Scaffolding Genius Hour


ImageOne of the ironic things about Genius Hour is that it is all about giving students freedom over what and how they want to learn. They love this at first, at least they think they do, and then panic sets in. “I can do anything?” “So what do you really want this to look like?” Students  have never really done this before. Quite often we have extensive criteria, rubrics, and even exemplars that they can physically look at. The students that tend to ‘win’ at school are really good at mimicking what we are looking for. Take away constraints and they feel like a fish out of water. I want to break this, but looking back at my first semester trying Genius Hour perhaps going all in wasn’t the way… 

My implementation of Genius Hour had a focus on freedom. Students rarely get a chance to work on something they love or are truly interested in so I did not want to bastardize a good thing by putting a lot of constraints in place like we as teachers often do. What do I mean by this? There were no grades, pass or fail was it. Criteria, yes, well kind of, it was co-created with the class and largely left wide open. 

Last week I gave students a survey at the end of our semester and the most common response was that students wished there was more structure, I cringed inside hearing this but I was also expecting it! This got me thinking and asking questions, specifically how could Genius Hour be scaffolded? Enter @kuhner15!

Brad had a fantastic idea, why not use some of Dan Meyer Three-Acts Math Tasks as a way of building up to a full scale Genius Hour project. Students can get used to thinking outside the box, working on problems that do not have a definitive start or end point all while still working in the comfortable confines of just answering a math problem. I really liked this! Dan has put together a great list of problems where students could pick out a question that interests them or begin asking their own essential questions. Just working on asking good questions would be a giant step forward in relation to a full Genius Hour project.

So, next semester I am thinking of doing a Dan Meyerish Genius Hour project first to get us heading in the right direction. What are some other ways that you have scaffold the Genius Hour experience for you students? 



About flippingmath

Math Teacher, Flipper, Blue Jays Fan
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7 Responses to Scaffolding Genius Hour

  1. Ken C says:

    I’m about to delve into my first genius hour experience, too, but I’m opting for “controlling” the choices a bit by picking an assignment (co-authoring a mini-book with a team) and allowing choice on subject matter within that assignment. That said, certain criteria will have to be met.

    Reason? I worried about what you have articulated here. I know that choices can overwhelm ME at times, never mind kids, so I followed my instincts. Does that mean that my initial venture will be any more successful? Not really. Only time (and the hours) will tell!

    Thanks for sharing this….

    • flippingmath says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think that is a great place to start Ken. We need to be comfortable and confident with what we are doing.

      Best of luck and please share how things go!

  2. Erica says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have been thinking about incorporating both Dan Meyer’s Three-Acts Math Tasks and Genius Hours in my math class – a Meyerish Genius Hour project is a brilliant idea!

  3. Steve Chase says:

    Thanks for sharing your ideas here Graham. I saw your name on the BCAMT conference brochure and had to check out your work. Clearly you’ve invested a great deal into crafting excellent learning opportunities for your students. Its exciting to see your work!

    I’m very intrigued by you suggestion of Dan Meyerish Genius Hour Projects. Are you suggesting students would find a situation where they need to apply the Math they’ve learned and capture it in a short problem and explanation? What did you have in mind? Would you use it as an intro/ inquiry into new learning, or an application of learning?

    Have you used Dan’s work in your class? What’s the response been like?

    Thanks again!

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