Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Night of Genius!

Last night was incredible! I had so much fun! Are you wondering yet what I was up too? Well...I was at school....on a Friday night. And I had one of the best nights ever! That is because last night we held, "A Night of Genius". Students stayed after school, to share with their whole families and friends of their families and anyone else they wanted to invite, all of their amazing work on Genius Hour. It was a HUGE turnout and a definite success!

But telling you that, is only half the 'wonderfulness' that took place. You see, we started this genius work the first week of school...in August.  We've been working that long on these topics. We have Genius Hour every Wednesday for a full hour, sometimes a little more when we are so close to finishing something, or so into what we are researching. If you are a teacher, you must and I repeat, must find a way to take on this movement and get it going in YOUR classroom. Don't make anymore excuses, there is time, it is important and it does meet the standards! More importantly, regardless of what age or subject you teach, your students CAN do it!

With that in mind, let me help you get started. In the Light Bulb Labs, we introduced Genius Hour by sharing stories of Google's 20% time. We discussed and honored the fact that students spend more time at school during the week than at home. As a group we talked about the idea of studying anything. Our students were flabbergasted at the idea of studying anything. I wish I would have captured their faces while they wrestled with the idea they could study something they wanted. After introducing the concept of Genius Hour we watched this video and took notes.


Then came the fun part! Using tools we had learned from our "Collaboration Toolbox" we ideated as many ideas as we could think of:


We talked with our classmates about how their ideas were the same or different and we kept brainstorming using some of IDEO's brainstorming rules (which are illustrated and hung in our classroom): go for volume, encourage wild ideas, build on the ideas of others and headline. Using my example, figure skating we decided that figure skating was a huge topic and we had to narrow it down.  So they asked me questions like, "What is it with figure skating that you want to know more about?", and "What confuses you about your topic?". So after all that brainstorming we came up with two to three really deep questions, mine were: "How is figured skating judged today and how has that changed over time?"

The following week we made a tool that would help us with researching. In third grade, researching is REALLY difficult. Our students wanted to just click this, scroll here and move on without digesting what they were reading. In addition much of the work online is not at their reading level. So before we sent them out to research, we talked as a class about where we go to learn new things and created an anchor chart of these resources. It listed things like books, Ranger Rick, Time for Kids, Kidrex, Yahooligans, Infohio, Pebble Go, National Geographic Kids and more! We made sure we had specific resources for the kids and also encouraged them to check books out from our local library. Next, with our fingers crossed, we let the kids research...and research...and research. They used this to guide their work:


Now, since this was the first time we had done a project like this, it wasn't always perfect. I didn't have students fill out the research log as often as I should have. We reflected each week about how we had done, what we had accomplished and where we needed to go next. The research I had read on Genius Hour suggested having project plans and that may be the route to go in the future. I think we could have done fewer weeks of research if the students had a little more clear path for research, but it was a great start and I learned a lot from what we did with our students.

Once students started telling us they were finished with research, we started talking about sharing their information with an audience. Any audience, they just had to share all this awesome knowledge. Many of the students immediately wanted to do a poster. This was difficult for me. You see, I'm fresh of three years as a technology learning coach so of course, I was pushing for digital tools. But so many of our students don't yet have any other method of sharing their work. This concept of choice and trying new things even if you fail, it's a new mindset. So, we let the kids choose what they wanted and I pushed more on how they could still make their presentation interactive even if they chose to do a poster. Slowly, our Genius Hour work turned from research to project work. 

In just a few weeks, we had full blown presentations including posters, full size hand painted cutouts, dioramas, iMovies, puppet shows, robots, Haiku Deck, Google slides and more! We decided to have an evening event where whole families could come and walk around (almost like a museum) and learn from our students. My co-teacher, Tara Frederick came up with the idea to have visitors use compliment cards which made this event even more special for our students. So...12 weeks later, 46 different topics, 50 happy students, too many to count content standards met, and three proud teachers later, one amazing night proved that Genius Hour is totally the right step to change how we "do school"! Can't wait to tell you about our next round of Genius Hour but until then, enjoy some of our work: