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Letting Out the Genius

Many years ago while teaching music, I brought into my children’s choir songs from the Disney movie Aladdin.  I asked students if they could tell me a little bit about the story, and one young student shared that the lead character, Aladdin, rubbed an old lamp to “let out the genius.”  

While the statement was a little bit off (in case you don’t recall the story, a GENIE comes out of the lamp), it made me think of the work of classroom teachers.  In our classroom practices we can create opportunities for students to let their genius out.  In the article Sparking Students’ Uncommon Genius author Carol Ann Tomlinson share four ways teachers can help release student genius:

  1. Let students see the real people behind the lessons.  Thanks to current technologies, it is easier than ever to find videos and podcasts of real creators talking about their work.  During this pandemic, more and more creators are readily accepting invitations to share their thoughts with students.  The more students can interact with people doing creative work, the more they can learn.
  2. Fully integrate learning and doing.  It’s one thing to talk about creators and creativity.  It’s a completely different thing to do the work of creativity.  Integrate the talking and doing as much as possible, so students can enjoy the learning benefits of authentic creative experience. 
  3. Draw on the power of audiences.  Students need to display their creative works and discuss the process they undertook.  Using meeting technology, students can share their works with other classrooms, parents, and community members.  It seems to have worked well for TED. 
  4. Invite student passion.  Provide opportunities for students to choose creative tasks and expressions that are meaningful to them.  Passion increases student persistence and improves student products.  Let them explore areas of interest as you are able. 

Teachers often only see students for one year in the classroom.  This small snapshot doesn’t always show the full picture of who the student will become.  In your classroom right now, you may have the next George Lucas, Mozart, Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs.  As you prepare for next week, think about ways you might help students unleash their hidden genius.  They will be glad you did!

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