Listen to Your Summer Tribe: Genius Hour Ideas for the Coming Year

You know how it goes. As teachers, we have summers “off,” but our summers are never quiet! Besides vacations with family, organizing our neglected homes and yards, and other responsibilities, we also think about next year’s assignment.

We reflect, read, write, plan, evaluate, and shop. Our students are never far from our hearts and minds. Today’s post is a recap of some summer learning brought to you by members of the Genius Hour tribe.

First, before the chat, we had received some comments on this blog where some began to share their summer learning.

Ashley Berkes shared this idea:

Last year, I used one science period each week for genius hour. This year, I’m going to alternate my times. One week, we will carve out some time during math, and focus on the mathematics of the projects. If genius hour time is during ELA, we will read and write and talk. I want students to create projects that are diverse and well-rounded, and I think changing the focus often will help foster that…The first few weeks will be general brainstorming and planning, but then continue to look at the project though a different lens each week. I’m excited to try!

Laurie Banks shared, “This year we will be doing our brainstorming on Padlet. I have set up a template for my students to add their ideas for everyone to see. They may like what someone else has and choose to learn more about it. It also puts them up in front where we can discuss their thinking.”

Janelle Stigall shared a Padlet of resources for her district’s The Genius Hour Guidebook study.

Andrea Snow is jumping right in with her students next year:

I just am going for the gold and implementing Genius Hour with my 3/4 grade students. We will spend every Wednesday for an hour each morning. I am so excited!! We will spend the first 6 weeks figuring out our passions and then we’re off to projects and professionals!!

Kindergarten teacher Theresa Reinkemeyer shares a great take on Genius Hour for her young non-readers.

I’m a kindergarten teacher in Missouri. This is my first year attempting something that sort-of resembles genius hour. I’m calling it “Wonder Workshop”. At the beginning of the year, I’m going to interview my kids to see what kinds of projects they want to learn about and explore this year and make a list on our class website. Once a month, I’m going to get a handful of volunteers to come into the classroom to facilitate some off these projects with small groups of kids. I’ll utilize family members, staff members, and partners in education. Each volunteer will facilitate a different project and the kids will get to choose which of the available projects they want to explore. My hope is that the volunteers will be able to help the kindergartners dig deeper by acting as “experts” and guiding the kids to research resources. After Wonder Workshop, each group of kids will help make a blog post about their experiences and projects as a way to share their learning with others.

This execution isn’t as free as traditional Genius Hour, but I want to give my non-readers access to information and the support they need to explore ideas and projects (like cooking) they may not be ready to execute independently. I’m excited to see how this works. I think I’ve got the foundation of Genius Hour, but with a lot of extra supports to accommodate my young learners.

Our latest #geniushour Twitter chat was on August 3, 2017. The topic was using our summer learning to help us with Genius Hour in the new school year. The archive on Storify can be found here, but below is a recap of the questions with a few sample answers folks shared:

Q1 Did you have your own personal #geniushour project this summer?

Yes, many people did – writing, reading, kitchen remodels, adventures with a grandson, creating a FODMAP diet, and figuring out how to handle being a mom to three now in addition to being a full-time teacher.

Q2 What are the best ideas you’ve learned this summer that you’ll use during the upcoming school year? 

Q3 What was the best book you read this summer? Do you have a tweetable takeaway to share?

You might find a few to add to your “To Read” list:
Growth MindsetHow Children Learn Math Concepts, Shift ThisRethinking Education in the Age of Technology, and Innovators Mindset

And a couple of fiction bests – Counting by 7s and The Buddha in the Attic

Q4 What #geniushour (or any) blog posts have you written or read lately that you’d like to share with others?

Other blogs we are reading:

Q5 Do you have any #geniushour changes you need to make that will improve GH during the coming year?

Here are a few tweets showing what we are learning.

Question #5 could use more answers to help people like Chantal*, who is new to Genius Hour and looking for resources.

Some of the answers that were shared to get her started:

Q6 Share one thing from tonight’s chat that you will take away and/or try in #geniushour for the next school year.

Genius Hour novices and veterans alike were planning to follow the links left in the chat to learn more about Genius Hour, model wondering in the classroom, show students that all are geniuses, check out the new @Seesaw blog feature, and more.

Finally, Elizabeth Pearson and Suzie are first grade teachers looking for resources to start Genius Hour with their students. We have shared a lot of resources in this post, but what else?

*What other resources would you add for Chantal, Elizabeth, Suzie,
and all the other teachers new to Genius Hour?
Please share in the comments below.

Denise Krebs

Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) is a connected educator, leader, and learner with 25 years’ experience in private and public schools and recreation centers in California, Iowa, Michigan, Arizona, and Bahrain. Denise was teaching junior high when she dove into Genius Hour. Her smart and intrepid junior high students and the #geniushour community helped her find her way. Currently, Denise teaches grade 5 English language learners in Bahrain. She also serves as elementary English subjects coordinator. She has had the joy of seeing genius hour work with students in kindergarten through grade 8.