What is Genius Hour?
A fun, creative, messy, engaging, and active hour! This is a time for your students to research, learn, and construct what they are interested in. It’s an amazing time for all. Students are put in charge of their own learning experience for the hour. The teacher stands back and watches the students go! There are many resources to find out how to get started. Some are Kate Petty’s 20 Time In Education and Joy Kerr’s Blog.
Why I Chose to incorporate Genius Hour This Year
The shift to Common Core Standards invites creativity, freedom, and deeper thinking and understanding. I have long been an advocate of a student-centered classroom. Allowing students to discover and explore their passions is the epitome of a student-centered classroom. After reading about and attending conference sessions on the topic, I decided to give it a go. I shared my research and acquired knowledge with my principal, and he was on board. Once I understood what Genius Hour was, I realized that I had participated in this a few years ago – well, to some extent. 2 years ago, I showed my 3rd graders how to set up a Google Site. That year, I had 4 girls get together to create one site. They created bracelets, keychains, and necklaces. They sold their product at school and used their Website to promote their project. They took pictures, listed prices, and used a Google Form to take online orders. In the end, they raised $125 which they donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. After discovering that I had done Genius Hour before, I knew that I could do it, and that it would be successful. And I was right!
The First Few Weeks
The first week was more of an explanation of what Genius Hour is. We created a Google Doc and brainstormed things that we were interested in. We looked at DIY.org for additional ideas. We watched a few videos that focused on students participating in Genius Hour. They were excited! Then came the first week students participated in Genius Hour…To say that they were a bit lost would be an understatement. They wanted to participate, but just weren’t sure how to get started. Some knew what they wanted to learn. Student 25 knew he wanted to learn more about D-Day. He immediately began researching and creating a diorama. However, most students were at a loss. I walked around in order to help guide students. THAT was the first week. Since then, productivity has improved – greatly. I now have a group of boys who work together creating structures in MineCraft, students who create ‘forts’ out of cardboard boxes (although I suspect they enjoy going in the recycling dumpster more than the creating), and a miriad of duct tape projects. It’s messy, noisy, and my favorite part of the week!
What Students Have To Say
One Friday before school, there was a small group of students in the classroom. They were hanging out and getting organized for the day. As they organized, one girl looked at another and asked, “What’s your favorite part of Fridays? Art or Genius Hour?” Without hesitation, the other girl answered, “Genius Hour.” The first girl agreed with her friend. Intrigued by this, I asked why. I asked not only because I was curious (and secretly thrilled), but because the girls that were discussing it love art. To my surprise, they said all the things that I had read: it allowed them to “Do what we want”. Yeah, I was thrilled
If you’re not sure you should (or want) to start this in your classroom, just do it! You will be amazed and what the students will do. Here’s a glimpse of what might happen. This video was a Genius Hour project one week. A few girls decided to create an Animoto video on Genius Hour.