Understanding Genius Hour

Smith, Chloe

ID

Krebs, D. & Zvi G. (2016). The genius hour guidebook. New York: Routeledge.

Summary: This book is focused on Genius Hour, a program in which a teacher sets aside a set amount of time each week for students to pursue independent and self-directed projects. It is by two teachers, one an elementary school teacher in private and public settings and one a faculty member in a teacher training program, who met online and began collaborating and sharing resources as part of their Personal Learning Networks (PLN). It is very much a product of an online community, with lots of pointers for readers to check out resources like TED talks and to share experiences with each other via Twitter and other social media platforms. In essence, the book does just what is says on the cover–it explains what Genius Hour is, and it gives pointers and suggestions for how an educator can make it work in their classrooms. It includes guidelines for introducing the concept, scaffolding the development of students’ independent inquiry, and helping them reflect and self-assess. It also includes appendixes with FAQs, more resources and lesson plans, and a reading list.

Evaluation: I really liked the practical and detailed scaffolding that this book provided. I could definitely see depending on it if I was rolling out Genius Hour in my own classroom or library space. I wonder, however, if a print book was the best format for this document–there are so many online works cited that it seems like this would have worked better as a website other format where the references could be linked.

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Standards-aligned Genius Hour

Dabb, Taylor

ID

Farber, M. (2017). Standards-aligned genius hour. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/standards-aligned-genius-hour-matthew-farber

This article offers advice on how to run genius hour in the classroom while still choosing projects and activities that meet state standards. The author explains that he would have his students pick a project, but they would have to match the project to one of the state standards or learning objectives that he would provide. Students were engaged and excited about their projects, and they had the control over what they learned.

I enjoyed this article because a problem I’ve always wondered about when it comes to genius hour or student-led learning is how to make time for it while still meeting standards teachers are required to meet. The author’s ideas and points made me more confident in trying this approach and seeing the success in it.

Swartzwelder, Cassandra

Topic: Inquiry and Design (ID)

Robinson, C. (2018). A short guide to Genius Hour makerspaces. Science Scope, 41(9), 18-21.Retrieved from: http://web.b.ebscohost.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=1e3b183f-12b0-4e2c-873e-d02168cce2cd%40sessionmgr103

The article discusses combining genius hour with makerspaces in the classroom. Even though they are two separate terms they are fitting. Robinson (2018) defines genius hour as “a portion of time students can use to work independently on their own projects and passions” (p. 18).  The article goes on to define a makerspace as “a physical location where students have the opportunity to explore their own interests, learn to use new tools and materials, and develop creative projects” (Robinson, 2018, p.18). The combination of the two provides students with a time in which they can work on their own project in a physical location (makerspace). In return this allows the classroom teacher to focus and help students who need individual support.

The author discusses the importance and the impact of combining both genius hour with classroom makerspaces. Robinson argues that connecting the two will help students establish the skills needed for common core standards. This is a concern for many classroom teachers who already have enough on their plate. The article also does a great job of outlining tips for creating your own genius hour makerspace. There is also a list of helpful resources.

Changing Literacies and Civic Pathways

Bagley-Rowe, Heather

ID

Seglem, R., & Garcia, A. (2018). Changing Literacies and Civic Pathways: Multiliteracies in Inquiry-Driven Classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 57(1), 56-63. DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2017.1390335  https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1080/00405841.2017.1390335#aHR0cHM6Ly93d3ctdGFuZGZvbmxpbmUtY29tLmxpYmFjY2Vzcy5zamxpYnJhcnkub3JnL2RvaS9wZGYvMTAuMTA4MC8wMDQwNTg0MS4yMDE3LjEzOTAzMzU/bmVlZEFjY2Vzcz10cnVlQEBAMA==

Inquiry in classrooms enables students’ global and civil agency, as seen by Seglem and Garcia’s study of a middle school English class genius hour and student learning effects. In classrooms, genius hour, which allows students to pursue self-selected topics of study, incorporates creating and helping community; the learning fits a global setting. The New London Group notes four pedagogical elements of multiliteracies, each of which Seglem and Garcia note in their observations. With situated practice, students are self-motivated to access resources, building their risk-taking and confidence. Overt instruction, where teachers provide scaffolding as needed, allows teachers to assess any knowledge and skills gaps. Critical framing is analysis and evaluation, where students connect current learning to previous learning, considering concepts from different perspectives. Through transformed practice, students employ metacognition regarding personal learning. Overall, a pedagogy of inquiry views students as experts, relies on teacher expertise and voice, and can yield increased student confidence to try new tools or ways of learning.

Seglem and Garcia put forth accessible information in line with the incorporation of inquiry I have seen in classrooms. When students are allowed to study topics of their choosing and apply the knowledge to helping their community, students can develop agency and global citizenship. The area of multiliteracies may benefit from additional research, but Seglem and Garcia’s article highlights a pathway to shifting classroom teaching.