After launching into a modified Genius Hour without having all of my metaphorical ducks in a row, I've learned a few lessons.
1. Think about how you will keep track of everything.
Problem: I asked that all of my students have their Essential Questions for research approved by me. As I approved their questions, I typed something into their Google Doc that noted I had see it. I didn't, however, mark down anywhere that I had seen their question. This caused me to have no idea which of my 85 students had their questions approved and which had not. As a result, I had to reopen everyone EQ document to see if I had approved it.
Lesson Learned: Next time, I'll have a spreadsheet of all students so I can mark off when they've completed specific parts of the project. I've started it now, so we'll see how it goes for the rest.
2. My students don't really know how to research.
Problem: I've asked them to create complex Essential Questions, but a lot of my students don't have the research skills to break down their question into the necessary parts. They aren't able to select the key terms they'll need to search for while doing their research. Some of them aren't sure what I mean when I use the word "source". These are all issues I did not anticipate being so widespread.
Lesson Learned: Next time, I'll do some preassessment on research skills before beginning Genius Hour. And/Or I'll be sure to have mini-lessons closer to the start of the project. In the mean time, I've created a mini lesson on search terms, and made some videos to help them with some of their reseraching problems.
3. It's not as scary as I thought it would be.
Problem: I was hesisitant to jump into something without knowing exactly how it will end up. I didn't know what I wanted them to create at the end (I'm still not sure). I didn't know what sort of Essential Questions they would come up with. I didn't know how they'd use their time.
Lesson Learned: Kids are resiliant. They are willing to take chances with you if they know you'll be there for them. I did a lot of pre-activities about finding your passions, and talking about getting a chance to drive their own learning ahead of time. I think that really helped with the buy-in. Also, a number of students were way more excited about getting to choose what to do at the end that I had aniticipated. Mark that as a win for student choice.
I need to do a better job of keeping up the intiial excitement. I had a number of inspirational videos to show, but I only did one. I can feel the excitement waining (the end of the Genius Hour time period is drawing slowly ever nearer), so I'm going to show another video tomorrow.
In the end, it's going so far much better than I had anticipated in some aspects and not really as much in others.
I'm going to do some surveying of my students tomorrow get their feelings on how everything is progressing. I'm sure after that I'll have even more lessons learned!