Welcome to the middle of the week where starting today I’m going to be talking about how you start your various classroom creations. Today, I’m talking about getting your own Genius Hour started. Starting this Friday I will have grades 1, 2, and 5 completely in Genius Hour. Be the end of next week grades 3 and 4 will begin with plans on Kindergarten in the next couple of weeks. I’ve received many messages on how I was able to get this ball rolling with so many classes in such a short time and how am I managing it. First of all, I highly recommend you pick up Pure Genius by Don Wettrick. The man really innovated the classroom with Genius Hour and how it works and steps you can take to getting your Genius Hour started in your classroom and after that go read Dave Burgess’s Teach like a Pirate and P is for Pirate to really get your passions started. One of my biggest passions is technology. I am blessed to work in a great 2:1 iPad environment PK-12 and while not all of my students have iPads all the time. We utilize the use of IOS and Google Apps for Education on a regular basis. I can’t tell you the number of times my students come up to me talking about learning about a new App or finding something really “awesome” to do with their Google Drives. So one of my focuses on getting started with Genius Hour was to use my tech to get the ball rolling. Here is what I did.
1. I started with one classroom, in this case with one of my 1st grade teachers who really wanted to start Genius Hour but didn’t know how. First thing I did was take her classroom theme which is about Owls and we call it Hoots Hollow. So, we created a poster with Pic Collage called: “Genius Hour in the Hollow”. We then teased this to the students on her flat screen in the room through the classroom Apple TV. The students were in complete wonder what this was.
2. Next, we picked our Genius Hour Time and I cam in holding my mysterious purple bag and a set of classic diskettes and a ball of red, white and blue string (Spider-string). I got to the front of the room and started pulling things out of my bag. First I pulled out Wobbly the wobble Penguin since they were starting their penguin unit. I then pulled out a bag of marshmallows and spaghetti. The students thought I was going to cook but instead I told them I need them to build a house for Wobbly out of spaghetti and marshmallows but they wouldn’t get the same amount. I old them it can be anything that Wobbly will fit in and they couldn’t eat the marshmallows. I passed out the food and away they went.
3. I gave them 10 minutes to work on their buildings because I didn’t want to rush them but not have them spend so much time on it. I told them we only get an hour a week and we have to learn to use that time. 10 minutes later I took Wobbly to each table to see the various structures but one that really got my attention was one of my students who told me she couldn’t build a house so she turned it into a boat. Tons of the kiddos went: “Why didn’t I think about that.” Well, Wobbly fit into that boat perfectly. We took some pictures and later told them they could take their structures home.
4. After we finished that, I told them that this was what Genius Hour was about, building what they loved to do. I then showed them my Genius Hour badge. I told the students I love making things and I took these old diskettes and I made a badge out of them to hang around my neck during Genius Hour. They would them make their own and the kids just came to life making their badges.
5. After this, I told them we were going to use Padlet to write down their names and what they love the most and what they would love to do. I love Padlet because after you set it up through your gmail you can use a QR code to share with the students on a mobile device. They don’t need login names, they just tap and go. I made sure to use my own teacher view so I could fix any little mistakes or mistypes but the students picked up quickly how to use Padlet.
6. We then went over what they posted and I told them these were great. One student wanted to just draw a cartoon but wanted to animate it and I told her we can do that no problem.
7. After that, I explained that we are going to start working on these projects next week and we would learn how to App Smash and bring their ideas together for the next Genius Hour. I then told them after they get started they would learn to blog to share with the school. Their faces just lit up including one who said they know how to perfectly crop their pictures to post.
8. The next week we started with our App Smash, they students wanted to use their Penguins so they had to learn how to use Google Search, then Pic Collage and finally Chatterpix to find their penguin and have them talk about who they were. The kiddos went to town on this, they knew how to use the Apps but never really did it together. I even had a couple students ask if they could use Doodle Buddy to make a better background for their penguin. I told them to go for it. The talking penguins were amazing and after that we would start having them work with what Apps or tools to make their projects the week afterwards and away we went.
9. Word of Genius Hour quickly spread and other classrooms went on it, what was great about different classrooms is that you have different students and themes and they want to create more and more. As you can see above the many themes we have created for each grade and classroom.
10. Now, I’m asked how I facilitate this or how I get the classrooms more organized. Right now I’m in coaching mode but I’m also in student mode. I go to each of these Genius Hours during the week and I have to tell you, this is where you want to App Smash Google Calendar and iCalendar together its going to save you a lot of time in organizing your schedule especially when you share it with the classroom teachers. If there is a change in any type you can post it and it synchs up nicely. What I really wanted to do to get these students motivated since they are in charge of what they want to do and create. The classroom teachers and myself work on our own Genius Hour projects during that set time. This way, I can not only work on my projects during this time but also help out any students or teachers that have questions and if one of them discover something while they are working. We can learn together. Right now I’m doing guinea pig projects with my 1st graders, using #Appficiation with my 5th Graders and will be working on Infographs with my 2nd graders. I work on them during those Genius Hours like the rest of the classrooms and I stop to help when I’m needed but I say only ask me when they are really stumped. Most of the students usually figure out the answers themselves and they even discover new ways to do things in the process.
11. I really leave this a very student lead classroom after the initial introduction weeks. Right now my 1st graders are really taking off and we have just started blogging but I’m rarely helping them unless they have a huge problem. This has proven very successful and the great thing about starting the Genius Hours in the classrooms a week or two apart is that you can see what is working and what isn’t working. Allows you time to adjust for the next grade level so you don’t hit the same snag like in the process but always remember F.A.I.L. First Attempt In Learning.
I will continue to post as our Genius Hours continue and I will be sharing my Genius Hour created projects and lessons myself. This is just to help you get the ball rolling, you don’t have to do it my way but just remember, this is a time to create what ever you want. You can use candy, you can use iPads or you can use egg salad. The sky is the limit just remember, its fun to create.