I’m having such a great time spending two weeks at my sister’s house. Her place is a dream come true for makers, builders, creators, and artists. Plus, it is beautiful California desert, where I’ve spent much time since my childhood.
My niece just came by and picked up a few tiles to add to the mosaic coffee table she’s making. Look at just part of the collection she had to choose from.
Lots of choices of broken and used tiles and glassware to use for mosaics and tilework.
This week I tried my hand at my first ever upholstery job.
I took the chair apart and removed all the inner parts. Then my sister cut a plywood board, which was out of my range of expertise. Then I took exactly four times to put the wooden pieces back together with glue and screws. Unfortunately, my first two attempts included forgetting to put the plywood board in first. I persevered, and I called my sister for help when I really needed it.
This is what the seat looked like when I started.
I removed all the seat and decided to keep the same back.
We decided to put a plywood bottom on the seat instead of using webbing.
Next I drilled and twisted wires onto the plywood. I added a really big foam pad. I sewed a cover. I tacked it down. And one of the best parts. I did it all with found materials at my sister’s amazing place! Many of the tasks I had to do were things I had little or no previous experience doing.
I wired all the springs down onto the plywood.
I added a big foam pad with a layer of quilt batting.
It turned out really ugly, but it is comfy and I did it.
I sewed the cover and tacked it on. Here’s the finished chair.
I practiced so many of the characteristics that I encourage my students to have in genius hour. Ambiguity, generating ideas, flexibility, adaptability, self-reflection, intrinsic motivation, risk taking, and perseverance. (From the Self-Assessment of Creativity Traits.) I can talk about these qualities, but when I live them, it’s so much more powerful.
I really need to give myself more time for my own genius hour projects.
I need to try new ventures, to practice skills I don’t yet have, to build and make, and to challenge my preconceived ideas of what I am skilled at.
Sometimes it’s OK to call someone for help when I’ve exhausted my resources.
When I used repurposed and found materials it became so much more meaningful and authentic to make something useful, while also protecting the environment.
I need to practice and fail over and over to really learn the characteristics of creativity like perseverance and risk taking.
Now, my next job is putting this back together.
My next project is to glue this table back together.
A few years ago the two of us took a risk in our practice–we asked our students what they wanted to learn about and let them take the reins and direct their own learning. Shortly after, we began the collaborative Genius Hour website geniushour.wikispaces.com, and then the monthly Twitter chat using the hashtag #geniushour. Along with our friends and fellow Genius Hour teachers, Hugh McDonald and Joy Kirr, we began to share Genius Hour with all the teachers that would listen. We are both so passionate about Genius Hour and found that it not only benefited our students but also changed everything for us!
The two of us wanted to spread the Genius Hour love with even more educators, so we decided that the next step was to write a book about Genius Hour.
We have been working on this book for a couple of years now and are really honored that it has now gone to production by Routledge and MiddleWeb. We truly hope that it will help educators implement Genius Hour with their students. Our hope is that one day all students will have the chance to work on their own Genius Hour projects.
I’m excited that I got up early this morning for the #geniushour chat. It used to be at a convenient time when I lived in North America. Now I’m living in the Middle East, and so I have to get up by 5:00 a.m. on a Friday, which is a weekend day here. Not so bad because I became re-inspired and re-ignited in a topic I am passionate about.
That topic is handing the reigns over to my students. Allowing them to learn and make and choose how to show their learning. It’s not always easy to give choices when we are mandated to test and cover so much material. However, when students are entrusted with learning–real learning, not just to pass a test learning–they are empowered and motivated. It makes every moment of school better!
This morning I actually was the moderator for the #geniushour chat because I wanted to ask questions about differentiating genius hour for students with special needs or English language learners. My questions were timely because months ago I signed up to lead a session on genius hour: “Genius Hour: Productive, Creative, and Empowered Students.” That session is tomorrow at the ELT Conference here in Bahrain, “Differentiation That Makes a Difference.”
