Saturday, April 8, 2017

Find the Force #6 (Genius Hour #6)

It's amazing what happens when you give students a stake in their own education.  That's what our Force Projects are all about (you can read more about our journey at Find the Force #1#2#3#4, & #5)

After several months of hard work, the time came for my students to present their learning through their Force Projects!  We were not able to get through all of the presentations on Day #1, but it was exciting to see what some of the groups came up with.

I was up-front with the students ahead of time that I would not be grading their presentations.  I did not want this to be a big, stressful event, rather a chance for them to talk about their learning without the pressure of a polished final product.  This went hand in hand with our goal to make it about the learning process, rather than a grade (true engagement vs. compliance).  They are being graded, however, on what they learned from others' presentations, as shown through a reflection form they are filling in for each group.

Overall, I would say the presentations were a success!

  • A student-composed song
  • A music board game
  • Blueprints for gloves that would make instruments light up
  • Presentations on the history of music, culture, and instruments
  • A Kahoot game
  • Performances on secondary instruments
  • A homemade ukulele
We also heard students share about the many different directions they started in before settling on their final project.  We heard about the little things they learned through the process - about music, about working together, and about themselves as learners.

Of course, the presentations weren't all perfect, and I like to reflect on what went well and what could be improved in my blogs.  Some things I noticed include:

  • Many of my students were unsure about how to present.  Though we went through some guided thinking about presentations, the basic skills of speaking clearly, facing your audience, and using visual aids rather than just talking were not always present.  I left it wide open because I wanted to reflect the wide range of projects, but I realized that I need to coach my students a little more in the core elements of a good presentation, regardless of what they learned about.  Next time, I will probably also have groups do "practice presentations" for one other group, so they can work out the kinks in the flow.
  • I need to come up with a better workflow for students who have technical aspects to their presentations - our ancient computer means that logging out, logging a new student in, and pulling up their presentation takes a long time, which ended up being wasted as everyone else sat and waited.  Once I had them share their files with me, it worked better to pull it all up from my account.
  • A couple of audience members really struggled with paying attention because they were trying to put a few last-minute touches on their own projects.  In my second period, I made it very clear that we needed to show respect to the presenters, and that seemed to give students permission to hold each other accountable to not sneaking in work time on their projects - they policed themselves very nicely!
One of the most interesting presentations came from a group that actually had very little to show.  They spent most of their time trying to decide what to work on, then switching, then trying something and realizing it was far above their current playing ability, etc.  As a teacher, I struggled with how to guide this group - they were certainly learning a lot of things that didn't work, but I wanted them to settle into something they could explore more in depth.  Granted, they also struggled with working together a bit and did not always use their time very productively.  In their presentation, they took us through their whole journey of all of the things they tried...and that was it.  There wasn't a finished product or happy ending.  It resulted in a very interesting class conversation about how sometimes learning is messy, and it doesn't always take us where we expect.  These students were still able to articulate what they learned from the experience, even though it would not have looked like much on a traditional rubric or grading system.  While I continue to ponder ways of holding groups a little more accountable, I also felt encouraged to see them owning the fact that they didn't have much to show for their time, but they did have a lot of learning they could talk about.

We only got through about a third of the presentations, so I am excited to see what continues to come as more students present!  They really are blowing me away with their creativity and learning - given the chance to explore their interests, many students will go above and beyond what they might for a "normal" school project!  I will finish this post off with some pictures and videos from our first day of presentations:
Homemade ukulele - from scratch!

Musica: Board game including cards with definitions and prompts like,
"Choose a song & person to do a violin/viola/cello battle with!"

Presenting on the history of music
in different cultures!
Student-created Kahoot! about the history of the cello

Students performing on new instruments they learned!


  1. It's inspiring to see how many different project ideas resulted from an open-ended lesson plan such as genius hour. What grade are these students in?

  2. What a stunning experience! I always love your reflective pieces Aubrey--they help you grow as a teacher but they also make the ideas more accessible to others. So thank you! I love the home-made ukulele :)

  3. I love these! I also love the way your kids shared their learning.

  4. Aubrey, thanks for sharing. I love the "grit" group. Even though their perseverance didn't result in a finished product, there was certainly a lot of learning. Well-done, Aubrey and class.

  5. That idea about accountable audience reflection as chief mode of assessing here... I'm stealing that. Thanks for sharing, Aubrey.

  6. I like the idea of doing practice presentations and may borrow that for my own kids. We're kicking ours off next week and I remember thst being a struggle last year. Many kids still read us slides last year and I want to get the beyond that. Im gkad this has been a good experience for both them and you!

  7. I love the fact that you let your students know up front that they wouldn't be graded on their final products. What a great way to free up the learning. And grading them on what they learn from each other is genius! Will be sharing that idea with my teachers.