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The genius of Genius Hour
If it's Monday, it's time for the Genius Hour. While that may sound like a variety show for really smart people (or a show starring a guy named Genius), it's really something much more entertaining and informative.
Lorri Vaccaro's fourth-graders head to the library for about an hour every Monday to work on independent research projects of their own choosing. Using the internet and hard copy reference materials, the students explore topics that they feel passionate about. They then develop presentations, multimedia shows, reports, or other vehicles that best demonstrate what they've learned.
For example, students are working on projects investigating some aspect of prehistoric animals, robotics, video game creation and coding, and wildlife. They're all topics that go above and beyond the regular school curriculum.
"This type of independent, self-directed investigation puts the students in control of their own learning," said Mrs. Vaccaro. "Because it's subject matter that is important to them, they are motivated to do their very best. They're emotionally invested."
Self-directed learning has shown to be very powerful in developing the love of learning. And when students are interested and excited about what they're studying, they retain more relevant information.
The presentation of the learning is also something that students are thinking a great deal about. One student plans to learn Prezi (an online multimedia platform) to showcase his project and others want to present their information to kids in the lower grades. Others want to present just to their classmates or just to Mrs. Vaccaro.
The topics are selected by students after they discuss ideas with their parents and with Mrs. Vaccaro. Working individually or in small groups, they have six weeks to research and complete their presentations. Then it's on to a new Genius Hour project.
"Obviously since the school year just began we're just getting started," Mrs. Vaccaro said. "I'm excited to see what students come up with and how their critical thinking skills, research skills, and presentation skills develop."
A number of other fourth grade classes have also begun or are planning to begin their own versions of Genius Hour.