Genius: It Takes Time

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Why? – Why spend time doing genius hour with your students? Why is it important?
A member of my PLN and a friend, Denise Krebs, introduced me to Genius Hour: a time when students find their genius through projects of interest to themselves. In this  Genius Hour post, she asked Why? At the time, we had just started our projects, so today I will respond with our experiences.

 Many of the kids at our school are basketball fanatics; they play all year, and they are very good. Why ? Because once they get the bug, which is encouraged by their former basketball playing family members, they want to play all the time. The play all year round and join any team available, from AAU to tribal teams to their own driveways. They’re basketball geniuses because they take the time to learn and improve. That’s why Genius Project time is so important: time to find topics that may eventually become a job you love; time to learn a topic, hobby, skill that defines who you are and who you might become; a time to learn and share with classmates and others in the world who share your passions. In short: it builds knowledge, connections, and possibilities. And through that passion, students apply all the skills that our standards expect in communication, research, reading, writing, designing, collaboration, media competence, digital citizenship, etc. It defines the reason for school. 
The added benefit is better relationships among students and with teachers: learning about each others’ passions deepens our understanding of each other as human beings.

What? – What is genius hour? Can you offer a concise definition? What are some other names you call it?

Genius Hour: A time to dig deep into your interests, master the ideas and skills, share your passion with others.

Who? – Who does genius hour in your school? Does it work with all ages?

Our Genius Hour is shared by our middle school classrooms in grades six, seven, and eight, the perfect age and attitude to explore ideas, issues, hobbies, and passions that may one day become a career. It’s a time when continued relationships with adults is important so that peer pressure has an avenue for review and reflection so adults continue in the future to be resources if needed. It is during this time that students begin to drift from family, so developing a path to understanding their interests and needs is vital for maintaining communication with this middle school aged students.

When? – When do you do genius hour? How often? How long?

We’ve developed a schedule for Friday mornings from 9-12. Each Friday, each class meets for that time with one of the teachers, rotating through each teacher’s class each month.  This allows the math/science teacher to have longer times for math and science labs and the social studies teacher to implement projects that take time. The Language Arts teacher provides the time for students to explore their Genius Projects. On the fourth Friday of each month, students participate in activities based on their needs: exploration, catch-up, or tutoring.

Our site, Contribute Genius, provides guidance for those needing it. However, only two students needed help with a proposal; all other students jumped in with a question to which they wanted an answer. We are still working on those questions, and discussing deeper questions of more value  to students. It is a process of discovery that learners take when allowed the freedom to pursue interests integral to one’s personality and life; it’s a process of personal discovery that leads to one’s connections to others. It is true learning. When framed with the idea that the world demands our genius, our ideas become more important and relevant to us; we develop the understanding that we can make a change in the world.

Where? – Where are some interesting places students have participated in a genius hour project?

Our students so far have remained on campus, but here are some of the questions investigated so far:

  • What are history and rules of stick games?
  • When did basketball start? What is the history?
  • What is marine life?
  • What are sea creatures lives like?
  • Why did Chernobyl have a meltdown?
  • Is life on mars?
  • What are the most expensive shoes in the world?
  • How to make a paper plane that flies the best?
  • What is Photography?
  • I was wondering about why people took these picture, and what is about? I was looking to see if it can explain why people liked to take pictures of interesting things that you have to think outside of the box to see new things.
  • I wanted to learn about the Northern Lights and how they are made.
  • What are the rules of hockey? What I was wondering about was how the refs are better than the refs in the NFL when the good refs were on strike.
  • What are the rules of basketball? The answer that I was looking for was the dribbling, passing, the lines, coaches, the ref and the score board …………. and more.
  • How do artist share their work and make money?

How? – How would someone new to genius hour get started?

To start with Genius Hour, remember that this time allows students to pursue passions while learning and applying standards. Provide a time and information for students to consider their interests, and provide a process for guidance for those that may need it. Allow them time to explore; it will take time to move past basic interests to issues, and both are important.

Read about Genius Hour from Denise Krebs and join her Genius Hour Wiki.  Follow the Twitter chat and hashtag, #geniushour, for information and people who are implementing such projects.

Finally, wander with your students while they explore, sit beside them and start conversations, end each period with time to share.  I also ask students to reflect on their day in a Google Form just before each shares.  What did students like?  Here’s what they said:

  • Time on computer to learn. I liked that i had a lot of time to work on my question
  • Time for Watching videos and take notes.
  • Google maps — seeing where it is
  • Time to work on my topic
  • I got to make paper planes and fly them.
  • I liked that I was able to spend the time on searching up on what I wanted know about photography.
  • That I got to learn more about something that I liked.
  • That I got to search up my own topic
  • Finding out more stuff or rules about basketball; it is fascinating.

Yes, it takes time; and so does learning and so does building community.

What do you think?  How would you introduce Genius Hour? What are your successes and suggestions?

 

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  2 comments for “Genius: It Takes Time

  1. Denise Krebs
    November 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Yeah, Sheri! This is awesome. I’m going to share this with others, definitely. My presentation did go fine, but I will continue to present genius hour to others! Thank you for the thorough reflection. I love your WHY, especially. I think it’s so convincing.

    Thank you, Sheri!
    Denise

    • November 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Thanks, Denise. The students are already accustomed to and appreciate the time in each class. A few said, “Every Friday? WOW!” Even though genius time for their own projects is only once a month in Language Arts, as indicated in the post, the students also enjoy learning in the extended projects of science, math, and social studies. I’m so glad for the students in schools that are adopting this; it brings back art, music, and other student interests while demonstrating the relevance of skills taught at school. As the students become knowledgeable, they begin to think beyond themselves and their own classrooms, like your students have done this year. Thanks for stopping by! Sheri

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