Genius Hour may be the craziest and best thing your students do this year | Mentoring in the Middle

Genius Hour may be the craziest and best thing your students do this year

Have you ever done something with your students and halfway through, you wondered what in the world you were thinking?  Honest truth.  Genius Hour will make you feel like that.  

But, I did it for many years.  Because it is so worth it.
There are so many good reasons to jump into Genius Hour with your students.  One of the biggest ones is that it's about student choice.  

Student choice.  

That means you have to give up control.  Keep reading, and you'll see why it's so good to do.

This video, made by high school teacher Ryan Jones, is a great one to get students (and teachers) excited about getting started.

Getting started: 
Decide if you want to do it one or two days a week over several months or each day for 6 weeks or so.

I always stretched it out.  

Here's why: 
Genius Hour is student-led research.  I discovered that students needed time to think about what they were most curious to explore.  We had several conversations about what made us curious, mad, excited.  Kids discussed and helped refine each others' ideas.  The whole "coming up with the idea" time took about two-three weeks till all my students felt comfortable with where to start.

If your students need exposure to informational writing, Genius Hour is perfect.  But you may need some time for mini-lessons and practice.

I wanted writing to be the focus, but I didn't want to have them do it five days a week.  I was an ELA teacher and reading was very important - time to read and time to work on comprehension.

The chaotic part:
Each student chooses what they want to study.  That means you will have 25-30 different research projects going on at the same time.  I created a Genius Hour packet for my students that first year to help us all stay organized.

I've had students 
  • research color schemes for office buildings
  • craft a bow out of wood
  • wonder about crime rates in major U.S. cities
  • make a stop-action film with Legos
  • learn about dreams
  • study the impact of growing up in a home with one parent
  • learn how to be a good photographer.
If it's possible, have them reach out to someone with experience in that area.  Some students crafted emails that we sent out under my name and school address (our students didn't have school emails in 6th grade.)  We heard from national sports organizations, photographers, businesses, psychologists, and people who grew up in single-parent homes.  

The grand finale:
This part is the best!  When the kids stand up to present and teach their classmates, the look on their faces is amazing.  They are the experts!  

Sometimes, they've learned that there's a lot more to their topic than what they imagined.  Many times, the power of learning about something they are intrigued by, well, that's life-changing.

One of my favorite presentations was from a child with many learning difficulties. I was surprised when she told me that she wanted to learn about the stock market.  She had no idea what it was, and she wanted to know.  

So we started to explore and I explained a lot.  (I mean, really, how many 6th graders know about the stock market?)  

The look in her eyes when she presented her research, in a way that made it possible for her peers to understand, too? 

That was priceless.  And empowering!
How to do Genius Hour in your classroom
  • Grab this packet on TeachersPayTeachers if you're interested in giving Genius Hour a try!

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