Over the last few years, Melissa and I have learned that we have to give kids lots of time to come up with their project ideas. One year we tried to rush things, giving kids only a couple of weeks to think. Well, that didn't work very well; we had a lot of kids change projects because while they were doing their project, they discovered their real idea. Kids naturally have a lot of starts and stops. Some will latch onto an idea before we introduce Genius Hour. Some will struggle for weeks. We have to accommodate both kinds of learners. So we give time. We give time for kids to converse, wonder, think and imagine. We ask kids to start researching their project idea because after their initial research, kids will either confirm that their idea is awesome or realize that their idea isn't for them.
Over the last few weeks, we have been doing a lot of idea-generating activities. These activities are important because kids need exposure to many ideas and they also need time to reflect and talk to others. Through these conversations and reflections, they begin to flesh out their ideas. This is what learning is all about, attempting new things and reflecting on those attempts. Do all of the kids have ideas at this point? No. Do all of the kids have some idea of the talents they want to use for their projects? Nearly all do.
In a few weeks, kids will pitch their ideas. In the past, because of our situation, we were able to have pitch committees of adults who saw these pitches, like in the television show Shark Tank. Because of my current situation, I don't have those resources at the ready so we will do things differently. My goal is to have Pitch Day work a bit differently than the past but not too differently. I may be able to get another set of adult eyes to help me form the Pitch Committee. I may not. The structure of my new school may not allow the time resource for that adult. That's okay. Each student will give a 3-5 minute pitch presentation. They may use any technology they would like to help us visualize their goal. They will present to our class and any other adults I can get in the room during that time.
Feedback is important for the kids. The committee has always given the students feedback on style, substance, and presentation. This year, kids will still get feedback. Some of that feedback will come from me, some will come from other adults in the room and some will come from the other students. Now, most of our kiddos have not had the opportunity to make many presentations so this is a skill that is under development. We will model a good presentation, we will help kids prepare and we watch them excel. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing our students accomplish something that they didn't think they could do. They get such a boost in confidence and begin to see themselves differently. They begin to see that they are in charge of their own learning and that they have more control over their learning than anyone else.
Not only are kids learning the content that their projects will require, but they are also learning secondary and tertiary skills. Kids will learn to prepare, to speak in front of an audience, to walk with confidence, to create an effective visual, to offer and accept feedback. Sometimes these skills may make up the foundation of the kids' careers later in life. By including a variety of skills for the kids to learn, we are making sure that kids see their potential as learners. Through completing their Genius Hour projects, we think that the kids will fulfill this potential.