In a nutshell, Genius Hour is something that happens in your classroom for one hour a week. During this time, students research and complete an inquiry project based on their passions - really digging deep into what motivates them. The actual inquiry question does not have to be tied to the curriculum expectations because so much of what they will do does fit the curriculum ... and more ... so much more. They will be learning research skills, refining their organizational skills, reading nonfiction articles, developing questions, writing, preparing a project, and presenting. And best of all ... they will be engaged.
I then showed them the "Pep Talk" video by Kid President. LOVE it. It fits so perfectly with our classroom motto this year - "Be More Awesome".
I asked them how they thought this video ties into their passions and we had a short discussion about it. I then showed them this video (found on Genius Hour). It's actually geared to teachers, so I wouldn't use it in a classroom with younger students, but it worked well with my students, and it told them exactly what to expect during Genius Hour.
I then handed out a second sticky note and asked them to "refine" their passion a bit. Alter it so that it was something they could create an inquiry project on - something they could create a question about and complete research on (we have already completed inquiry projects in science this year, so this concept wasn't new to them). I also reminded them that this was just a brainstorm phase, and they weren't tied to what they wrote down on the sticky note. When they were finished, I had them put these sticky notes up on our bulletin board, too.
I handed out a duotang and notebook to each student to keep track of their sheets and notes during the project (bright yellow, of course). I then gave them their brainstorm sheet and asked them to answer the questions. On the back of the sheet they were to brainstorm ideas they were passionate about, and projects they could complete based on these passions. This one below is one of my favourites because this is a young man who is quite difficult to engage ... and he was so excited about this he drew out a full diagram in only a few moments.
After a few moments of brainstorming, I allowed them some group time to discuss the ideas they were thinking about. My class LOVES to talk, so I've found if I build that time in for them, we are all a lot happier. We then filled out a reflection sheet I made for the end of each Genius Hour. Because I wanted to keep the sheet the same for each Genius Hour through the session, some of the questions didn't apply this time, but will in our upcoming genius hour blocks. I've uploaded a copy of the handouts I used, and the bulletin board letters I made to google docs. You can grab them by clicking HERE. I left the day of the week and project timeline blank so you could add in your days / timeline. Note: this is a PDF file, so it isn't editable. If it doesn't quite work for you, you are more than welcome to use some of these ideas and create something that does work for you. Although I like to share ideas and activities I've done in the classroom, I'm a HUGE advocate of doing what works for your classroom - you know your students the best, and know what drives them, so please change things around if you feel your students need it, or add in your own genius ideas to inspire your students. :)
For homework, I asked my students to talk to their families about our Passion Projects and come back with two ideas they could work with. Over the week, I will talk to the students and approve ideas so that we can get started on our projects during our next Genius Hour next Friday.
If you haven't heard about Genius Hour, please check out the link I gave at the beginning ... I promise you - you will be motivated. My students are SO excited, to say the very least. One of my students asked me at the end of class if he could decorate his folder. Of course I told him he could. When I came back from break, I found out that he had done this on his break. A success, I'd say. When I was dismissing the bus lines at the end of the day, one of my "less motivated" students looked and me and said with a smile, "I think I'm going to like Fridays now". Well ... enough said.