In my last post I left with my first graders excitedly launching into Genius Hour! But I have to admit that while I had heard and read of all of the amazing learning that could await my class, I had a bit of an “Eeyore” monotone thought in the back of my head as we began . . . here’s another chart among so many anchor charts we have already used this year. But soon I could tell this chart was charged with student enthusiasm!
I began with prompting questions: What is something that really interests you? What do you wonder about that thing? What would be something fun for you to learn about? And I prepared myself for the usual wait time. In this case it was about ten seconds! I could not seem to chart their answers quickly enough!
I am not sure why I was so surprised by my students’ engagement in sharing their answers and by my own exhilaration as I charted. Don’t we all like to share about things that we enjoy? Sure, some answers were the same as others and some students did not raise their hands. But I believe all of them were focused on the chart and the idea that their interests mattered.
As I reflected on how high the engagement of my class rose with the chart-making, I wanted to figure out a way for each child’s interests to be represented in class and valued. So at our next meeting each student was given the opportunity to write their interest on their own “wonder bubble“. And with much enthusiasm our “Wonder Wall” started going up!
After the bubbles, it was time to craft the beginnings of our research plans. I found a great planning and recording guide for the children. It really helped them to get their thinking going in manageable parts. I asked, “What is it that you don’t know and would like to spend time exploring about your topic?”
Now sometimes it can be a real challenge to motivate some students to write in class. The application of many skills or just thinking of an idea can be daunting tasks. But as the children received their pages to make a research plan there was not a single anxiety-ridden face in my class. They all took their papers and started writing like they were devouring a treat!
With the first two steps of our plan completed, we’re on our way to the “create” step next!
About “letting go”. . . that has been my genius hour this week! I did wonder if I would be able to embrace the idea of letting go of my choice of content and let the learning of academic skills happen anyway. I had learned from colleagues and from research about the many learning gains and growth possibilities that can happen during Genius Hours. But in spite of my knowledge, I have to say that I had a sense of panic as I started that first chart. My “Eeyore” voice crept into my thoughts. But as you read, that voice did not get a chance to get louder. The enthusiasm of my class drown it out!