Have you heard about genius hour? It was originally a Google thing that the company did to encourage creativity in their employees. Well, I decided to give it a try this year, with first graders. And you know what? It worked, and they loved it! I will be the first to admit that this genius hour was messy and often I thought, What was I thinking? But, I learned a lot and I will definitely be doing it again! Four different parents emailed telling me how excited their kid was. One of my students made their parents take them to the public library to find books of their subject. Here is an overview of our plan.
How Did I begin?
We began talking about what we wonder about. If they could choose to learn about anything, what would it be? They came up with so many ideas…way more than I was expecting. Our library time was that week, so I suggested they look at books for more ideas. I gave them a week to mull this over. Next we wrote down our wonderings on sticky notes. Some kids wrote down a few.
Once we spend some time brainstorming ideas, we narrowed down what we wanted to learn about. This was the hardest part. Some of my students thought of very broad topics, so we had to narrow down our topic. We used question starters to help guide this part of the process.
Some of the topics included:
- The Titanic
- Animals (various: penguins, weasels, service dogs, and a few more)
- The Poison Cave (I had never heard of this!)
- Justin Timberlake
- How to Make a Video Game
- Stop Motion Animation
It was so fun to see the topics they chose. At this point, I was thinking how am I going to manage 20 different topics??
Researching our topic was the next step. This was an area that I needed help. I had a parent come in and some 5th graders to help. We used Chromebooks and iPads for the research. On the iPads, the app Epic was our favorite. On the Chromebooks, I had gathered kid-friendly websites and attached them to QR codes. My students were able to scan them and search their topic.
Another issue I came across with this part of the process was when a student found their topic, they didn’t know what to research. We talked about what information was important or interesting. I came up with some research helpers to guide students who needed a little help.
The third step is this process was creating something with our new knowledge. As a class, I had modeled various things we could create.
My students chose a wide range of things to create; models, movies, books, timelines, life-sized animals, Haiku Deck slideshows and more. It was so fun to see their excitement about this process.
The last step for us was to share our new learning. We invited various classes into our room and parents. Their job was to share the information they learned about their topic and what they created. I am so proud of them! They were amazing presenters and really had a great time with this.
After we finished our sharing of the process, I asked my students if they enjoyed it. Everyone of them loved it. We talked about what was hard, and most agreed that the research was the hardest. For most of them, it was a new experience to research a topic. Some of them were going to pick a new topic and do their own genius hour in the summer. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!