So, I'm not a Genius Hour success story...
It's the end of the quarter, pretty much, and I've been insanely busy with all the great things that are happening both in my classroom and professionally. I just returned from an amazing trip to New Mexico for a Social Emotional Learning in Action Convening for the recipients of the NoVo Foundation grant (the one that I used to get flexible seating started in our classroom).
Next week I leave to present on SEL, ethics for middle schoolers, and backchannelling, at the Association of Middle Level Educators conference in Philadelphia. I'll post some pictures and reflections when I get back. In the classroom, we've been doing so many awesome things this quarter! We wrote Credo essays about their beliefs, read short stories and did analysis, and completed an independent passion project.
What went wrong then with my Genius Hour plan since we did complete a passion project? The short version is that I made a few rookie mistakes as I tried to implement Genius Hour, and I'm going to have to revamp for the rest of the year. Here are the areas I flubbed:
1) Mondays. I thought Monday would be a great day to have Genius Hour. We'd ease into our week, enjoy a creative start to the week, and feel all shiny and happy. Um, hello? We have several Mondays off during the first quarter, and I never realized that Monday's are also a popular day to be absent. The result, unfortunately, was a bunch of Tuesdays that turned into Genius Hour days, which messed up my other plans. We were flexible (it's kinda my thing...), but I know that it could be better.
2) Scaffolding. When you have a project based classroom that is really student centered, you are the facilitator of student learning, not the main event of every class. I've run my class this way for the last several years, so it has become common place for me, but I underestimated what a shock this could be for students who had a different experience of schooling so far. "What do I do?" and "I'm not sure what you want me to do" and "You didn't explain this" were all too often the refrain on Genius Hour days, and I caught on pretty quickly that I hadn't scaffolded enough--for some kids this was freedom to fly, but to others it felt like being knocked out of the nest without knowing what they were supposed to do to stop themselves from crashing! I know better, of course, but I was just so excited to try this weekly Genius Hour!
3) Self-Management. Projects require a level of self-management that most kiddos don't get right away. Using technology, like Google Calendar, to manage and share tasks, is new to them. A number of students were also really busy with fall sports, so the level of organizing and project planning was intense. I talk about this in my book, The Flexible SEL Classroom, and it was glaringly obvious that students needed even more time than I was allotting.
So, here I am, a Genius Hour dropout. What am I going to do? I'm going to actually go back to what I've successfully done before. I have always done Passion Projects as a month long activity. I'm going to back off this experiment for quarter two because we'll be doing my favorite unit on The Giver, found here. I'm going to return to the Passion Projects for quarter four, just as I've done in the past. The reason I've had such success there before is because it has been a culmination of all the habits, lessons, and skills that students have acquired throughout the year. I'll keep you posted on those projects, but I'm confident they will rock because students will all know how to spread their wings by then!