I am so excited to announce that I have just launched a new website: geniushour.ca
After talking with Hugh McDonald
the other day, we decided it would be great to have a place online where Genius Hour (or 20% time, innovation week, etc) teachers could cross-blog their stories and share in one space! A place where the Genius Hour community can come together to share our stories and adventures.
And so, I bring you geniushour.ca
Please check it out, comment on the stories from our contributors, and consider becoming a contributor by sharing your story/blog entry! We would love to have you!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a contributor!
and I were having a conversation the other day. After two school years of doing Genius Hour
with our students, we realized that the positive affects of this type of learning reached far beyond that one hour each week that we devoted to it. So, I brought it up during our last #GeniusHour chat
to see if others were feeling the same way. Check it out:
So many of us agreed that by giving students that time to persue their wonders and passions, students began to wonder about everything! They became curious learners that asked meaningful questions!
On Genius Hour days, and even on other days, students began to be more excited about coming to school! We had students start coming in early to get a head start on their projects, and many would work right through recess or lunch because they were so excited about what they were doing. Kids excited about learning! It really doesn't get any better than that!
I love the above comment by Joel Pardalis. Students taking risks and thinking outside of the box. Perfect.
More great tweets:
And finally, teachers talked about how Genius Hour changed them as teachers too! This is powerful stuff!
And then the conversation even turned to how Genius Hour does indeed support curriculum and many of the prescribed learning outcomes.
I have one more tweet to share! This one was shared by Joy Kirr
, a teacher that I admire so very much! her words are perfect and I think they truly summarize how a lot of us feel. Genius Hour doesn't just give students an hour (or 20% or however you break it down) to inquire into their passions and wonders...
...It changes EVERYTHING.
I have change a lot as a teacher over the past few years thanks to my school district's support, graduate classes at SFU and mostly because of the support and brilliant ideas from my PLN. Thank you all for learning and growing with me! I am so excited to continue this journey with all of YOU.
Creativity. Wonder. Passion.
"Genius Hour is a precious time, loved by all my students. It is when they are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore"
An Index of All My Genius Hour Posts
A Few Other Fantastic Genius Hour Links
On the first Wednesday of each month a bunch of fantastic educators get together on twitter
for a chat
about Genius Hour
. The past two chats have been amazing! We had a lot of experienced #geniushour teachers and a lot of newbies too! It was a great mix! We had great conversations, but it was moving so
fast that I thought I would summarize some it.
We talked about assessment and giving feedback. Most agreed that they did not grade Genius Hour projects, but instead provided formative assessment only. After re-reading over 50 pages of archived tweets, here are some highlights:
- 1. Hugh McDonald reminded us of the wonderful creativity rubric that Denise Krebs made a couple of years ago. Hugh and I both use it with our students so that they have something to self-assess with and also as a jumping off point for their blog-refections. We love it!
- 2. Many teachers talked about blogging as a way for students to reflect on their projects, the experience and what went right/wrong. It also provides, as Greg Miller reminded us, the opportunity for peer feedback as well.
- 3. A lot of teachers, Joy Kirr included, also mentioned the importance of informal conversations with students during Genius Hour. She has meaningful, one-on-one chats while students are learning!
- 4. John Stevens talked about using google docs as a method for giving feedback. He also uses google forms for students to submit project ideas. Check that out here.
- 5. Jas Kooner and some others mentioned that they like to give written feedback to their students. She also spoke about the importance of peer-feedback. Many chimed in and agreed. I would love to see any documents/links regarding the way in which people do this. In my class, we comment on each others' blogs as a way of giving peer-to-peer feedback. Any other ideas? Comment below!
- 6. My students also reflect on their Genius Hour projects on their ePortfolios (in the same way that they reflect on every subject). Some students have done great step by step reflections! This way you can track their progress and chat about it with students whenever you have time.
- 7. Lindsey Bingley explained that she gives students "oral feedback, through short conferences during Genius Hour". Sitting down with students for a few minutes to quickly conference is also something that Hugh and I do with our students. This is probably the easiest way for me to touch base with all my students.
- 8. Julie Jee talked about doing monthly journal entries with her high school students.
- 9. Rory Newcomb talked about framing her feedback in a 5-4-3-2-1 format. She blogs about it here.
- 10. Robyn Thiessen told us that her students fill out an action plan each week where they write about what they plan to do and then they self-assess afterwards. She also reminded us of the Global Genius Hour Project and that it can be used for students in other classes to give feedback to each other. Great idea!
There you have it! 10 ways to give feedback. Do you have any others? Comment below!
A lot of us shared that we struggled to find the time to connect with every single student. I liked Angela Maiers
' advice: "Commit to 5 min a day - make a schedule five learners in five minutes everyday, non-negotiable". This was echoed by Kevin Ashworth
when he said that he will often quickly conference with students about Genius Hour, during non-genius hour time! Chris Kesler
suggested having students reflect from home, if time is an issue in your classroom!
Another interesting point of discussion, brought up by Troy Cockrum
, was that of bringing in mentors; parents or community members who could assist students with their projects and provide insight. This is something I am definitely going to look into! This year, Hugh and I had students with skype with some experts for Health and Career class. Why not have them join for Genius Hour too? I love it!
