padlet, Google Docs, and Tackk. It was a great learning experience.

14th Goldfish collaboration between students in multiple states

So what's next?

Just this weekend a group of 4th-5th grade teachers that have connected on Twitter was contacted by one of our group members, a 5th grade teacher in Illinois, looking for anyone that might be interested in a "mini-global-read-aloud" using a picture book and comprehension chat. It also happens to be a "big move" for her as she is planning to do it during her principal's formal observation. Good for her! Many of us jumped at the chance and last time I checked there are 9 classes that going to read "Smoky Night" by Eve Bunting and have a collaborative comprehension discussion on Twitter later this week. It will fit perfectly into my Unit 3 ELA plan of discussing story events & inferences this week!! (Interesting also how it may connect an event from 20+ years ago to similar happenings these days).

I'm also working on the details for my own "big move" out of the box ........ an after school club which will take place mid-second semester. I'm extremely excited, fairly nervous, and yet ready to take on this challenge because without taking the first step, I might never know what it could become. But seeing small pieces come together into something big is how puzzles are put together, right?

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