Genius Hour Part II

We’re off and rolling with 20% time in the classroom! My favorite exchange with a student about a Genius Hour project has been this one:

Her: “So, am I just planning this community fundraiser or am I actually DOING it?”
Me: “You are DOING it. Planning, scheduling, promoting, booking, EVERYTHING. If this is Your 20% time, You are making it HAPPEN.”
Her: “YESSSS! I was afraid we were just planning it like a simulation…but if we really get to do it, I’m STOKED! Can I text my mom and tell her?!”

After my initial announcement to the class, (one that stemmed from a last-minute moment of excited inspiration) some questions from students helped me realize that I needed to take the weekend to do some more exploration. I came back Monday armed with resources to help further explain the concept for students, and to provide some semblance of structure for those who needed it. I found some good inspiration here, and borrowed/adapted a couple of Google Docs to share with students. (Thank you to all of the folks at !) This brainstorming guide definitely helped some students who weren’t initially inspired or who were having a difficult time coming up with ideas. After whole class and one/one discussion, brainstorming, and sharing, students came back the next day fired up with ideas, so much so that it was difficult to get them all to stop talking at once! Following is a list of some of the projects they selected. Because this is a theater class filled with kids who are interested in the arts, many of their projects involve writing and or performing.

  • Write a play set during the Holocaust, cast it, and produce it for the school
  • Write an original song for the violin that could accompany the play mentioned above
  • Write and publish a cookbook that includes my original recipes and my grandmother’s recipes
  • Learn to play my new guitar using a self-teaching iPad app. Perform at an open mic.
  • Organize a community talent show to raise money for a local charity
  • Start a literary magazine at school
  • Learn to knit and make a scarf for my mother’s birthday
  • Organize an open mic as a fundraiser during Activity Period. Also write an original song to play and sing.
  • Write and record a TED talk as a recruiting tool to start a TED Club at school
  • Create an a cappella group, research songs and techniques, practice and perform for the school
  • Write, film and publish a “Life with Lyrics” video similar to this one.
  • Research and build a working rocket
A student drew this picture to explain aspects of his rocket design

A student drew this picture to explain aspects of his rocket design

I hope that we can keep the momentum going through the grading period. I look forward to reflecting on their progress!
See my first post, here.




I posted the following on my library blog for students. My goal for the new year is to encourage students to Tell Their Story. Through art, photography, writing, music, actions, and ideas. 

PictureWe all have a story to tell. Each of our stories is unique, and each is also important. I encourage all of you to find a way to Tell Your Story this year. Maybe you want to continue the story you created last year, or maybe you want to start a new chapter. Maybe you even want to close the book on last year’s story and start from scratch, on a blank canvas that’s just waiting to come alive with fresh content. The good news is, YOU are in charge! Every day is an opportunity to begin a new chapter!

As we move into 2014, I challenge each of you to tell your story, whether figuratively or literally, through your actions, your choices, and your ideas. Additionally, I encourage you to share your stories with other Bulldogs, to foster an atmosphere of community, collaboration, and understanding.

Ready to get started? There are several inspiring tools and movements devoted to helping others find and tell their stories.  For instance, you might find that rather than making New Year’s resolutions, you would prefer to concentrate on One Word or concept that embodies something you would like to improve upon, expand or begin this year. Head over to My One Word and select yours. You can share your word and the reasons you chose it with the community there, keep it to yourself, or share it with the Bulldog community by using the hashtag #MyOneWordHHS. After careful consideration, I chose the word FOCUS.  I used PicMonkey to add text to an image I found at and set it as my desktop background to remind me that I need to focus on my work, on being fully present in my interactions with colleagues, students, friends and family, and finally, to focus on achieving small goals throughout the year.


Another fun way to tell your story is by participating in the 365 Photo project. Get inspiration and monthly thematic ideas here. You can share your photos on the Project356 site as well as on Instagram or Twitter. To share within the Bulldog community, use the hashtag #my365HHS This could be a great way to explore your creativity while documenting important moments or inspiration in your life.Finally, if you would prefer to literally tell your story by writing it, there are several tools that can assist you. If writer’s block is your enemy, download this free e-book with 365 Writing Prompts for each day of the year. If you feel compelled to do some autobiography exploration, this site offers several tips. And if you prefer a more structured community that will provide feedback and encouragement, try the SMASH356 initiative. According to their site:

#smash365 is an online initiative and 365 day writing challenge to help you smash the fears, resistance, self-doubt & procrastination that keep you from being the artist, entrepreneur, creator & genius you are meant to be.

The rest is up to you. Click, Write, Tweet, Explore, Contemplate, Create and Share and Revise.

Your Story. Your Terms. What could be more glorious?


Quote of the Year!

Quote of the Year!

This is the quote on the back of the shirts that every employee in our district was given at our opening day meeting this year! Faced with a new evaluation system, new standards, and new challenges, this is exactly the mindset needed to move forward as a powerful, united front of educators working collaboratively for the good our our students. This philosophy, coupled with all of the new, eager staff, has me completely stoked going into this school year!

Inspire students with these graphic quotation tools

 Summer seems to have just gotten its legs and August is crouched in the shadows, ready to pounce. When the school doors open, student and teachers alike can benefit from a dose of inspiration. Until recently, part of the “Gearing Up for Going Back” routine included flipping through teacher supply mags to find posters with cute and/or motivational graphics and quotes, writing a check, and waiting for the cardboard roll to show up in the mail. This year, however, thanks to tech innovations, as well as to changes in the methods teachers and students use to access, create, and share content, teachers can create their own digital posters and  badges to print, embed in class wikis and blogs, or to use in services such as Edmodo, Schoolology or Moodle.

 Below are four online tools to easily create and share graphic quotation content with students. 


ReciteThis allows users to paste any quote in a box and then scroll through 25 templates to see how it looks. The templates are varied and can fit a variety of situations. Once you find the perfect template, you can post it to a variety of different services, email it, or download it to your computer to print, or to embed digitally. If you’re having trouble finding the perfect quote, you can search within the site for quotes in a variety of categories.

ReciteThis share screen

ReciteThis share screen



Here is a final product from ReciteThis:



Quozio is another template-based site that is very similar to ReciteThis. It offers 30 templates, the ability to share to social networks, and the ability to “Keep” your creations in your account.

“If you dare nothing  then when the day is over  nothing is all...


Though there are several online photo editing tools, my favorite is PicMonkey. You don’t have to register to use it; simply upload or drag a photo to the editing area and let your creativity go to work! PicMonkey offers numerous effects, overlays, frames, touch up options, themes, and of course a wide variety of fonts to showcase your favorite quotes!



The final tool I will mention is Posterini … with one caveat. While the other tools are extremely simple to use, Posterini offers more customization options, and with customization comes complexity. In fact, Posterini markets itself as a tool to “produce professional posters as well as to advertise and promote your business, services, events or yourself all around the world.” You work with your own images, and the site offers themes, categories, and numerous customization options. When you’re finished with your masterpiece, you can purchase large, top-quality poster versions for $4.99 or elect to download a small version for free.


Below is a poster I created using a vacation photo and text. Note the “Made With Posterini” stamp at the bottom:


Ready, Set … MOTIVATE!