I think one of the biggest problems my students had with Genius Hour this past semester was choosing a topic that would drive them. Sure, they picked things they were mildly curious about, but as I've said before, if you don't feel like you're getting away with something during Genius Hour, you're doing it wrong.
And so I've resolved to spend more time on figuring out what they really need to be exploring, where their passions really lie, and then giving them the tools to share that passion with others in the target language. Because let's face it, Genius Hour in the world language classroom should probably be less about breaking new ground than it should be about learning to communicate about topics that move them already. They need the prior knowledge of a familiar topic to build on, and the discovery is really more the language itself and the audience and resources that it opens up to them.
So my plan is to spend the first week of the new semester on a series of open-ended driving questions designed to get at what they would really enjoy studying. For addressing these questions, I'm going to try combining InfuseLearning with techniques I learned at #ACTFL13 in a session on organic language acquisition:
1. Establish some basic vocabulary with visuals and gestures.
2. Pose a question on InfuseLearning to be answered with student drawings (no words, but letters, numbers are ok).
3. Categorize student responses, and provide Spanish vocabulary corresponding to their answers.
4. OWL circle: move chairs out of the way for the circle (probably whole class at first) and add gestures to the vocabulary to ask students about their opinions.
5. Write an individual summary of your ideas after the circle session.
To this end, I have come up with a bunch of questions, grouped them, and decided on some basic verb vocabulary we'd need to discuss the responses:
What websites or type of websites do you like to see?
What type of videos do you like to see?
What TV shows or type of TV shows do you like to see?
What movies or type of movies do you like to see?
Vocabulary: sitios web, programas de tele, películas, te gusta, me gusta, le gusta, ves, veo, ve
Where do you go when you are not at school or at home?
You have $100: where do you use it?
Vocabulary: dónde, escuela, casa, tienes, cien dólares, vas, voy, va, usas, uso, usa
What are you an expert in?
What do you want to know how to do?
What do you want to create?
Vocabulary: quieres, quiero, quiere, eres, soy, es, saber, sabes, sé, sabe
How do you want to help other people?
How do you want to change the world?
What do more people need to understand?
Vocabulary: cómo, ayudar, ayudo, ayudas, ayuda, otras, cambiar, mundo, más, necesitas, necesito, necesita
I have some additional questions, more philosophical and more culturally based, but I think these are the best to get the Genius Hour discussion going and to help them figure out what they need in order to actually enjoy their own passion projects.