Genius Hour Motivation

Genius Hour Motivation: An Honest Discussion

 

I started my first Genius Hour class this year and had high hopes coming in. I was excited to read a plethora of stories online about students solving real world problems as well as creating connections with community members and improving the surrounding community. As it began some students were motivated and went off to the races, they loved the idea. I was surprised by the number of students who had no idea what they wanted to do. To them this was yet another school project handed down by the man, a real eye roller. They did have Genius Hour motivation! I thought that came with the territory?

A few weeks into Genius Hour, I found myself pleading with students to pick a good topic…or to do anything at all!

  • Some had no idea what they wanted to do, nor had interest in any topics
  • others picked topics with very little information(Ligers)
  • a few just wouldn’t do anything. Seriously they just sat there.
  • A few just watched videos of O’dell Beckham

Even more, I found myself constantly pushing kids. Really hard to do research and to dig into their topics more. If this is supposed to be a passion project…where is the passion!?

I think the online teacher community can be a bit of a utopia sometimes.

People are tweeting and blogging about all these sunny day lessons that kids love and helps them learn tough concepts. Teachers have 3rd graders fixing water sprinklers and others have 5th graders coding in C++. Not to say I dont have those kids, I do. They are great, they are self starting and Genius Hour is a time for them to flourish. Their projects really keep me encouraged about how important 20% time is.

It doesn’t always go great in classrooms. I think if I could critique most of what I read online is that we as teachers do not post what could or will go wrong in a lesson or activity like Genius Hour. I do still love the idea but I am saddened by the way a large percentage of my kids regard Genius Hour that I am tempted to just ditch the project for them and give them more of a scaffolded lesson, because I think in their strange way, they are uncomfortable with the freedom the Genius Hour provides. Does this make sense?

Also, I don’t want to come off that I am not open to suggestions, and am just another teacher whining about newer trends. I am open! I just would like to get out and see what other teachers are doing to deal with a lack of motivation in a class that bills itself as a…self-starter for kids.

So, what do you do? How do you battle this problem and motivate those students in your class who are not captured by the Genius Hour allure?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants

We all have a Growth Mindset (sometimes)

Playing video games or sports are examples of where we persist. We never give up because we get frustrated and want the notoriety of beating the game, or scoring the game winning goal. It is competitiveness and it is the way we are wired. So, use that to your advantage as a teacher when talking with your students!

I started talking about Odell Beckham Jr. (a favorite among most middle school football fans) and his famous catch. It is ridiculous. The sports world went crazy for how impossible this catch was. Afterwards, when the dust settled from this amazing touchdown, we realized that it wasn’t luck. It was a skill that he has been developing for a long time.

I took a ball and passed it back and fourth with a student gingerly. Asking the class if we are going to make a crazy catch like that. Of course not! We’re not testing ourselves. We’re not trying new things, not practicing running and catch, or defending the pass from the defender(he was also fouled on the play).  What about the one handed catch?

I then showed the catch to the students… They all loved it.See it below.

 

Afterwards we talked about the catch, it’s insane! Talked about how it could be luck, but then I showed my students this video.

He is still practicing his one handed catches. Something he knows he needs to work on to be the best receiver he can be.

What can you do work on? What have you failed at that you need to get better? What is something that you failed at first, that you worked on to be successful?

Hands flew up. Many sports stories about goalies letting in easy goals to hockey skating skills. I want students to see that they already have a growth mindset in some areas, you just need to tap that drive to compete and be successful and harness it for other areas of your life.

Let your students fail.

 

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This week in my technology classes I have been trying to explain what it takes to have a growth mindset to my students. I have done this in the past as a few inspirational speeches but I’ve tried a few things this week that I think are helpful to teaching this awesome outlook on life. First up is Letting your students fail.

I’ll say it again, let them fail.

We love to tell students and then let them practice this new skill before we let them experience life before we (hopefully) brought new knowledge into their lives. For growth mindset teaching to students, I think it is important to show students first that they might fail while trying an assignment. So, you might let your students try an activity with vague directions, or no directions at all. This might be hard and confusing for students, so don’t let this go on for very long. Then stop the class, talk about failures and successes, what worked? What didn’t? Focus on how failure can help your students learn what not to do on the road to learning the correct process!

I thought hard about failure this week and it is really a great thing, it shows our students what doesn’t work. Sometimes, it is frustrating, but it is another rung on the ladder of success. Try to celebrate those times when a student fails, then decides to use that information to a new academic or relationship success!

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