Genius Hour = Engagement x Learning2
Fourth graders at Van Arsdale participated in Genius Hour, based on Google's 20% time. This is part of a movement to promote self-directed learning, innovation, creativity, and sharing. Students spend time devoted to a topic of their choice. It is more about the process than the product. Fourth grade teacher, Dawn Wiley worked with her DTL, Michelle McHugh, to tie Genius Hour to CAP. "Students were the ones recognizing the cross-curricular connections. They were the ones leading the learning,” remarked Dawn. "I was so impressed with them. Genius Hour brings learning full circle.”
what would you tell students and teachers who are new to genius hour?
Ainsley: “To come up with your topic think about things you would like to do or think of topics you would like to learn more about or are curious about. For example, if you are really interested in bikes you may want to learn about how bikes work, how to build a bike, or what types of bikes are new, what they used to be like and how they have advanced through the years."
Michelle (DTL): A teacher may feel apprehensive because it is inquiry based, but it is all about thinking and DOK. It also provides amazing opportunities for incorporating digital citizenship, ISTE standards, ELA, and oral expression. Many students choose science or social studies topics. We defined the difference between interests, hobbies, and passions.
how to get started
Begin with helping students select a topic and ask a "non-Google-able" question. This is challenging. Dawn and Michelle used the analogy of a watermelon and seeds. The watermelon is the big idea; the seeds are all of the details. Students start with a great big idea (the watermelon) and want to get to the specifics (the seeds). After students choose their topic, they write three inquiry based questions. Dawn and Michelle used Google Classroom for pre-assessment, progress monitoring, and daily class communication. They suggest using a notecatcher for students to record their information. Finally, students need to have time to reflect on the process and the learning, not just present their information.
When Dawn and Michelle began to plan Genius Hour, they started with CAP. ISTE technology standards were integrated into the writing curriculum through their collaboration. They focused on bringing it into writing, determining importance, determining reliable resources, and identifying criteria for a reliable resource. They talked about such skills as: "How do you search in Google? How do you know this is a reliable resource?"
learning points for next time
Go in with a growth mindset. You are not the keeper of the knowledge. You are adjusting instruction every day. It is a huge opportunity for you to learn about yourself as a teacher and a learner. Make sure students are blogging or doing some type of exit ticket. They get so excited. You have to help them channel that excitement.
“It really pushed my thinking as a teacher.”- Dawn Wiley