My class started Genius Hour again this year. I just love allowing the students the time to work on projects based on their interests. Often, when teachers start Genius Hour for the first time, they are a bit nervous (I was!) and they start it towards the end of the school year when the students are really into the routine and the class management is down pat (I did!).
Fast forward a few years and I am starting in January. This is my second year starting around January. I actually started in December this year in the middle of the holiday chaos and it brought calm to the classroom. Yes, it really did! (You can see my initial post series from last year here tagged under Wonder Wednesdays.)
I thought I would share with you what we have been doing the first few weeks.
I cleared off some counter space and made an area for Genius Hour where students can put their “things” if they bring them in to work on. Last year, students had folders and Passion Pockets to hold things they may need to work on their projects. My Genius Hour is ever evolving and this year, we are not using pockets.
We are using my new Genius Hour Interactive Notebooks to wonder, think, plan, record and reflect our Genius journey. The counter space will hold “stuff”. That way, students can all look at supplies and works in progress as it goes along. I will most likely need bins to hold things but I will let it evolve as it will and share that with you in my next post.
Parents are part of the process and I send messages via Class Messenger to parents to spark some thoughts at home and remind them that they may need to bring some items in for their child to work on. The idea is not that this is to cost anyone lots of money for supplies (especially the teacher who spends enough on the classroom) but just to remind parents at home that Friday is Genius Hour and if their child needs to bring anything to work on to please send it. The teacher is the facilitator to this learning. I can’t believe how much I learned about things from my students.
Just before Christmas, the students began their Genius Hour notebooks. I showed them mine as an example. They liked looking at what it would look like when it was put together.
Then we started with a little self awareness and exploration. First we identified who we are at school and who we are at home. Most students admitted to being totally different in school than they are at home. (Aren’t we all?) For more on self awareness and mindfulness click here.
Next, we started to identify our likes and dislikes, what we are good at and not so good at. Some students realized that the things they liked were also the things they were good at. ( This was a great thing for them to notice on their own. It was also a “teachable moment” where the more you do something, often the better you get at it. ) Some of the dislikes can be a little surprising but give you (and the student) a window into their thinking. Some students made lists.
Some students made webs. I loved how the graphic organizers I used to teach the writing process transferred over into their own writing without a prompt from me.
This week, we took our personal self awareness journey a little further. We started to list things that we wanted to know more about. This step was front loaded with a pre-message to parents to brain storm with their kids the night before. Some kids came with lists the next day and felt so confident that they knew what they were doing.
I loved how this student decorated the top as well as wrote the ideas below the flap. This student is a real thinker! You can see that thought is put into the ideas and boy, are they varied! This is a perfect example of how a very bright and creative child can express their ideas when they are “set free”.
Some students are already aware of what topic they want to do for their genius hour project and others did not. This left the brainstorming wide open. The students that knew what they wanted to do wrote their topic inside the button in the middle and each flap had a different wondering question about that ONE topic. Others who hadn’t narrowed down their topic yet used each flap for a different topic as shown above.
A few students looked at me and said, “But I don’t know anything about (for example) tornadoes.” I answered them with, “Exactly! That’s why you are writing it down so you can learn more”. I can only describe their response to that as happy and encouraged. It was a great reaction.
Doing Genius Hour is a mind shift. Instead of giving students information and facts it allows me to teach students HOW to learn. While it may seem contradictory, I know my job as teacher and facilitator of learning is more important than ever.