Genius Hour at home has been a serendipity for my students and me. In this time of emergency remote learning, it has not been easy. We are in our 12th week of this. We have three weeks to go, and we are all exhausted and lonely, but Genius Hour is a light in the darkness. Here are the Genius Hour posts and resources my students and I have created over the past weeks.
Since there are so many of us in this together, learning to do Genius Hour at home, I thought I would share the videos I made for my students. Of course, you will want to make your own, but maybe something will give a spark for how you can do it. I’d love to see your ideas too! Please share in the comments section. Thank you!
This week I’ve been on an adventure with spices. My grade 5 students are doing genius hour from their homes, so that meant that I would be able to have time for my own genius hour with them. When we are in school, I usually help them instead of doing my own project.
But this chapter of learning is different, I am modeling genius hour for them from home. Here is my plan. My question was, “How can I organize my spice cabinet so the spices are more accessible and then try at least three spices I haven’t tried before? So, my plan was to clean out my spice cabinet, organize it alphabetically and use at least three of the dormant spices that have been there too long without any love.
First, I made a simple soup using Celery Salt. (Starting out small.)
Next, I went over the top! I made Machboos. It’s like a Middle Eastern version of biryani. I used two sources for the recipe and added my own vegan changes. (My sources are in the link to my version of the recipe.)
Altogether there were 7 tablespoons of spices in the machboos! 7 T.! Seven Tablespoons! What!? That’s almost a half cup, and it doesn’t count the five cloves of garlic, two onions, two green chilis, or the whole bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and black lime.
I’ve never made anything like this in my life. I felt empowered, bold, prodigious and prodigal. If I keep this up, I may use up a good chunk of the many spices I have in my cupboard.
Since it’s April and National Poetry Month, I even wrote a spoken word poem about spices.
Four Things I’d Say to People Who Are Afraid of Their Spice Cabinet
1 – I used to be too, using cinnamon and basil and oregano and salt and pepper.
When I felt exotic I’d add a pinch of cumin and a smidgen of chili powder. Nothing louder than what you’d find in a steaming bowl of chowder, though.
2 – Then I got older and bolder and experimented. I always loved to eat savory, flavory dishes, so why not recreate them in my kitchen? I can try. And try I do now because you see.
3 – My spices are becoming a touchstone for me. I look in my cupboard and see so many jars of hope, flavors brimming, ideas bubbling, whole leaves, pods, seeds, some crushed and powdered, as the hours are in my life. My time is limited in this place, in Bahrain where the flavors are exquisite and the spices are pennies. My time is limited on this earth. My time is limited in the kitchen, So,
4 – I want to use every hour, every recipe, every moment, every meal to the fullest. To the tastiest. To the joyful hope of a new beginning.
Here is a list of spices I used this week. Asterisks are by the spices that were used for the first time or in some new way.
black lime, whole and powder*
cinnamon, whole and powder
pepper, whole and ground
cumin, seeds* and powder
cardamom, whole* and powder
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme* first time altogether
Here is my video of my genius hour for spring 2020:
I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Hmmm…Will I go back to sleep? I wondered. I didn’t think so, but I brought my pillow and alarm clock out to the living room. I got myself cozy reclining on the Lazy Boy and tried to sleep for another hour. I couldn’t, so I sat up and started working. It helped me wake up enough to get ready for the #GeniusHour chat. That’s the once-a-month chat I always try to join at 5:00 a.m. in the winter. (Next month, it will start being at 4:00 a.m. Arabia Standard Time.)
Anyway, I was excited this morning. Dave Quinn was leading us in questions about the role of teacher during the Genius Hour experience. I was there to welcome people, and introduce Dave, though he didn’t need introduction. He’s led us before and been at other chats. Anyway, I made it and was awake enough, even if my Internet was sluggish.
