Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wonder Wednesdays

Last spring, I tested Genius Hour in my first grade classroom. We had recently studied non-fiction texts and my students were enjoying reading more about topics that were interesting to them. I learned about Genius Hour from a Twitter Chat - #1stchat - and decided to look in to it more. Each week, we tried a step and before I knew it, my students were asking to work on their projects during Work on Writing in Daily 5. Once a week wasn't enough! Due to students being pulled for a variety of reasons, Wednesdays were a good day since most were present during this time. We decided to call it Wonder Wednesdays (although later it was also Think About It Tuesdays and Fantastic Fridays... you know how schedules go towards the end of the school year) Anyway, here are the steps I took as we began our journey with Genius Hour.

Week 1: We watched a motivational speech from Kid President (if you aren't watching @iamkidpresident with your class yet, please start now... it's wonderful!) We searched some books and apps (such as Wonderopolis and News-o-Matic) for ideas and things we want to know more about. We came up with 3 Steps for our Genius Hour: 1. Ask a Question (fat, not skinny... it has to be a deep question, not something with a simple answer) 2. Look for Answers and Information (using books, magazines, observations, experts and searching online - we prefer to use Kidrex to search safely) 3. Create a Product and Share It (products can be digital, paper or verbal and you can share with the class, the school, on Kidblog, our class Facebook or Twitter) Students had the opportunity to add their WONDERS to the Wonder Wall all week.

Week 2: Our Wonder Wall grew all week long. At our next Wonder Wednesday, students decided on their questions and also decided to work solo, with a buddy or in a small group. We discussed that we must be engaged in our learning in order for Genius Hour to be beneficial. I didn't experience much off task behavior - which I believe is due to their high level of engagement since they were working on meaningful subject matter to them. We discussed proper ways to find and use information and photos while respecting others and their copyright. I enjoyed observing my students. I was able to make notes while they worked on skills that were in need of additional work (capitals, periods, sentence structure, etc) and could address those during Writer's Workshop. We did have our C.O.P.S. on patrol once but it was a bit distracting and put pressure on my students while they WONDERed. (C.O.P.S. walk around and help remind peers to use Capitals, One Space between words, Punctuation and best Spelling) I enjoyed watching how students searched for and recorded information. Some students watched videos while some read books, some students created posters while some created iMovies.

Weeks 3-?: Students continued to observe, collect and record information. Our Plan changed as each week went by. Some students wanted to work solo or change topics. Some wanted to research together but create their own products. I continued to be amazed at their level of engagement and the information they collected. We checked Wonderopolis almost every day to continue to feed their desire to WONDER. Wonderopolis is an incredible site and app. They also respond almost any time you Tweet them. My students LOVE the connection Wonderopolis provides! (They also have Camp Wonderopolis in the summer - check it out!)

Week ...: Since this was last year, I cannot recall exactly how long this went on. I know it was at least 6 weeks but we only took one hour of class time each week to focus on our Genius Hour projects. As students completed their work, they shared it with the class, on Kidblog or with a group. Students researched topics such as 'Why do penguins waddle?' and 'What is the fastest animal?' (which led to what is the fastest land animal and what is the fastest water animal...and I learned a lot!) One student studied the water cycle and created a diagram on a poster to share. Another student studied sloths and wondered why they are so slow. She created a book to read. One student wondered how airplanes fly. He created an iMovie with diagrams of airplanes that he labeled and explained himself. Incredible!

As we completed the presentations, I was simply amazed. They had choice and control of their own learning and spent the time collaborating, creating and sharing their learning. My students and I greatly enjoyed Genius Hour last year!

This week I began Genius Hour with my second graders. It is off to a super start and I look forward to seeing where it takes my students again!

1 comment :

  1. I'm fascinated by your experiences! I want to try this with my high school students, so you've given me the incentive to work out a way to do it. Thanks for the report!