Teacher Training Webinar Jan 2023: Genius Hour

Edtech webinar January 2023

Hello Teachers!

The new semester is upon us and it is always helpful to refocus our learning standards after the new year. Watch our Genius Hour Webinar where we discuss how to implement the practice into your curriculum as well as share some examples that will help you get started.

Resources included:

Read the transcript below:

Agustina Bosio:

Hi, everyone. My name is Agustina Bosio and I’m a former teacher and now a relationship manager with EdTech Solutions. I’m joined today by two other former teachers, Jessica Brush and Angel Moore. Thank you for joining us today for today’s webinar, Genius Hour. I think sometimes as teachers, we get blinders on with respect to how we teach the learning standards in our classrooms. And I think Genius Hour is an amazing way to realign that focus to best suit our students’ needs. So let’s get started.

Today’s overview, we’re going to be talking about what Genius Hour is and why it’s important. We’re going to give some examples. We’re going to let you know why you should use it in your classroom. We’re going to give you some Genius Hour key factors to focus on and what a driving question is. We’ll tell you how to get started in your classroom, and then we’ll provide some useful resources for you.

Angel Moore:

Some of you might already use some form of this in your classrooms and not even be aware of it. Genius Hour is also known by several other names, Passion Time, Passion Pursuit, Project Inspiration. Basically, it is any dedicated time that you spend working towards an inquiry-based, student-driven project that’s researched and created or presented. So if you have any time that you already spend in your classroom that you are allowing your students to discover that information on your own, you’re probably already doing a little bit of this. But we’ll hone in on how to really get the best out of it.

Agustina Bosio:

Genius Hour essentially, adding on a little bit more to what Angel said, it’s a strategy. It leads students to research their own interests and passions, and it allows for more creativity in the classroom. The students are given 20% of their class time each day in general for Genius Hour. You can switch it up depending on your classroom needs. 20% is based on a one-hour time block in the classroom each day to use their own skills and passions to meet the academic standards in your classroom. So they’re still learning those standards that the state or national standards that you need them to learn, but they’re doing it using their own skills, interests, and passions.

Jessica Brush:

The next two slides are just some reasons why you should consider using Genius Hour in your classroom, basically just the benefits of this idea for students and their learning.

The first benefit would be it allows students to explore their own unique interests. Studies show that when a student is interested in what they’re learning, they’re more likely to retain the information and enjoy learning in general. So if they’re actually interested in what they’re creating or what they’re researching, they’re going to be more engaged and more inclined to work hard at it and be interested in it, rather than being uninterested in a topic that they don’t care about and not performing at a level that they can.

Secondly, it encourages creativity. It allows for students to be more engaged and explore their own ideas in a creative way so they can come up with some kind of creative project that again, allows them to be more engaged and to be more interested in what they’re doing or what they’re researching.

It fosters critical thinking and research skills. It allows students to find reliable, relevant sources and to evaluate the information they find.

It can build social skills. It can be very collaborative when students need to help or teach something to their peers. So for example in some type of projects, students might pick to teach their peers something or to work with a group in some way or just present to a group. This allows for them to build on those social skills that it would take to be able to work with their peers or teach something to their peers.

Next, it can build confidence. So when students are allowed the opportunity to research something that they’re truly interested and/or have knowledge of, then they may feel more confident about researching and teaching or presenting on it. When a student is working on something that they’re actually interested in or they know a lot about rather than something that they’re not interested in or don’t have a lot of information on, then they’re probably going to be more confident in that thing that they are more interested in. They are going to have a little bit more confidence speaking on it because they’re going to have that background information that they have already.

It promotes learning outside of the classroom. Some students will need to do outside research or may just be so excited about their project that they extend their research outside of the classroom. In my past experiences as a teacher, I know that when a student was really, really interested on something they’re writing about or doing a project on, they actually took that learning outside of the classroom and were working on it at home.

And lastly, it further develops students’ metacognitive abilities. This happens through planning, monitoring, evaluating, and making changes to their ideas while working on their project.

Some examples of Genius Hour projects. In this slide, it just shows some fun examples of projects that students can do or create for their Genius Hour. For example, the students can create their own creative presentation, whether it be through slides or a board. They can create a podcast, write a poem, play, song, story, blog, or book on their projects or their idea. Teach their peers a skill, so again, that would be really awesome for their social skills and their presenting skills, teaching their peers something that they have knowledge in or interest in. Building a website, create their own board game or video game, create their own science experiments and have all the steps and present on it, paint or draw a picture, build something, or learn and use photography. And then there are many more, just students need to know to use their creativity.

Angel Moore:

When your students are considering what would like to present for their Genius Hour, you’ll need to set up some guidelines for them. And we’ll go over those more in depth. But some of the very critical ones that you’ll need to include or key factors to include are driving question. So students do need to be asking a question, and it needs to be something that they can’t just look up the answer to, that it can’t be answered quickly, that they actually need to solve a little or use a little bit of critical thinking in order to find the answer.

In doing that, they will need time to research. So students should have a research and/or inquiry-based project or presentation that they can present to the class. If they’ve written a song, then they would need to sing it. If they’ve created a product, they should have an example of that product. If they are trying to solve a problem, then they need to be able to show how they’ve solved that problem.

They should be creating something. When the students are deciding what they would like to cover for their Genius Hour, they should be able to organize their questions and research into something that they create can create, and that will be shared later.

That brings us to another great question. How do the students create a driving question? Their question needs to consist of several factors. First, what do they want to find out? What do they want to make? What would they like to learn? If there’s a problem they want to solve, what problem do they want to solve? Why? For what purpose are they doing this? Is it just because they think it’d be fun to drop marbles off of a table into a bowl and see how many land? That’s probably not going to be something that would be a good Genius Hour topic. However, maybe they actually want to figure out how to create a song. And then their reason is because in the future, they would like to create an album. So in their driving question, they would actually form that in a way that says what, why, and for what purpose.

