Genius Bar Update

A genius explains her global coin collection.
A genius explains her global coin collection.

At the beginning of the school year, I got an idea from an article that I was reading about changing the design of the classroom.  It briefly alluded to a class “Genius Bar,”  (using the term for the Help Desk in Apple Stores.)  I decided to re-purpose the sad-looking classroom bookshelf into a Genius Bar.  You can read more about the transformation here.

In my GT classroom, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are doing a Genius Hour this year.  The kids are excited.  But there is one problem.  For Genius Hour, I insist that they learn about something new to them.  I really want to avoid them using Genius Hour as a means of extending a hobby that they already devote plenty of time to at home.  But some kids really, really want to talk about those hobbies…

If you ever have participated in “Show and Tell”, you know that many students love to be the center of attention, and to “tell” all that they know about something. Sometimes, though, their audience is not quite as interested in the topic.  I’m hoping that the Genius Bar will solve this problem.  I’ve invited the students who reach Level 3 in my classroom (you can read more about our “Level Up” system here) to bring something to show at the Genius Bar during Center Time.  At the beginning of the day, they tell what they have brought, and the other students can sign up to learn about the item.  This way, students who are genuinely interested can learn.

Because I only meet with my students one day a week, only four or five of them had reached Level 3 by the holidays.  They kept forgetting to bring their items on GT day, but finally one student remembered.  She brought some coins from different countries.

Since there was only one “Genius”, I did not have the students sign up.  I approached Center Time with a bit of trepidation, though, because I was concerned no one would want to learn about the coins.  This was 5th grade, and they sometimes like to pretend they already know everything 😉 I already had a speech in my head to console the student: “Sometimes the things that we find fascinating aren’t always interesting to others.  Maybe you can think of a ‘pitch’ to sell it next time if you really want to share the coins.”

I had nothing to worry about.  I should have had the kids sign up – for time slots. When I announced that it was Center Time and that the Genius Bar was now open, just about everyone flocked there immediately.  They listened to the student, examined the coins with and without the magnifying glass, and showed true interest.

So it turns out that, once again, Voice and Choice won out in the classroom.  Our “Genius” got to share something that mattered, and her classmates got to choose if they wanted to hear about it.

When we return to school, I plan to pre-emptively remind the students that “Genius Bar” is not about popularity, and that they should base their choices on interest in the topic.  I decided that each week’s “Geniuses” will give me their topic privately, and students will sign up to learn about the topic without knowing who the presenter is.  And, I will gently remind each presenter that some topics may be more popular than others.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

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2 thoughts on “Genius Bar Update”

  1. I love your blog! I teach a critical thinking class called “Think Tank” to all of the K-5 students and I really love your ideas and all the cool things you have found to use in your classroom. I, too, only see my students once a week. You have inspired me to dust off my blog (I was teaching Chinese to elementary age students prior to this school year), and share some of my experiences as well. Keep up the awesome work with your students and keep up the great idea sharing with your blog!

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