Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kicking Off Genius Hour

Last spring, during our morning Genius Hour time, one of my students had a small container with her when she entered the classroom. I asked her what she had and she said happily, "My Acorn Cap Collection. I am going to run a workshop this morning teaching people about them."  She proceeded to gather magnifying glasses, markers paper and sticky notes. She quickly made a sign and invited people to the table to learn about ways to observe acorn caps.  It was quite a popular spot in the room that morning and I thought, "This is what Genius Hour should look like every day!"





This year, as I thought about Genius Hour, I knew I wanted to change it a bit from last year. Last year,  students found areas of interest and spent time learning about those and sometimes creating things to share their learning.  I wanted it to be playful and purposeful.  But I wanted it to be more for this year and this Acorn Cap workshop gave me some ideas.

This year, we are changing the name of Genius Hour to "Wonder Workshop". We have Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop and Math Workshop so having a Wonder Workshop makes sense. Our students know what a workshop is and they know their role in learning in a workshop.  And a Wonder Workshop seems to make sense to 8 year olds.  This will be a time that we explore those things we wonder about each day.

This year, when I think about Genius Hour/Wonder Workshop, I wanted it to be a combination of so many things.  I love the Genius Hour movement and I also love the possibilities around Maker Space and Passion Time. I wanted to create a time that made sense for 8 year olds, where they could explore and learn. I wanted a place where they could sometimes be the learner and sometimes be the teacher. I wanted a place where anything was possible and where kids were in charge of their own learning.

To kick off Wonder Workshop, each child is creating a workshop for the class. We spent time talking about those things they love, things they are good at, things they want to teach others about.  So, every day, for 2 weeks, we are learning from each other.  For homework last week, kids prepared 10 minute mini-workshops on a topic of their choice.  For 2 weeks, kids are rotating to workshops, learning from every other child in the classroom.  So far we've learned:

  • how to play guitar
  • how to make fortune tellers
  • how to braid hair
  • about the sea
  • how to make clay animals
  • how to make puzzles
And these are just a few of the things we've learned about!

As students share, the audience members are jotting down new things they are learning and questions they have. They are also jotting down things they want to try.  I am hoping that we are setting the stage for a Wonder Workshop that has us thinking about the following questions.

  • What do we know? 
  • What can we teach each other? 
  • What can we learn from and with each other? 
  • What are you interested in/good at now?  
  • What might we be interested in later in the year?
There have been some added perks. The idea of  "research" is already being discussed as something far more than finding the right answer.  Students are seeing themselves in various roles and the variety of the presentations will give us things to build on when it comes to writing and communication for much of the year.  They've also built a community around learning that I can see grow each day by listening into the questions they ask of each presenter.  Each child is not only discovering new interests, but they are also discovering things about their classmates.

I'm excited to move forward with the idea of a Wonder Workshop after spending a few weeks exploring our interests and learning from and with each other.   I imagine much of workshop will be a continuation of some of these workshops at first--kids are already wanting to try out and build on the things they are learning.  Just as with any workshop during the first few weeks of school, I am listening in, observing, and thinking about how we might build on the amazing things that kids are already doing!




3 comments:

  1. And I am excited to see where your Wonder Workshops go! So great for kids!
    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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  2. Love this so much!! What a great idea.

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  3. I did the genius hour last year and really liked it, but it still seemed like another project. I absolutely LOVE your idea of the Wonder Workshop, where the kids become the experts and share their wisdom and know-how with others. If you don't mind, I would love to borrow your idea and try it out with my fourth graders this year. I just love it! Thank you for sharing.
    Janie
    Are We There Yet?

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