Thursday, April 25, 2013


I've done three things a bit differently this semester. In January, I began giving my freshmen 10 minutes

every day

to read the book of their choice.  I wasn't sure how it would go. 

They hate to read.

And then, at the beginning of fourth quarter, I added a blogging challenge. I post on Sunday. Their post is due the next Sunday.

                                                                 They hate to write.

And then, I began instituting Genius Time every Friday (except for this Friday. I have to be gone. We've had a week. I was gone two days last week. We just needed to do the mainstream on Friday).

They hate to think.

You want to know something? 

I was wrong. 

They proved me wrong.

They read every day.

and they don't hate it.

(Well, not most of them)

In fact, they have read more than I thought possible. Someone asks me every day for a new book recommendation. I'm running out of ideas for some of them. And I once thought they'd never find books on their own. But you know what?  Not only are some finding them on their own, but they recommend to others. And although they don't like every book I recommend or they pick out, they give them a fair chance and have a good reason to abandon the book. I'm OK with this. Life's too short to read bad books. My students are becoming discriminating. I count this as a success.

They write every week (most of them)

and they are getting pretty good.

When we first started blogging, the posts weren't all that good. They did the minimum and that was about it. Their thinking was shallow. I thought about quitting. But I didn't. And I'm glad. I've had some say, "This post was pretty fun." There are posts that are so thoughtful I have to read them again. Some are writing twice as much as they did when I started.  I count this as a success. 

They have passions.

They are figuring out how to make movies, learning about what a grandfather endured during WWII and  concentration camps and POW's, figuring out how to write songs and what their dreams mean. Today when I told them I would be gone tomorrow and gave them the itinerary for the day, I heard this, "It's Friday. Why aren't we doing Genius Time?" I explained. They understood. But I better not take it away next week. I count this as a success.

But here's the thing. 

Would the state, would the testing count these as successes? I don't know. I have't seen test scores for my students yet. I'm not sure I want to see them. But maybe I do. An email from our principal said, "Preliminary analysis of the results are favorable for the high school. Some of the data is shockingly positive." I don't know if that means my kids, but I know the results in my classroom are positive. 

And I count that as a success.


  1. Oh, Deb, isn't that so, so satisfying. Hopefully the numbers work out. They really should. But sometimes they don't like how you got there, I swear. If you aren't following a dry, pre-packaged formula for success, then you aren't doing it right. Don't let them make you stop! A real teacher doesn't really need tests to tell her what success is, do you?

    1. And that question at the end implies that you are a "real teacher"! LOL! Rereading it, it could be taken as asking you if you are a real, no, no! Just want to make that clear! It is a compliment and rhetorical!

  2. Congratulations, even before you get the scores. You KNOW that it's working, that's what counts!

  3. Definitely some wonderful successes there, Deb! I would love to hear more about your Genius Time -- I know you've mentioned it before (and maybe you wrote a post that I missed) but I'd like to hear a lot more about how you set it up, what time they get in class to work on it, etc. You are an amazing teacher, and your kids are so lucky to have you! :-)

  4. Yay! Awesome successes noted here. I've been toying with the idea of Genius time (from Google right?). I used to a free block of time for literacy activities (reading, writing, word play), but genius time is so much more than that and I know my students have passions they'd love to explore and work on. What are the top 5 books your students are reading and recommending right now?

    1. LeAnne, my students are loving Genius Time. In fact, I'm in trouble with some because I was gone Friday, we'd had a distrupted week, so I canceled it. The first thing I heard this morning was "We aren't skipping Genius Time on Friday again, are we?"

      Here's the books that are hard to get ahold with my freshmen...

      The Diviners by Libba Bray
      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (anything by him really. Freshmen are just discovering him."
      All of my Ellen Hopkins books are out (again, new discovery by many freshmen)
      The One and Only Ivan is popular with boys. THey start because it's an easy read, but recommend it as one of the best books they've read.
      Divergent and Insurgent also continue to be popular.