Not Geniuses Yet, But Definitely Smarter!

My first Genius Hour experiment is complete!  A few weeks ago, I launched my first attempt at this type of learning with my 5th grade music class (see original post here).  On Monday, my kids got to share the efforts of their labor.  Based on some of the work I had seen from them in class, I was considerably worried.  Were they even ready for this?  Did I give them more than they were ready for?  Maybe, but giving up would have taught us nothing, so we pressed on.

Each group took turns sitting in front of the class with their ukes in hand and iPads on music stands.  They introduced their songs, pressed play on their YouTube videos, and began to strum along.  Each group played only about 1-2 minutes of their song so we could hear everyone.  Overall, I was pleased with what I heard.  Most groups had a good idea of what they were supposed to be playing and how it was supposed to go.  A few were a bit lost, but that was likely due to the group’s difficulty in working together during practice time.

So, what did I learn?

  1. My kids seemed to really enjoy choosing their own songs. This wasn’t surprising, but learning about ukeleles and chord progressions has been one of the first opportunities we’ve had in class to use popular music in an authentic way.
  2. Some of my students still really struggle with collaborative group work.  They always want their own way and have difficulties with compromise.  So, naturally, song selection took up a large part of their group time.
  3. Next time, I need to do a bit more scaffolding for my kids.  Some of them chose songs they liked but were way beyond their playing ability.  While I’m glad when my students have high expectations, they also need to be realistic given the time we have in class.
  4. I think next time I’d like to include a video recording and reflection component.  Particularly for music, some students have a hard time self-assessing in real time.  Videotaping and letting them watch later would help them see their progress.  If this were a long project, I’d recommend doing periodic video checks to keep them on track.
  5. Some of my kids are AMAZING!  One student in particular, M.B., absolutely blew everyone out of the water!  Not only did she learn her entire song by herself, but she added finger picking for the introduction of the song (a skill we never even talked about in class).  But honestly, the best part was watching how proud she was that she learned the whole thing and could nail the whole performance.  Though nobody matched her playing level, other students showed similar passion and pride.  And as a teacher, that is about as awesome as it gets.

All in all, I’d definitely do it again and I’m excited to use this model in other classes.  If you haven’t already, check out Don Wettrick’s book, Pure Genius!

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