It’s been said a million times, standardized state testing sucks. It’s the most boring and stressful time of the school year. The days are loooooonnnnnngggg. The rooms are quiet. The kids are bored. The only thing good about them is that maybe you get to catch up on some grading and you don’t have to correct these tests.
After our students have been tortured by state testing we have to ask how we can put some life back into the classroom. How can we put energy back into the kids and get them excited to be there? We don’t want a chaotic free for all. It’s not a regular school day, so we aren’t even going to try to jump back into the regular routine.
My school was good about trying to rearrange the day so students could have electives/specials and extra recess. But here is an awesome idea for you so that students are learning in a fun way: Genius Hour Projects.
What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour is one hour a week where you let the students determine what they should study. Some places say 20% of school hours or other things. The truth is you can determine the amount of time you dedicate to it. If you are just starting Genius Hour now then I would dedicate as much time to it as you can after testing is done.
There are many catchy YouTube videos that can explain Genius Hour to you. There are actually way too many so here are some of the best I picked out.
Genius Hour is a student-driven study. Students pick out a topic they want to study. Then they do just that. It can involve research, interviewing people, practicing, finding a mentor, learning, and presenting the information. It’s a passion project. How great would that be? After being tortured with state testing they are encouraged to think about what they would like to study and ask questions about.
Here are just some of the Genius Hour topics my students have done in the past: website building, coding, music, baking, hairstyling, yoga, or gymnastics. It can really be anything they want to learn about or how to do, as long as they can make a plan. They set a goal and work towards learning it.
Genius Hour Questions
While students are planning their Genius Hour project they need to ask so many questions. It’s great because they are going to learn a lot by asking questions.
What are they going to study, research, or learn to do? How will they learn about it or how to do it? Who can help them? What problems might they face and have to solve? What materials will they need? These are the questions I make my students answer before they start. As they progress so many more questions arise.
Our students don’t ask enough questions or do enough critical thinking. Genius Hour requires that they do both. It’s also the perfect activity for after state testing.
Genius Hour Steps
It takes a lot of planning from your students to be able to answer these questions. It also takes only a little planning from you. It takes even less planning if you take advantage of my Genius Hour lesson.
Here are the steps I make my students follow.
- The Pitch
I make them prepare a presentation to share with the class. In it, they need to have a clear plan of what they will learn and how. I outline several questions they must answer.
But if it’s an activity for after state testing they might just turn it in. The goal is that they really think about their plan of action and I have a chance to guide them by asking questions or help them rethink the goal.
- Working Periods
I dedicate class time to Genius Hour. After state testing, they could work on Genius Hour research, learning, presentations, or learning the actual skill. Personally, I would dedicate the remainder of the school day, after testing, to Genius Hour. It’s a fun hands-on, student-driven way to keep learning during a testing day.
I always make sure my student know that sometimes there are parts they can’t practice in school. Like one student wanted to master a particular skill on his scooter. So he has to do a lot of work on his project outside of school.
- Genius Hour Presentations
Genius Hour presentations are a lot of fun. The kids prepare another presentation that includes a slideshow and visual demonstration of some sort. Students share what they learned and what was difficult to do. It’s a great reflection on the learning they did.
If you want something different and fun to do after state testing Genius Hour could be a perfect solution for you. If you want an easy guide to help you get started here is my Genius Hour lesson. You can get the whole bundle or just one of the two parts.
I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with Genius Hour.