Genius Hour: A Work in Progress

It has been a few busy weeks since I last posted, so there is a TON to reflect upon! Bottom line, I continue to be happy with Genius Hour despite a mammoth learning curve for both students and teachers. I am excited for the culture shift that I hope will come as we all grow to become more independent and self-driven learners and teachers. I also could not imagine navigating these new waters without my co-teaching partner. It is reassuring to look at each other in the middle of our plan and know we need to shift gears, but we are not doing it alone. It makes me more confident to have another professional to plan, reflect, and teach with during this new adventure.

We have identified some things that we want to be sure to remember when this journey begins again next year. Hopefully blogging them will help me to actually recall what I was thinking during this time. As all teachers know, one school year is a blink of an eye and a journey that seems to last an eternity all at the same time. I find that when I cycle back to the beginning of the next year, I often can’t remember any reflections I had, except that I had something that I wanted to do differently for some reason. It is moments like these when a blog, journal or co-teaching partner with a tremendous memory comes in handy.

Introduce The Cycle of a Genius

Question, Research, Thinking, Project-Perhaps complete a brief class cycle with something planned first to let them see how to persevere through the cycle. They need to see how research and thinking goes back and forth before the project begins to take shape.

Searching for Information

We realized how inept the students were at finding information on the internet effectively.  In hindsight, this seems like common sense. Since technology is such a part of the culture at our school, we assumed the kids were more proficient than they actually were when working independently. We realized that all other projects that we do really have the teacher structuring where to go and how to find the information, so the kids really didn’t know how to go about that task on their own. We are fortunate to have a technology coach that will deliver a fabulous lesson to help the students improve this needed area, as well as the teachers!

Be your own Tech Support

Again, since we use technology pervasively in our school, we assumed the kids would be proficient in fixing their own tech problems. We are a BYOD school, so there are sometimes connectivity issues with different devices or there are issues with using different project based applications that they decide to try independently for the first time. We have needed to assure the students that they are capable of “clicking and playing around” with different things and that their device will not blow up.  This is a great way for me to remind them that I also have to take risks and figure things out when using new technology. We are learning to let the kids work through it and figure it out when we are not the experts. Sounds logical, but as the teacher, we are used to being the ones to fix problems. We must remind ourselves that letting go is part of the journey.

Project Evaluations

Finally, we want to the students to be their own quality control. A fellow teacher had a great solution to show different projects that are already done and have the students analyze what is good and what needed work. This would give the students some anchor projects to determine how their own projects are measuring up.  It would also help them evaluate presentation platforms that would be more appropriate for the type of material they are communicating about.

I would welcome any thoughts or ideas that you use to launch your Genius Hour! It takes a lot of geniuses to make Genius Hour great!



Staying Alive

Small steps this week, but steps still. I updated my website to include some interactive math games for my second grade group. They were very excited to learn how the games worked. One of my students talked about playing in her free time at home too! Yay!

Second Grade Math Links

Genius Hour moved forward, and wow did they get deep! My partner and I were concerned about the kids not feeling free to explore, but boy were we wrong! We went through the process that would be Genius Hour, so the kids could begin with the end in mind. Question, Research, Think, Present. We also discussed how the research and think may go back and forth a good few times before a presentation begins to form. We then let them loose to think about their questions. We had students with questions about God, their bodies, how to sing better, Big Foot, and more! No concerns about the kids being curious anymore!

I have loved that this is our first go at Genius Hour because it is a natural way for us to model how we are conducting our own Genius Hour research. The kids think it is cool that we are going through the process while they are. We are candid about how we are researching and thinking and researching again to think again about our question, “How do you have Genius Hour in a fifth grade class?”. The students see us living the mission, and it makes them feel less risk to join in on the adventure.

Once the students had their questions approved, we quickly realized that they were not adept at researching through technology. I guess we know where we will start next week’s Genius Hour adventure. The challenge will be that we are limited on research tools and content due to firewalls. We will see where this next chapter leads us with a lot of researching and thinking as we fumble through our class Genius Hour projects together!