Skip to main content

Genius Hour

Four weeks ago I implemented Genius Hour with my grade seven students. As is wont to happen when I implement something new in the classroom, I read and think about it a lot before I finally do it. But, that doesn't necessarily mean I have a well-thought out plan for how I'm going to do something! It's more of a skeleton of what we're going to do and depending on how my students respond - I am rarely prepared for what they will say or do no matter how long I've been teaching - I will make modifications as we go along.

In order introduce Genius Hour to my class, we viewed a couple of motivational videos of Caine's Arcade. Then, we talked about finding something you are passionate about and using Genius Hour to work on that interest. In my eyes, this was enough to launch the first Genius Hour work session, so the week following the Caine's Arcade videos the kids got to work on their Genius Hour projects. I would address any unforeseen events or problems as they presented themselves.

On the first Genius Hour class day, I was surprised that so many of my students had come to school with a fairly good idea of what they wanted to do. Some had even brought materials for creating an Iron Man suit! However, even though they were enthusiastic and got to work right away, I felt uneasy. Shouldn't I have them prepare and plan their projects before they start working on them? Shouldn't they pitch their project to the class and me, first? Shouldn't I approve their projects before they start working on them? Shouldn't I put a limit on how many students work together? What should I be doing while the kids are working? How much should I probe? How much should I just stand back and watch? How can I be sure they are learning anything of value, including the mandated standards and benchmarks for my grade? (Even as I write this I know there is much learning going on, maybe more authentic learning than during a regular content area class because everyone is working on something they developed and are committed to seeing through from start to finish. However, since I am the only one in my school doing Genius Hour, I want to be prepared in case I am questioned about the educational value of Genius Hour.)

During the second Genius Hour class, I had my students respond on paper to the following three questions: "What am I not OK with? What do I have? (I interpreted this question as: "What skills, expertise, etc can I bring to this problem?) And, What am I (we, if working with others) going to do about it?" I found that these three questions allowed students to shift from the mentality of Genius Hour as "free time" to Genius Hour as "serious work/play/explore/learn time". I haven't talked to my students this explicitly about Genius Hour. However, yesterday (our third Genius Hour class), I had students determine the purpose of their project: to teach, persuade, or create something for others. Although some are clearly not seeing this connection yet, I trust that the more we focus on how a project is going to impact or influence others, they will start to see a clear and intentional purpose to what they're doing during this time.

I can already see that some of their projects are nearing their completion stage so when we get back after Carnival break, we will talk about getting ready to share their projects with others, namely their classmates for now.

So, although I should have probably followed a different progression to Genius Hour - viewing Caine's Arcade's videos, individual reflection and class discussion on the three questions mentioned above, and a write up of a project proposal - things have been going well. I am particularly encouraged by my students' self-reflections at the end of Genius Hour. Yesterday, they wrote these in their blogs and although this took longer than I had expected, it was time well spent as the kids learned how to navigate their blog, write meaningful entries and work with me to polish them and make them appropriate for publishing.

When I am nagged by doubts about whether or not this is valuable time taken out of a subject area like social studies or language arts, I think about all the planning, writing, reflecting, conflict resolution, and negotiation skills that my students are using in a project of their own choosing during school time. And, I am comforted and certain that this is a good use of one hour of our time during the week.

If you have implemented Genius Hour in you class, please leave a comment about your experiences below.

Note: The three questions mentioned above, plus many other great resources including videos, templates, articles, and posters, can be found in Joy Kirk's LiveBinder for Genius Hour.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Teacher I Want to Be

The
I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 

I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don't like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I'm looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
Teacher
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was as…

Searching for Balance

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the last couple of days. 
And, I've come to the conclusion that I must change my attitude - shift my stance - so I can assume a new perspective. So that I am more aligned with what's important and may add value to my life.  
Focusing on the negative is not making me stronger or healthier. In fact, I am often stressed because I worry a lot about unimportant things. I obsess over situations out of my control. I dismiss positive experiences that would help lift my spirits and align my focus towards what's important. 
I need a distraction from my own thoughts.
I need balance in my life. Not because I work hard to prepare my classes. Not because I read a lot of professional literature. Not because I wrote a lot this summer and will continue to do so now that school has started. But because I have been obsessing on the wrong things. Mostly, I obsess about what someone said or did and what it says about me as a teacher. I obsess about …

Sitting in My Usual Spot

I am sitting in my usual spot.
At least it has been my usual spot for about a week now.
It has become my work space.
It's where I sit to participate in online summer PD activities.
It's where I read.
It's where I write.

My usual spot is in a corner of the couch.
The arm rest is unusually wide.
I can pile my books, notebooks and even my laptop there.
And, I do.

I used to have a more conventional work space,
but then my husband, who works from home,
and was struggling to stick to his side of the desk,
finally spread out,
invading my work space.

One day, after many attempts at getting organized,
and not succeeding,
he told me that he was going to add an extension to our house,
so I could have my own work space.
I told him it was cheaper to tidy up.
That was months ago.

Before claiming my usual spot,
I set up a temporary, wobbly table against a wall in my bedroom
for a work space.
I used that for a few months.
Not ideal, but better than nothing.

I've reclaimed my conventio…