I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a research assignment, ever. Three weeks ago I introduced Genius Hour to my 8th graders, a concept made famous by Google, where 20% of work time is spent on a project of the employee’s choosing. It’s become a bit of a phenomenon in the educational world with teachers who recognize that choice motivates students. For my class, this means working every Friday until June, approximately 12 weeks. At first, my students were confused, maybe a bit dumbfounded. “We can do anything?”
I only have three rules for our GH project:
- You can research it
- You can blog about it
- You can do a presentation on it
Week 1: The YES Day
My students were still a bit confused on our first Friday. Each time I’d circulate the room, a student would stop me, “Can I do–” “Yes.” It was pretty amazing watching their fingers fly on the Chromebooks, searching for various topics. Still, though, some had no idea where to even begin. I just kept asking, “What do you want to know?”
Week 2: Life Ring
By the next week, most were super excited to continue their research. But definetly not all. I could see the ones drifting off task. I had to give a few stern warnings: “If you waste 20% of my instruction time, I will give you an alternative assignment.” This extinguished the fires right away. However, I still saw a few flounders. It was time for the life ring. I shared with them a list I had been compiling from various sources of possible Genius Hour projects. Just seeing the possibilities, those who felt they were drowning were able to come up for air. I wouldn’t have done this in the beginning, because I truly believe in the power of discovery, but some kids just needed a helping hand.
Pitch Day: Where the light bulb begins to flicker
Today was pitch day. Students had to get up in front of their peers and give a 30 second pitch on their idea. They had to state their guiding question, explain what they would research, then how they would present in June. After, the other students were encouraged to ask questions and give advice. What a powerful process. Students were able to hear each other’s ideas and learn ways to improve their own process. Plus, I got to hear all the topics. From learning to buy and sell stocks, to practicing different techniques of shooting a basketball properly, to the effects of smoking, to why the brain reacts to music, the topics are not only incredibly varied, they are INTERESTING! So much better than if I would have assigned a topic.
Friday we continue researching. Fridays are truly the best day of the week.