One of the best decisions I have made during the past couple of years is to try Genius Hour with my students. I was intrigued by the concept for a long time before I finally had the courage to implement it in my classroom. I hesitated to try it since I used to fear letting go of some of my control in the classroom. However, the longer I teach, the more I have come to appreciate the value of letting students use their own passion to fuel their learning, no matter how messy it can be at times.
The interesting thing is that once I tried Genius Hour, I was hooked, and so were my students. This was another one of those instances where all the things I had read about suddenly came to life in my own classroom. My guidelines for our version of Genius Hour were very simple: students could work on anything that they wanted, alone or in groups, as long as it pertained in some way to the content of our class. (Ancient World History, which spans from the beginning of recorded time to the Renaissance). At the end of the hour, students had to produce something tangible that they could share with me and their peers.
I was completely blown away by how well it worked. The vast majority of students went to work right away, and produced some incredibly creative and thoughtful projects. I always try to infuse as much creativity in the classroom as possible, and this proved to be the perfect vehicle for that. Students worked hard, they were on task, they solved their own problems, and they collaborated beautifully. At the end of the hour, they had produced things as varied as a three-dimensional model of the Pyramids at Giza, a board game based on the Hunger Games concept in which different historical leaders faced off against each other, and a beautiful poem about the development of Christianity.
AsI reflected on the lesson, I realized that all those blog posts and articles were right: if you let students use their passion to drive their learning, beautiful things will happen in your classroom. Students who before were at best marginally interested in the class now could not wait to share their research with me. Students who struggled to be successful in the class beamed with joy and pride as they presented their projects to their peers. And, perhaps most importantly: they had fun learning. Genius Hour teaches students that learning can indeed be exciting, and for many students, the introduction of Genius Hour represented a turning point in the class. Not because of anything I had done, but because they had proven to themselves that they were capable of producing high-quality work and that this process could be both fun and rewarding.
So, if you have not tried it yet, take the plunge. I am confident that you will not be disappointed, and as you witness your students display sides of themselves that you have never seen before, you will join me and many others in the belief that unleashing the passion of your students will produce amazing results.