This is the first year since student teaching that I’ve done the Genius Hour project. As with anything new in a curriculum, there was some trial and error, but I was really impressed with what my students were able to accomplish and had a great time learning more about their interests and hobbies. Below are some highlights from Genius Hour 2017.
The Process: A big part of this project (and the main in-class component) was student research and journaling, during which they had to create and research questions based on their projects and reflect on them in journal entries. Reading through these entries, I was really impressed with the learning progression I could see in my students week to week. I was even able to see their writing skills improve as their focus and organization became more refined. As the facilitator, my most important job on these days was to check-in with students and make clear the connection between the research they were doing in class and how that research could be utilized when working on their projects at home.
Notable Projects: There were some projects, in particular, that blew me away in terms of how much students were able to accomplish in roughly a month and a half (and with only six days of in-class work). Here are some that stood out to me:
- A student created his own video game, and got a popular YouTube gamer to play the demo! (Note: Video has language inappropriate for work and school.)
- Another student repainted a pair of Jordan 11’s with a custom color scheme.
- Someone wanted to improve their canvas painting, and created the great close-up pictured to the right.
- Someone else learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube and solved it live for us in 1:45.
- One student wanted to learn more about her Haitian heritage and cooked two traditional meals for the class: Macaroni au Gratin and Haitian patties.
- Another student took a philosophical approach and tackled the question, “What is Love?” She interviewed people of different ages and used these answers plus additional research to synthesize her own answer.
- Someone used computer animation to choreograph two CGI people dancing to an entire song.
This is just a sampling of some of the standouts. So many students impressed me with what they accomplished.
What I Learned:
Trust the Process, to steal a phrase from one of my favorite sports franchises, is the first thing that comes to mind. With any student-centered learning, like Genius Hour, the teacher has to be willing to give up the control that comes with the “sage on the stage” approach and see learning as a collaborative enterprise. I had to be willing to trust, based on other teachers’ successes with Genius Hour, that the learning and the results would be impressive if I stuck to it even in those moments when productivity lulled and students seemed to be overwhelmed or lacking in enthusiasm. I’m glad I let the process play out, because my students’ research and final products showed my faith in them, Genius Hour, and my ability to facilitate it was well-founded.
Next time I do Genius Hour, I’m going to think more about my rubric for their final presentations. This time, I broke it down into four sections: Presentation Skills, Evidence of Learning/Process, Evidence of Final Product, and Parting Words. While these were the four major criteria I was looking at, it seemed insufficient for some presentations. I’m thinking I might develop a holistic rubric, with sample summaries of “A” through “D” presentations so I can gauge the students’ successes more completely.
(Check back later this week for a breakdown of my Genius Hour project setup.)