My 3-5th grade classes are finishing up their math genius hour projects this week. Fittingly, it’s the last the week of school so we made it just in time! I have two days to fit in 15 project presentations. This last round of projects lasted around two months and the final projects will soon be revealed.
Students created questions, found a math connection, researched and are presenting this week. During the last two years students present their projects and the audience asks questions about the topic. This technique seemed to work but I tended to have the same students ask the presenter questions. Around five or so of the same students asked the presenters questions. In a class of 25 that’s not ideal. It was great that the students were asking questions, but five or fewer was disappointing. Bottom line – the audience wasn’t as engaged as they should be. So this year I decided to give the audience more of a voice in the process during genius hour presentations. This actually stemmed from a class that I took this spring about using Google tools in the classroom.
One of the assignments required students to create a Google Form that could be used in class. My first thought was to create a student rubric for presentations. I decided to create my own after dabbling around the Internet for a few examples. Initially the form was going to be used by the teacher to evaluate presentations. After starting the form I changed my thinking. I thought about possibly having all of my students use the same form to evaluate the presenter. The genius hour feedback form was built from that idea. Click the image below for the form.
This week my students have been using the form to evaluate their peers. Students are asked to present their projects while the audience listens. At the very end (not at the beginning as some students want to get a head start) students take an iPad and scan a QR code to access the Google Form. Individual students evaluate the speaker and submit their response. It’s not confidential as students have to pick themselves (the evaluator) and the presenter. I tell the students that this information will not be revealed to the presenter. So far it’s been working well. The last presentation took less than 2 minute to collect 21 feedback submissions. Another bonus is that you can have a class conversation about the overall quality of the presentations.
I then export the file to Excel, hide the evaluator column and then print out the sheet for the student. The student is then able to reflect on the data at a later time.
The form needs some work as I’m thinking of making some of the questions more clear. I’d also like to add a section on the form where students can ask the presenter questions.
This is my first year using a math genius hour model. My third, fourth and fifth grade classes all started their genius hours at the beginning of September. The beginning of our journey can be found here. Students narrowed down their question and have conducted research over the past month. The research process has been an eye-opening experience. Before beginning, I was able to set aside some time to have a conversation with students about finding appropriate resources for their project. Even though the classes were during the math block I thought discussing this was important, especially if we’re having more than one genius hour per year. I thought that having the conversation would pay a few dividends later in the year.
The majority of the research will be conducted online. The class discussed the importance of reviewing the ending of website addresses. We reviewed the url ending (.gov .edu .org .com .net) and how to conduct research in an effective and meaningful way.
We analyzed different red herring websites (1, 2) and I believe students are getting better at identifying sites that seem legitimate. This took a large amount of time and many questions were asked. I feel like an entire course could be dedicated to this topic. After a while, the class and I created a sheet that the students would fill out to organize their sources.
Although my district provides a facts database for students (www.facts4me.com), the majority of the research that needed to be conducted was beyond the site. So students began to explore research outside of the box. I soon found out that many students were under the impression that they could Google their question and use the first link that appeared. Students also found that Yahoo Answers wasn’t necessarily the best source either. Through a good amount of exploration, students found sites that were adequate and provided legitimate information that they could use in their project. The students became much more independent once they understood the research parameters.
At this point students are starting to explore how they will present their project. Last week the classes took time to review different presentation tools. Many of the students used a variety of presentation tools last year so they were fairly comfortable in picking a tool. Eventually the class decided to use the sheet below to help make an organized decision.
After students pick a tool they will start creating their presentation. Some students are at this point, others are not. My fifth grade classes helped create a rubric that students could follow. I wanted the rubric to be flexible in allowing students to present in a way that they wanted yet a minimum criterion was established. I wanted to also make sure that students’ creativity and voice were part of the presentation. A self-reflection piece is also incorporated into the rubric.
I’d like to thank Denise Krebs and the genius hour Wiki contributors for the self-reflection sheet. Addition resources on genius hour can be found in Joy’s genius hour Livebinder site.
Overall, the math genius hour is a work in progress and I’m assuming the students will present at some point in December. I continue to look forward to how this project progresses throughout the year.
One of my goals last year was to incorporate more student content creation in my classroom. The journey was challenging but definitely worthwhile. Students created a variety of projects that helped showcase their math understanding. There were elements of choice in the projects and I felt like student engagement and curiosity bloomed.
This year I’m trying something different. I’ve always been impressed with the idea of using genius hour in the classroom. What intrigued me was the student choice and engagement piece. The idea of students owning their learning and being intrinsically motivated to participant in the learning process is important. Hearing stories from Paul and Joy inspired me to think of ways that I could apply a genius hour philosophy in an elementary math classroom.
I had a few discussions with colleague and kicked around a few ideas on how to get started. I started off with an informal wonder wall. Students started to generate questions that they would like to answer. I soon found out that this was a challenging task for the students. They weren’t used to this type of assignment. When asked to create a question for the wonder wall they had trouble. Many students asked what I wanted and were unsure of what questions to create. I showed the students the Google and Siri test. If the question that they came up with could immediately be Googleable or Siriable (words?) then they should probably find another question. This actually worked as the class used some horrible and decent examples. After a while and some modeling, students started to compile a few different questions.
I then placed the different math strands on the whiteboard: geometry, measurement & data, number & operations and algebra. The class then started to sort their questions into the different math strands.
Students decided on what math strand to emphasize and documented it on their recording sheet. The class then discussed the math genius project flow chart.
I wanted to give students a bigger picture of what’s going to happen over the next month or so. Since my classes only have about an hour to work on this project a week, it’ll probably take at least a month of sessions to finish. I really have no idea though. It could take a couple of months, but it depends on how the students progress.
After we reviewed the flow chart the class will be moving into the research portion. Students will use a variety of tools/resources to research their topic to find some sort of conclusion. The students will be using the sheet below to document their research.
So far so good. Next week the classes will continue to research their questions and think about what type of presentation tool they’d like to use. This is definitely a journey and I’ll be documenting our progress through this blog.