Monday, December 28, 2015

Asa's tractor project

Asa was the first second grader to complete his Genius Hour project. He researched the difference between wheel tractors and crawlers and decided to share his findings through a class presentation. Asa made tractor cookies to demonstrate what a wheel tractor looks like versus a crawler (tracks). You can see his presentation in the video below. Needless to say, his project was extremely popular with the students especially when the cookies were handed out and gobbled up.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Saturday, December 5, 2015

We are on our way!

This week the second graders were introduced to two new apps on the i-Pad, ChatterKid and Tellagami, that can be exciting ways to share information they've gathered throughout the research process.  We emphasized that these are only options included in a variety of ways to share information.

Students are no longer in the same steps of the Genius Hour process at the same time.  This week, some students were collecting more information and notes from books and computers, while other students were organizing the notes they've collected for presentations.  One student was viewing the video clip we filmed during our school ice skating trip this week, while another was already beginning work on his final product.

The children are continuing to use their red and blue cups to let us know when they need assistance.  Students were proactive in helping each other navigate search engines for research.  We are well on our way and eager to see where our projects lead us.  Thanks for following along in our journey!

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Holidays incite excitement among students. In the Library Learning Commons right before Thanksgiving, we decided to host a 2nd grade, 6th grade "thankful" station rotation event. Both grades convened in the Library Learning Commons to pair up and work together at a station. We offered crafts (turkey hats), coloring, educational computer games, bingo, paired reading, and video taping. Staff and students loved the activity and the opportunity this space provided for across grade collaboration. Everyone was smiling, having a good time, and working together. Students were free to visit as many stations as they wished and many tried to participate in all of them. At the end of 50 minutes, kids hugged each other and asked to do this again. There was no arguing, tears, or boredom- all were engaged. The older students were amazing role models and their patience and willingness to assist the younger kids was a reminder to us all how kind and empathetic our children are. Here are a few pictures of the event for you to enjoy.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, November 8, 2015

An avalanche of creation

The second graders needed a tiny boost in thinking about how to share their findings in Genius Hour. As educators, we agonized over whether or not to show them examples of other things kids have done. We knew that this would produce an onslaught of reproductions of the models we presented. However we wanted to encourage the creative juices and that concept won over. After watching the following video, students were excited, thrilled and there was a new attitude of "can do," among the kids. Our sincerest apologies to the parents of the students who immediately went home and begged for cardboard. Below is the video.

This week, as predicted, all the students wanted to make something with cardboard, which isn't bad but we wanted diversity. We decided to show them another video, hoping that they could NOT reproduce the end product. We did tell our farm kids they could not pester their parents for LED lights! However, after the video, which is also posted below, the kids examined what skills were needed to create this project. They were astute in recognizing, dog training, filming, and collaboration. Conversation flowed around how many times the film makers needed to fail before achieving the final project. It was a good conversation led by students. We look forward to seeing what comes out of it this week when we go back to organizing, research, and outlining the next steps for Genius Hour.

Keep watching us grow,
The Noisy Librarian

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Who would have thought that something as simple as Solo cups would be a game changer for a class of second graders? This week we decided to get the kids on the computers, and we knew this would be a difficult task for our beginning readers. While there are 2-3 adults willing to assist the kids, we anticipated many questions and frustrated students who couldn't read the text on the database. How could we make this less stressful, fun, and be able to individualize the learning for each student: Solo cups!

At the beginning of GH, we handed each student a blue and a red Solo cup. We explained that blue cup in front of you covering the red cup meant, "Super-duper fine," and no assistance was needed. If a red cup was put on top of the blue it meant, "RED ALERT," I need help!! We had the kids practice flipping the cups with the understanding that red alert meant silence not hand-raising or yelling to one of us. The kids were so excited to try it. We were amazed at the amount of work that this allowed. It gave us, the adults, the freedom to converse intently with each student when s/he needed our undivided attention. Students waited patiently and quietly continuing to work until one of us saw the red alert and was free to respond. Everyone felt supported and successful. Some students were overwhelmed with the fact they could not read but when we explained that drawing a picture of what s/he was seeing (types of ice skates, soccer field layout, etc), marker caps flew off and grins appeared.

I am always amazed at what the students are capable of accomplishing and that the smallest tool or explanation can be a game changer. Cheers to Solo cups that help our motivated kids learn!

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Monday, October 12, 2015


Fostering excitement and creativity with second grade is a snap. Teaching them how to research individually can be a bit tricky. While we have various resources: databases, books, magazines, etc., trying to find something at each child's level can be tough. The research aspect is imperative during GH and it is a wonderful segway to begin forming good habits and life-long skills. So how do we achieve this with students who may not have the reading/writing skills in place for the longevity of their project? It is about focus and goals.

Introducing GH to the students was easy. They were extremely eager and excited and THAT is something we want to keep at the forefront so we can refer back to it during tough times. We are trying to build perseverance, grit, and determination among other things. Telling kids to try and read the text in the materials they have, look at the pictures and gather information from what they see, use prior knowledge, hear what they are listening to, and take notes is all part of the process. Students need to learn to access information using different tools and senses and begin to become aware, comfortable, and confident with that methodology. That is a large part of the goal. Meeting with each student to go over notes and perhaps model writing and spelling, so that it is legible to an adult, demonstrates the importance of these skills without them taking over. So part of the data gathering process for us, will be to go back to the student notebooks throughout the year and look for improvements in all these skills. They will also serve as a baseline on where each student's strengths and weaknesses occur and we can target those areas for success and further assistance. While all this sounds good, the implementation is work for both the educators and the students. The big goal? To have students figure out that learning is a life-long process and how to effectively navigate that process to meet individual needs while fostering a passion for learning.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Let the Research Begin!

