Genius Hour at the end of the year is much like the end of a very satisfying vacation. It’s time to pack up and go but you will have many fond memories. Many of you are already finished but many of you are like me and still teaching for a few more weeks. I shared a couple of months about the middle of our Genius Hour and things were going well. Students really like the exploratory nature of Genius Hour but really need to be guided through the process.
Students have been completing some reflections for the last couple of sessions about what they have learned during that Genius Hour. That was sure an eye opener for students that weren’t as engaged as they could have been! Part of that reason was because we had some issues with our technology and the internet. Well, technology is a whole new ballgame! Remember that quiet awesome time I told you about that we were experiencing last period Friday during Genius Hour? Well I spoke too soon. If you are reading this because you were hoping for teaching utopia during Genius Hour, I am sorry. It has been CRAZY!? Why? Well, we have technology at my school but it’s not always available and given that learning, knowing about and using technology is very important for our students for their future, I decided I would allow students to bring their own devices. I created a permission form and checked with admin. I wanted parents to know that I would lock up their devices and supervise their use. I used this letter and you can grab it by clicking here.
If you know anything about technology, you will know that it doesn’t always work. Not only did my assistant and I have to make sure all students were logged onto the school internet, we also did some trouble shooting because some students didn’t even have Safari or any other search feature on their device. In that case, the student used one of 3 classroom devices until their parent could load it. Day 1 with devices. Gone. The next week, students again brought their devices and I had a short list of “kid friendly” search sites for them to use. I would most definitely choose one next time and spend some time showing the students how to use it more effectively. Some students could get on one of the sites, some could not. Choosing one and just using that would solve that. Even if it didn’t work, we could go into our notebooks and brainstorm more ideas and then we all would not be using the tech. Lesson learned. 🙂
Transitioning the students from their Genius Hour Interactive Notebooks to planning projects required lots of whole class and peer discussions. Sharing aloud was very important to help students process their ideas and to help others unsure of the project they wanted to do to hear about others’ ideas. At this level, most students have decided to do posters, books, models or dioramas made from shoe boxes. As I have said before – Genius Hour is MESSY! As students began working on their projects, our Genius Hour center got more and more “busy”. (It’s a bit blurry but you get the idea!)
But the process is so much fun to watch and facilitate. The discussions are awesome and there are many, many questions. I invited parents in for the first time to help out and one parent just said to me yesterday- I was amazed at how many questions you answered in that hour! (Welcome to a teacher’s day.) Well, it wasn’t just fact questions, it was also, questions about process. These little guys this year are SO smart and so energetic. They are very curious and just want to know more and more. Last year, I was able to direct many of their questions over to their partner who would then ask them something that might enhance or change their inquiry. This year is different, but isn’t every year and every class? It’s an awesome feeling watching kids putting together projects based on their own ideas! They feel so proud and successful.
AND… the best part! Even your special needs children can do this with support. They are right there with us! <3
We are almost finished our projects and we will be taking an afternoon to share them all and get verbal feedback from our peers. I will not be marking this – that is not the point. But, I will be looking over their Genius Hour notebooks to take a look at the process they followed.
It is going to start getting super busy so I thought I had better post this now before I get buried in year end “stuff” and miss the opportunity. I hope you enjoyed reading this 3 part, year long series of our experiences. Give it a try – I think you and your students will benefit from the experience.