Personalized learning is giving a boost to gifted students, and providing teachers with an alternative to”teaching to the middle”.
Students are able to learn at their own pace, whether that pace is fast or slow. This approach shows promise in reaching gifted students, as they are free to learn and be challenged,
At one middle school, the “Genius Hour” allows students to work on independent study projects, which has resulted in many students discovering just how smart they are.
At Oregon Middle School, enriched English teacher Amanda Rigell, who teaches three classes with around 75 seventh- and eighth-grade students, has instituted the “Genius Hour” – providing students time each week to personalize their education by working on independent study projects. She said the change has gone so well that when her classroom is empty for prep time, many students visit her classroom during their study halls to continue progress on their projects.
“I’m finding that sometimes kids will work more and harder if its something they’ve chosen for themselves,” Rigell said. “They can invest in it a little more.”
The projects are not easy, however. Rigell said they will be strictly graded, with the goal to publish the students’ work.
“If its something you’re going to get a (top grade) on, you’ve got to be able to show it to the school or community,” she said.
One student is working on “Strongly Worded Letters,” where each Friday she writes a letter to a company or corporation that’s disappointed her.
“She just wrote one to the Weather Channel about their new format,” Rigell said. “They’re pretty great, and she’s gotten a lot of support from her peers and teachers, because they’re funny and effective, because she’s a great writer.”
Another student is reading Tolstoy’s epic novel, “War and Peace,” and uses Friday “Genius Hour” time on a Chromebook to research Russian history. Another is reading Harper Lee’s seminal novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and uses her time to learn more about the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
“It’s really provided the flexibility to let the kids go more in depth,” Rigell said.
One Genius Hour project teamed four seventh-graders to direct and edit a short movie for incoming OMS seventh-graders to watch next year.
Emilee Lehmann said it all started when she and classmates Katie Eisele, Mackenzie Gard and Isabelle Krier got together to brainstorm ideas and got to pick their project.
“One of us came up with the idea of a movie, then it was, ‘Well, what do we want to do,’” she said. “We thought about this because it would have helped us, coming here.”
The students took a video camera to record a variety of places in the school new students would need to familiarize themselves with, and are now editing the script.
“It’s fun,” Lehmann said. “I like how we got to choose what we got to do to show what we’ve learned.”