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What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?

Many teachers ask students this question at the start of every school year. It sets the stage for awesome learning to follow. Posing it to students and asking them to share their responses can have a profound effect on the classroom and community.

Think about the messages inherent in the question:

  • what you care about matters at school;
  • your hopes and goals are taken seriously;
  • you have a say in what and how we will learn.

Taking the time to help children articulate their hopes and dreams sets a tone of collaboration and mutual respect. It fosters reflection and self-knowledge by prompting children to ask themselves questions such as:

  • What do I want learning to be like?
  • What do I want from the experience of school?
  • What matters to me most?
  • What am I worried about?
  • What am I most excited to learn more about and learn from?
  • What am I going to become more awesome at?

Sharing hopes and dreams also creates a meaningful context for establishing classroom protocols and procedures. Once hopes have been articulated, discussions can begin about what “rules” will be needed to help everyone’s hopes and dreams come true.

This is the foundation and the rationale behind Genius Hour and/or Genius Time.

Genius Hour is our promise to students that their passions will matter; that they will do work that matters, and we will make time during the school day for it.

In my book, Genius Matters, I offer 30 days of lessons dedicated to helping students develop into better readers, writers, thinkers and, most importantly, passion-driven learners. To do this well in day-to-day life, students must develop patterns of thinking in which their ability is combined with their inclination to think well and their awareness of thinking opportunities. Students must have not only the opportunity to see passion- driven learning, but also to develop their own passions.

#GeniusMatters happens best within a classroom in which:

  • There is time for thinking about our own and others passions
  • Rich opportunities exist for exploring passion
  • Passion-driven learning is regularly modeled
  • The process as well as the products of thinking are valued

GeniusMatters is designed to help teachers collectively focus on the implicit messages about thinking being sent in classrooms and across the school.

Every successful Genius Hour will need some structure. Each day, students are told where to go and when and what to do. We need to teach them to use their independence toward a goal they create themselves, and this will take some structure. For students who initially don’t cope well with a “blank sheet of paper,” share one of my favorite cartoons with them.

As students become acclimated to this new working environment, the classroom may start to feel a bit “messy.” But a bit of mess can be good when students are actively exploring their passion.

Welcome to Genius Hour.
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