More University of Georgia #GeniusCon Research Partners

Geniuscon Day 2 (1)Last week a group from Gretchen Thomas’s EDIT 2000 class at the University of Georgia partnered with Caitlin Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class to work on research for the students’ GeniusCon projects.  Students are answering the question:  If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?

Students topics range from improving the lunch menu to healthier options to adding additional playground equipment to eliminating homework to starting school later in the day.  Even students who share the same topic are taking different approaches to what they would change and how they would do it.

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Today, a new group of Gretchen’s students came to work with the 2nd graders.  Last time, most 2nd graders went through their lists of questions and answered them with their own thinking.  Today’s focus was to move to researching online and in books as well as developing next steps.

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I loved walking around and seeing some of the online reading that students were doing with their partners.

I also loved seeing how the UGA students interacted with the 2nd graders and how they helped to keep our students focused and thinking.  Of course, the UGA students learned a lot too about how much our students know about using technology.

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Some of those next steps involved created Google form surveys that could be emailed out.  Some students crafted emails to send out to the lunchroom or the principal.  We asked students to wait before sending anything out.  The main reason in doing this was to spend a little more time thinking through the content of the email or the survey.  For example, one student had one question in her Google form asking students if they would like more access to the 3D printer.  She was ready to send it out, but after talking with me, she realized that if students wanted access to the 3D printer, we would have no idea what they wanted to do with it.  Our conversation pushed her to think more about her survey before sending it out.  Similar conversations were taking place all over the library.

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At the end, Caitlin pulled her class together to debrief what they had accomplished.

Catilin’s students will continue working on this project and our UGA partners will return again.


University of Georgia #Geniuscon Research Partners

geniuscon uga (2)Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class has been participating in #Geniuscon since January.  Geniuscon is an opportunity for students to show their “genius” by exploring a real-world topic that matters to them.  Students go through an inquiry research process that centers around their interests and questions.  This year, the overall question for Geniuscon is “If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?”

First, students kicked off the project with some brainstorming.

Then, they chose topics and spent time developing questions around those topics.

Next, they continued to develop their questions, fine tune their topics, and make a plan of where to find information or who to ask questions.

While this step was going on, Mrs. Ramseyer and I started having a conversation with Gretchen Thomas, teacher at the University of Georgia.  Gretchen first reached out to me on Twitter for another project at our school, and our conversations led us to Geniuscon.  Her undergraduate students do 20% projects, which is very similar to what our students are doing.  We thought that it would be wonderful for her UGA students to partner with our 2nd graders.  Her UGA students would learn about working with kids as well as how we were journeying through this type of research project, and our students would benefit from having an older learner facilitating the research process.  Gretchen’s class is not all education majors, which actually brings even more interesting perspectives and connections to our project.  Some of her students are football and basketball players at UGA, so the students really liked that too.

Gretchen actually teaches 2 different groups of UGA students who are able to come to our school, so Mrs. Ramseyer worked with her through email to pair up UGA students and Barrow students.  Today, the first group of UGA students arrived.  We briefly met on the carpet to set the focus and then UGA and Barrow students paired and moved throughout the library to work.  Students grabbed a computer from cart and logged into their Google drive.

This is what it looked like:

Using their list of topic questions, they had a conversation with their UGA partner.  We quickly saw that many of our Barrow students just wanted to answer their research questions with their own words.  This is certainly a valid piece of the process, but students weren’t all thinking about where they might go to research beyond themselves.

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Mrs. Ramseyer, Gretchen, and I all walked around and checked in with groups and nudged them to start thinking about where they might go to find more information.  There were some amazing things happening in a short amount of time.  During the debrief at the end, students shared what they accomplished during the work time.

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Here are some examples of what students said:

  • I learned how to make a spreadsheet and started adding things to it
  • I’m making a Google form survey to send to teachers
  • I learned that playground equipment is expensive.  Some of the pieces are thousands of dollars.
  • I sent an email to our principal and assistant principal
  • I looked at our daily schedule to see where we could put another recess

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I wish that I could have sat in every conversation because it was amazing to see the variety of learning going on.  One of the great things is that there will be so many students experts on so many different tools and strategies that it will support further learning in the class this year.  Students who learned Google forms can teach others.  Students who don’t know what a spreadsheet is or how to make it now have someone to ask.

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I also checked in with our principal because I had not told her that she might get some emails.  She had already read the emailed and is planning to give the student a menu and suggest that she analyze the nutritional facts for the items on the menu.  She was very excited about the potential of the project and collaboration with UGA.

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We are so fortunate to have a university right next to our school.  Thank you, Gretchen Thomas, for sharing your UGA students with us.  I hope they learn as much from us as we learn from them.



Third Grade Rockhounds

Our third grade is just beginning a study of rocks and minerals in their standards.  We are taking an inquiry approach to this study and using the lens of transliteracy as we plan.

In class, students began a KWL in their science journals.  They wrote what they know about rocks and what they wonder about before coming to the library.  I planned groupings of experiences to give them multiple platforms for looking at rocks.  One stations was a big box of rocks and minerals that I collected in my childhood during yearly visits to Santa’s Land in Cherokee, NC where we always stopped at the “ruby mine”.  Students could explore the rocks and minerals using hand lenses and write observations or sketches in their journals.  Another station had multiple informational books about rocks and minerals as well as poetry using photographs of rocks.  The final station was at the computer where I created a pathfinder of games, videos, interactive sites, ebooks, and informational sites about rocks and minerals.

Students started in the floor where I talked about transliteracy and the natural flow in and out of different platforms of information.  We talked about how more questions will develop the more that you research and how to document those new questions in the science journals.  Rather than ask students to switch every 20 minutes or so to a different center, I gave them the freedom to move in and out of centers as they chose.

I gave them a little structure by providing a sheet that asked them to visit 4 books, 7 websites, and the box of rocks and minerals.  Students were welcome to move back and forth between the stations as many times as they needed.  For example, a student might make an observation of a rock in the box, look in books to identify the rock, go back to the box to clarify observations, and visit websites to confirm the identification.  The classroom teacher, spectrum teacher, and I floated among the groups and conferenced with students to encourage them to be curious and to document their learning.  As always, some students had a natural curiosity and freely documented their learning, while others needed more guidance and support.

Now the classes will return to their rooms to use the information they gathered to support their study of rocks and minerals.  They will revisit the resources I’ve gathered throughout the study.

This is a model I am starting to replicate in more and more lessons.  I love the freedom that it offers students and the support it offers for individualized instruction.

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George Washington Carver: A Digital Product

Students view their first attempt at a video and give one another feedback

A group of 1st and 3rd grade students have been collaborating with one another to learn about George Washington Carver.  They used print and internet resources to gather research to learn about him.  They also along the way decided that he deserved to be represented on some of our US currency, so they incorporated their knowledge of persuasive writing to explain why he deserved to be on the $1000 bill. These students used an inquiry approach and were facilitated by various adults including their classroom teachers, gifted teacher, and me (the media specialist).  The goal was to let these students guide the process and make decisions about what to create.  As adults, we offered possibilities, but tried to leave decisions in their hands. Today, these students came to the media center with all of their final pieces and used an iPad to record their final presentation.  They used art, informational writing, persuasive writing,  and solo and choral reading to present their information.  After a practice video, they made some minor adjustments and recorded their final piece.  They learned how to import their video from the iPad into their documents on the computer.  They will continue to make decisions about how their final video is used, but for now, I have uploaded their video on Youtube for you to enjoy.