22 July 2013

I Am a Novice: a Genius Hour Experiment, part 1

If I am truly to understand what it is for my students to research their passion in a language they don't know, I will have to do the same. Yes, I'm a little ahead of the game having at least dabbled in four other languages, and I figure it'll take a language with at least a similar alphabet to be able to compare the experience. And so I've decided I will research recycling in Portuguese, and I'm going to chronicle how I use my time so that I may better guide their time.

I spent my first Genius Hour in Portuguese bouncing around WordReference, Pinterest, Google Docs, Blogger. The first thing I realized was that I had no idea how to say recycling in Portuguese, and the next thing I realized was that I wasn't exactly sure of the angle I wanted to pursue on my project. I did think I'd like to do something with recycling myself at home, so where better to look than Pinterest? So a quick WordReference to find reciclagem (which I can only guess is pronounced ray-SEE-cla-ghem?), pop it into Pinterest, and I'm off.


  1. I spent 10-15 minutes collecting pins on my new board. I looked for things with vocabulary I thought I might need (e.g. vidro) or ideas I might actually do, with materials I actually had, or things that were just nifty.
  2. I set up a Google Doc to collect vocabulary I wanted to use. I added the words from the pins (not a lot) and started thinking about what kinds of pins I might want to look for when I got more specific, when the "reciclagem" search got repetitive and needed to be pared down.
  3. I added the things that came to mind that I had lying around that I wanted to make use of, back to WordReference, back to the Doc.
  4. I thought of how I would explain in Portuguese, what I was going to study and WordReferenced a few key verbs and verb phrases: I like, I have, I want, I need, I think.
  5. I set up a blog to record my thoughts on the direction I was headed with my project and why.
  6. My first post was 68 words, 20 of which I had to look up (I looked up about 30 anyway, if only for confirmation). I easily spent the largest part of my genius hour on the WordReferencing and composing, deciding what I needed to say and what I didn't.
Conclusions:
Frontloading a lot of basic vocabulary is key, and will cut down on the personalized lists students will need for their projects. I suggest the following:
  1. I like
  2. I have
  3. I want
  4. I need
  5. I think
  6. I can
  7. I make
  8. Is
  9. Are
  10. My
  11. And
  12. But
  13. Because
  14. In
  15. Many
I mean, I've seen Portuguese before, and I can parse out a lot, but I surprised myself with some of the things I didn't know, like my, are, and I like (would you believe that Portuguese does what English speakers always want to do with gustar?)

Also, I think it might be worth marrying the project with the themed student blogs to work in language production. I can't think of anything that would really be lost except, potentially, getting them to spend time out of class with the language (if they get finished during their Genius Hour time). However, I do think that 20 words would not be enough to communicate adequately about the project, so I'm thinking of making it 50 words per week for even  Spanish I, BUT they could break it up into 2-3 posts of at least 20 words each.

Students will still need to collect topic-specific vocabulary, though not necessarily for their blogs so much as their research. By the way, I really like starting with Pinterest for the research, because I didn't need a lot of TL to navigate, but I could still get inspiration for the direction of my project, and without resorting to L1. Pinterest time may have to be limited, I suspect, so Genius Hour does not degenerate into Pinterest Hour. Potentially relevant side note: our school has a Pinterest Club which the only other Spanish-fluent teacher in the school runs...I might be able to abu--I mean use this.

From here, I think I'll probably do some more pinning with more specific terms and maybe see what I can find on Twitter, Skype Classroom, or Live Mocha in hopes of establishing some interpersonal contacts. I'll definitely have to hit YouTube and find some pronunciation resources too.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I teach Late French Immersion, so the kids have one year of French before I get them. We did a out a round and a half of Genius Hour this year, but I was looking for a way to structure the language piece of it a bit more for them. Way to try it yourself... Thanks for the inspiration!

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