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HKIS Middle School Ignites Student Learning Through SML Projects

Lyntisha Corneille & Maureen McCann, Hong Kong International School

hkis3-(1).jpgImagine that for an entire semester, your students have one hour scheduled in every six-day cycle to explore something of their interest. What would they study? What would they make or do?

hkis1.jpgHong Kong International Middle School launched SML (Self-Motivated Learning) for all students in grades 7 & 8 this school year. Inspired by Google’s Genius Hour Formula, students have an opportunity to explore their own passion or interest for one hour per cycle in the spring semester.

What follows is a snapshot/outline of our school’s SML experience. This list can serve as a possible “how to list” in case your school is considering launching a similar project idea.

  • 1Form a planning committee. This group develops a schedule for the semester, creates mini lessons to introduce and reinforce inquiry and research, and creates a master calendar.
  • 2Design a kick-off assembly. This gathering can be in the form of a presentation by students or a teacher’s explanation of the project.
  • 3Have students submit a proposal for approval. The project must be viable, sustainable, and reliable.
  • 4Assign teacher mentors to student groups based on interests from approved proposal. Students will meet with mentors once a cycle for 60–90 minutes.
  • 5Allow students to get to work!
  • 6Require students to document their progress on a spreadsheet that serves as an “exit ticket” at the end of each work session. They should log what they accomplished and outline goals for the next session.
  • 7Have a short assembly to explain expectations for a presentation event. Outline presentation requirements. Give students time to prepare presentations. Students should decide on the format of their presentations. Presentation format suggestions:
    • museum format/gallery walk
    • live presentation or demonstration to small group
    • showcase with a larger audience
  • 8Have students share their learning journeys on a SML blog that includes text and media. The focus of the blog is on process over product, and mistakes are encouraged. You may require students to add an SML section to an already-existing learning blog to document their progress. The SML blog could include reflective writing, visual images, and audio-media recordings.
  • 9Plan the special presentation day. Invite parents. Students will serve as both presenters and audience members. Celebrate the learning.
  • 10Ask teachers and parents to complete a survey, providing an opportunity to make suggestions to improve next year’s SML projects.
  • 11Guide students in self-reflection on their experience with selfmotivated learning.

hkis2.jpgDon’t be afraid to start small and gradually lay the foundation for a strong school-wide model. At HKIS, SML’s began as short, independent projects in a few classrooms. These early projects had their own identity; some teachers called them Passion Projects; others referred to them as Awesome Projects. It wasn’t until a few years had passed that SML grew into a schoolwide initiative. To see one teacher’s SML journey, check out the following blog:

The possibilities are wonderfully endless. Remember, SML projects are a journey that provide opportunities for students to develop personal passions while refining important inquiry skills. Students who are selfmotivated, read widely, and explore their curiosities are the types of learners we need for the future.

Published in ISS NewsLinks: Volume XXXII Number 1

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