Geniushour and Origami: No Lazy Learners Here

I subbed in four classrooms this week: Monday, 1st grade; Wednesday, a 4 year old program; Thursday, kindergarten; and Friday, another 1st grade class. It was a busy week and I’m becoming quite adept in wearing different teacher hats! A through line, to my surprise (or truthfully, maybe not), is what I call the “lazy learner.” In many ways it resembles the “learned helplessness“  teachers have noticed and discussed. I’m wondering if you’ve come across any “lazy learners?” The kids who know their stuff, who can often apply what they know to extend their learning; to participate, to discuss, to broaden the conversation, but don’t. I call these kids my “lazy learners.” They sit back and wait before starting their work. They call your name, they say, “But I don’t know what I need to do.” They want you to talk them through it, to expedite their work or to give them a pass. They want to be done!

I see this whether it’s cleaning up an art activity, transitioning to the next activity, or completing math or spelling assignments, or a multistep art activity to create a desert scene. I see it with writers workshop, when “I’m done” becomes a chorus, a cacophony of shared voices. I see it when showing your math work is not an option and trying to negotiate becomes their focus.

Have you experienced this with any of your students? Have we (parents and teachers as well) aided in this “learned helplessness” that now our “lazy learner” sits back and waits? The question then becomes what do we do and how can we help these students become more self-reliant, more independent and motivated to do their work?

An opportunity for Geniushour in 1st grade had me wondering (after the fact as I reflect), if I’d also see the “lazy learner” here?

Both first grade classrooms met to learn how to make objects with origami. They had talked about it and some of their friends had exposure to origami, and they were eager for their classmates to learn. One student, demonstrated how to follow the step by step directions. There were papers with directions to make a swan, house, pig, frog and pinwheel. Students were given origami sized paper and chose which one they wanted to try. They could chose how to partner up; whether with a group or in groups of two or by themselves.

The excitement in the two rooms, as the kids could go back and forth between the two classrooms, was discernible and delightful. And the noise level, as one would expect, as the students finished an origami and rushed to show it to friends and teachers, was high. Most of the students were engaged, trying, asking for help from peers or teachers as they tried the different folds. Some went on to try another origami when done with one or when they weren’t successful with their first one. A few were discouraged. They were challenged and asked for help after the first fold. Without that immediate feedback, they wanted someone to do it for them. And with those kids we (classmates and teachers) talked them through it, we helped them persevere, we guided them through the folds that needed to be done one at a time, in the order shown.

Then we went back into our room (the classroom I was subbing in that day) and their teacher Kristin had them discuss their “takeaways”, their reflections of this Geniushour experience. Kids shared how they weren’t sure they could do it. They talked about the origami they made; why they chose that one; who helped them and what they did when they couldn’t do the origami. One student talked about his idea to combine two origami papers. Another shared how she was going to give up, it was too hard and she wasn’t successful. Then she talked about the teacher helping her follow the steps one at a time. And she proudly shared that she was able to help her peers with theirs.

Kristin’s tag line to them that has become their mantra TEAM WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK! How wonderful is this! I’ve often shared that lessons learned during  Geniushour applies to all academics, to the playground, to makerspace, to innovation; to spaces and places we are committed to giving students access to learn and share their interests and passions. In these instances I feel we see less of the “lazy learner” as the students build intrinsic motivation that they can apply across the curriculum.


Have you tried Geniushour with your classes? Do you think giving students opportunities to focus on their interests builds resilience when they face challenges? Have you experienced “learned helplessness” and/or “lazy learners” with your students? If yes, how do you help them become more independent learners?






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