Here are the questions we asked and answered at this morning’s chat…
Q1 – Do you differentiate during #geniushour? How?
Q2 – What are some of the most common reasons you need to differentiate #geniushour?
Q3 – How do you help your ELL students? Do you need to differentiate for them?
Q4 – How do you adapt #geniushour for students with IEPs? Any tips to share?
Q5 – Why do you think #geniushour is great for all learners?
Q6 – Any general #geniushour successes that you want to share? Tips and links to share?
I was excited to hear the answers from such a variety of teachers. Many shared that the nature of genius hour is already differentiated. Pure differentiation. Others had suggestions for how they differentiate. Here are a selection of the tweets they shared:
After this morning, I tend to agree with the pure differentiation crowd. Students decide what they will learn and how. The term differentiation is usually paired with instruction, but really it’s always about learning.
Students will learn in the right conditions. According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, we can help create the right conditions when we take into account the student characteristics of readiness, interest, and learning profile, which includes these four facets of learning profile: gender, culture, learning style, and intelligence preference.¹ Teachers can differentiate the curriculum when they make adjustments on content, process and products.²
In genius hour we hand over power to the students. They choose what they are ready for. They choose what they are interested in. They choose based on their learning profile. They choose the content they want to learn. They choose the process to use to get to that end. They choose the product to show their learning. Throughout, the teacher is available for scaffolding, guiding, helping, leading as needed. Primarily, it’s about the learning, not the knowledge the teacher is imparting.
In my current work as an English teacher in a foreign country, though, I am learning that genius hour looks a little different here. (Or is it the fact that I moved from junior high to kindergarten.) According to most of my friends this morning at the Twitter chat, it seems that the very nature of genius hour is differentiation at its best.
Do you agree? Is it already differentiated or are their special things you do for ELL students? What if they are all ELL students, like mine?
¹”Faculty Conversation: Carol Tomlinson on Differentiation.” University of Virginia. Curry School of Education, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2015. <http://curry.virginia.edu/articles/carole-tomlinson-on-differentiation>.
²Allan, Susan D. “Chapter 1. Understanding Differentiated Instruction: Building a Foundation for Leadership.” Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms. By Carol A. Tomlinson. ASCD, 2000. web. 06 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100216/chapters/Understanding-Differentiated-Instruction@-Building-a-Foundation-for-Leadership.aspx>
After teaching grades 7 and 8 for seven years, it was a challenge for me to go down to Kindergarten. The first few months, the way was treacherous. Now looking back, after eight months or so, I can say overall it has been a delight, and I know it was a gift I didn’t even know I needed.
But how can I do genius hour with them? I wondered. I loved the engaged ownership in junior highers when they were given a chance to learn what they wanted in what we call genius hour.
As Faige Meller has suggested, genius hour in kindergarten may look like a maker space. In this tweet, she says making is what kindergarteners do and, in fact, makers are who they are. (Be sure to read Krissy’s original post too.)
I believed in making, but I didn’t know much about Kindergarten. I had learned to trust Faige, though, so when I saw her tweet last March, I began to run with her ideas in Kindergarten. I began collecting supplies and asking families to do so, as well. We have quite a collection, and we go through a lot of materials.
So, we are definitely still making our way (pun intended), but we’ve had some huge successes. After we made a small couch for our reading center as a group project, one boy took on the task of making a very small chair with the ten juice bottles we had recently accumulated. He needed lots of help, but that’s where I came in handy, helping to wrestle the juice bottles and operate the hot glue gun and packaging tape. He was the maker. I was the sous maker taking my orders from him.
The little chair finished and ready for a cover.
Genius hour in Kindergarten. It’s happening. We are calling it that, we are making and learning, but I am always open to suggestions you might have for helping us do it better!
Please leave a link in the comments to your primary genius hour projects and process. Or share on Twitter with the hashtag #PrimaryGH.