Agustina Bosio:

There are some things to consider when getting started. The very first thing is a timeline. You want to select the standard you want your students to master, and some standards are a lot longer and more convoluted than other standards. So I think that’s the very first part of creating this timeline, is considering what standard or standards you want your students to cover. The good thing about a Genius Hour project is that there can be multiple standards covered just based on one project because there’s so many different components to that project.

So setting a timeline for how long you want the project to take and breaking that timeline down by sections is really important. The first one is an introduction that would normally take one class period. You want to get your students familiar with what Genius Hour is, and you want to get them excited about Genius Hour. The next one would be brainstorming. This could take one class period or it can take four class periods depending on how long your Genius Hour is going to take up of your class time. The planning is students actually planning what their project is going to be, what it’s going to look like, how much time they’ll need for research and things like that.

The topic proposal, so getting an actual proposal to you as the teacher telling you the different components of their project. The research time is going to be the bulk of the timeline. It’s the most important component of the Genius Hour apart from the actual presentation. The creation of it, once they’ve done all of their research, how long you are willing to give them to actually make their project if they haven’t been working on it little by little. The presenting of it, so this could be anywhere from a two-minute presentation to a 20-minute presentation. And the reflection. So after they’re done, what you want them to have learned about their process.

This is a weekly planner that we’ve included in the resources at the end that just gives you a little bit of a breakdown if you want to put these components into every day, the timeline of every day and the subject of every day of your classroom. So we’re going to go into each one of these timeline sections a little bit more in depth.

The first is introduction and brainstorming. For an introduction, I would have a discussion with your students about their interests, writing them down as you go, maybe on the board, or having students write down their interests before you even mention Genius Hour. I think a lot of students panic as soon as you tell them that something that they have to brainstorm is for a project. So I think if you just say it, “I want to learn about your interests today,” I think that could be really, that could be a fun classroom discussion to have. You could give students who may be struggling with a list of interests to inspire conversation. Another resource we’ve provided is a list of hobbies, and this picture here is just one little section of the list. There are thousands in there to spark that conversation.

You can introduce Genius Hour to your students to build their enthusiasm once they have their interests in mind, and then speak to your students about what researching interests actually looks like. So it’s not them just watching a thousand YouTube videos about skateboarding, if that’s what they’re interested in. They need to break down skateboarding into the actual parts that would benefit learning about the standard in your classroom.

The next part is brainstorming. Provide students time to brainstorm ideas for projects and allow students the opportunity to run ideas past you and help them broaden those ideas. So if they say, “I’m interested in skateboarding,” there are so many science components to that. There are so many math components to that. They can broaden that question so that it’s not just, “I like skateboarding, I’m going to talk about that.”

The next three pieces are planning, proposal, and research. For planning, we have a proposal worksheet on the right-hand side. That’s just the very first page. Students should plan their topic before they give you that proposal worksheet, but that’s a good worksheet to actually help them plan. They plan their topic, what presentation they want to do. So the list that Jessica gave you is just the tip of the iceberg of presentations that your students can give, the questions that they hope to answer and what they hope to discover. So what materials you’ll need, what you want to actually find out about the big question. And if they dive deep enough, maybe they come out with 10 more questions that they can use in the future.

The actual proposal that they will hand in. Set a timeline for when students should submit their written proposals. And the topic should be broad enough to cover the standards and include several days of research. If something’s going to take 10 minutes of research, it’s not a Genius Hour proposal project. It’s just a slight research on their interest, and that wouldn’t cover enough time span to allow other students to actually research.

Actual research itself, making sure to talk to students about appropriate researching habits, teaching students how to keep track of their research. So whether you want to use a researching notebook, help them keep tabs, bookmarks, anything that would actually help them keep track of everything that they’re finding because they may tend to rabbit hole, and then they’ll get lost in the research, and then they won’t actually be able to find their way back to the main question that they’re trying to answer.

And then the last three pieces are creating, presenting, and reflecting. Creating, students should have already chosen how to present their findings. The actual creation of the presentation should be pretty simple. Allowing students enough time to work on their presentation, so depending on whether a student’s giving a speech or creating a movie, that’s going to take one a lot longer than the other, so giving enough time to each student. Presenting, keep in mind student presentations should all be equitable. And we have a rubric on the right-hand side and also provided in the resources to make sure that one student isn’t talking for two minutes, and the other student is talking for 20, and then the other made a one-hour movie, and so on and so forth. Presentations should meet the standards and the set class requirements for the project. So again, that rubric on the right-hand side and then if you want to add anything for standards met. And then the reflection of it.

The rubric on the right-hand side is just one page of a three-page resource. The other two pages allow students to assess themselves and to grade themselves depending on how they believe the entire process went for them. And we really want students to reflect on the entire process, not just on their presentation piece.

Here’s a list of resources. We have the list of hobbies, the Top 10 Genius Hour Questions Answered. We have books, articles, personal experiences, and free downloads from Engage Their Minds. We have some resources from Teachers Pay Teachers, which all teachers love, a weekly student planner, the actual project proposal sheet, and the rubric and student reflection sheets. And all of these will be available to you.

Thank you so much for participating in our training. We absolutely love talking about Genius Hours, teachers, and think it’s a really important way to think about what students can get out of the classroom depending on what subject you’re teaching. If you want to view our other trainings, subscribe to future trainings, or if you have any questions, you can visit the website below. Again, thank you so much for joining us, and we hope to see you for the next one.

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