1. Define your innovation. Give it a name, a shape, a framework so that when you are asked what is going on in the classroom, you can easily explain it. For example, I’m moving my Genius Hour, the time for a student-driven explosion of learning, up from elementary to middle school this year. It’s different in middle school with a push for more content across six periods a day with different teachers. What worked for me last year with younger students won’t carry the same rigor for these students. Therefore, it will be “Secondary” Genius Hour in my classroom where we cite our sources and have meaningful projects vs. “Elementary” when it was a bit looser in structure.
2. Make a “Why Bag” or “Vision Board” for your innovation. This is a tool to help you focus on why this innovation caught your attention in the first place, be it earlier this year or earlier this week. The bag is a fun exercise to find objects that represent your desire for your classroom. A vision board can be posted for you and your students to refer back to in doldrums of winter. You had a reason for starting something new in the classroom. Capture that reason in a tangible way.
3. Put the innovation on the calendar. Set a start date and write it down. If you’re bold, write it in sharpie marker. When your students know it is coming, the level of accountability skyrockets. The last thing you want to do is disappoint them by promising something amazing and then having to push back the start date. Be realistic, of course; the first day of school may not be the best day. Regardless, set the date. The first Secondary Genius Hour in my class will be on August 27th.
4. Write down the first three things your innovation needs to get moving. I’ve borrowed that from Vicky Davis, one of our ASTE 2015 Keynote speakers. The wisdom behind a list of three things is that it isn’t going to overwhelm you by looking at it! You can get three things done to get started and then move to the next three. Eventually, it is roll out day and you’re ready!
5. Be ready for naysayers. As amazing as you think your innovation will be in the classroom, you will likely meet others who disagree with your assessment. Be ready to engage in professional discourse about your innovation. Find research that supports your desire to add this program or process to your classroom and share it. Make a plan to take your own data on the innovation, as well, always reminding yourself the why of your plans.
6. Connect with others. Each of the activities I mentioned at the beginning of this post has a huge online support system where educators share their successes and failures while cheering each other on. You’ll find them on Twitter with hashtags like #geniushour, #gra2015, #mysteryskype, and #comments4kids. Edmodo and Facebook also have groups of like-minded educators, particularly with the Global Read Aloud, who are ready to come alongside you in your classroom endeavors.
So are you ready to plan for the amazing thing you will have in your classroom very soon? Fill out this quick survey to share your plan and connect with others who are also starting something new in class this year. Good luck!