I had been looking forward all week to Friday, as I told my kids that we would be able to start getting into the real meat of their Genius Hour projects. Since I teach a subject/grade that is state-tested this year, we have been averaging a Genius Hour day about once every two weeks. Today was our third opportunity to work, and my goal was to finish up the initial brainstorming-phase and move on to 1-on-1 conferences and research. As I posted on Twitter, there were definitely highs and lows to the day – but I know if got to stick with it.
The Good: My 6th period class is a Pre-AP class, and they’ve gotten the most class time to wrap their heads around the idea of the project, and also the most computer lab access throughout the year. During our last session, most of them submitted a few topics or questions through a Google Form I created for them. My librarian came to observe and act as another resource, and the kids seemed pretty focused. I was able to have quick individual conferences with about half of the students in the class, helping them to decide between multiple topics they submitted or to tweak questions that seemed a little to narrow or too broad. I was super impressed by some of the topics they came up with! Here are a few that really stood out to me:
– How do we forget? How are memories made and why do we forget some things?
– I want to learn more about unusual animals and their adaptations.
– What effect does war have on soldiers and their families?
– How were electric cars made and what is their history? What will their future be?
– What effect do video games have on kids?
The Not-So-Good (AKA What We Need to Work On): So due to computer lab scheduling issues, my 1st period class had only been to the computer lab once this semester so far. I had explained the whole Genius Hour concept to them, and helped them use their own devices to look for ideas or examples of projects. We went to the computer lab today to submit possible questions, and I had a hard time getting them to take the process seriously. Not that they didn’t like the idea of getting to design their own project, but they struggled to come up with ideas without acting silly or joking around. They probably weren’t used to having this type of freedom, so maybe they were feeling a little bit lost? This class also has quite a few beginner ESL students in it – but I didn’t want to let that keep me from trying out Genius Hour with them. I spoke with these students individually, and decided that it would be ok if they found some resources to support them in their own languages. I also allowed them to use Google Translate to help them submit their thoughts and wonderings on the Google Form in English. We ran out of time before I could get to any individual conferences, and there were a few students who got away without submitting any questions.
So – what’s there to learn? I am still excited about Genius Hour – now I just know I will need to provide some additional support for some of my ESL students. I plan on providing students with more concrete examples of project ideas and setting up a few daily goals/tasks to be completed each day they work on their projects. I also want to continue to use Google Docs – hopefully by setting up shared “conference documents” with each student to help our conversations move more quickly when we meet. Any other ideas or feedback?