During Genius Hour today, the 2nd graders used their dots and ice cream graphic organizer to help fill out a project plan with more information about their ideas, questions, materials, and resources.  When they finished, kids were able to dive into books about their topics and begin their research.  On their own, students decided to jot down notes in their GH notebooks about facts they were reading.  

When we gathered back in our classroom, students eagerly shared some of the things they learned about their topic from the books.  We found out that female bears begin having cubs of their own when they are 4 years old, cruise ships store emergency life boats on the sides of ships, and specific details about planets in Star Wars, among other things.  The excitement continues to grow as our projects begin to blossom!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Brainstorming Our Questions

This week the 2nd graders spent our Genius Hour time warming up with a little dancing (because why not?) After we got a little rhythm out, the students got to see Mr. Jill and I role play thinking aloud about questions we could research on a given topic.  The kids were eager to get the ice cream cone graphic organizer, find a comfy spot, and get their brains working.  They used their original decorated dots and super awesome GH notebooks for inspiration and the ideas generated were fantastic! In the true nature of Genius Hour, some kids changed their ideas/topics as they were brainstorming.  When our time was up for the day, we gathered around the large conference table to talk and collect materials.  Pencils were burning through paper as they moved so quickly, even after time was up, because brains were on fire!  What an exciting sight to see!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's All About the Process

It has been brought to our attention that we have neglected to outline the process we are using to implement Genius Hour with our second grade. First and foremost, these students were already excited about Genius Hour because they were exposed to it as first graders. We capitalized upon that excitement and began to expand it before officially beginning Genius Hour. Cool new notebooks were specifically purchased for the second grade to record their findings, thoughts, feelings and accomplishments. New supplies are always a good tool to heighten engagement.

Week 1: The students began by speculating what they thought Genius Hour encompassed and, not surprisingly, they correctly articulated the three requirements: Question, Research, and Share.

Then we read the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You'll Go! We discussed the "waiting" place in the book and how, as a team, we will help each other along that path when it gets rough. Students made personal connections to the story and hands were eagerly raised to make contributions. At the end, I drew two "paths" on our whiteboard ( a straight one and a squiggly one with plenty of ups and downs) and asked each student to choose a marker and place his/her initials on one of the paths. Every child chose the "bumpy-interesting path" and we discussed the ups and downs of Genius Hour in correlation with that path. Again we emphasized lending a helping hand to each other while honoring individuality.

Week 2: As in a prior post, we combined discovering our passions with Dot Day. Mrs. Lee and myself modeled topic choosing. Since we wanted individuality and diversity, we role played by stating that even though we are really good friends, we each have different interests, passions, and thoughts and that is what makes us each unique. I feel this was an extremely important part of GH prep. Students often rely on peers to make key decisions and by fostering choice, creativity, originality, and acceptance we foresee GH being successful at this age while implementing important social skills.

Week 3: This week students took their brand new notebooks, brand new cool pencils, and completed dots and wrote down the top 3 topics they LOVE. We came back together as a class and reported out their lists and ultimately, the chosen subject for each child. When we finished, several kids asked if they could change themes which inspired a conversation on how GH is a self chosen learning project without judgement. This attitude is vital to the success of GH; it must be a safe place for students to experiment with their learning. In the end, our subjects ranged from ice skating, horses, Star Wars, and colors to much much more. Once this was completed, I read the list aloud and we cheered for each topic chosen to build team support.

Next week students will begin to fill out their GH plan. This is called the green sheet and it will give  definition and an outline to the project. Mrs. Lee and myself discussed whether or not to assign this to the second grade as I created the sheet for the older students, however, we feel that the skills learned from the activity are beneficial. Besides the bonuses of GH being fun and exciting, we are stealthily building the basis for good research skills! Please stay tuned for more on our process.

Keep reading,
The Noisy Librarian

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Genius Hour Kick Off... filling our dots

Greetings from the world of inspired 2nd graders!

Today we kicked off our Genius Hour/Dot Day inspirational activity.  The kids filled dots with words and pictures that represent their interests and passions.  We spread out in our new Library Learning Commons, some sprawled on beanbags, others comfortable in the new furniture that fills our space, but all eagerly filling our dots.  Share in our learning by looking at some of our pictures.

Stay tuned for more 2nd grade Genius Hour fun!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So we begin....

Welcome to our virtual documentation of Genius Hour with second graders. This will be a place where kids showcase their learning. We begin this journey together and anticipate laughter, learning, failure, perseverance, independence, collaboration and of course fun! Our goal is to help kids learn invaluable life skills and foster a love of learning. Part of this pilot program will be for us, the mentors, to video the process so that you can experience our triumphs and learn from our mistakes. The kids can choose to post their findings here as part of the sharing component in Genius Hour. We encourage you to follow along and hope you will rejoice, laugh, and applaud the efforts of our students. 

Stay tuned for our awesomeness!