Explaining the concept of Genius Hour to my GT class was quite an experience in itself. I knew it was going to work when I saw eyes light up and heard gasps of excited energy.
At the beginning of this school year, I wanted to try something different and creative with my GT class. So, I thought to test the theory that says when kids are given the freedom and time to follow and explore their passion, they thrive and perform at their best. Therefore, I decided to dedicate each Friday to Genius Hour.
I laid out my expectations for the “experiment” and set mini-deadlines for them to meet. I was pleased to see how these kids went straight to the heart of the exercise, taking ownership of their learning. They knew what they were passionate about and dove deep into their research to learn more. “I love the fact that we are able to choose our own topic,” one student shared when they first embarked on their project.
We utilized Thrively.com and other credible websites to gather information and relevant data. I held them accountable for their time and assigned them weekly “reports” on their findings. Once the third report was completed, the students were ready to narrow their original list of 2-3 topics down to one.
Over the course of the semester, I conferenced with each student to assess and track their progress and to offer feedback and assistance where needed. Most worked independently, some in pairs. Some sought outside expertise, others surveyed teachers and students and asked well thought-out questions, while others relied on data from their research to complete their work. Yes, they were chatty and loud! Their reactions to whatever they were reading were highly audible, but it was heartening to see them so enthused and so involved in their learning.
When it finally came time for them to present to their classmates, their presentations were informative, detailed, and relevant to current issues affecting them, which captivated their audience. The Q&A that followed each presentation demonstrated the depth of their understanding on their chosen topic. One student shared, “I enjoyed other people’s presentations because I could tell they enjoyed the topic they were presenting.”
Overall, I was very pleased with my Genius Hour experience, and the students surpassed my expectations. What began as an experiment ended up a successful venture with proven results: the students demonstrated responsibility for their independent work, they valued the time dedicated to Genius Hour by meeting each deadline with passion, and they were successful in achieving their goal as illustrated through their final product. As one student put it, “Genius Hour gave me the freedom to research what I want, the way I want, and to choose how I want my product to look.”