Category Archives: Motivation

Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education

I’ve featured Zen Pencils cartoons on here a few times.  The artist Gavin Aung Than is very talented and creates amazing cartoons based on inspirational quotes.  His latest illustration comes from Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity.”  The need for a “full body education” is one that I think many educators find is being stifled by the ever-increasing dominance of standardized tests.

image from: "Sir Ken Robinson - Full Body Education" by Gavin Than of Zen Pencils
image from: “Sir Ken Robinson – Full Body Education” by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils

Sir Ken Robinson did an interesting interview about this talk on the TED Radio Hour episode, “The Source of Creativity”, which also includes Sting, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Charles Limb.  It is an extremely intriguing hour that I highly recommend.

Also, Gavin Than has a book coming out in November, 2014, which you might want to consider.  It will include many of the favorite comics featured on his website.

The 3 Questions That Could Define Your Genius Hour

I had just finished writing a rough draft of this post when I got the latest update from one of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Terborg.  She said everything so much more eloquently in her post than I did.  So, basically my post is like an appetizer and hers is definitely the entree.  If you like my bite-size summary, head on over to her blog to read more about what this new Kid President video could mean for your classroom – along with excellent examples.

3 Questions that Could Change the World from Kid President
3 Questions that Could Change the World from Kid President

The most recent video from Kid President would be a PERFECT lead in to Genius Hour in your classroom.  If, like me,  you are planning for your students to look for their “heartbreaks” to find meaningful topics, then you might want to do a heartbreak map as I mentioned in a previous post.  And then show your students this Kid President video, Three Questions that Could Change the World.  Answering those questions thoroughly could be the foundation of any Genius Hour project.  Kid President is a great role model for following your passion and taking responsibility to make the world a better place, particularly with the Socktober campaign he sponsors every year.

Want more inspirational videos?  Check out my Pinterest Board. Interested in Genius Hour?  Here is my page of resources.

What Breaks Your Heart?

My GT classes and our after-school Maker Club are participating in this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge.  Select projects will be chosen to bring to a local party/entertainment center, Main Event.  We will be inviting the community to play the games for a $1, as well as selling wristbands to access the other fun activities at the facility. All of the money we raise will be going to a charity that the students choose.

But, how can I get several classes of students – in addition to the 24 students in the Maker Club – to decide on which charity will receive our donation?  I decided to use an idea from Angela Maiers, who is internationally renowned for her motivational speeches about how we should Choose to Matter.  One of my favorite quotes from her is, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”

In a blog post last year, Angela described the process for:

  • helping students to determine what matters the most to them
  • determining what “breaks their hearts” about their passions
  • thinking of possible solutions to those problems.
by @Kara Dziobek
by @Kara Dziobek

So far, I’ve walked two of my classes through the first two phases.  It has been very enlightening.  Similar to the activity that Angela describes from teacher Karen MacMillan, I had students mind-map their passions in the middle of a piece of paper.  Then they drew branches from each of those that identified what breaks their hearts regarding those topics.

As an example, I told them that teaching and learning are both passions for me.  What breaks my heart is that there are still children, particularly girls, who are denied the right to an education.

One boy had brainstormed every single sport he could think of as a passion.  When asked what broke his heart about them, he replied, “When I lose a game.”  I had to question him a bit more to get a deeper, less self-centered answer – “when people get injured.”

After we shared the things that break their hearts, we looked for trends or patterns.  Sports-related injuries was a big one with my 3rd graders, as well as cruelty to animals and pollution.  The latter two were also common themes with my 4th graders.  Today, I will get feedback from 5th grade.  Armed with the information from three grade levels, we can then try to find a charity that many of them will find meaningful.

We will also be holding on to these papers to use as jumping-off points for this year’s Genius Hour projects.

I really loved this process for so many reasons.  It tells me about what is important to my students and gives them a voice.  It shows them that they have responsibilities to be contributors as well as consumers.  And, it helps them to understand themselves a little better.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue on this journey :)

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

As I established yesterday, I don’t like bulletin boards and I do like stealing ideas from other people.  It’s ironic that I have posted two bulletin board pictures on this blog from my classroom in the last month since it is my least favorite part of setting up my classroom – but it makes more sense when you realize that I’m just building on the ideas of others.

I’m really emphasizing Growth Mindset in a big way this year, so both of my bulletin boards are aimed at that while I wait for my classes to start so I can hang up student work.  (I am currently testing students for the Gifted and Talented program.  Stapling their tests to the board would probably be frowned upon…)  A few weeks ago, I mentioned my “Courage Zone” bulletin board.  Today’s post is about a board I did that integrates a programming theme with thinking about mindsets.

All of my students from last year are familiar with Kodable, a great iPad game for learning the basics of programming.  So, I “stole”  one of Kodable’s beloved characters, Blue Fuzz, as well as a screen shot of the programming blocks and arrows.  I made a little path of blue squares and added some gold coins to make it look more like the game.  My twist was adding words to each path that represent Fixed and Growth Mindsets.  To top it off, I have a list of questions for the students to consider in preparation for a discussion about the board.

I’m not very artistic, so the board isn’t as “pretty” as I would like it. However, I’ve noticed all of the students I’m testing have looked at it with interest, so I’m hoping it is sending the message I intended.

I’m also a terrible photographer (but I keep trying because I have a Growth Mindset!) so forgive me for the low-quality pictures! You might want to click on the top one to get a better view of my blurry photo ;)

For more mindset resources, check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board here!

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!
Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

programgrowthquestions

 

 

Growth Mindset and Why it Matters

I came across this Slide Rocket presentation on WhatKidsCanDo.org. If you are teaching older students or doing a professional development about mindset, this would be a great resource.  It includes links to several mindset videos, as well as suggested activities to go along with each one.  For more Growth Mindset resources, check out my Pinterest Board!

Growth Mindset from WhatKidsCanDo.org
image from: Growth Mindset Slide Rocket Presentation from WhatKidsCanDo.org

Courage Zone

I am really working on developing a growth mindset in my students this year.  On Monday I mentioned that I was trying to think of a visual to use in my classroom to remind my students that they should focus more on learning than on being perfect.  This bulletin board is the result.  It is not what I initially had in mind, but I think it gets the message across.  I found this graphic that helped to lay the groundwork.  Apparently, it is based on The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens by Sean Covey.  From that graphic, a 98-cent huge disc and some neon green tubey kind of ribbon from Michael’s, some blue straws from Ikea, and a cute piece of clip art from MS Word, I came up with the bulletin board below.  In case you can’t tell, the student has climbed the ladder from the safety of the Comfort Zone to walk the tightrope of the Courage Zone.  Someone (I can’t remember who, so let me know if it was you!)  gave me the idea to give the students neon-colored post-it notes so they can write something that they have done in the past that was out of their comfort zone and stick it to the board.

For more resources on teaching about a Growth Mindset, here is my Pinterest Board on that topic.

Comfort Zone

 

Make Glorious & Fabyuluss Mistakes

I saw a link on my Twitter feed the other day to a post done by Eric Sheninger called, “Students Yearn for Creativity, Not Tests.”  It’s from March of this year, and I can’t believe I missed it back then.  However, that’s the great thing about Twitter – the treasures come around more than once.

Featured in the post are a few videos created by students based on an assignment they were given which involved reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. One of the student videos really resonated with me because of so many other experiences I’ve had in recent weeks that emphasize the value of making mistakes.  The video is by Sarah Almeda, and I highly recommend you watch the video, “Let’s Make Some Good Art” and her “afterword” video which appears at the end of the post.  Her tribute to the educators who fostered her creativity in the latter one is very inspiring.

image by Sarah Almeda
image by Sarah Almeda in her video, “Let’s Make Good Art.”

This year, I really plan to make it my mission to motivate my students to take more risks and challenge themselves.  As Sarah says in her video, though, schools inherently discourage this by punishing mistakes and only rewarding “right answers.”  I have a couple of ideas for changing this in my classroom as I continue to teach my students about having a Growth Mindset (check out my Pinterest Board if you would like some more information about this).

This weeks’s TED Radio Hour was all about making mistakes.  And one of the speakers, Margaret Heffernan, mentioned this about schools: “… we do bring children up to imagine that there is a right answer, and that intelligence is about knowing that right answer, and therefore if you get a wrong answer, you’re stupid. So what we do is we teach people not even so much to have a passion for the right answer, but have great talent for second-guessing what everybody wants the answer to be.”  As Sarah Almeda draws in her video, this is the inevitable outcome in schools that foster this type of thinking:

 

image by Sarah Almeda in her video, "Let's Make Good Art."
image by Sarah Almeda in her video, “Let’s Make Good Art.”

Even James Dyson, in an interview with Science Friday, said the following: “In life, you don’t have the right answers available all the time.  You have to work them out.  So I would actually mark children by the number of mistakes they make because they’ve experienced failure and learned from it.  Whereas the brilliant child who gets it right the first time because they remembered the answer isn’t necessarily the one who is going to change the world or succeed in life.” (I’m assuming he meant that students who make more mistakes would get higher grades as opposed to the current system.)

How can we change our current system?  We need to create a learning environment that encourages taking risks in thinking and finding the value in mistakes.   As teachers, it will help for us to admit our own mistakes and to tell how they changed us.  And, though there are times that only one right answer is acceptable, we should also give our students plenty of opportunities to engage in thinking that is open-ended.

I have a small idea germinating about a tangible way to show this in the classroom that I may share later this week…