My kids and I do a version of what is popularly called Genius Hour or 20% Time except we call it P-Day. The P stands for Passion. It is a way to inject 50 minutes of student-driven learning into school.
If you have never heard of Genius hour it is easily Googalable. Joy Kirr has a nice selection of resources here. I have written about our P-Day here and reflected on last year’s here. More and more educators are touting P-Day, Genius Hour, 20% Time, and other incarnations of self-directed learning. This is not an original idea that was sparked by Google, 3M, or Federal Expresses programs with their employees or any one teacher. Some days I think it is downright silly that giving kids 50 minutes, 2% of the week in school, to self-direct their learning attracts any attention and that I am even writing a blog post about this great “innovation.” There are entire schools that operate like 20% Time 100% of the time, and there are plenty of homeschoolers, unschoolers and other learning opportunities for kids that provide them with the opportunity to make every hour of their life a Genius Hour. I think it shows where we are in education that if you tell other teachers that you are giving kids 2% of the week to explore their own interests you are seen as an outlier. It is just the way it should be. A little disclaimer, I have some first-hand experience with kids that self-direct their learning 100% of the time 🙂
This year I became a 7th grade teacher and whoa Nelly the transition was a bit rough so I put introducing P-Day on hold for a bit. Then the other seventh-grade social studies teacher decided to do it with us–Whoa Nellie again, an entire floor of P-Dayers! And then I had a student teacher start with me….but finally this month we kicked it off. I wanted to record the class because I think it would be interesting to see how people introduce it to their kids. Below I have a video of the slides along with my audio. I don’t allow kid to make excuses before presentations, but I will break my own rule. I put off recording my first three classes, screwed up on the fourth and somehow by the time we started the fifth I only had thirty minutes. The presentation was a bit rushed and not as detailed as the others, but it is a good idea of how we intro it. I did stick in the “P-Day Pitches” that were not done in this class, but were shown the the others, and the end is cut off 🙂 The slides can be found here. The audio in the video below kicks in after 5 seconds.
Call it whatever you’d like, giving kids a chance to self-direct their learning is necessary. If you try it and it “fails” that is just proof that they need more time doing it. You don’t need to start doing it for an entire year. I started by just taking the day before Thanksgiving vacation. we called the day 45/45. everyone got 45 minutes to explore anything and 45 seconds to share what they explored. From there I did every day before vacation, and during block schedules we even moved up to 60/60 days 🙂 Eventually we did it for longer stretches. One marking period, two marking periods, and now we do it for three marking periods. Some years there have been blocks. Single parents have ended it three different years, and each class takes to it very differently. I don’t have kids who just sprint to exploring and making things. Sometimes I look at what other teachers have written and wonder are those kids real? 🙂 Most of mine have no real special interests. Most just sit for weeks. Most are slow to realize that they can in fact self-direct their learning.
Doing this type of thing with your kids should come with a warning label — **Your results may vary** — especially because the biggest catalyst in doing something like this is you. The students need to see you model self-directed learning. It is not something you direct. It is not something you “teach.” It is something you model. You need to lead by example. The kids will always be who your are, and not who you want them to be.