We also talked about ways in which students can share their projects. Some common responses:
- Ted Talk style speech about what they did/learned
- iMovies and other videos documenting their journey
- Show their model/creation/invention and talk about it
- Powerpoint, Keynote and other slide shows
- Create a website or page on their existing website
- Picture collage/photo journal
Thank you all for participating in the chat and for giving us some things to think about when we implement our next round of Genius Hour.
PLN, did I miss anything? Please comment below! Would love to hear from you!
A few days ago I attended a district dinner for teacher-bloggers and those interested in blogging. Let me start with a thank you to the school district for putting on events like this. I feel so fortunate to work in SD36, a place where innovation and sharing is encouraged!
So, over the course of the evening we heard 2 speakers. Jordan Tinney
, deputy superintendent, and George Couros
, a visiting administrator from Edmonton and dear friend of the SD36 community. It was a pleasure listening to these 2 educators as they shared their stories of engaging in social media and blogging, mentioning both the dangers and benefits of both. George ended the evening with 2 questions: Why did you become an educator? And what legacy do you want to leave?
The first one seems pretty straight forward to me...I know why I went into teaching. But the 2nd one was surprising to me...never before had I considered the notion of leaving a legacy. And I still am not sure about this question. So let me start with the first question:
I had an amazing Grade 2 teacher, Ms. Mary MacDonald. Honestly, it was so long ago that I am not clear on all the ways in which she was inspiring, but I do know that throughout my elementary years, I always looked up to her. I think she was one of the few teachers that made me feel special and made me feel like she truly cared for me. We made a connection. And so I always had this idea in my head that I wanted to be just like her.
Later, in Grade 7, I had another amazing teacher, Ms. Colette Leisen. I didn't get to spend that much time with her as she was our Art teacher (so we probably only had her 2 times each week, I am not exactly sure). Anyway, she, too, made her students feel special. And when I was devastated about my first term report card, it was her that comforted me while I cried. Interestingly, my husband (who went to the same elementary school) also cites Leisen as his favourite teacher whom he remembers as the one who opened up his eyes to the world around him. He didn't just learn about math and art from her, he also learned about life.
So, I knew I wanted to be like these 2 women in some capacity. And I knew that I loved working with children (I was a camp counsellor, babysitter and birthday party planner in high school).
But I think the biggest motivator to become a teacher hit me when I was in Grade 12. My classmates all started talking about future plans: college, travelling, work, etc. And I had no idea what I was going to do! And I don't think my family did either. Being the child of immigrants, they weren't exactly sure how all that worked over here. And so it was up to me to figure it out for myself.
I finished grade 12, got a job and started college shortly afterwards. It was during that time I realized I wanted to be a teacher so that I could help kids like me. I had good parents, but ones that didn't really know how to guide me because they didn't have the same experience here themselves. So I realized that I wanted to become a teacher and help high school students find their passion and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. And then help guide them in the direction of their dreams.
Well, it turns out I ended up teaching elementary school and not secondary, but I think my why
is still the same. I help children figure things out about themselves, I share my story and I encourage them to follow their passion.
As for what legacy do I want to leave...I don't know if I have an answer to this question. I hope my students remember their experience with me as a time that they felt loved and cared for (as I did with Mary McDonald) and also a time when they learned about themselves and about life (as my husband did with Colette Leisen). And I hope that they are less confused about their future options than when I was a kid. I hope they learn that we are all learners and that it is just a matter of finding your passion. I want Genius Hour
to spread so that students have the opportunity to explore their passions at school. And I want to leave them believing in themselves, their abilities, and their futures.
What legacy do you want to leave?
Image by Abode of Chaos – Thierry Ehrmann
5. Personalizing education is so important. Not all learners are the same, so why should their education be the same? Genius Hour allows students to choose their own projects, personalizing their own learning.
4. Kids need time to be creative! Check out Sir Ken Robinson's TedTalk below.
3. Passionate people are successful people. Students need time to find their passions. I am amazed by how many of my students struggle to communicate what their passions really are. They need time to explore their wonders (and often need some guidance with this too) so that they can figure out what they love to do.
2. Inquiry based learning. During Genius Hour students form inquiry questions to investigate. Being able to ask questions is a key competency that we need to develop in students.
1. Teaches resilience. Students will fail during Genius Hour. And they will problem solve and figure out another way to look at the problem. We need to reinforce this learning strategy and Genius Hour is the perfect time for this.
***Genius Hour is FUN. In a survey I did with my class last year, most students listed Genius Hour as one of the top things we did that year!***
Did I miss anything? What would you add to this list?
Haven't tried Genius Hour or 20% time yet?
You will love it!
Check out the Genius Hour wiki and this post and this post.
I have had a fantastic week! So much professional development!
Yesterday I went to a workshop on Challenge Based Learning at Apple Canada Inc. Challenge Based Learning is like Project Based Learning but with an authentic challenge to do something about a real challenge/problem in the world. It was very inspiring! Read more about it here
Then today I was lucky enough to attend the Surrey School district's Engaging the Digital Learner DInner Series
and hear Shelley Wright talk about Inquiry Based Learning. Learn more about Shelley here
And finally, Hugh McDonald
and I also put together a short video and presentation
for the same Dinner Series
on Passion Based Learning and Genius Hour
. I spent a lot of time this week interviewing students and talking to them about Genius Hour--it was great to hear how passionate they were about Passion Based Learning!
Check out our students below:
It has been a wonderful week! Lots of learning, reflecting and collaborating! Love it!
Special thanks to Antonio Vendramin
for supporting me (with release time, etc) to participate in all of these awesome Pro D opportunities, to Elisa Carlson
for providing us with such great learning opportunities, to Hugh McDonald
for learning/sharing with me, and
to my husband for being supportive of my learning and late night Pro Ds.
What did you learn about this week?
October 3rd was our last #geniushour chat (click here to learn more about Genius Hour)
We had a fantastic conversation and some great ideas were shared. Since that chat (click here to see all archived chats)
, I have had a few more people ask me about how to introduce Genius Hour. So I thought I would compile a list of all the wonderful strategies that were discussed.
Here it goes…
- Danielle Porte tweeted about doing a guided Genius Hour to start her class off this year. I love this idea! What a fantastic way to be able to model the inquiry process for your class!
- Similarly, Katy Gartside tweeted, “this week they are brainstorming ideas with parents for their indiv proj. Then we'll share, post on wall & they can add ideas” Then they did a group project. I love how she involved the parents into the process!
- Robyn Thiessen’s students have passion portfolios and they store their thoughts and ideas for Genius Hour in them! She introduced inquiry to her young students (yes, it can be done in primary!) through ME projects (delving into topics like what are your values and what are you not...I just love that this is with grades 3s and 4s).
- Denise Krebs' students are researching and presenting their Genius Hour plan before they begin their actual projects. Denise also put together this Genius Hour creativity rubric that students use to show their growth
- Joy Kirr gets her students into the inquiry process by asking them to think not only about what they wonder about, but also to reflect on what really bothers them! What a fabulous way to get students to start thinking.
- Katrina Ling tweeted, “I set up a wonder wall too for #geniushour, we watched videos and brainstormed ideas. There are some kids invention videos from Ellen show.” Watching videos is a great hook! Kids love to see what others have done and it gets them thinking hey I could do that.
- Hugh McDonald also shared how he likes to introduce Genius Hour with YouTube videos that inspire curiosity and talk about Genius. Some videos he uses are:
This year, Hugh and I introduced Genius Hour together. We showed our students the above videos, got them thinking about their passions and wonders and, finally, we modelled it. We both spent some time on a weekend creating our own little Genius Hour projects. Neither of us had ever made a movie using iMovie for iPads and it was something we wanted to learn more about, so we both learned how and created a short iMovie each. Perfect for sharing a little of our lives with our students and for modeling the inquiry process! Thank you Dean Shareski
, Antonio Vendramin
and Jodi Pulvers
for the inspiration.
Hugh's Genius Hour 60-1 Second Clip iMovie
My Genius Hour 60-1 Second Clip iMovie
I am sure there are many more ideas out there from other great teachers about how to introduce Genius Hour. Please comment below if you would like to add to this list!
And I hope this has helped any of you out there that have wanted to start Genius Hour, but didn’t know how. Happy Inquiring :)
One of our painted round tables
So, last year we decided to toss out our desks in favour of round tables.
Collaboration, community and cooperation!
After many talks with my principal, Antonio Vendramin
, and my teaching partner, Hugh McDonald
, we all decided to give this experiment a try! Sitting at round tables (just like the Kindergarteners) seems to be the perfect way to get students to work on projects together, and to to get rid of the mentality that school work is to be done in isolation, alone, without copying. I don't want to give them the type of work where they can copy the correct
answer from their neighbour...I am striving to give them projects where they have to work together
with their neighbour, not in isolation from them!
We are all enjoying the round tables and our next goal is to paint them all with white board paint. Thus far we have two tables done, one regular round table that students sit at daily and one coffee table that is used in our couch area (one of many alternative work spaces that Hugh and I have in our room). The kids love them and write/draw on them daily. Sometimes just for fun...but lately more and more for educational purposes! Here are some ways we use them...
Trying out different ways to use the white board painted tables...word games!
Modelling Inquiry: Student Teacher Mr. Reynolds draws what he wonders about.
On this day we used the table for students to tell us about how they felt after taking a math quiz.
Students were using flyers to add and subtract decimals. Their total bill had to be $100. Students were using the white board table to quickly add numbers to see if they should 'buy' that item or not.
Overall, we are pleased with how the tables are being used. During the first few weeks of school the students used them only to draw on, and not really as a learning tool and I was feeling discouraged. But over time, they have started to use them in the way that we had envisioned. Like with any new manipulative or tool, they just need some play time first!
I would love to hear from any teachers that have also painted their desks/tables/furniture with white board paint. How does it work in your classroom? What do the students use them for?
Has anyone else switched to tables recently? How else do you promote collaboration, community and cooperation?
(check with your school district policy before modifying and of their furniture)