Not all teachers are ready, willing or able to just jump right into Genius Hour like models where the students are all working on projects that they've chosen and are passionate about. Naturally, student directed learning models are more simply implemented with students at the Intermediate, Middle Grade and High School levels. However, I'd like to share some of the ways our teachers incorporate student choice and passions into their daily lessons.
Obviously the standards are our framework/blueprint- that's not going anywhere. But what really can take flight and change is the way we address these skills and content. It's about baby steps and trusting our students to step into the driver's seat. That's exactly what these teachers are doing- YES!
Kindergarten Example: Students were learning about different kinds of geometric shapes. During our time together, students were shown how to add, resize, move and color these figures in a Google Drawing. Then, students had the complete freedom to create a scene/setting (totally tied into ELA standards as well- WOOT WOOT). One young boy obsessed with Harry Potter created his own picture from the movie. Another girl put together a representation of her visit to the zoo. They were not told how many or what shapes to use. The creativity from our little guys was incredible. Had we not given them the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat, not sure that we would have been able to see everything they brainstormed!
First Grade Example: Students were in the early stages of working on fractions. After some basic instruction, students were given the autonomy to create their own kind of story problem involving fractions (with some teacher syntax help, of course). The eyes of our kids LIT UP when they were able to choose the topic of their story- everything from Pokemon Cards to pizza to puppies were popping up on their screens. They felt empowered to be the "teacher" and create the story problem. Once they finished writing the math story, they represented their fraction using virtual manipulatives, requiring a strong understanding of what the numerator and denominator stand for. THEN, they solved each other's math problems. What was the teacher's role here? To facilitate, to conference, to walk around and help struggling students. The students really were the ones driving this work. ROCK ON.