Project Pitches for Genius Hour

Are you ready for start your Genius Hour project?  Not so fast!  First, you’ll have to “sell” me on your research idea by giving a speedy, 60-second project pitch.  Based on your pitch, you will either be approved to move on or sent back to the drawing board to refine your idea.  If working under pressure isn’t your thing, print out the pitch hand-out and begin prepping for tomorrow.  60-Second Project Pitch

Still need a little inspiration? Check out these effective project pitches created by students just like you!

Genius Hour What and Why (a video explanation for parents)

Last night, I hosted a parents meeting to introduce parents to the concept of the Genius Hour and explain to them how and why I planned to implement a Genius Hour as a replacement for the traditional research report. The support was overwhelming!  Still, some folks were unable to attend the meeting, and for them, I wanted to share a brief video explaining what exactly is a Genius Hour.

Now that we know what a Genius Hour is, some may be wondering WHY?  In my writing classes, I have students in grades 6-12.  By the numbers alone, I have to steer my teaching methods to cover six years of academic development, with five of those grades being in a single class together! Not only does Genius Hour enable me to guide students through the research process in a personalized, meaningful way, the science behind HOW and WHY we learn makes the concept of a Genius Hour, well….genius!

One of the things I asked parents to do for me during this research project was to let their children struggle.  Ask them meaningful questions that may help them work through the problem they are experiencing rather than giving them the ready answer.  (For example, if Will comes to me frustrated that he doesn’t know what to do next for his project, my response can be to say, “Tell me how you got here? Where do you think you could find the answer for your problem?” This is essentially asking a student to intellectually retrace their steps to help them find the answer.)  Most importantly, these types of scenarios are the precise moments when true learning occurs. We are not only teaching our students how to problem-solve, but we let them know that we believe THEY CAN resolve their problem on their own, with a little guidance. This creates (or reinforces) a growth mindset. Studies overwhelming show that students with a growth mindset not only fair better in school, academically, but they exhibit more self-worth and resiliency in life beyond the school years!

I will continue to share videos of student TED Talks, Q & A, and other resources as we work through the next eight weeks.  In the meantime, please know how excited I am, and how proud I am, of each one of our students! They represent homeschooling and YOU, very, very well!

Pep Talk and Prep Work – Day 1 of The Genius Hour

Thursday’s writing classes started off with a little pep talk, not just for the students, but for me, also. Let’s face it, it’s hard to do something completely different!  Building on what we learned in our 6-week speech unit, but allowing students to explore topics of their own choosing, all while bolstering language arts principles meant that I needed to be  BOLD and BRAVE in my approach to this next unit! My comfort zone lies somewhere between organized textbook curriculum and hands-on project-based learning, but this was a departure, even for me! What would the parents say? How would I implement this across 6 grades and myriad writing abilities?  Needless to say, sometimes we all need a little pep talk to help us take the leap.


First Things First

What is a genius hour? The genius hour concept, also known as 20% Time or Passion Projects allow students the freedom to explore topics that THEY select. The concept came from the tech giant, Google. Google wondered what would happen if people were allowed to spend 20% of their work week on something they were really curious or passionate about? (Prior to Google, 3M had employed a similar strategy and thus, the Post-It was born!)  What Google found was that these “passion projects” actually made their employees more innovative and productive. Products like gmail and google + both came out of genius hour inquiries.

This semester, we will use what is known as the “Engineering Design Process” to  frame our projects.  Students will begin by asking questions.  “What am I interested in?” “What are my talents?” “what am I curious about?”  I used a modified version of the forms used on the Runde’s Room website. Scan_20160308 (2)

From those questions, we will begin to sift through topics that will eventually form the base of our guiding question.  Guiding questions are great because they help us filter all of the information that is seemingly at our fingertips nowadays.

Once we have our guiding questions, the researching begins! Students will gather information and data from all kinds of sources, make connections, draw conclusions, and test theories.  It is important to note that Genius Hour projects aren’t graded on the success of the final project.  Instead, students will write outlines for a final presentation that will be recorded (a la TED Talks).  In their presentation, students will share what they learned, where they succeeded and where their failed. They will share their insights and reflect on what they may do differently next time.  These “TED Talks” will then be available to view on our district YOU TUBE channel, as well as at the Share Fair in May.

If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right!  But I can not wait to see what we have gained as a result of the trying! In life, I believe that whether you win or you lose, you are always better off for having tried.  Perhaps we will find that this Genius Hour things is a great way to motivate and inspire our learners, and maybe we will learn some valuable lessons to the contrary. For certain though, the students will gain the benefit of stepping out of their own comfort zones and knowing that I am right out there on the ledge alongside of them!