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Genius Hour 2013: First Semester

posted Sep 2, 2013, 3:57 PM by Jillane Baros

Original Post on Profa Baros's Classroom


Each day, I'm getting closer to introducing Genius Hour to my class.  After much thought and input from coworkers, I feel like I've got a solid plan.  Obviously, things will be a little less flexible than this last summer as far as what material we need to cover (I need to demonstrate that I'm meeting standards for Spanish classes), but we have so many more opportunities to really go big with this project so I'm very excited!  Here's what I've got planned so far...


First semester, I'm going to focus on teaching about culture.  I want my students to really grasp what culture is and how it shapes communities and societies.  We're going to start with learning the countries and capitals of Spanish-speaking countries so that students know which countries meet my expectations for researching related cultural information.  Then, we're going to do a few experiential activities for students to start thinking about what culture really is.  Finally, we'll dive right in to independent research on their own devices during Genius Hour and continue that research until the end of the first semester.


Once we get to the Genius Hour phase, students will be collaborating to create an online collection of the resources they've found.  Using blogger, students will create posts to share the information they find on various cultural topics and categorize them.  (They will take down notes about the information they find in their notebooks - a separate grade - and use these notes to help them create their posts and remember facts what they read).  I've broken culture down into ten categories and students will need to create at least one post for each category plus at least 5 additional posts in whichever category or categories they choose (a total of at least 15 posts).  Each class will have their own website and may not duplicate a resource that another person in their class has used (however, they can use their classmates' resources to jump-start their own research!).


All of our students have set up gmail accounts using a specific format from the school.  I will invite the students from each class to become authors on for their class's website using these accounts.  In order to protect student privacy, the blogs are set so that only the authors can view them.  However, I have set up a blog specifically to share student work with all of you in the same format - I will just be copying and posting excellent examples of student posts under my name rather than students posting to the world under their own names.  To view the example account, CLICK HERE.  As students get to work creating posts, I will update this blog accordingly.


Here area few technical tips and tricks I used to set up the class website:


  • Decide what labels students will use when they post.  Labels will automatically pop up once they are used the first time, so I created a post that is tagged with all the labels I want students to use.
  • Set up a redirect for the home page to always display the same information/post.  I redirected this page to the "introduction" post I created which used all the labels I want students to use.  This particular post is excellent for a home page as it introduces the topic, explains the categories, informs them of the labels that represent each category, and gets them started with some sample questions.
  • Set up pages for each of the categories.  In Blogger, you can set up pages as links to a particular URL.  I used this option and linked the pages to the "results" page that comes up when you click the corresponding label.  Thus, each of these pages will pull up all of the posts labelled for that category.
  • Students use two labels for each post.  The first is for the category it goes under (so that it comes up when you click the "page" for that category), and the second is their name so that I can quickly find all the posts a particular student has created (we're going to use the the first initial+last name format for their name label).

Note that I also included a dedicated page for directions on how students should create their posts as well as a rubric for grading the posts.


By the end of first semester, I'm hoping that each class has created a resource they can all be proud of and provides useful information to their classmates.  I'm even thinking about doing a hallway display of the cool information they've found and have some ideas about incorporating QR codes.  Second semester, they will use this resource to propose three research topics and ultimately select one topic for which to complete their final project.  This will be more of a 20 Time style project and more details will come as we get closer!

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