Sunday, July 31, 2016

Genius Hour Project Reflection

This genius hour project was overall a wonderful experience for me. The timeline of the course with reading the book, the Innovator’s Mindset (by George Couros) fit well with the goals of this summer course. Reading the book opened my mind to other ways to empowering students, and how as teachers, we can shape the way we teach our classes and improve the way students are taught in school.

With my genius hour project of creating a genius hour class, I was able to spend the time that I needed to focus on my individual goals. Instead of doing “busy work” with forced reading, I was able to take control of what I needed to accomplish. Researching all about genius hour, connecting with other experts on twitter, and spending the time planning what helped me create a plan for my GH class and complete this summer project.

Obviously, I see the value in letting students do something like this, because I planned an entire elective course focussing on this very topic. Being able to go through the process myself helped a lot because I was able to see firsthand where students might struggle with the amount of freedom given. And if I struggled to focus at some points along the way, I know that my 6th graders definitely might face this same challenge. Knowing this I was able to plan in some extra meeting times with them, and create more structure in terms of their researching and journaling.

Reflection is a large part of learning that I am working more on in my professional life. As I go through the semester with my genius hour class, my goal is to blog along the way, or at least keep track of successes and failures. I love experimenting and know that this first year of elective courses will definitely be an experiment but I am looking forward to the challenges and seeing what solutions can be made! Just knowing all of the awesome student projects that will be created from this class is really exciting for me and I can’t wait for the school year to see what happens!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Motivation in the Classroom

Having students who are motivated in the class to learn and complete projects are always a goal of mine and probably many teachers. I’m constantly trying to increase motivation for students and realize that this will never be 100% perfect for all of my students, but it is something that I can strive to work on and continuously improve!

There are many different types of motivation. The graphic below does a great job of visualizing this in the Continuum of Motivation.

For myself personally, as a student, I was most of time motivated socially and achievement based. I wanted to please the teacher, and receive a good grade in the class. As a teacher now, I try to get students to be motivated by extrinsically, but intrinsically.

For middle school students, I think social motivators are very common. Kids want to fit in and be liked by their peers. I have been guilty of also using this in my class as a form of competition for students and classes. Whether it’s a review game that puts the class against one another, it seems to help my students want to study more. When it comes to little things like that I don’t feel it entirely bad or wrong to do. However, if my goal is to have student motivated to learn and grow as individuals because they value that education, I should try and change my mindset on this.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Genius Hour - Researching Begins!

For my summer grad class, we have a Genius Hour Project which is an opportunity for us to research, plan, and implement any project of our choosing. This fit very well with my goals for next school year, as it has given me the perfect chance to plan out a new Genius Hour course I will start this fall. This GH class will be an elective class for any 6th grade students and will last one semester. The class will meet every other day and will be 45 minutes. Below are my first steps of planning out the project.

Now it’s time for some research! Here is some of the great information I found out so far about Genius Hour classes.

I was lucky enough to connect with some great experts via Twitter like @JoyKirr who shared me a Genius Hour Live Binder ( with several different resources from a wide variety of teachers who had created GH classes or projects. The first link I went to was a Standards-Based Genius Hour ( This was a great blog post that went through how to first spark excitement from students, then have them create their Driving Questions, which is similar to project-based learning. The main idea behind this style Genius Hour was that they took their core subject standards and had students focus their genius hour project around a simplified version of that standard. What is unique with my course, is that I have the freedom to not have any standards, but will incorporate the ISTE standards found here ( One final take away I had from this source was that the teacher did not allow any poster presentations, powerpoints, or any other traditional projects. This is a great way to incorporate some of the digital literacy skills.

Genius Hour inforgraphic.jpg
Another great tip - Stayed organized and create a tracking system of student-teacher feedback!

Other great information I collected from the Genius Hour Live Binder.

  • I love this idea and believe I can make it happen for my first semester class. All submissions are due September 30th for the 2016 fair. This might be a nice first half of the semester project.
  • This site also shared a great resource for students, “Googleable vs Non-Googleable” questions. (Link:

Image result for genius hour fair how to submit

This was another awesome website that shared many useful tips and their experience with having students focus an entire quarter on one genius hour project. Below were my take-aways:
  • Proposals - students needed to create a pitch under 30 seconds and explain why they wanted to do their GH project and sell it to the audience.
  • End Product - the result of the genius hour needed to be a product of some sort, whether it was a book, a new invention, or a documentary. The teacher felt this would help motivate students to spend time moving from the idea phase to producing phase nicely.
  • Blog - Students blogged their progress weekly.
  • Final Presentation - At end of class, students gave a 5 minute presentation to community, teachers, and parents) with parent permission.
  • Assessment - This was directly taken from the teacher’s blog (Rubric Here).
    • The Proposal (Is the proposal on-time, and does it address the required questions appropriately?)
    • The Blog (Does the post address the required topic? Do you post each week?)
    • The Product (Did you successfully move from idea phase to production phase, and do you have something to show at the end of the year?)
    • Productivity (Are you spending your Genius Hour time by actively and passionately working on your project? If not, we need to quickly adjust the project so you are working on something that is intrinsically motivating. This is less objective, but if I see students not being productive, I will intervene.)
    • Final Presentation (Does your presentation meet all of the required elements? There will be a rubric - ask for it two weeks before you present.)

All of the above are very very helpful for me and I will use them to shape my course. Seeing all of the wonderful examples of excited and empowered students really reinforces the reason behind create this opportunity for students and I’m looking forward to the next phase - planning!