Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Implementing a “Genius Hour” With Your Students

  • October 5, 2017
  •    BY Maurice Elias, Ph.D. (Co-Director)

A response to Larry Ferlazzo’s “question-of-the-week,” How can I implement a “Genius Hour” with my students?

Response From Maurice Elias

There has been a lot of talk lately about implementing a “Genius Hour” with students.  Here is my take on it. Every student has genius. And time should be set aside to celebrate the genius of every student. It does not require a single hour; it’s something that can and should be scheduled throughout the school year. You can celebrate two students a week, half hour each; you can celebrate a student each day for 15 minutes—use your imaginations!

My suggestion is that you frame a Genius Hour in terms of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model. Gardner was interested to see if all cultures defined intelligence in terms of language arts and mathematical skills the way our Western educational culture seems to. Of course, he knew the answer would be, “No.” What Gardner also found is that there are physiological and specifically neurological bases for the different kinds of intelligence he identified—intelligences that collectively are essential for humanity and civilization, with some being emphasized by some cultures more than others.

The eight multiple intelligences (MI) Gardner has identified are:  Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Spiritual. There are formal ways to assess your students’ multiple intelligences strengths, and Thomas Armstrong has created some of the best, practical materials. But you are likely to know your students’ relative MI preferences pretty well.

Students learn well through their strengths and an opportunity to use their strengths can leverage a greater willingness to work on areas of weakness or learning difficulty. That is the importance of celebrating their strengths. Some students can go through a school day—in fact, many school days—without feeling a sense of celebration or accomplishment. A “Genius Hour” is and should be about recognizing things our students are good at and sharing them with classmates, making it clear that there is no hierarchy of intelligences, only multiple intelligences.

You can introduce the Genius Hour—or whatever you choose to all it—by introducing MI and asking students to identify what they think their strengths are—indeed, expanding their view of what a strength is. You can also have students share geniuses they admire, who display particular MI strengths.

An ongoing celebration of student strengths—or genius—represents finding windows into the soul of children and ways to reach them in powerful and meaningful ways. When students are working within their areas of MI strength, they are able to mobilize confidence and enjoyment in ways that can be cut off if they are “off-modality.”  Thus, it becomes vital for students to have opportunities to be recognized for — and to perform and learn in — their preferred modalities. 

 

Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. He is also author of the e-book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting  and The Other Side of the Report Card:  Assessing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Character Development (2016, Corwin):

See Larry Ferlazzo’s full blog here:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2017/06/response_genius_hours_can_be_transformative.html

 

    • October 5, 2017
  •    BY Maurice Elias, Ph.D. (Co-Director)
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