Genius Hour is an idea for the classroom based on Google’s 20%. In a nutshell, Google gives their employees 20% of their work week to work on “passion projects.” They have seen an increase in employee productivity and some great products have come out of this time as well. I started hearing about Genius Hour online from other teacher blogs and social media. If you google it, it’s out there and you might be surprised by how many people are trying it. I thought that it sounded like a great idea for my classroom. This post is part 1 in a series that I will do about Genius Hour in our classroom. The focus of this post is the start up!
This year, I have the “gifted cluster.” What that means is that I have all of the third graders that are identified as gifted learners clustered in my room along with traditional learners. Out of my 25 students, 12 are identified as gifted. It can make for quite a challenge at times. My gifted learners are flying through things, while some of my kiddos need a little more time. The management piece was starting to get a bit difficult toward the end of November and I knew I had to do something. I had tried “compacting out,” and it had resulted in some tears and pouts from the kids who didn’t compact out. I tried “passion projects,” and “learning contracts,” but my kiddos just weren’t quite independent enough. I would have a line of kiddos waiting to ask me questions (because these are the curious learners who question everything!) while I was trying to get through a lesson.
Enter…..Genius Hour. An hour (not quite…more like 40 minutes) a week where ALL of my students can work on learning anything they want (within reason). They are all doing Genius Hour so I am available to help and answer questions without being interrupted.
So, how did I get started……..
I researched Genius Hour and came up with a plan for what it would look like in my classroom. We do it on Fridays at the end of the day. I wrote a proposal for my principal complete with the standards that Genius Hour would cover and scheduled a meeting to present it to him. My principal is super supportive and my assistant principal is a creative thinker who is a also a parent of gifted kiddo so they loved the idea! We brainstormed problems that I might run into. The biggest one I had already identified was access to technology. Then we brainstormed solutions. I showed him that parent letter I had made, along with all of the papers I planned on giving the students to help keep them accountable and on track. (These are all in my Genius Hour Starter Pack.)
Genius Hour was approved!
I began working on how to introduce Genius Hour to my students. I found an idea online to pump them up with a video from Kid President. (Click Here to see it) That first Friday, I built the suspense a little bit during the day. I began our time that afternoon by telling them that what we were about to do wasn’t being done by anyone else at our school. That our principal had given us special permission to do it. They were so excited by this point! Then I showed them the Kid President video. They LOVED the video and ask to watch it at brain break all the time now! Then I had a slideshow prepared to introduce them to what Genius Hour is and the “rules,” of Genius Hour. There are only a few basic rules; their project must be approved by me and their parents, it must be research based and they must create some type of presentation for the class about what they learned. (The slideshow I used is part of my Genius Hour Starter Pack.) The kiddos ate it up! They couldn’t believe that I was actually going to give them time to learn about ANYTHING they wanted. I gave them the parent letter to put in their folders and then I gave them the brainstorm paper and some quiet time to think. They took the brainstorm paper home with them also to discuss ideas with their parents. That was it for the first Friday. I wanted to give them plenty of time to think, wonder and brainstorm so they could come up with a project that was meaningful and that they could get really excited about!
The next Friday, was project proposal day. We went through the proposal together and then they filled it out. I was available at the back table for students who were still struggling to refine their idea and turn into a Genius Hour project. I let them discuss their ideas with classmates and bounce ideas off of them. It was so fun to hear them pitch their ideas to their peers and then get feedback or things to think about. I love listening to them collaborate! Those that were ready to turn it in did so and several of them took their proposals home to work on and discuss with their parents.
I will be back soon to post Part 2….What Genius Hour Looks Like…..
In the meantime, you can check out my Genius Hour Starter Pack on TpT and go google Genius Hour if you’re interested!