structure time for students to pursue their own interests
"In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it. It operates somewhat outside the lines of formal management oversight, and always will, because the most talented and creative people can't be forced to work." - Google HR Boss Lazlo Bock
After following the genius hour hashtag on Twitter for years, and helping with the Piedmont 6th grade Love of Learning, I've put together a basic 6 step plan for running your own 20% time. Special thanks to media specialist Christen Higgens for the many resources culled from her presentation to CMS Tech Leaders.
Step 1 Decide the Parameters
Peruse this post below and the links within it then decide for yourself what your Genius hour should look like. Will you grade it? (I don't) How much time will be given (weekly for 6 weeks, more or less)? When, how and how often will they check in with you (each week, each class)? What is acceptable use of time? (Can students spend a whole class researching? A whole week?)
Different teachers decide different parameters. I try to stay true to the origins of the program, which was in the business world when workers were allowed to spend 20% of their time on pet projects that could very well go nowhere. Out of that came post it notes and many of the google services we use, but of course not every project tried is a success. AND THAT IS FINE!!!! that is why the next step is so important.
Not sure where to start? Check:
Step 2. Set the stage for student excitement and motivation
This great blog post about 20% time cautions against using the word "passion" when introducing the project. Students might fret about not having any passions (which is totally normal, given that passion often comes only after years of practice or work) so instead try words like "interesting" or "curious" Likewise, the word "genius" might cause some students to doubt that they can do such a project, so be very clear that everyone is a genius at something (no, Einstein didn't say that but it is true) and this is their chance to explore, they still have many years to find out and develop their skills,this is just an exploratory walk.
Because it's really important to me that students get the right vibe around this assignment, I like to show and discuss videos like the one below first. Once you decide the mood and parameters of your Genius Hour, you might want to find different videos if yours will be more structured.
Step 3 Allow students to pick a topic
I recommend NOT telling students that a topic they suggest isn't "good enough" that it is "boring" or "not important enough" Instead, tell them that entire college courses and academic careers are based around very specific and seemingly "unimportant" topics and then guide them to how the skill or topic they've chosen can work for them.
Sites (links may be PG 13 - use this list to guide yurself and share the ones that will be good for your student population.
A good site for students who just don't know what they'd like or who can't even comprehend that they can choose their own direction is
However, the Genius hour project does not have to be skills based. It does have to be personal, however, and can't just be a "report" on what OTHERS have done with a topic.
3 Research sites vetted for school are:
NCWiseOWLwww.ncwiseowl.org/ (can search by interest level or grade level)
Public Library ResourcesCMSPL
Piedmont Library Resources includingWebpath Express
Step 4 Allow students work time
Most students will need their 20% time scaffolded by you. Ms. Higgins has students comlpete the following check in questions at the end of each work period.
What is working for my project?
What isn’t working for my project?
What am I enjoying?
What questions do I still have?
Many sites offer tools to guide student work and each is different. Below are some great resources culled from others:
Step by Step Directions from Paul Solarz
Chart to guide interest www.geniushourguide.org/the-kwhlaq-chart-helps-students-organize-21stc-learning/
Document shared courtesy of Christen Higgens in her Genius Hour presentation at CMS schools.
Here is another scaffold, by Kate Petty, shared by Sean Ziebarth
Step 5: Host a showcase or rolling presentations
Piedmont 6th grade hosts a showcase
Christen Higgins has rolling presentations. Whenever students are ready, they fill out a google form with questions similar to this:
As students present, Ms. Higgins has audience submit a google form as well:
My name is:
I am scoring this student:
Their Driving Question is:
They are starting with accuracy - The information is not true, or it needs facts to support it.
They are learning accuracy- Most of the information is true or has facts, but it could use more.
They have achieved accuracy- All of the information is true and has facts to support it.
They starting with creativity- The presentation is boring and the same old thing.
They are learning to be creative- The presentation is kind of interesting but could be more unique.
They have achieved creativity- The presentation is very interesting and is new and different from what we usually see.
They are starting to focus- The information doesn’t have a lot to do with the driving question.
They are learning focus- The information has a little bit to do with the driving question, but it gets off topic.
They have achieved focus- All of the information is there to answer the driving question.
They are starting to be prepared- The presentation doesn’t have what it needs and it is full of laughing or goofing off.
They are learning to be prepared- The presentation has most of what it needs but it got a little distracted from the information.
They have achieved being prepared- The presentation has obviously been practiced and took effort to present.
What questions do I have for this student?
Step 6 - Have students self-reflect
Genius Hour Scoring Rubric- Self
For scoring your own genius hour project
My name is:
My Driving Question is:
I am starting with accuracy - My information is not true, or it needs facts to support it.
I am learning accuracy- Most of my information is true or has facts, but it could use more.
I have achieved accuracy- All of my the information is true and has facts to support it.
I am starting with creativity- My presentation is boring and the same old thing.
I am learning to be creative- My presentation is kind of interesting but could be more unique.
I have achieved creativity- My presentation is very interesting and is new and different from what we usually see.
I am starting to focus- My information doesn’t have a lot to do with the driving question.
I am learning focus- My information has a little bit to do with the driving question, but it gets off topic.
I have achieved focus- All of my information is there to answer the driving question.
I am starting to be prepared- My presentation doesn’t have what it needs and it is full of laughing or goofing off.
I am learning to be prepared- My presentation has most of what it needs but it got a little distracted from the information.
I have achieved being prepared- My presentation has obviously been practiced and took effort to present.
What worked for my project?
What was challenging during my project?
What questions do I still have?
Recommended research sites:
YouTube - great for learning a skill
DIY - great when students are not sure what they are interested in.
The following are best for resesarch oriented projects.
Follett Destiny for your School Libarary (will give students web results as well as books in the school libarary char-meck.follettdestiny.com/common/welcome.jsp?context=saas52_3215696
Charlotte Library www.cmlibrary.org/resources
NC Wise Owl http://www.ncwiseowl.org/
I am Lisa Gurthie the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary, holistic education, and unschooling school to make it more real and relevant. One day I will modernize my "about" page. Check out the other blogs on this site for Lesson Ideas, Celebration of Good Teaching, and Piedmont PD