Throughout the month, Genius Hour has taken over our classroom. Its all we think about and so many conversations move towards Genius Hour. I've tried very hard to capture what is going on in the classroom in a meaningful way through this video but there is so much learning that happens between shots. If you were a fly on the wall of the class this month, you would've learned about building a house, how to use a sewing machine to make a pillow, how spiders make webs, about the Eiffel Tower and many more projects. If you've ever done Genius Hour, let us know if you have any tips that could help us in our next round of learning. I hope our video and projects inspire you to go out and learn about that one thing that has always interested you. Enjoy!
With the resounding success of our Genius Hour, a problem has arisen. In my year planning, I had space for Genius Hour for one month in March. Read below if you are interested in how we did it. Now it is spring break and a natural time for transition. Sadly, this means a transition away from Genius Hour and into our new science unit (objects and materials). Our limiting factor of time is always present.
In grade 1, we have a curriculum that is very conducive to thematic learning so that is how I plan a lot of our learning. I am looking at my year plan for the last three months (my last three themes are all based on student-inquiry ideas) and trying to find the time for Genius Hour to continue while still finishing our curriculum. With my original plan, it doesn't really fit. I need to adapt based on what my students need.
The kids have made it very clear that Genius Hour is a time they value and they've shown that they can handle the structure of it in learning. So here is my plan: we will put Genius Hour on the back burner for a while. I am leaving the wonderwall up to collect new inquiry ideas and then I will bring back Genius Hour when I see we have the time. I am committing here in writing that Genius Hour will be back by June at the latest! Thanks for everyone's feedback and support in our foray into Genius Hour. Staff, classmates, and parents alike, we couldn't have done it this well without you.
"Mr. Felsch today we are doing Genius Hour at the end of the day. Do you have my cardboard ready?" -K
"We don't get Genius Hour until Tuesday!?! Awww..." -C
"Make sure you come in from recess quick, Genius Hour is next!" -Q
These are a few examples of quotes that I've noted over the last two weeks as our Genius Hour is in full swing. The students are really engaged and focused on their self-directed learning projects. Each day they make sure that I am ready for Genius Hour, too. They request meetings on days that are not Genius Hour days, just to make sure that all their materials will be available and sometimes to help solve problems in advance. The levels of commitment from the kids keep me on my toes, as I do not want to disappoint them when I cannot get the materials they are requesting.
There will always be equipment and materials and information that is not readily available. This is where I think I see the most growth in my students as they start to think ahead to solve their problems and make a list of what they thinking they will need. They are researching methods using videos of other experts and even accessing the experts in other parts of the school. For example, K was measuring the walls of his house and was having difficulty making each corner 90 degrees (he didn't understand angles formally yet in grade 1, but he definitely learned a quick real-world lesson). He knew he needed a new tool, because his ruler just wasn't cutting it. I sent him with his mentor to our high school shop teacher to see if he had anything that would help. K described his problem to the shop teacher and emerged with a square, a tool he'd seen his dad use in the past. His walls and roof are now all perfect 90 degree angles and he is a new tool in his repertoire.
Our student-led conferences were this week so the kids wanted to display their projects so far. I really liked this opportunity to share some work that was unfinished because it showed more of the learning process to parents. Listening in to some of the conversations, students had a lot to say to their parents, both about what they've already done and their plans to finish.
After speaking with some parents, it was evident that they all knew about their students' Genius Hour projects, showing that students are not only thinking about this in their school day but also at home. A question I have is how many parents encourage self-directed learning in their own homes? In my opinion, most homes would be an even more ideal place for this than a school since their are less time constraints although they may be missing some of the resources that the school can provide.
Our geniuses were hard at work this week and anxious to truly begin their projects. We started the hour with a talk about two "P words": patience and planning. They understood what patience is and why it is important especially when asking for help with their project. The planning part came in handy for our house builders who started by looking at a ruler and some house plans. They drew some rough sketches but then their mentor told them about adding measurements to their plans. One genius decided to build a house with a square layout and the other decided that a rectangle would be more his style.
We are so lucky to be in a K-12 school! I asked around to see if there were any students that were interested in Genius Hour (particularly ones that could operate a sewing machine or like building) and I got more than I could ask for. Two grade 10 boys who were available during our period and were more than willing to help. I paired them up with the three sewing students and the two house building students, leaving me available for the rest of the class who is still working on what exactly they would like to do.
Wettrick says that part of the blueprint for an innovative class is collaboration with an outside expert to gain knowledge and experience. One of his rules for this is that the expert cannot be a parent. I kind of liked this rule. I have nothing against parent volunteers and I've had some awesome ones in the past, but the kids get a chance to work with their parents all the time. Genius Hour is a time to meet a new expert that can share knowledge about a subject that a parent or nice aunt or uncle may not possess. The grade 10 boys may not believe it, but in their time in our school they've become experts.
What a win-win-win situation having the mentors has been. I can check in with all the groups and individuals easier, the kids are making new friends in the school, the knowledge and ideas being shared is really showing in the projects, and the grade 10s are developing an ability to guide the kids instead of doing the work for them.
Next time I will hopefully have an update on our next Genius Hour day. Some plans for next time that students shared included finding a pattern for sewing a dress, working on the walls of the house, taking notes about spiders, and designing a cardboard eiffel tower!
Wettrick, D. (2014) Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc
This week, we dove in head first and started our Genius Hour with the grade 1s. This is my first time facilitating a Genius Hour Project, but I had faith that whatever the kids came up with would be magical. We started by talking about a passion I have where I am a novice: pottery. I told the kids about how I have my own teacher that helps me learn about something "I want to learn about" and then passed the samples around.
The theme of "something I want to learn" came up a lot in our conversations. Kids were so excited to try something new. Next, we watched a video of other students who have participated in Genius Hour. These students were older, but the grade 1s understood what was going to happen and even got a few ideas from it like cake-making. I got the video from https://www.geniushourguide.org/ It is a great website and this particular blog post was created after an edchat about Genius Hour in the classroom.
Once we viewed the video, they were off to the races. Today was all about brainstorming ideas so I could get some of the materials they needed. We took a look at the wonder wall to see if there was anything on it that could help inspire us and then draw and wrote our passions and what we would like to learn about them. I was blown away at some of their ideas and my teacher brain was turning with questions like "where can I get this?", "who do I know that can do this?", "how can I make this goal a realistic one?" Here are some examples of what the kids came up with today.
In March, our class is participating in Genius Hour. Made famous by Google, students will be given approximately 20% of their day to learn about something they are passionate about. This can come in the form of making something, learning about something, testing something, the possibilities are endless.
With the grade 1 students, we are starting off by looking at questions and what makes a good question to explore. They cannot be questions that are simple with one answer. We are looking for questions with a range of answers like "how do I make the best pancakes?" or "How do people in other countries go to school?" These are questions that could lead the kids down a worm-hole of discovery. The questions are the most important part of inquiry, so important that we have an entire wall for them in our classroom!
This is my first time taking part in Genius Hour and I am anxious to see what the kids come up with. Check out my next post after our first day. It will have how I introduce Genius Hour as well as (hopefully) some of the ideas from the kids.