The Friday before Spring Break, usually one of the craziest days of the year, we held the gaze of 40 sets of 4th grade eyes. No one wanted to miss a word of what we were about to discuss…today ended the wonder…today we would answer the question “What is Genius Hour?” I had teased my kids with the idea of studying anything THEY wanted for 30 minutes each Friday. It had been on the class calendar twice already, and each time it had been moved. They were mesmerized….
After viewing a few videos collected by experienced GH teachers (see them from Hugh the Teacher here) and some talk from the two of us and our technology guru, who had, in her classroom, finished a few Genius Hour projects, the real questions started.
“Can I do my project on Legos?”
“I really like horses…”
“Me and my friend really want to do something about soccer.”
“Is it OK to study the planets?”
“So you are saying, like, anything is OK…really?”
I sent a form home over the break and set up a Q and A in Netschool, in case anyone needed help with their projects over Spring Break. I was ready. They were ready. And we were all more than excited…
The day we came back the questions began again.
“If I need to talk to a baker, can you help?”
“Do you think I could find out how to do this?”
“Can we really study ANYTHING?”
YES! YES! YES! I let them know they needed to consider just these 3 questions:
Why is this important to you? Could it/why should it be important to others? How will you teach others what you learned?
The last would be a presentation of some sort, but they could determine what that would be. We have done a few presentation tools, but with the help of our dear LMS, we can learn more, I told them confidently.
Fueled by the power of my #geniushour PLN and resources, I knew this would be the beginning of something incredible.
The projects proposed in the second session blew us away! Yes, we did have to reel a few in a bit, but most were practical projects and things that a kid could do by himself. Some would work in groups, building robots or websites, some would start researching their own genealogy or creating a new uniform or even shoes for a sport they love. One of my favorite projects involved baking a cake with cookies inside. And of course, her final project will be to present the how-to (using Snapguide, probably) and BRING THE CAKE! Aw yeah….
My kids were hooked…nothing had held their attention like this self-directed learning. All I could think was “Where has THIS been all of my life?!?”—kind of like I felt when I really understood how to do a PBL! When 2:30 rolled around, they begged for a few minutes more! WHAT?!? It was 2:30 on a FRIDAY, and my kids wanted to work longer? Yeah, seriously…
Week two spilled into today, and I had to set parameters for the GH projects. They want to finish work, come in at recess, and stay after school just to do more. I had to let them know when we could and could not work (the time on Fridays, early mornings before the bell, and during recess) or else they spent the daydreaming, talking, and planning! It was hard to say though, because GH is not only their favorite time of the week but mine, too. This was said with pride in their enthusiasm for learning but sadness that all learning does not get to happen this way….yet….
As I prepare myself and my team for a more inquiry-based approach to 4th grade learning, I plan to use my GH experience as a jumping off point. And I question, if we can do it right, could every subject be this interesting? Everything, even the “boring” things, like phases of the moon (which for some reason just gets me down every year 🙂 ). I’m looking to a few great books like this one, the forward-thinking teachers in my school and district, and my trusty PLN for those answers!
GH is everything I thought it would be—this messy, crazy, loud teacher’s dream come true! And I can’t wait to see what will happen next!