Monday, November 9, 2015

Students Owning Their Learning

Are you a genius? This is the question that students were asked to kick off genius hour. When first thinking about it, many students were unsure or answered no. We discussed that a genius is a person who displays exceptional ability, creativity or originality. Could they find the genius in themselves?

Many classrooms around the country in all grade levels are participating in Genius Hour. Genius Hour is an hour of class time each week that students are given to explore a topic that they are passionate about or interested in. This idea came about from corporations like Google that allow their employees 20% of their work week to work on projects of their own choosing. This concept has resulted in a variety of innovations from post it notes to Gmail. Students are challenged to explore a topic that they want to learn about and then to decide what they will do with the information gained. They spend several weeks researching the topic before they start creating a product that will be shared with the class, school, or world. Throughout the process the teacher mentors the students to ensure that they are on task. Student questions are often answered with open ended questions back to them to facilitate their own thought process and to gain higher level independent thinking.  

In third grade, we have spent the first four weeks going through the process of deciding upon a good idea for our genius hour projects. Students wrote three ideas for their genius hour project and then met with me to discuss each idea and narrow it down to one. The following week, each student interviewed a classmate about their idea and recorded their responses.

This week students will begin their research. The following are a few genius hour ideas in our classroom:

  • Design an ideal cage for a hermit crab
  • Design a video game with a description of the levels and how to play
  • Teach others how to make baked goods
  • Use animation tools to create an anti-bullying video
  • Use recycled objects to make jewelry or handbags
  • Share the importance of the rainforests and give ideas on how we can help save them

I love seeing the excitement that my students have when I say it’s time for genius hour. The students enjoy having the choice to learn about something that they are interested in and are excited to eventually be able to create a project to share with others. There’s nothing better as a teacher than allowing students the chance to share their interests and talents with others and to see them excited about learning!

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