While collaborating one day during break, Robin had a brilliant idea to do Genius Hour to help fill the hours during the last couple of weeks of school. We decided to run a 2-week inquiry using the Genius Hour philosophy as a backdrop to not only inspire and motivate the kids, but to act as an informal summative assessment (observational only since report cards are done!) of their language arts and inquiry skills.
We introduced the concept of Genius Hour via a NearPod (see link below) that Laura created. Kid President will get anyone motivated! And boy were the kids pumped. We used the three tenants from the Genius Hour website that their inquiry project must:
1) have a driving question
2) require some research
3) be shared with their classmates at our Sharing Summit (coming up June 27th)
The kids were a little surprised by this sense of freedom we had just bestowed. "Can I do it on volcanoes? (By the way, we will have three erupting volcanoes at the Sharing Summit). Can I do my project about guinea pigs? Really?" We just let the students talk amongst themselves, shooting out ideas to each other and generating excitement. They had to come up with their topics by the next day, even though many of them already had their project idea in mind.
So the next day, Robin and Laura did one-on-one conferences with each student to record their topics. We also helped them forge their driving question(s) at this time and got them thinking about their end sharing product. For example, do you want to use ThingLink, Sway, a diorama, iMovie or a PicCollage?
The majority of the class took off with their ideas and delved right into their new assignment. We also noticed that there were a few that started out strong and with great ambitions, but fizzled out during research and the preparation of their project. These were the students that lacked in executive functioning. We then, had to go back and start over. Finding our questions and implementing their findings into ThingLink. It is not always going to be easy for some to grasp the Inquiry concept, but we learned with regrouping, patience, perseverance, and a little more scaffolding we were back in business. Although we had our ups and downs, we did have many other proud moments of watching certain individuals running with the ball and impressing us with their focus, independence, gathering and organizing of information and their final product.
We also noticed that most students chose to do multi-media presentations. For example, our mountain lion girl (see pic below) did an Animoto, bristol board, and diorama. We also had a variety of models, iMovies, PowerPoint, and ThingLinks. Topics ranged from animals and volcanoes to animal testing on makeup products and prosthetics. Talk about diversity!!
Working with Learning Disabled students is not always an easy task and teaching them inquiry can be very difficult. When you see them asking questions or doing an assignment independently with little assistance. It is a proud teacher moment! We hope our students take the tools they have learned this year and will be able to implement them in their future.
By Robin and Laura