Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

02/Jul/2018
by Denise Krebs
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Genius Hour with Grades 3-5

We did something fun and educational for the last week of school. We took the last two periods of each day to have #geniushour, #arsgeniushour, to be exact.

We were trying to improve attendance, as our department seems to be the only scholars left standing that last week of school. Their younger siblings had finished school the week before. Their older siblings were taking cumulative assessments, and finished their day by around 11:00 a.m. We typically have a lot of our students absent last week! Genius hour, we hoped, would help improve attendance.

I knew my work was cut out for me when I volunteered to organize #arsgeniushour for the last week of school. Besides the attendance issue, there were several more issues: we have traditional teachers without experience of genius hour and a significant language barrier, plus, I didn’t start my planning early enough, and finally, it was going to be held the last week of Ramadan.

I had to work on the schedule for nearly 20 teachers. At first, it was vague. Teachers who were normally scheduled those periods became scheduled for genius hour. But where would they be? We didn’t yet know which spaces–classrooms, art room, kitchen, athletic hall, computer labs, etc.–were going to be needed by the children. Some teachers found it difficult to hear that the students were going to decide where to go, and we would go accordingly. Teachers were used to planning the where and what of class for them. We had a teacher planning meeting before the week started, but some details were lost in translation. Arabic and English are so different.

Several times that week before when we were planning, I kicked myself for not starting another  week earlier. We had to inspire students about what genius hour was, help them formulate a question and make a plan, and get them enthused so they would want to come back to school the last week.

Our genius hour fell during the last week of Ramadan. People were tired after a month of fasting,  and it gave families an added reason to keep their students home.

OK, with all those reasons it shouldn’t have worked, we also had hundreds of reasons why it was inevitable that it would work. My colleagues are amazing professionals who rose to this new kind of learning, despite their questions and doubts.

Students, of course, took off with this learning. Tell a student that they can learn whatever they want to, and they first might ask, “Really?” As soon as they believe you, they are all abuzz with learning,  planning, creating, producing, questioning, and reinventing. It was the students who made any reluctant teachers believe in genius hour, not anything I said.

We had students coming and going all week. The attendance wasn’t that great. Maybe next year we’ll have to come up with another attempt to improve school attendance.

However, the culmination of the week was the presentation session on the last day of school. The students who came all week to genius hour were there with bells on! You never would have known this was the last afternoon after a long year of school, the last day of Ramadan, too. This  #arsgeniushour group of 28 students, plus a lot of proud adults, was small, but mighty. They loved presenting the work they had done. I am so proud of them!

Here’s a minute of #arsgeniushour for you to enjoy.

Resources:

Google Slides Introduction to Genius Hour in English and Arabic

One-minute video of our first department-wide #ARSgeniushour

Chess Set Genius Hour

#ARSgeniushour on Instagram

 

 

27/Feb/2017
by Denise Krebs
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#Geniushour Chat 5-Year Anniversary

Just follow the hashtag #geniushour on Twitter on Thursday, 2 March, 6 pm Pacific and 9 pm Eastern.

Gallit Zvi and I have enjoyed learning and sharing about Genius Hour for over five years now. When I first heard Angela Maiers mention in a tweet about a genius hour for teachers and students, I wanted to learn more. It was November 2011, and I did learn more about it by participating in my own genius hour, while planning GH for my students. I began sharing my work on Twitter with the hashtag #geniushour.

Gallit and I were connected on Twitter already, so the #geniushour hashtag soon became a mutual vehicle for sharing genius hour magic from our middle school classrooms. Dozens of teachers around the continent and beyond joined in, as well. Gallit shared her happenings in an early post called, “Collaboration, Communication and Community.”

Early in 2012, Gallit contacted me to see if I’d like to start a #geniushour chat with her, and a new chat began. Our first was held on 7 March 2012. Here are a few tweets from the beginning of the chat:

We didn’t know who, if anyone, would come to our first planned chat. However, it turned out there were ten of us who participated. You might be interested in our first and subsequent chats. The archives are found here on the Geniushour Wikispace: http://geniushour.wikispaces.com/ChatArchive

A Book about Genius Hour

As a result of meeting so many like-minded Genius Hour teachers, the next year we started writing a book about our and our students’ #geniushour experiences. In the fall of 2015, The Genius Hour Guidebook: Fostering Passion, Wonder and Inquiry in the Classroom was published in a partnership between Routledge Eye on Education and MiddleWeb.

Our tribe has grown exponentially over the last five years. Hundreds of teachers now share the work they and their students do for Genius Hour using the #geniushour hashtag.

Our 5th Anniversary Celebration!

We are anxious to celebrate our fifth anniversary chat this week. On Thursday, 2 March 2017, we will have our #geniushour chat, moderated by Angela Maiers, one of our early inspirations. Angela will be on hand to discuss her favorite topics of young geniuses contributing to the world and helping others know they matter.

Please join us in this special anniversary chat. We expect it will go a lot faster than our first chat, with scores of participants, but no worries. Just follow the hashtag #geniushour on Twitter on Thursday, 2 March, 6 pm Pacific and 9 pm Eastern. If you miss any tweets, as always, you can catch them in the archive. See you there!

17/Apr/2016
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Genius Hour PD

 

Genius TimeToday, we did Genius Hour at school. There were no children here. It was a teacher’s professional development day. Teachers did Genius Hour.

Our principal, Mr. Josh Perkins, introduced Genius Hour, a concept that was new to most people. He said it was “a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.” Definition from Geniushour.com

He then went on to immediately explain that the Genius Hour we would do for PD would be defined like this: “Genius hour allows teachers to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides teachers a choice in what they learn and develop during a set period of time during the professional development time.” It was about here that we all decided we like the name Genius Time better. 20160417_074717

I thought the plan was perfect. He asked for professionalism in carrying out this short plan:

  • Question – What do you want to learn?
  • Explore – Learn about it!
  • Master – Become better at it!
  • Present – Help the rest of us learn!

