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Effective Teaching Strategies that Employ Passion

Janelle Cox

If you are looking to bring a little passion into your classroom, and really get your students excited and motivated to learn, then Genius Hour as part of your effective teaching strategies just may be the answer. Genius Hour is a way for students to explore their passions and use their creativity for about one hour a week. Here we will explore what Genius Hour really is, and how you can incorporate it into your weekly schedule.

Effective Teaching Strategies: What Exactly Is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour is based on the notion that if you spend time exploring your own passions, you will be more invested in what you are doing. It’s much like the idea of student-centered learning. We already know that students are motivated by the things that interest them. That is why many teachers create student-centered classrooms where students are the center of their own learning. Genius Hour is based on students’ passion and inquiry. Students are challenged to think about what they are passionate about, then they must come up with a question related to that passion. They spend several weeks researching their topic before they begin creating their passion project. Once they have completed it (there is no set deadline) then they must share their project with their classmates.

How to Introduce Genius Hour to Your Students

The Genius Hour website says that it’s important to really build suspense before you introduce the Genius Hour projects to your students. If you don’t practice student-centered learning already in your classroom, then this will most likely the first time that your students will ever be told that they get to choose what they will be learning about. Think of this passion project like a movie trailer: You want to get them excited for what is about to happen. For about a week or so before you want to start the projects, start telling students that you have something big in store for them.

Next, you will want to explain that they will be completing a passion project on their own with no deadline for when they need to complete it by. This will raise a lot of questions, so be prepared to answer them. Students will most likely ask questions like:

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  • Can we work with someone? No, you must complete it on your own.
  • What do you mean there is no deadline? By no deadline I mean whenever you are done with it, you can hand it in and present it to the class.
  • What do you mean that we can do our projects on anything we want? I mean that as long as it is appropriate you can do your project on it. I will have to approve it before you get started.

Once you are done answering questions you can start by brainstorming what their projects can be about. If students are having trouble coming up with ideas, then you can show them what other students have done in the past. Remember, students need to come up with a question about their topic that they will answer. They need to think about something that they have a question about that they can turn into a project. Here are a few ideas that were on the Genius Hour website.

  • How to throw a football like a quarterback.
  • How to make a bow for your hair.
  • How to create a website.
  • What is makeup made of?
  • How does a plane fly?

Next, have students choose two of their favorite passions from their brainstorming list and meet with you to approve one of them. Once the final question is chosen it is now time to think about how they can turn that passion into a project. Projects will be presented to the classroom so they must be media-based or something physically made by the students. It is up to the student how they will create, make, and present their passion project.

Genius Hour Expectations

Each week for about one hour, students will spend time researching and creating their passion project in the classroom. During this time you will have a few expectations so that hour will run smoothly. Here are a few tips taken from the website.

1. Have students set a goal for themselves of what they would like to accomplish during that hour. For example, how much information they would like to get, or what part of their project they would like to see completed before the hour is up.

2. Give each student a role during Genius Hour. For example, one student will be in charge of passing and picking up art supplies, while another will be in charge of handing out paper or the project journals.

3. Make sure that students are tracking their progress as they go. This will help them stay on track. They can keep a checklist or create a simple chart in a project journal.

4. Make sure that students know that there will be consequences for not using their time wisely. If you have to warn them more than once then they will have to complete an alternate project of your choosing.

If you are wondering about the no deadline rule, just know that this can be flexible. Usually students end up completing their projects around the same time. Once they see a lot of students completing and presenting theirs, then the other students usually speed it up. If you find that students are really taking a long time, then you can encourage students to work on it at home. Usually, passion projects take about 12 weeks to complete.

What do you think of Genius Hour? Have you tried in your classroom? Tell us what you think about it in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators