After doing some fairly extensive research on Genius Hour and how teachers have implemented it in their classrooms, I decided I wanted to give it a try. It fits so well with my philosophy that students learn better when they are put in control of that learning. I can force all kinds of units and themes on them, but they are going to take the most out of the ones they are interested in.
I read this blog post in which the author described how she teamed her kindergarten class up with a fourth grade class and conducted a genius hour. My kindergarten class is the odd group in our school; every other grade level has three sections, but we have four, with my group being the new group. This, in some ways, is a challenge for us. The other classes have buddy rooms with third graders, but, since there are only three groups of third grade, my kiddos have missed out on this. Fortunately, I have been building a relationship with an awesome second grade teacher, Lori, and we had talked about doing buddy room activities with our kids. After reading that post, I sent an email off to her and asked if she would be willing to do this with me.
She responded the next day with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" We met the next morning and began to plan. The planning is a work-in-progress. We've got an end vision, but some of the finer details are being ironed out as we work.
So far, we have met two times. Last Friday, we partnered the kiddos up (one kindergartner and one second-grader, in some cases there are two second-graders to one kindergartner) and sent them off to get to know each other. The second-graders knew exactly what to do, and before I knew it, there were amazing conversations happening. They discussed what they liked to do and learn about and came up with a topic they were both interested in. Then, they started writing questions. One of my favorite groups to watch was a group of three boys. They chose the topic of football and generated a list a mile long of really excellent questions. In all, the groups chatted for about 40 minutes.
On Wednesday when we met, we began our research. Our library assistant had taken our topics and found as many books as she could at the second-grade reading level on those topics. We met in the library and began to seek answers to our questions. As we worked, Lori and I realized we were going to need more information for them to get as deep into their topics as we want them to go. We also realized, once again, how great the conversations were. The second-graders were reading and sharing with the kindergartners, and the kindergartners were feverishly writing new information down.
Next time, we're planning to use more technology. I'm in the process of creating a symbaloo with their topics. Each topic will have its own symbaloo with websites, videos, and other resources to help the students go deeper. On top of that, we have another trial subscription to PebbleGo that we'll be using.
I have big dreams for this project. When all is said and done, my goal is for each group to have created a final project to share their learning. We're in the midst of planning a Genius Hour event where the students will showcase their learning to their parents and family members.
This is a huge risk. I have no idea if it's going to work out, and I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. It's exciting, though! I'm collaborating and planning and trying something new; each of those things work together to create the most perfect view of teaching for me - my happy place and the light in all of the darkness that can encompass education. It means great things for the students as well. They are interacting and learning and creating. I hope it's going to be an experience they will remember!