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

Mini Lessons

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

I want to write a book. 
A professional book. 
I think I have a lot to say. 
I think others could benefit from my experience.
After all, I have been an educator for over 30 years.

But, what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?
What new knowledge could I add to the table?
Who would even bother to read what I have to say?

These are questions borne of fear.
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of not being able to complete such a daunting project. 
(At least, that's what it feels like to me right now.)
Fear that I won't make time.
Fear that I'll run out of time.

But, over the last couple of days, I've gotten some encouraging words of support from the Innovative Teaching Academy - 
#ITA17 Facebook group. 

You can do it!Write for yourself.
But the message that is propelling me forward is this one: 
It doesn't matter how many times something has been said...each time someone else says it, new people hear it...and that's where you make the d…


Today's post is short and sweet because I just got back from a night of playing Bunko with friends. 

I share some questions I'm grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed!