07 December 2014

TPRS Genius Hour

The best reason to present at conferences is that people with great ideas come to you. I mean, sure, you get to gather your thoughts on your own work, maybe show off a little, but if you are presenting something, people who are interested in what you're interested have a designated time and place to track you down...even if it is 8 AM on a Sunday.

This is where Cadena Sensei comes in.

Those who have put up with me for any amount of time know I think Genius Hour is one of the secrets to life--or at least to making kids want to learn (which...isn't that what life is anyway?). I've presented on it three times since August alone. However, I'm always looking for new ways to make it--and all of my Spanish instruction--more productive, more accessible for my students. So John came up to me after my Genius Hour session with this idea to use some pre-selected texts as springboards for Genius Hour projects. Of course the English teacher in me starts singing Liiiiterature circlllles! in my head. I wasn't quite sure if this was quite autonomous enough to be "Genius Hour," but I stored the idea and made Cadena Sensei swear to blog about it (still waiting, John. Tweet him and bug him for me, if you want.)

TPRS on the plane
Now I've been snooping around some TPRS books lately, trying to figure out how it could fit in with my students' goals and interests, and I picked up a couple of Kristy Placido's at the TPRS Publishing booth at ACTFL a few weeks ago. By far, my favorites are Noche de oro and Robo en la noche.

I devoured Noche de oro somewhere between San Antonio and Charlotte and suddenly Cadena Sensei's plan clicked. I started listing every topic I could think of that Noche de oro made me think of, every possible tangential topic that could be explored in greater depth, a la Cadena Sensei's plan, that could ever possibly appeal to any of the students I knew I'd have for Spanish II.

I came up with 20 topics in 3 different categories:

For the ecologically minded
  • birds
  • trees
  • ecosystems
  • conservation
  • rain forest
  • beaches
  • mining
  • waterfalls
  • coffee
For the artistically minded
  • Costa Rican chefs
  • heavy metal
  • salsa
  • tattoos
For the socially minded
  • study abroad
  • police corruption
  • government structure
  • desaparecidos
  • blended families
  • teen freedom
  • flirting/dating

And that's just from Noche de oro! If I go with, say, literature circles, letting students choose the text as well (as per Cadena Sensei's suggestion), and add Robo en la noche to the mix, students could also choose from these topics:
  • health care
  • dictatorships
  • Costa Rican military
  • eco tourism
  • ocean/sea life
  • fruit/flora
  • cathedrals
  • weddings
  • breakfast
  • elders
  • widows
  • horses
  • exotic animal trafficking
  • parks
  • Tico cuisine/restaurants
  • cell phones
  • injuries
  • kidnapping
  • judicial system

PLUS there are these Pinterest boards that the autora herself put together too, for both Robo en la noche and Noche de oro.

Putting it together
Now. TELL me there isn't something for everyone there? I mean, I could put names to the topics right now, and I could satisfy just about every kid on my roster. On top of that, since there is the uniting theme of the book, students would all have a common purpose for conversation, and they could bring their respective pieces of the puzzle to jigsaw the whole thing richer!

So here's what I'm envisioning for a new Genius Hour day routine (bearing in mind 20% of the 4-day academic week at my school is not a whole class period):
  1. Tip-off talk: pick a partner and discuss the who/what/when/where/why/how of last week's chapter to refresh (with Sock Puppets?)
  2. Story setup: activity to preview impending chapter (word cloud, headlines, image discussion, videos, etc.)
  3. Story time: read another chapter of the book, pausing for quick writes.
  4. Genius hour: collect, reflect, prepare, or share
  5. Connection blog: explain 2 things you learned on your topic and how those things fit with the story.
And THEN students with different Genius Hour interests would have an excuse to work together on their final product--since all of the topics started on a related note--thus encouraging the young ones to get REALLY creative with their connections for presenting purposes.

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