Genius hour is an amazing concept that children respond to because they get to learn about any topic they choose. I had a few rounds of Genius Hour last year and the kids thought it was awesome. On Fridays, the question was always, "Are we doing Genius Hour today?"
With a grade 1/2 classroom last year, it got difficult to keep up with Genius Hour for a few reasons.
1. My students were very young, so they still needed a lot of teacher direction and guidance.
2. The range of projects was huge! There were students learning to knit, creating paper mache animals, learning magic, painting on canvas, making wedding cakes and cooking pizza to just name a few.
3. We asked my principal for a small budget to cover the costs of all of these projects. My principal was very supportive and agreed. (In reality, how many times do you ask for money for Genius Hour)
|The Knitting Group|
I needed a better plan, I needed to be better prepared and I needed my students to have the skills needed to research an idea or topic, produce not only a product but also be able to share the information they learned from researching the topic.
This year, Genius Hour turned into Wonder Workshop.
This year I began the year teaching the skills needed for an inquiry based classroom. I modeled my own inquiry and taught and retaught the skills needed for my students to be successful researchers and wonderers.
|From a modeled lesson on "Reading with a question in mind."|
My students completed curriculum based Inquiry projects on Early Settlers where they created the question that they answered. They also did an Inquiry on a creature of their choice.
My students learned different ways to show their learning. That it didn't have to be a book created on the iPad. That it could be a poster, an artifact, a presentation or a video. When my students chose to create an artifact they new that there would be questions from their peers on the topic that they would need to know before presenting their artifact to others.
When my students had gone through the inquiry process, with how to create a deeper question, how to effectively take notes, how to collaborate with others, this is when I introduced open inquiries.
Open inquiries is a form of Genius Hour. EVERYDAY we have Wonder Workshop. Students come into the classroom at 8:30 and from 8:30-9:00 each day they can work on their open inquiries. They can work alone, with a partner or with a group. I have students that are working on commercials to bring more students to the school, I have students that are creating non fiction books on the iPads about a topic they wanted to research. I had a student share their paper book on healthy eating this morning.
Because, I took the time to explicitly teach and reteach the tools my students needed, Wonder Workshop goes much more smoothly. Yes, I still have the child that has been creating the same book for the past 3 months and yes I do have children that have changed their question more frequently than they brush their teeth. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a process and that the process is more important than the product.
My students still have that excitement like they did last year on every Friday. Now they are excited everyday because they get to start their morning learning about something they have chosen to learn about. They are just as excited to share their learning with their peers and families.