When I look at the sixth graders gathered together for our reading mini lesson each day in Reading Workshop, I see a wide range of abilities, interest and readiness for research. Genius Hour is one way I try to engage my students in “their” work instead of mine.
We have Essential Outcomes for nonfiction reading which include learning how to track central ideas and supporting details. Throughout our second nonfiction of the year, my sixth graders complete their Genius Hour research and create something to teach us about what they have learned.
A Starting Point research question document is create so that students have research at appropriate levels. Some students may ask basic questions about their topics and others, who are ready, can ask more sophisticated questions to guide their work. I have students use this Question Helper, based on Dr. Maureen Neihart’s work with helping gifted learners develop rigorous inquiry topics. My students read about their topic during reading workshop and create podcasts to share the central ideas and supporting details they’ve learned each week with their loyal audience on their KidBlog. Here are some of our current podcasts: AM Workshop and PM Workshop. We would love it if you listened to one or more and added a comment!
It is possible for a classroom teacher to use Genius Hour with an individual with gifted needs or even a small group in his or her grade level. The Genius Hour project can be done when the rest of the class is working on grade level material. Since I have my whole class do Genius Hour, I make sure I conference with my gifted students about the rigor in their work and make sure they are digging deep and not just reporting what they already know.
I have a page on my classroom website for Genius Hour, which contains directions, tips, rubrics and podcast information. My students publish their work on a Genius Hour Google Site. I created a Site template for their use with all of the slides and rubrics preloaded on the pages for their reference.