Students Reflect on a #GenreGenius #GeniusHour

Wednesday, July 5, 20171:41 PM

What did students learn from a #GenreGenius #GeniusHour?

That’s the question I was left wondering at the end of the school year. A quick refresher: this year, I took a new approach to passion-based learning and focused our #GeniusHour projects on a deep-dive into literary genres. Students read, researched, watched, and synthesized, producing something new with their knowledge. For more about the journey and all of my posts on #GenreGenius and #GeniusHour, click here.

At the end of the unit, my students complete a self-assessment and reflection. They answer a number of questions about their work and grade themselves. This is powerful in many different ways. First, it requires critical thinking and real metacognitive reflection. Students need to think deeply about their own learning, progress, and projects. Secondly, it puts the power in their hands--they can earn any grade as long as they justify it. It creates a sense of ownership of the learning. Finally, it lets me focus on learning and passion, not grades. None of my conversations with students are about points or numbers; they’re all about reading and growth.

Self-Assessment & Reflection: The Activity

The directions are below, and here is a Google Doc with the assignment if you’re interested: #GenreGenius Self-Evaluation & Reflection 2017.

Your Task:
Reflect on your Genius Hour work and consider your successes, challenges, and maybe even failures. Most projects and proposals evolved and changed throughout the process and final products were often fluid and growing. Your projects will not be graded on how well you achieve your proposed goals but how much you have grown, reflected, and applied yourself throughout the process--and you will do the evaluating.

Complete this work fully with reflection, detail, depth, and clarity. Answer each question individually or craft an essay addressing these ideas. This final doc should be at least 2-3 pages long. Your grade must be justified by your comments and ideas; grades that are not well-defended will need revision to earn credit.

Student Comments

Here are a handful of student comments from this reflection. Below, I’ll comment on a few of the trends and revelations for my work and growth with #GeniusHour.

  • For me, Genius Hour allowed me to open back up to reading literature that I enjoyed. I mentioned that I really haven’t read a book on my own since around the 5th grade or for my enjoyment. What I found valuable was the increasing knowledge of my particular genre. This helped me have a better understanding of movies that fall into this category and I start noticing tropes and such while watching television now.
  • I really ended up enjoying this project and was happy with my end result. That before I did this project I wasn't a big reader, like at all, and this project actually had gotten me to realize that I like reading and I will continue to read. So I'm glad that we did end up doing this project even though at the beginning I wasn't so happy about it.
  • The value came from working on something I really wanted to know about. I thought the idea that what one writer 50 years ago comes up with for a fictional story has a large impact on the people who actually play a role in shaping what the future looks like.
  • In the end I actually enjoyed doing this project. I liked about that it made me read and it turns out I like reading. This project helped me write. In the beginning I really had trouble coming up with 150 words to meet the requirements for the blog post, but in the end I was able to go above and beyond with my words, especially the synthesis post. It took me only a couple of minutes and I had so much to write about.
  • Genius hour was valuable to me in that it gave me a medium to share my love of fantasy through, and inspired me to broaden my technology skills to create a finished product. It was also really fun to be able to choose what I got to read and watch for a high point project.
  • When I was reading all of my sources, I could see where threads from each one intertwined with some of the others or even stories or movies I had read or watched before. Connections I had never noticed stuck out to me . . . These connections help broaden my thinking by making me question what stories were based on and where ideas stemmed from. I really started seeing the interconnection between fantasy stories within the genre.


My students enjoyed reading. That was my big take away from their reflections. Most students commented on a newfound passion for reading or for a literary genre that they did not have before. My big takeaway, though, is that maybe I haven’t done enough to promote a love of reading in my classroom. We don’t do a lot of independent reading, and I think that’s a problem. It feels like there just isn’t time for it within our 41-minute classes. But I think that’s something that needs to change. Students shouldn’t just explore a love of literature in one project, this should be a part of the culture of school.

I’m glad my students enjoyed their work here. They clearly learned a lot. Many students reflected positively about the freedom and choice they had in exploring genres. Some struggled with finding value in their blogging, which is an interesting challenge to consider. In the end, as usual, I’m left with more questions than answers but with a lot of new ideas for next time.

I’m glad I decided to try something new with our genre focus, and look forward to the next iteration of #GeniusHour.

What do you do to build a love of reading in your class or school? How can we make passion a regular part of the day? How can I improve #GenreGenius? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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