I am a librarian. I am also a teacher, but once you cross that educator threshold from the classroom into the library you start to get a little more passionate and driven about research and information literacy. Add to the mix the proliferation of digital devices that students now have at their disposal, and the need for students to know how to harness the power of information safely, authentically and effectively has never been greater.
Enter: Genius Hour. This is a concept inspired by Google’s 20% Time, where employees are allowed 20% of their work time to devote to a “passion project”: a concept of interest to them that may or may not be directly related to their work at Google. Theoretically, by allowing space for employee creation to blossom some of that creative energy will spill over into the work done for the company.
Consider employing the same concept in your classroom. Allow your students a small chunk of class time (one hour a week?) to investigate any subject of interest to them. In the investigation process students will develop an authentic need to employ high quality reading comprehension and information search strategies. Your role as a teacher is to facilitate their curiosity, show them effective and safe ways to find relevant information, and encourage them to take good notes and record their sources along the way. Research integrated into the school day and paired with a student generated “passion” topic? Genius, indeed!
Chris Kesler, a middle school teacher outside of Houston, has put together a terrific website full of resources for teachers interested in starting a Genius Hour program in their classroom. He also created an informative Genius Hour video. Check it out: