Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.
“Children learn more readily from other children than from adults.” Students Taking Charge by Nancy Sulla
Last week, I explained how much of our learning has moved to “Centers.” This week, I wanted to tell you about a special job one of the Centers has each week: GENIUS.
The idea for “Geniuses” comes from the Apple Store model where they have the “Genius Bar” with trained technicians who help customers with their problems. I’ve often talked about this job with students and let them know that Apple actually gives their Geniuses shirts that say, “Genius.”
“How awesome would it be to have a job where your shirt says that you’re a Genius?” I’ve asked my students. To date, everyone has agreed that this is “ultimate cool.” So… we made that happen for our Geniuses with lanyards that say, “I’m a Genius.” They wear them whenever it’s their turn to be in the Genius Center.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First off, what do Geniuses do in the Computer Lab? Well, just like Geniuses at the Apple Store, they are there to help others. Since everyone will get to be a Genius (when it’s their time for that Center), everyone needs to know what’s happening in the lesson, or what the directions are for working with a website, for instance. Once the Centers start, the Geniuses walk around the room and aid the other students. If no one needs help, the Geniuses may return to their computers and work on their own projects or assignments I’ve given them. If someone needs help, they will hunt down a Genius (remember, they’re identifiable by their lanyards) and ask the Genius to stop what he/she is doing and help out.
Students LOVE being Geniuses! They are tending to others’ needs in the kindest ways and with such care. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “Can I help you?” “Are you all set?” “Do you need me to show you what to do?”
Students are no longer calling my name out or asking me for help; they’re relying on the Geniuses. This has so many benefits:
- I am able to work intensely with a small group or provide differentiated instruction for individuals.
- As Geniuses, students are gaining more confidence than ever before in being able to problem solve and come up with creative solutions.
- Students are able to go deeper into the learning. It used to be that an entire class would get the activity as a large group and usually only once. Now, students are able to get assistance in one-on-one settings (with either a Genius or me) and the Geniuses get to learn the skills of a particular lesson at least twice: once when they do it and once when they teach it as Geniuses. Also, when Geniuses aren’t helping students, they can return to further explore an earlier Center.
- Clearly, students feel proud of themselves when they help another student. There are times when I’m looking over their shoulders, but they’re really running the whole show.
- Students are following whole class directions much better. They know that sooner or later they’re going to have to teach the lesson as a Genius, so they are working harder than ever before to learn the concepts.
- We are no longer feeling rushed. It used to be that I needed to help an entire class publish a finished piece of work, fighting against the clock. Now that we’re in small groups, it’s usually no more than 5 students who need to publish before the class ends, and I am no longer alone! I have Geniuses helping me, if not actually doing the entire process without my aid!
And, there is nothing sweeter to a teacher’s ear than hearing students call out all day, “I’m a Genius!”
Things You and Your Student Can Do at Home:
- Ask your student to further explain the role of Geniuses.
- Ask if they’ve been a Genius already and what they did.
- Ask your student what they like about being a Genius.
- If you’re able to, stop by an Apple Store and show your scholar the “Genius Bar.” If you’re able to talk to one of the Geniuses, encourage your student to ask the Genius what they do for their job. How did they get to be a Genius? What’s the best part of being a Genius? What do they do if they can’t figure out a customer’s problem? How do they like wearing a shirt that says “Genius” on it?
- Talk with your scholar about the word “Genius.” What does it mean to be a Genius? Is everyone a Genius in some way? Ask your student what makes him/her a Genius in their life.