My First Attempts At Genius Hour

This last year had me learning and researching Genius Hour.  I discovered some amazing resources including a Genius Hour live binder which was created by Joy Kirr.

I returned to work in January 2014 after finishing a 4 month education leave.  I was ready to get Genius Hour started with my grade 2’s!

The first thing I did was create these light bulbs with my students pictures.  Their names could be erased and their wonders and ideas could be added. Anyone walking by could see what their Genius Hour was about.  To be honest, topics kept changing and there were so many other things to do that we didn’t keep up with the door but I still like the idea.

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My classroom door.

The day I introduced Genius Hour I showed my students the Caine’s Arcade video.  My class loved this video and many of my students thought that Caine was the most creative kid out there!  After the video I showed my class the DIY.org website which showcases many different skills for kids.  It’s like earning a badge in Girl Guides or Brownies but showcasing your work online.

Everyone was pumped and excited to get started.  The next day a student showed up with this board game that he had created at home.  He spent hours creating this game and everyone had a blast playing it.  This board game spent the rest of the year in our classroom.

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For our first round of Genius Hour I had students make a list about things they wanted to learn about, a skill they wanted to acquire, or something they wanted to create.  I met with students and we talked about which ones would work well in our classroom. Some students picked topics with their friends while others worked independently.  Some topics were learning yoga, making ice cream, making jewellery, learning German, cooking,and learning how to draw.  One student researched recipes and went home and made them with her parents. She brought us a few treats!  One student focused on drawing. He took his work home and painted it with his grandma.

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Here are some students learning yoga.

Here are some students learning yoga.

We worked on Genius Hour projects every Friday for the last hour. I found resources during the week and tried to work with students as best I could during our hour.  It never seemed like enough time and I always felt pulled in many directions.  Many students needed help reading, searching online, making and creating.

Four weeks went by when we didn’t have school on Friday or something came up during our Genius Hour time and my students got mad.  They wanted to work on their projects.  Many lost interest and wanted to start a new project.  We had a class discussion and came up with a new plan.  Our new plan was to focus on Genius Hour on Mondays AND Fridays.  We decided that we would focus on “learn about” to see how that worked.  Everyone picked a topic they wanted to learn about and I found books that matched their topics.

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Students came up with questions and got to work researching the answers.  When I’ve done inquiry with my students in the past they usually start with a questions which they record in their I WONDER books.  With this inquiry, students came up with more questions and wonders as they researched which is similar to Tony Stead’s R.A.N strategy. 

Some of my students had trouble reading the text to find out their answers.  When discussing Genius Hour with a colleague she mentioned that she only had 9 grade six students in her room while the rest were in band.  They too had just finished up Genius Hour projects and could assist us with ours.

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Many of my students would work on their projects during our Daily 5 cycles or if they had a spare moment.   I could always hear someone talking about their Genius Hour projects.

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Some students worked together but most worked independently.  When we decided how we were going to share our learning with the class EVERY student but one wanted to make a presentation poster board.  I thought that most students would want to present using technology but this wasn’t the case with my guys. Only one student wanted to make an Explain Everything presentation.

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Here are their final presentations!  Topics included polar bears, dogs, Spain, knights, WW1, weather, dolphins, human body, butterflies, volcanoes, earthquakes, shells, ladybugs, sharks, jewels, dinosaurs, and author Robert Munsch.

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Students asked for round 2 of Genius Hour but unfortunately our year came to an end.  Would I do Genius Hour again? You bet!  There are a few things that I would do differently and I am still figuring that out.  My plan is constantly changing but there are a few things that I know I will do.

Next year I will start off with questioning and I WONDER books. I think I will start by exploring things students want to know and learn more about.  After we complete one cycle of Genius Hour we can try learning a new skill and creating something new.  I would love to create a maker space as part of Genius Hour.  The book Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager has a great shopping list to help create a maker space in the classroom.

Next year I would also like to do have students focus on projects that can help make a change.  If you aren’t familiar with Angela Maiers you need to check out her book called The Passion Driven Classroom.   Here is her YOU MATTER manifest.  There are many wonderful #youmatter resources out there including links compiled by Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1).

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I purchased this book last year that give examples for ways for kids to change the world.  I would love to have students incorporate YOU MATTER into their Genius Hour/Passion Projects.

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A book that I am currently reading is called Inquiry And Innovation In The Classroom by A.J. Juliani.

There is a book talk happening on Twitter at #2k14reads created by @MrEhRon.  I am hoping to get some ideas and figure things out a little bit more this next month.

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Books that I have on order that may work to introduce Genius Hour are:

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

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I Wonder by Annaka Harris

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How do you plan on introducing Genius Hour?

Do you have any resources (books/videos) that you are planning on using?

How much time are you going to allot towards Genius Hour?

Do you think it’s important to incorporate “YOU MATTER”  into Genius Hour projects?