Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
Genius Hour next year is going to look very different than Genius Hour this year for a few reasons. During my first year teaching, I identified a few things that I need to address and fine tune a bit more before I'm ready to take on Genius Hour in the same way again: Spanish proficiency and Structure. I felt that I was lacking in these areas last year, and Genius Hour was when it showed the most. However, while re-structuring my curriculum and teaching this summer, Genius Hour emerged in a whole new way that I didn't expect.
Reading is a fundamental element of developing language proficiency. In my quest to pack as much comprehensible Spanish input into my class as possible, I set aside a daily free-choice reading period for students. However, I needed a way to hold students accountable for their reading and to check that they're getting out of it what they should be. I added a reading journal, where students identified what they read and included a brief summary as well as a list of words they came across that they didn't know (note to self - I just had the idea of adding in a "rating" for each entry, indicating how students feel about reading that day). Then, while deciding the format of my final, I decided to use that daily reading as the source for a book report and presentation, which allowed me to assess speaking, something that can be tricky in a Comprehensible Input-based classroom. My main objective was simply to translate their reading into a somewhat painless writing and speaking assessment, but I decided to include a "product" of their choice that could represent their book as well as help remind them of what they wanted to talk about during their 1-2 minute presentation to the class.
In my push for more comprehensible input and Spanish instruction, I was a bit sad that I was eliminating Genius Hour, but felt this was needed and that I would be much more successful with my instruction and meeting my responsibilities with my new curriculum plan. Then it occurred to me... Isn't this reading project just another form of Genius Hour? I'm requiring that they read... but they're welcome to read anything they want to, create a project that represents their learning, and presenting it. All the elements are there, PLUS it's all in Spanish! I feel like I've found my silver bullet and am quite pleased with myself. Because of some of the attitudes toward "Genius Hour" from last year, I won't be calling it that this year (at least not in front of my students). However, the fundamental elements are all there and I am so excited to capitalized on this experience again!
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