One of the best parts about my job as a coach is learning from amazing teachers. Each week, a teacher hosts a Learning Round which focuses on any subject or teaching practice of their choice. There are always great take-aways, so each week, I will share them here.
I love Genius Hour! As a 5th grade teacher, I saw firsthand how Genius Hour helped students develop essential 21st century skills and habits of mind, such as critical thinking, perseverance, creativity, and the ability to research and present information. Now, as a coach, I continue to advocate for Genius Hour and help teachers get it started in their classroom. Last week, I was thrilled to have two Learning Rounds focused on Genius Hour! Both of these teachers have structured their Genius Hour in a way that works for them, and helps their students be most successful. Both Learning Rounds demonstrated how putting structures and scaffolding in place can help students successfully research and present about topics they are passionate about.
Choice is a key component in Genius Hour. Yet, sometimes unlimited choice can be overwhelming, and students need help deciding which topic to choose. In 2nd grade, one teacher begins her Genius Hour with three guiding questions: What could you do to help the environment? What could you do to make our school better? What could you do to make your home better? After brainstorming as a whole class, students selected a project they are truly passionate about, such as creating a website to teach people about endangered animals, inventing a wall that produces oxygen, or convincing our principal to extend Week Without Walls to a whole month! Looking around the classroom, it was clear to see that the students were engaged and excited about their work. To scaffold their research, students record their questions and notes in a Genius Time notebook and only search using KidRex, a kid-safe search engine.
Many teachers worry that they don’t have time for Genius Hour. Our second Learning Round in 5th grade demonstrated how Genius Hour could be incorporated into what isalready being taught in the classroom. For example, the students are
focusing on issues in Health; each student selected a topic they are interested in or passionate about, such as Why do kids get anxiety and how can we prevent it? What is ADHD and what famous people have it? or What is eye gunk and why do we need it? Using a Genius Hour google doc helps students record their research and reflect on the process. She also keeps a list of student topics and how they plan to present. Students have the choice to do an online presentation, a poster, a video, a board game, and more. Each Genius Hour session, students learn tips on the different styles of presenting.
In both classrooms, it is clear that Genius Hour is a time that students look forward to, a time where they are focused and motivated. It is a time for them to develop good research and presentation skills. It is also a wonderful opportunity for teachers to connect with students and support them in taking ownership of their learning.