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Letting Students Be Free

Letting Students Be Free

Sometimes one of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to let your students go "free range." We have objectives and goals that we know we need to reach by the end of the school year, but sometimes, the opportunity presents itself to let a student take learning into their own hands.

When you give them tools, they create.

Below is what happens when you give students two class periods of chaos, all over the place instruction, limited direction and tell them "You've got this and I know you'll be awesome!"

Our first days of Broadcasting went a little like this:

  • Monday - My 11 students split themselves into three groups, determined the basics they should include in their broadcast, started writing scripts, and decided who would be the first to anchor/produce.
  • Tuesday - All 12 of us crammed into the broadcast room for a quick meeting. We talked about what's where, how do you plug stuff in, use lapel mics, adjust mic levels, load and then use teleprompter, attach the Mevo camera, use the Mevo camera and app, record video, save video, practice as anchor, producing, unplug equipment, turn off equipment, return equipment to proper storage area... it was a crazy 40 minutes!
  • Wednesday - I walked my first four brave souls down to the broadcast booth, watched them turn on the equipment, made sure they had a video feed from the camera to the app and that the on-air sign was turned on. Then I wished them well, walked out and shut the door behind me. Then this happened.

One of the most exciting things in all of this is that each day with these students continues to bring new surprises. I had a student share the link to a website that she created, unprompted, for ONN in her free time outside of school. Giving students space gave them latitude to take risks and ownership of their learning.

Check out the ONN Website


Sometimes Inspiration Creates a Spark.

As part of the technology curriculum, my 5th-grade students are beginning the planning phase for their Genius Hour projects. If you are unfamiliar with Genius Hour, it's an opportunity for students to research and present on any topic/interest of their choosing. While brainstorming project ideas, my class watched a video about Caine's Arcade. Caine is a boy who built a cardboard arcade in his dad's shop - all summer, only to have no one come. One day a gentleman came in to purchase something, saw the arcade, played in the arcade, and went home posted on social media and created a surprise flash mob with thousands coming to his arcade.

After watching this video, one of my students, Olivia, was so impressed with what Caine had done that she started looking for more information, sharing everything with me. Once Olivia found out that this little boy's cardboard arcade grew into an entire imagination movement, she was inspired to create a cardboard movement of her own. Within a week, Olivia reached out to the community to send in recycled materials and invited the Kindergarten classes and their families to participate in her version of the Cardboard Challenge.

To this point, Olivia had done everything on her own. She connected with the Kindergarten teachers, she broke down and moved boxes, and gathered other materials to created cardboard imaginary friends, and she selected books to read to the kindergarten that emphasized having an active imagination. All I did was share her enthusiasm and maybe move a few boxes.

As an educator who frequently lets my students "take the wheel," I have discovered that I am continually learning from my students. Children have a lot to share when given a platform. As we enter our second quarter of the school year, I can easily say that this year, our students are going to do BIG things!

See more of Olivia's Cardboard Challenge!

Curious about starting Genius Hour in your classroom? Here are some resources: 


Sara VerwersSara Verwers is the Middle School Technology teacher at Oakhill Day School. Sara encourages her students to think outside of the box to solve real-world problems. Mrs. Verwers hopes that each student in her class will become tomorrow's innovators.

Posted by M. McDaniel in Teacher Topics, Classroom on Thursday October, 11, 2018
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2 Comments:

Very Nice!

from J. Kleyh on 10/11/18 at 01:31PM

I had a chance to go to the commons to observe Olivia and some of her friends in action...and was blown away by how well organized she was.  The kindergarten kids were all engaged in the activity and were having so much fun.  Good job, Olivia...and thank you Ms. Verwers for encouraging this young leader.  These are the types of opportunities that make Oakhill special.  This is Oakhill....

from K. Dodson on 10/11/18 at 02:20PM

Choose groups to clone to:

Oakhill Day School
Oakhill Day School
7019 N. Cherry Street Gladstone, MO 64118
Phone: 816.436.6228
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