At the end of the chat, one of the last mentions I noticed was from Gary Stager. The first time I “met” him was in a workshop at the Iowa Technology in Education Conference in 2011. He was the speaker and I was a fan in the audience. When I searched my blog, his name came up on six posts. In all my experience with him, I would describe Gary as a provocateur. He has provoked me to think many times, and he did again today. During the chat Dave quoted him and mentioned him in the following tweet. Some provocative tweets followed.
My whimpering response, “It’s changed how I teach, Gary.”
Then when the chat finished, I went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep. We had such a nice chat, and then that Pterodactyl came and…and…and…
What? Really, Denise? What did he do? Hmmm…I had to think about that.
He didn’t agree? Maybe. Was I upset or sad because he didn’t agree with us, he wasn’t as excited about Genius Hour as we were? When I realized those last thoughts, I stopped and considered the importance of provocations in my life. I don’t appreciate agree-ers. I need people to push me, to challenge and disagree and tell me why. It’s always how I have grown.
Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The verb “spur on” in the Greek is paroxusmos and literally means to come alongside and jab into action, in this case jab “one another on toward love and good deeds.”
I thought about Gary’s jabs. He came alongside this morning and gave us a jab. Maybe on some level toward the same thing the Bible is talking about–love and good deeds. He jabs us toward loving students, jabs us toward giving ownership of learning back to those who are most qualified to own it–the learners. He jabs us into action to discover how we can make school good, really good. He jabs us to make education more humane and school curriculum and culture the best, and not to settle for less.
The hour is late, and I will now go back to bed and probably think more about these things. Another post soon about jabbing, but also coming alongside.
Who or what experiences have built you up into the educator you are today?
Joy Kirr’s post is the first I read during Week 2 of the challenge. Her story is familiar to me, as I’ve heard her tell it before. It also runs parallel to my own story, which began at about the same time.
I had been teaching since 1984–sometimes to a group of grade 2, grade 3, grade 7, grade 8, as a reading specialist with small groups of children, or for ten years as a stay-at-home mom with my two daughters. I loved all my students and schools. I always felt I was out-of-the-box and looking for how to be better.
However, in late 2010, something switched for me. Two colleagues came back from the Iowa Technology Education Conference and told me that teachers were using Twitter. OK, I thought. So what. They continued telling me about the connections they made, the Web 2.0 tools they discovered, the people that inspired them. They told me enough that I got interested and began exploring with them.
One of my first tweets happened while I sat at a Digital Literacy conference with Angela Maiers. I was at a table with Erin Olson, Stacy Brown, Brenda Ortmann, and Eileen Kinney listening to Angela’s challenging message. As you can see that uphill was a steep learning curve for me in more ways than one. I had to figure out the difference between # and @ on Twitter.
Angela Maiers was inspiring and challenging. Here is the post referred to in the tweet below. The people I met on Twitter enabled me to learn much more than I was used to learning. I began to read more books, read and write more blog posts, and I learned in a new and exciting way how to own my own learning, how to take responsibility for making a new way.
When I was searching for my first tweets, I also ran across this one I wrote in 2011 to Jee Young Kim. At that time, I was helping someone find resources to teach overseas. I myself had never been out of North America, but here I was saying, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to teach overseas!” What? I was sure I was making that up to be polite or make conversation. I had never had that thought before. But three years later I was doing just that!
@jeeyoung_kim Thank you for responding! Maybe someday I'll be able to teach overseas! This one was for @4thgrdteach Have a great week!
I have now been teaching in Bahrain for six years. Thankfully, the things I learned from others and my commitment to innovation and improvement have not stopped.
I’m still connected with educators all over the world through Twitter. Even though education is much more traditional here, we are still growing professionally at each turn. Soon we will have the third annual EdCampBahrain. We have quarterly TeachMeets and hashtags to share our learning in the Middle East (#bahrainedu, #edchatMENA)
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.
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.
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.
It turned out really ugly, but it is comfy and I did it.
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.
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>