Debbie Stephens is a “Teacher of the Habitudes.” Debbie is a sixth grade teacher of reading and social studies at Woodward Academy. She is a lifelong learner and is passionate about using the Habitudes in her classroom to enable her students to become active learners. Her goal every day is to encourage her students to tinker with and define strategies for problem solving and critical thinking through authentic learning opportunities.
Let’s find out how she makes sure NO genius is left behind.
I am truly blessed this year to be teaching an entire roomful of sixth grade geniuses. It is so exciting every day to wake up and know when I get to class that so many genius children will show up ready to explore another day of learning. It sounds like the perfect class in the perfect school with of course the perfect teacher because I am a genius too! You may wonder how I even know all this genius exists. I know because my students will tell you they are geniuses and they will reassure each other as well.
We began this year as any other greeting and meeting each other and acknowledging our desire to have a super incredible year. A genius knows how to take steps in this direction. We used our Imaginations to create a mind map designed to help us. It was not easy to imagine how we could solve a problem and make a plan but using a visual design tool like Bubbl.us made the process engaging. Genius showed up as each student helped another with ideas and even the technology involved in embedding these mind maps to our wiki pages.
Curiosity is one my favorite Habitudes of genius. It establishes an end to boredom in any class — anytime and anywhere. My class is committed to practicing curiosity by generating genius questions. Because my students are geniuses, the questions invigorate and empower them to go after any subject. I borrowed Angela’s idea of taking rocks from that “boring” moment to one of genius questions. Were my students really getting loud and exuberant over rocks? Check out the genius questions posted on our Wallwisher over one night.
The class not only believes in genius but it has seen genius at work as we exercise what they learn with each Habitude. As we begin our study of climate and landforms or as we read an autobiography of a Laotian refugee, the curiosity and imagination muscles work along with genius for real learning to occur.
We faced a new challenge for sixth graders last Monday afternoon though. Our principal and P.E. Coach, Eric Brown, needed us to solve the annual dilemma of what countries to include in our Olympic Field Day event. A genius knows that we not only must choose countries, but we needed to design a procedure for doing so. Wow. How else do we begin but by asking genius questions!? When else to collaborate and spend time in the discovery mode than in our period set aside each week for Genius Hour!? We went straight to work though the path of our challenge was anything but straight. A design was agreed upon and set in place. We then built a set of genius questions based on the premise of Empathy. Coach Brown and our principal played a crucial role in helping to bring out the genius as the “classroom of geniuses” began the next hours of inquiry. This messy but crucial list guided each group. Genius is messy and learning is messy and classrooms get messy when genius shows up!
My class, by the way, was like any other class before they passed by the quote at the entrance of my room: “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.” We have IQ’s from 98 to 150+ but no numbers or test scores change what we do every day as a group of geniuses at work empowered by the Habitudes.
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