The Friday before a holiday break; Memorial Day no less. Everyone, students and teachers alike, are counting down the weeks, days, minutes until our final day of school. Yet today we had 120+ students engaged and energized during our second “All Day DaVinci Day”.
Below are a few of the structures we put into place to organize our day and a few moments that stand out to me:
1. Organized Brain Breaks- Students met in our school’s auditorium for each of their core subject area classes. For some students that meant that they were there for three 55 minute periods in a row. No one can keep focus for that long. To help students have worthwhile distractions we placed 10 QR codes throughout the room. Students were allowed to get up and scan these codes with their smartphones whenever they wanted. The codes led students to a variety of sites: a one minute yoga video, a dumb joke website, a list of successful people who first failed, and tips on public speaking.
2. Scheduled Quiet Time– For the most part, students were allowed to work in clusters and share ideas. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon we required everyone to work silently and independently for about 30 minutes. This productive silence allowed students to focus on their research, presentation plans, or required blog posts. They enjoyed returning to their groups and sharing what they had accomplished during these work sessions. Positive peer pressure was also exerted. Many students who were finding difficulty finding motivation had their level of concern raised when they learned of the progress made by their friends and classmates.
3. End of the Day Share Out- It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend so by 1:15 (our day ends at 2:15) we realized we were on borrowed time even with our high achieving, focused students. We brought all the students back to the center of the auditorium at 1:50. We applauded them for their work ethic and progress. Surprisingly they broke out into a spontaneous round of applause for themselves. We then asked volunteers to provide us with a one to two minute unrehearsed speech to introduce everyone to their projects. We had 5 brave students take center stage and share their unfinished work with 115 peers and 4 teachers. It was at that moment that we all realized these Genius Hour projects are real. Our community sharing night is going to happen and it is going to be fantastic.
As the final impromptu presentation was finishing, a student turned to me and said, “I can’t believe this is almost over. I am going to really miss this next year.” It is the day before Memorial Day weekend. There are four weeks of school left and that student and I are not ready for it to end.