We will “turn in” our inquiry question at the beginning and the presentation at the end. We will plan, explore, and learn on our own. He will post all our learnings on our school web page to share with the world.

Now, our school happens to have an atypical communication barrier. We are about half Arabic speakers and half English speakers. (And other languages too, which we don’t even take into consideration!) The Genius Hour overview was presented tag-team style in both English and Arabic. Throughout the day, we noticed not only was some of the introduction lost in translation, but also these ideas are huge when heard for the first time and need extra time to absorb.

That’s all good. It’s part of my philosophy as the chief learner in my classroom. We all have questions that need to be answered along the journey. (And the journey is the best part, I believe.)

Because of those big ideas we were trying to explain, there were bound to be misunderstandings. Some people seemed to hear that Genius Hour was something for the children, and they ran with that forgetting about their own PD. As we answered questions, I began to think maybe we shouldn’t have called it Genius Hour or Genius Time, after all!

However, later I realized I was wrong. It was an unexpected, but awesome misunderstanding.  We had scores of teachers today talking about Genius Hour. We weren’t just talking about something wordy: “self-directed professional development time.” Many of the teachers were even talking about how they were going to make Genius Hour work in their classrooms.

  • “How will it work with all the students doing Genius Hour in different subjects?”
  • “Can we do it for 15 minutes each period?” (No, please don’t.)
  • “Should we call it Genius Hour or something else because our class periods aren’t one hour?”

Wait a minute. I began to realize they thought they MUST do Genius Hour with their students in their classrooms.

We aren’t doing Genius Hour with your students, I said during an impromptu meeting. That can come later, I continued. (And hopefully it will!) Today, for the next few weeks this is about you! About you improving your craft–becoming more adept at content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology to bring about learning for your students. We need to focus on 21st century learning skills. (Yeah, since by the time half of our students graduate from high school this “new” century will be a quarter over.)

We introduced a unique-to-every-single-person professional development opportunity. Instead of doing one-size-fits-all PD for the next two months, we each get to make our own learning adventure! (Or with a partner or two–it’s limited to 3 in a group.)

Imagine around 50 different PD programs going on in just the next nine Tuesday professional development hours!

What are the chances of that happening? It can happen, but only if all the teachers own their own learning.

Here are just a few of the thoughts some teachers had for their own unique PD sessions, with possible inquiry questions:

  1. How do you engage very young children to want to know English? And can I get them to  practice by communicating their own knowledge to others?
  2. How can I teach flexibility and adaptability by providing students with many ways to solve math problems, starting with the abacus?
  3. How can I inspire students to be self-directed learners, going beyond the vocabulary in our lessons to searching out the multiple meanings?
  4. Can I build students’ collaboration and communication skills by learning about and teaching Accountable Talk for small group discussions?
  5. How can I help students to be responsible and discerning digital citizens; who can justify their use of technology for educational purposes?
  6. How can I present information in a way that is more engaging to the students, and promotes independent and analytical thinking?

I loved hearing people talk about Genius Hour today. The discussions were amazing. Some of us met for four hours today, instead of the originally scheduled two hours. It won’t be easy, but our school has heart, and we will figure it out together. (I’m particularly excited to see the Arab teachers’ share their Genius Hour learning in the Arabic language. They will be Genius Hour innovators for the Arab world.)  

Al Raja School can have hope in a bright Genius Hour-y future for students and staff alike. I look forward to it!  

17/Feb/2016
by Denise Krebs
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Question from @EduQuinn

I started to answer in a tweet, but I soon realized it was going to take more words than fit. So here goes, Dave.

I would have to say it was not student engagement or lack of it that motivated me.

Actually, it was teacher engagement. When I became more involved, more engaged, more in love with learning, I wanted to share it all with my students.

When I became a connected educator, I began to love learning and teaching more than ever. I looked forward to coming in every morning and couldn’t wait to share something I was learning or see what my students were going to do next.

I wasn’t looking for how to help my students become more engaged.

Genius Hour just became a natural extension of what was beginning to happen in our learning. I became more of a learner, and I believe it became contagious.

Now, Genius Hour is definitely engaging and it helped with some students who were not engaged. However, engagement wasn’t a conscience decision in choosing Genius Hour.

I guess I discovered Genius Hour by keeping my eyes and ears open, as the chief learner in my classroom.

Just think what tomorrow will hold!

17/Nov/2015
by Denise Krebs
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Exciting News

Yesterday was the release day for The Genius Hour Guidebook. It has been about a three-year journey. Gallit Zvi and I wrote it together in a Google Doc. There were several challenges and changes over those three years, but thanks to our editor, John Norton, the book finally found a home. A good strong home in Routledge’s Eye on Education and MiddleWeb, the two publishers that teamed up for their first collaborative project. We are so happy and excited. We actually haven’t even seen a copy yet! I may have to wait a while longer, as I am in Bahrain.

hotnewreleaseselemAnyway, it’s been really fun to participate in this release date! Watching the “Hot New Releases” on Amazon, having a guest post on MiddleWeb, being Routledge’s Authors of the Month, and being part of a new web page–GeniusHourGuide.org, which is a companion for The Genius Hour Guidebook. I feel a little giddy and proud.

My prayer is that the book will be helpful to many teachers who need support in starting Genius Hour in their classroom. I will look forward to hearing about it from you if you get a chance to read it!

Thanks to all of my friends and fellow teachers who will read it! But more importantly, thanks to all of you who inspired, and continue to inspire me, to learn about Genius Hour.

GHG

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