Earlier this year, I mentioned a school in Texas that does a school-wide Genius Hour and has student-led EdCamps. As an elementary teacher of gifted and talented students, I’ve done Genius Hour with my own small classes, but was intrigued by the idea of doing something school-wide. With some creative scheduling spear-headed by our principal, we have been able to do something along these lines with an entire grade level, and I thought I would share it here.
Every grade level at our school has an extra planning time once a week so the teachers can conduct Professional Learning Communities. To make this work, the “special” teachers (P.E., Music, Librarian, Nurse, Counselor, Reading Specialist, and I) take students for an enrichment time. This means that I am able to meet with a 5th grade class once a week.
With the help of the rest of the Specials team, we arranged to each meet with the same 5th grade homeroom 5 weeks in a row. This enabled me to work with one homeroom class to offer what I’m going to call a “Genius Camp” (since it is kind of a hybrid of Genius Hour and EdCamp).
Basically, the students of one homeroom brainstorm things they would like to teach other students. They work on their presentations for 5 weeks. At the beginning of the 6th week, the students in the other classrooms sign up on a Google form for the sessions they would like to attend. For the enrichment time on the 6th week, the entire grade level has “Genius Camp” with one homeroom organizing and the rest attending.
Here are what the weeks look like (each enrichment period is 45 minutes long):
- Week 1 – Brainstorming ideas for sessions
- Week 2 – Going over “what makes a good session” and signing up for what they want to teach
- Week 3 – Planning the session, including step-by-step instructions
- Week 4 – Going over reflection sheets, and practicing sessions
- Week 5 – Practicing and critiquing each other’s sessions (all materials due this day or students cannot present the next week)
- Week 6 – Other homerooms fill out Google Form selecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice for sessions. Sessions are presented during enrichment time that week. (All homerooms meet in cafeteria first to go over expectations. Reflections are filled out at every session and turned in at the end.)
So far, we’ve gone through one complete Genius Camp cycle. (All but one student in the whole grade level said that they would like to do this again.) Overall, it was successful, but there were some issues:
- Time is a huge factor. Some sessions didn’t take up enough time, but most of students felt like they didn’t have enough.
- Some students were not good at “managing” their peers. For this round, we will go over pointers for that.
- Some students felt like they didn’t really learn anything new.
We have four 5th grade classrooms. The plan is to let all four present and participate, and then possibly do another Genius Camp allowing the outstanding sessions to be offered again.
Most of the students have been very excited about participating and presenting. They are allowed to present in groups of 1-3 people, so those who aren’t comfortable doing the actual teaching can still help out.
Some of the sessions we did during our first round were:
- How to Train a Dog to Lay Down
- How to Make Slime
- Model Rockets
- How to Make Sock Puppets
There are logistics to consider, of course. You need to think about the number of sessions you need to make groups manageable (I limited it to 8 students in a session) and the locations of the sessions. After the Google Form was filled out, I assigned students to sessions and printed name tags with their session titles and locations. On the day of the session, I made sure all of the required materials were delivered to their locations prior to the beginning of the Genius Camp – including pencils to fill out the Reflection Forms. We also made sure an adult was present at every session, which means you really need to have a team who is on board and awesome, like mine!