Friday, March 28, 2014


Genius Hour. Passion Projects. 20% time. Open Inquiry Projects. I've been pondering these ideas a lot lately. So much has been written on blogs and on Twitter about how teachers are incorporating this into their classrooms. I was fortunate to also sit in on a session with Paul Solarz at the ICE conference a few weeks ago. The more I hear/read about it all, the more I know I just have to jump in.

Why am I considering adding this to our already-packed day? Why add more to our already-full plate? I think kids need it, want it, and deserve it. If we don't foster their creativity, their curiosity, and their sense of wonder, how can we help them learn what they are passionate about?

Times like this with my niece
remind me of the importance of wonder.
As I start to figure out how this will look in our classroom, I'm starting to piece together my "must-haves". After conversations with colleagues, my principal, and my friend Franki, I've come up with a few ideas to push me forward.

My "Must-Haves" as of right now...
1. My mind tells me it's not all about the name... but I think the name sets the tone for what will happen during this block of time. I'm toying with the idea of a "Wonder Workshop" to place the emphasis on the wondering and questioning part of what happens.**

2. I'm thinking about starting off next year with a Wonder Wall to encourage students to start sharing their wonders and questions. From there, we'll learn about different types of questions and higher order thinking. Some wonders may be ones that can be easily answered when others will take time... and may never actually  be answered.

3. It's not all about the product. I truly believe it's about the process we'll go through. While there may be a final product (an actual creation, a video, a blog post, a presentation, or whatever else they come up with,) our focus will be on the learning that takes place along the way.

4. Choice will continue to be key. Our classroom is already filled with lots of choices and independent thinking, and this time will be no different. Students need to choose their own topics, ask their own questions, and decide how they want to report their findings.

5. Collaboration will be encouraged. More often than not, my kids have the choice of working as a "lone wolf" or working in a "wolf pack." We use those terms often, and students are welcome to decide what works best for them.

6. My job will be that of facilitator. Nudging their thinking. Pushing them forward. Encouraging them to reflect and make decisions. Asking questions to help them ask questions of their own.

Now What?
I don't know yet where this will fit into our schedule. Is it better to devote small chunks of time daily? Or a longer period of time once or twice a week? I'd love to hear any advice or experience people have had! I love to use the last chunk of the year to try out new things to give them a trial run. I've found it shakes things up a bit for the kids and helps me work through logistics. It looks like this just might be something we try in the upcoming months!

As I'm thinking and planning and reflecting, I decided a Pinterest board was in order so I could easily locate all of the resources I'm finding. You can visit my board by clicking here.

Are you currently incorporating some sort of Genius Hour into your classroom? What grade level do you teach? What are you finding works or doesn't work? Any feedback you'd like to share would be helpful!

**It is entirely possible that others in my building are jumping on board with Genius Hour. If that is the case, I'll stick with calling it Genius Hour so we're all consistent! :)