I decided to take the plunge this year and implement Genius Hour/Passion Projects in my fifth grade classroom. I did my research and found resources I could use, but I still did not feel 100% confident about implementation. Finally, I decided to give myself permission to go forward anyway and learn as I go. (If you need a background on what exactly Genius Hour is, this is a great resource http://www.geniushour.com)
A summary of how we run Genius Hour/Passion Projects in our classroom.
- We spend an hour a week dedicated to this process. Some weeks it is two, half-hour sessions a week, and others we can do the full hour on one day. This time is non-negotiable. I always honor this time and never take it away as punishment.
- There is no due date because some projects can be completed in a few sessions and others are very extensive and need more time.
- I keep track of their essential question (which is approved by me) on an excel spreadsheet with the date started and the date completed.
- I allow students to abandon a project (just like I allow them to abandon a book) after we discuss why they want to change their essential question.
- When students are ready to present, they let me know and I schedule 5-10 minutes out of our day to have them present.
- If I notice a student is not making progress on their project, I ask questions and provide feedback to help the student meet their goal.
Changes I Plan to Make
- Some students struggle with not having a due date and need more guidance and scaffolding. I need a better system in place for these students.
- Possibly incorporating outside mentors/experts in the future for students.
- Involve students in creating a rubric/criteria around the question, “What is a quality product/presentation?”
Take-aways after being involved in this process weekly with my fifth graders for five months.
- I have learned more about my students’ strengths and interests through this process than ever before.
- Since students are learning about something they are truly passionate about, the non-writer writes and the unmotivated student is motivated.
- Students learn about themselves through this process as well. The tech savy student who always made PowerPoints with the coolest effects (not so great content) realized he could make a PowerPoint on HOW to make a PowerPoint. (Future tech teacher or computer programmer??) He is our go to expert now!
- Students learn more about each other through this process. When students present their project, the class sees a side of a peer they might not otherwise be aware of.
- As a teacher, Genius Hour/Passion Projects allow me to give feedback to students as they tackle roadblocks or make a personal discovery about themselves. Some are realizing talents they never knew they had.
- I cannot name how many Common Core State Standards are being met through this process! (Research, evidence, opinion, reading for information, etc.)
- Students utilize what is learned in class to gather data for their project. One student used a line plot (from Math) for her survey on when kids should be able to have a cell phone.
As you can see, I could go on and on about the positive outcomes this one hour a week has had on our classroom. Yes, there are a few changes I need to make, but the positives definitely make it worth it. Just think, I almost didn’t attempt this because I was worried about not being an “expert” on implementing Genius Hour/ Passion Projects in my classroom. What are you waiting to try out? Just do it!!!