What is Genius Hour?
What is Genius Hour? Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on their own projects. This is how things such as Gmail and Google News got started. It was designed to increase productivity among employees and is hugely successful. Now teachers are implementing it in schools. Read more about its origins HERE.
How do teachers implement it in their classrooms?
At my site, our upper grade teachers encourage students to determine what they want to learn or how they want to make a difference. They are directed to choose something very specific (not Save the Dolphins) and not "Google-able", meaning they can't choose a topic they will simply research in order to regurgitate information in a presentation. Students spend time each week learning and creating on their own or with the help of parents who come into the classroom. They often spend time at home working on their projects because it's so exciting. When they are ready to present their projects, they do in a variety of ways. Read HERE about how to introduce it to your class and be sure to show this video:
Students have made stuffed animals for children in a hospital, Lego cars that run on batteries, garden art (someone learned to weld!) and many more interesting things. Sometimes it involves technology, such as creating movies in iMovie, but that is not a requirement. Imagine the possibilities!
How to implement in kindergarten?
My grade level team is eager to develop Genius Hour this year. Obviously, students at this time of year are learning how to be students in school so it's a bit early to start, but this is the perfect time for planning and preparation.
1. We will begin by offering specific choices rather than leave things open-ended for our young students. Ideas may include learning how to cook/bake something, engineering and building a Lego structure, planting a miniature garden, creating a piece of artwork using specific techniques, or creating a movie using an app on an iPad. Later we will allow them to come up with their own ideas with an upper grade buddy.
2. We will invite parents and/or community members in to teach students how to do the things they want to learn about! I know of bakers, chefs, building contractors, engineers, techies, and others who would love to spend a little bit of time teaching the foundations of their craft to children who are more than a little eager to learn. Every community has those who give their time when asked, so why not ask?
3. Children will spend time each week in their learning groups to create, create, create. However far they get is up to them and they will report to the class what they have learned along the way. If they are able to look at books, videos, etc. to learn more as they progress, that is wonderful. If they prefer to learn through hands-on experiences, that is OK, too. Genius Hour is unstructured.
4. When children have exhausted an idea, they choose a new one. Anyone remember Project Based Learning?
Building a Foundation
As always, we are preparing young students for whatever comes their way as they grow older. Genius Hour in kindergarten may not be completely open-ended or unstructured yet, and they may not choose to do something to change the world due to their egocentric nature, but why not start to encourage them to ask questions, search for knowledge, and see others as possible informational resources? Is it too early? I don't think so.
How do you or would you use Genius Hour in your classroom? Please share below!