Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Genius Hour Part 1..{Tried it Tuesday}

Hey all! It's Tuesday so that means its time to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried It Tuesday linky.  Before I start this post, I want to let you know that this post will be part of 3 posts I am planning to write up about Genius Hour and how it is working in our classroom.  I hope you will check back to read the others as they come out.  Without further ado, here's my...

Genius Hour...
  To give you a little background, Genius Hour is the educational equivalent to Google and Apple's 20 percent time, time where employees are allowed to use 20 percent of their work week on a project that they are passionate about.  A couple of the ideas that have come out of 20 Percent time are Gmail and Google+.  In the classroom setting, students are allowed to use 20 percent (about an hour a week) to devote to a project that they are passionate about.  They come up with the project idea, what research they need to do, and a plan for how they are going to complete it.  When they are done they share out with the class.  Students are encouraged to be creative and they are motivated by the power they have over their own learning.  Where did I learn of this intriguing idea you ask?

While blog stalking and doing what I consider as my own personal-PD over the summer, I stumbled on the idea of Genius Hour at Joy Kirr's Genius Hour LiveBinder.  It has a TON of resources about this idea and over course leads you to other teachers who are trying this phenomenal concept in their classrooms as well.  After looking at these resources and those found at GeniusHour.com  all I could think was AMAZING!  I want to try this!! I knew I wouldn't be ready for anything like this in the fall but I kept the idea in my head and stored resources in my Dropbox as I came across them.  Of course one part of me thought I had to be crazy--most of the project ideas were done by middle and high school students, but I did find a few elementary examples.  The next hurdle was how do I justify this time away from the curriculum and all that I have to teach.  I decided this fit in perfectly with the student centered classroom and project based learning.  Plus students would be researching and presenting all which are part of the Common Core!  Finally over Christmas break, I decided my fourth graders were definitely up to the challenge (even as I wondered if I was), so I tackled the next steps to get it launched in my classroom.  Stay with me to see how it's been going in my classroom. :o)

After break, I told the class we were going to try something special.  I wanted to build some suspense so I gave them little hints off and on during the week.  I had them create a "Me Map" which was a cluster web about them.  Each of their bubbles had to answer one of three questions: What is something you LOVE? What is something you are GOOD at? What is something you are INTERESTED IN or WANT TO LEARN ABOUT?  One day I had them write about what class they would take if they could learn about anything. And my last tantalizing questions for them were: "Has any teacher ever let you choose what you wanted to learn?  What would you do if a teacher allowed you to learn whatever you wanted?"
On the day of the launch I used an approach I got from Runde's Room and her post about getting Genius Hour started in her classroom.  I gave each student two sticky notes. On the first sticky note I had them look over their ME Maps and write down one thing they thought they were really interested in.  Then we watched the following video from GeniusHour.com about what Genius Hour is. (This video is actually for teachers who want to know more, but I felt like my fourth graders would get the idea).
After we watched the video I asked the students to think about what they had written on their first sticky note.  Would that subject be a good topic for a Genius Hour project?  Could they think of a project that would fit with that idea?  On the second note I had them write down what they thought would be a good topic for a project that they could come up with, then they added the other note to our board. (I did tell them they could write the same topic down if they thought it still fit.)
After all the sticky notes were on the board, I explained that for the next few weeks they were going to be allowed to work on a project of their own,  a project that they thought up, were interested in and were 100 percent in charge of.  Oh the whispers and grins!!!  The only thing guidelines I insisted on were these four things: 
1)They had to do some research on their topic (learning something new) 
2) They had to create a product to share  
3) They had to present their project 
4) They had to have their parents approval also (I knew some of this work would have to be done from home so wanted to be sure they were going to have that support.) 
At the end of the first session their homework was to brainstorm two research questions and a possible project for each topic that they would bring to me for approval for next week's Genius Hour.

Genius Hour Session 2:  The students brought in their ideas and questions.  I was SO impressed by some of the things they came up with.  I spoke with each student individually to make sure they had an inquiry question and to get an idea of what types of projects we'd have going.  Here are some of the questions and projects they proposed:
  • What would make the perfect outfit? (outfit design-ended up making the perfect outfit for her American Girl Doll)
  • How did the Native Americans build a longhouse? (building a longhouse model)
  • What would be the best design for the ideal city? (make a model city with legos)
  • How do you make a fashion bag? (sewing a bag)
  • What do you have to do to become an NFL player? (poster with pictures and articles about how to be an NFL player)
  • What are some of the most common sea animals? (Diorama of the ocean)
  • What are some good recipes for kids in the kitchen? (Cookbook with kid friendly recipes)
  • Who is Paul Rhodes and why is he a good coach? (Poster)
  • How do I learn to draw? (a sketch book for self taught drawing)
  • How to design a model car? (build a model car from wood)
  • How do you train a rat to follow a maze? (He was going to bring in a pet and the maze but his parents vetoed this idea-I hate rats so that was fine with me LOL)
  • How can you build a lava lamp? (building a lava lamp)
  • What is the best dance costume? (poster with costume comparisons- what they are made out of and what kind works best for which types of dances)
  • Animal research on penguins- animal report
  • What are some of the most unusual animals? (An A to Z animal book)
  • How do you put together an outfit? (poster with different outfits for different occasions)
  • Who is Slenderman? (poster telling about the game)
  • How to make a movie? (they are the videographers of our project time :o))
We have had two more work sessions for our Genius Hour projects.  The students are so motivated and engaged in their projects....I honestly don't think some of them realize they are LEARNING!!  I am going to leave you with a few pictures from our work sessions up to this point.

Well, that's a quick peek at our Genius Hour adventure so far.  I hope you found it interesting and will check back later for Parts 2 and 3 to find out more.
What have you tried lately?


  1. Wow! You can't get any more student-centered than this! I love all the ideas that your class came up with. They sound like a creative group. I think it's great that you are putting aside time to work on an independent project that students are passionate about. I'm sure students will learn a lot and remember this for a long time.

    Thank you for sharing this idea. I am looking forward to reading your upcoming posts on this topic.

    Fit to be Fourth

  2. We have been doing Genuis Hour in my room and my kids LOVE it! Thank you so much for this detailed post. It was great for me to go back and review this. Awesome!!!!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learin'

  3. This is SO cool!! I can't wait for more posts about Genius Hour and am looking forward to trying something like this in my classroom. Pinned for future reference. Thank you!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  4. Oh my!! This sounds fantastic!! I am excited to keep reading about how it turns out and see their final projects. I would love to start something like this next year! Don't know what our administration would think...sadly, I feel like it would not be welcomed easily...

    Kate :)
    McDee's Busy Bees