woodleywonderworks-pblMashing Genius Hour With Project-Based Learning

by Dawn-Casey Rowe, Social Studies Teacher & Learnist Evangelist

“Miss, it’s reading period,” one student reminded me.

That’s the one period a week we all read together. This week, though, we’re a bit behind.

“Well,” I said, we have to finish this section, and if we have reading period today, we will have to finish the section tomorrow…” my voice trailed off. Genius Hour was scheduled for the next day. Genius Hour is a relative of Project-Based Learning that allows students to work on a subject of interest to them.

“No!” The students argued, whispered, and negotiated among themselves. “We want Genius Hour. We don’t want to lose Genius Hour!” They got right to work finishing the lesson. Genius hour, at least our version, allows students to explore something of interest to them, provided it connects to our class topics.

Our class is Current Events. Students listed problems that “broke their hearts,” in the words of Choose2Matter’s Angela Maiers. Maiers used this phrase to get students not only to consider issues of great importance, but to be inspired to iterate on them. I expected students to be ready to work on their ideas, but what I’m getting so far will take my class to another level entirely. I have proposals for books, a game or two, fundraising ideas for causes, social learning, awareness projects, and one student who advised me she was in the process of writing a grant.

A grant!

Seeing students excited about learning is exciting to me. The mashup of Genius Hour and Project-Based learning motivates students, and makes me excited to sneak in the higher-level learning. Giving students control over aspects of their work promotes intrinsic learning.

Students are working on their own time doing extra, so I’m definitely on to something. They’re actually doing more work on purpose! I still get the course curriculum in–I’ve simply paced it a bit faster so they can earn those Fridays, and they’re responding.

5 Project-Based Learning Resources for Teachers

This week’s Learnist feature is about motivating students through Project Based Learning, a cousin of the Genius Hour. PBL can be individual or group learning, self-directed or teacher-directed, and can be specific or open-ended. The key is that the students research and produce.

I plan to have them share their projects as widely as possible. These Learnist boards will help to learn how to organize projects so that students will be engaged. Engagement is valuable for teachers and critical for students. There are many tips on these boards, in addition to some little things that I learned that are making this journey go much smoother, such as adding additional layers of rubrics and accountability.

I’ve learned that when there are a thousand different things going on in the minds of students, it’s important to take a moment to slow down and define or refocus longer-term expectations, especially with multiple group members. Rubrics, norms, and step deadlines, as suggested on these boards, help to do this.

If you have been successful in employing Genius Hour or any type of PBL, please add to these boards using the +add to this board feature or consider making Learnist boards of your own and sharing them out, tagging @LearnistTweets. Whethere you’re looking for project-based learning ideas or curriculum resources, the following boards can help.

1. Project-Based Learning: Solve the Problem of Negative News

This board helps provide a project idea–students can dig into the news, recognizing that they can report and find good news in addition to our standard-issue bad news broadcast. This board gets them started in recognizing sources for news, perspective, and finding ideas for original news stories.

2. Project-Based Learning: Mash Up Any 3 Social Media Channels

This project brings out a lot of elements that could be used in a marketing or business development project. Students like social media and put great thought into its features. This has a lot of potential for many disciplines. Social media always holds student’s interest.

3. Project-Based Learning

Veteran teacher Barbara Sandbulte constructed this board, which includes a helpful reflection about how PBL changes classrooms, as well as the evidence that proves this is the case.

4. 5 Types of Project-Based Learning

There are several types of PBL, including activity-based, challenge-based, and place-based types. There are so many nuances for projects to emphasize and directions that they can take, that even within PBL, it’s easy to mix things up.

5. Tips & Tools for Project-Based Learning

This board has been one of the most helpful for me. Beginning PBL isn’t easy. It starts as a glorified project mindset, and evolves from there. Teachers need to understand that PBL isn’t always a neat project, and it gets better the more the class does it. This board shares common pitfalls, so beginners can hit the ground running.

Mashing Genius Hour With Project-Based Learning; image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks