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#082: Genius Hour in the Music Room

Lightbulb on a yellow background, with the text "Genius Hour in the Music Room"

Have you ever wondered how to implement Genius Hour in your music room? Genius Hour is an initiative that allows students to dedicate time each week to exploring a personal passion. It’s an opportunity for students to find something they love and explore it more deeply. Keep reading to find out more about Genius Hour in the music room, and scroll to the bottom to listen to a podcast episode about the topic.

What is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour is time dedicated each week to exploring a personal passion. In the general education classroom, students might have time once a week, like every Friday, to explore a topic of their choice. In the music classroom, since we have students for less time, you might choose to narrow the focus a little bit, and give students a selection of musical topics to explore.

Genius hour has its roots in Google. According to Medium, “Google engineers are given up to 20% of their work week to pursue projects that they are passionate about, as long as it has the potential to further the goals of the company. Innovations such as Gmail, Google News, and Google Glass are just a few examples of the types of projects that have come from this innovative use of company time.”

Why Have a Genius Hour in the Music Room?

A genius hour can encourage a more open-ended exploration of a topic. Students can have the chance to create a goal and attempt to accomplish that goal. Students also are given agency and choice, as they can choose a topic, choose a goal, choose how they will meet the goal, and choose how they will share their project.

I've found that Genius Hour works really well with upper elementary. Last year, I did Genius Hour at the end of the year with fifth grade, but I think it could also work well at the start of the year, as it could give you an idea of topics that students are interested in, which could help you plan your lessons for the rest of the year!

Choosing Topics for Genius Hour

As stated above, I chose to have four topics for students to choose from, but you could also structure Genius Hour so that students have more choices. Last year, I had students choose from these topics: ukulele, keyboard, coding, and GarageBand on iPads. This year, I am thinking I'll have students choose from ukulele, guitar, keyboard, coding, and Chrome Music Lab.

When choosing topics, you could keep in mind instruments students are familiar with from music class, instruments or topics that you wanted to explore but didn't quite have enough time for, and/or topics students in which students have expressed. For example, you might have students research genres, such as jazz, classical, or hip hop, create their own musical video, learn software such as Flat.io, or learn how to play more notes on recorder.

Creating a musical goal

After students choose a topic, they can create a musical goal. To do this, you could have students write their musical goal on paper, or fill out a Google form. For ukulele, for example, the musical goal could be “learn three chords on the ukulele,” or “learn how to play ‘Waiting on the World to Change.'” For Chrome Music Lab, the goal might be “learn how to use five of the games in Chrome Music Lab,” or something more complex, like filling in percussion part for the theme of “Star Wars,” using these resources from Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music. Whatever the musical goal is, students should be able to measure their progress and track their efforts. If it’s a long-term goal, they should have a plan for meeting the goal.

Letting students explore

With a topic-based genius hour, you’ll want to give your students some direction. However, you should also give them plenty of space to explore their topic. For ukulele, you might provide some playalongs for students to practice chords and songs, as well as some task cards so they can learn new chords. For creating a musical video, you could provide some student appropriate music videos for students to watch, then a tutorial for how to use iMovie on iPads, so students can record within the app. The exploration part of Genius Hour could take several lessons, and students could work individually, with partners, or in small groups.

Having students share

Once students have had several lessons to explore, now they can share whether they met their goal, and can share what they did during Genius Hour. This past year, I had students use Flip (formerly known as Flipgrid) to share their project, if they chose to. This upcoming year, I think I'm going to give students a variety of choices to share: Flip, small group discussion, or a whole class performance. This way, students can choose a way they feel comfortable with, and you can see and/or hear what they did during their project!

Wrap up

Genius Hour is a flexible time that allows students to explore their passions in-depth. When students know what they’re interested in, they can plan how and when they want to work on their projects. Genius Hour is a great opportunity for your students to follow their interests and explore their passions. With the creativity of your students in the music room, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

Looking for ready made materials for Genius Hour? Check out this set:

Want to listen to this as a podcast? Listen in iTunes, on Google Play Music, on Amazon, on TuneIn, or here:

Happy teaching!

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