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Friday, March 27, 2015

3 thoughts about Genius Hour

In preparation for #UCET15 I felt it necessary to compose some of my thoughts about Genius Hour. If you haven't heard of Genius Hour or are uncertain what it is here is a quick video:

The way that I did Genius Hour in my Geography class was that I allowed each student to choose a topic they were interested in that was geography related. Considering Geography is the broadest of all subject areas this meant that just about any topic would fall under this umbrella. Some knew the second I announced the project what they were going to do, others needed more time and help. I was able to either schedule the computer lab or get the laptops one day each week for one period for students to work on their projects.

It's interesting how diverse and different the topics students chose to focus on. Of course there were a few that were similar, but even they had differences from topics that were the same in nature. If you were to ask my students what they remember best or what their favorite part of the year was I am certain a vast majority, if not all students would say that Genius Hour was their favorite part. Some students hit a home run, others only got a single, but every student found something they were interested in and enjoyed the time they spent learning about their topic. I wish I would have created a video where each student told about their topic, but here is another classes experiences:

1. Starting Genius Hour for the first time is scary. It really is, you have to give up some control, time, and space to kids who like to jump in mudpuddles and allow them to make decisions and research and work on their own about a topic you as the teacher may no little about. Some teachers give up an hour a day. I only saw my students for 45 min periods so I gave up a period a week for them to work on their projects. You have to do what works for you. There is something magical about giving students their own license to study what they want. Honestly, I had less behavior problems with Genius Hour than anything else I did. Overall, students were engaged, self motivated, and eager to learn. Don't be scared, try it. Figure out what will work best for you in your class, in your school with your subject.

2. Learning is messy and not always easy. Some topics are easier than others to find material on. All take dedication to see the project to the end. Some students will get right in and get to work, others will have a harder time and not know what to do. They want things handed to them, they want learning to systematic and clean. But it's not always like that . Learning is messy, good research is difficult, creating a worthwhile project should take effort and hard work. Not everyday is going to sunshine and easy, but it will be worth it. In that way it mirrors life. Be prepared for some difficulty and even push back in the beginning. Students are no different than anyone else, we like things easy, and any good project takes plenty of effort and perseverance to see it through. Here is a great video by Ira Glass of This American Life to show when students struggle

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

3. Help your students through the process by providing rubrics and tools to outline and be successful. I am big believer that successful projects need to be broken down into bite size portions for students to digest. Give them credit by having fill out a Google Form with what they learned for the day/week, what resources they found, what other questions they now have, what their next step will be. One of the best tools I have found for teachers and students to handle projects is Noodle Tools Noodle Tools sets up a way for students to send the teacher daily/weekly updates on their progress, including their correctly cited sources, their outline, research, and what their plan is to finish the project. I think Noodle Tools would be a great way to help students keep track of their research and sources and stay on course to finish their project.

If you haven't made the plunge into Genius Hour, dive in, just do it. Your class will never be the same and you will wonder why it took you so long to give it a try.
If you need more motivation. Watch this. Do you have a class of cats? Time to unleash their inner dog

Be More Dog:

UCET 2015 Presentation