Saturday, October 12, 2013

Genius Hour: Actual Student Autonomy

Self-selected learning:  This student
wants to know how cars move/work.
Genius Hour has now been underway for our Palo Verde fifth graders for two weeks.  I'm "overseeing" these Genius Projects for our 72 fifth grade students.  The most eye-opening thing for me is that the teacher/student role is truly reversed during these three hours each week (three different classes, one hour per class).   Students are independent much of the school week, but they are not autonomous until Genius Hour.

Genius Hour is when students choose what to work on, how to work on it, and how to present it.  While students can be independent at many times during the school day, they can only be truly autonomous during Genius Hour.  Standards and curriculum do not drive Genius Hour.  It is the one time each week for students to autonomously drive their own education.

Want to know more about what this looks like at Palo Verde?  Below are two conversations I had with students this week during genius hour.  I know absolutely nothing about the questions they're tackling.  I can't provide actual help to these students, but I can provide encouragement and time.


Jack:  Ms. Nosek, I want to learn how to code using... (something I can't remember).  I want to do this because... (he gave a reason that sounded great, but I can't recall exactly what he said!).

Me:  Jack, I have no idea what this means, but I support you.  You'll have to teach me all about it.  Do you have everything you need?

Jack: (nods and walks away to get to work).


Amar:  I brought my phone in to take apart and put back together for the next Genius Hour!

Me:  Great!  Are you ready to tackle it to see how it all works?

Amar:  Yes, I just need the right tools.  I need a specific screwdriver.  I'll look for it this weekend.

Me:  Great!

Amar: (huge smile spreads across his face) This IS going to be great!


Like I said, I know absolutely nothing about coding or taking apart phones.  These two students are extremely excited about taking on their Genius Projects.  If I was to stop them just because I don't know about their topics, I would be doing a huge disservice to their intellectual and creative development.  I am really looking forward to seeing where our kiddos take their ideas!  I'm not sure who's more excited about going to school these days, me or our students?

Want to learn more about Genius Hour?  I highly recommend taking a look at Chris Kesler's Genius Hour website.  This is where I found the inspiration to start Genius Hour.  Once we started, I frequently referred to Paul Solarz's classroom Passion Project site.   Now, we have our own Palo Verde Genius Hour blog

Check out the screen shots below listing student projects from our Palo Verde Genius Hour blog.  

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