Genius Hour was quite a learning curve for me this past year. What started out with these posts, Summer Passion Project and Genius Hour, Take 1, brought me to something other than I’ve ever done before. My teammates and I were able to flex our weekly schedules just enough for all 3 of us to give this hot topic a try. We entered the unknown and came out the other side unscathed and will carry this experience for next year’s adventure. I’m renaming this time to “Passion Projects” because I personally find that more fitting.
We actually have a handful of teachers on my campus that used the Genius Hour platform for students’ extended learning. A fifth grade teacher (shout out to Kimberly!) and a high school teacher (shout out to Ashley!) referred to their’s as Passion Projects which I liked from the get-go. Just that difference in name grants flexibility and allows freedom for students to pursue a topic beyond the “hour.” Small yet significant difference to me.
All of my students were excited from Day 1 about having a choice of learning. Go figure….school can be a place to implement choice to learn, discover, and share! :p Something I won’t forget as we were taking the advice from a Genius Hour parent-share “relax so you can imagine”, a student words, “How long do we have to relax?” What a strong message! We are often overscheduled! Think about how this squashes creativity. And so the challenge lies ahead for classroom teachers – how to free up time in a rigorous school schedule? Start thinking. Get creative to make it happen!
My take-aways from year 1:
- Genius Hour will look and morph into something different every time. Individuals, partners, a variety of supplies, and byod days, for example.
- Starting and stopping for an exact hour each week was hard for me. It’s hard to tell creativity “start” and “stop.” Flexibility and understanding from students (and yourself) will be needed!
- Time for reflecting, whether in a pair-share, journaling, or blog writing is important for a plan moving forward. I need to do a better, more consistent job with my students here.
- Find at least one other classroom in your school ready to take this adventure of learning with you. Partnership, brainstorming, discussion, encouragment, and celebrations are key in the journey.
- Parent support needed! Inform at parent night, share a short video about Genius Hour, the student agreement form, and explain why it’s work that won’t be graded. Consider eventually having an evening of Passion Project Presentations (think Science Fair).
- Be a part of the Twittersphere action, plus check out some awesome resources: #geniushour @joykirr Livebinder Resource @paulsolarz Passion Time Resource @cybraryman1 Genius Hour / 20%Time Page @ashleyashcraft Passion Projects
- Consider when to have mini lessons of scaffolding skills for citing resources, safe internet searching, app smashing, use of Google Docs, and some presentation possibilities. Some of your students will probably break the mold and come up with their own original, unique plan for presenting!
- Instead of shutting out a student idea with a “no”, offer a suggestion or solicit peer advice. Float around the room, check in regularly for progress, and aim for an end date which will vary according to student and project.
I didn’t know much about some of the topics my students had in mind. So, I learned right along with them! Learning with and from your students sends a big message of validation and definitely enriches the student – teacher relationship.
This personal choice learning was met with excitement and energy every week. Every week. The whole year. Even this summer, a parent stopped in my room to let me know that her daughter wanted to drop off a copy of her Genius Hour poetry work. She hadn’t been ready to share at the end of May but continued on to finish it up at home. That says to me – real learning.
I would like to see my students take their learning further next year with involving others and extending some project ideas to the community. But for a first year, this was a good start!
Would love to hear of your experience and advice if you’ve walked this road. Please share!