If you are interested in incorporating Genius Hour into your classroom, there are several tips and tricks that can help you successfully implement this authentic learning experience. Learning opportunities created through Genius Hour are deep, rich, and long-lasting.
- It’s important to understand that it’s okay if kids pick a topic you know nothing about! Oftentimes, teachers get nervous right away because students have chosen a topic in which they are unfamiliar. Remember, you are the facilitator and your job is to guide kids to information. You do not have to know all of the details, but simply lead kids to resources necessary to guide their learning. Be sure to encourage your students to use many avenues for getting information—interviewing experts, Google, books, magazines, documentaries, videos—the sources are endless, but it is important that students have the opportunity to dig into various resources.
- Keep in mind this is not a time for the teacher to check their email while the kids are off being geniuses. Your job is to have constant conversations with your students about their learning:
- What are you learning?
- How are you learning it?
- How are you going to demonstrate your learning?
- What failures have you encountered?
- Students should have some sort of organizational system for organizing their ideas, research, materials, etc. Many times, this can be done with just a folder!
Once you have thought out the advice above, you are ready to dive into Genius Hour with your kids. The first step is the launch.
At its core, the purpose of the launch is to motivate and inspire your students. At Strobel Education, we have found that one way to really inspire your students is to share your own Genius with them. Do you love to cook? Tell them about your favorite dish and tell them about how many recipes you tried before you found this special recipe! Let them know about all of your failures in learning to fix this dish—maybe you burned the dish when you first made it. Perhaps it was undercooked.
Of course, the more dramatic and theatrical you can make it, the more hooked and engaged your students are going to be. There are several books and videos that can also be used during the launch. (We give you all the resources to launch at our Genius Hour workshop.)
The brainstorm phase follows the launch. During this step of the implementation, students begin to learn about themselves. What interests them? What wonderings do they have? How do they want to change the world? During this process, students start to narrow down how they want to spend their time in Genius Hour and what they want to learn.
Next, students create an inquiry-based question and/or create a project proposal. During this stage, students create a question that will guide their learning, research, and creating. During this planning stage, students will plan for materials they may need as well as how they are going to learn and how they are going to show their learning.
The research step of Genius Hour gives students the freedom to explore, interview experts, and gather as much information about their proposed topic as possible. During this phase, the teacher shows students how to take notes, synthesize lots of information, organize thoughts, and narrow down the topic. The lessons here are endless and very much standards-based.
Product Creation Phase
After research, students begin creating their product. In this step, teachers should help guide students in creating a product that is not just a poster or powerpoint, but a product that compliments their learning. For example, if a kid is learning about magic, it would make sense for them to do a magic show for the class (this can even be done virtually).
Once the product has been created, it is time to present. Students should have the chance to explain how their product was created and demonstrate or explain what they learned, what failures they encountered, and what they would have done differently. This is their time to be the expert on their learning.
Finally, students should have the freedom to reflect on the process. This is a great opportunity for the teacher to talk one-on-one with students, which allows students to share what they learned, roadblocks they encountered during the process, what ideas they have for their next round of Genius Hour, and gives you the chance to provide any individual advice or guidance you have for the student.
As you can see, the possibilities for students are endless in Genius Hour! Multiple standards are taught in various ways, which give students an authentic platform for their learning and development.