Genius Hour is student-directed learning and not teacher-led. Students direct their own learning for just an hour a day. This is the time when teachers allow their students to process, create, develop, and learn a new skill set.
Genius Hour allows every student to explore their own ideas and encourages creativity. The goal is to engage students through problem-solving and critical thinking. This inquiry-based learning experience is geared specifically towards students exploring their interests.
The Genius Hour Process
There isn’t a right or wrong way to conduct Genius Hour in the classroom. However, you want to make sure that whatever you do, the structure of your Genius Hour will best fit your classroom.
Genius Hour occurs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in my classroom. I like to do this three times a week because my classroom schedule allows for more time on these days.
Start Genius Hour
While Genius Hour is just like it sounds, one hour, you want to make sure the way you begin is uniform each time. Also, even though your Genius Hour is meant to be self-directed, you can provide a series of activities under a particular umbrella. For example, if one day is a board game day, I will place students into groups and allow them to choose which learning game they want to play for that hour.
When I introduce Genius Hour, my introductions are not longer than five to seven minutes. Typically, my process includes one student who will set the timer for me, one student to be the group leader (if it is a group play), and one student to get any materials (if necessary). Having a few reliable students in this process is also great for creating appropriate grade-level responsibility.
Lastly, when I start Genius Hour, I like for there to be a particular set of skills we are using each day. For example, one day will be problem-solving skills and the following creative thinking skills. Either way, we always start our Genius Hour in the same way.
Six Types of Genius Hour Projects
While there are many different resources and ideas available in the world of education that you can use on any given week for your Genius Hour, I chose these Genius Hour projects because they take minimal preparation for maximum output.
1. STEM Related Activities
STEM-related activities are a great way to incorporate all kinds of interests within your classroom. Whatever STEM activity you choose, make sure that you can complete it within the set time.
Teaching how to make slime is a ton of fun. I don’t know any child that doesn’t enjoy creating this fun and gooey, scientific mess.
DIY Popsicle Catapult
What provides mechanical inspiration more than creating a popsicle catapult?
The Cotton Ball Launcher
Along the same course as the catapult, you can have so much fun with the cotton ball launcher project. Have your students do a contest at the end of the Genius Hour to see who can launch their cotton balls the furthest.
Are you noticing a theme with launching things? Students will love to spend time on their rockets. When completed, have your students create videos of their launch!
2. Passion Projects
In passion projects, students choose something they are passionate about, have a research phase, and then present the final product to the class and whatever method they believe is best.
The concept of passion projects is something I started doing with my students years ago. I found that this great way of allowing students to conduct research and present something they love was fun for them, but it was also fun for me too!
Every student presented their projects to the classroom and had fun doing so! Students were allowed to present their final product in any way they wanted: Apple Movie, PowerPoint presentation and lesson, and live student engagement. I had students doing projects on everything from how to bake a three-tiered cake to putting a car engine back together.
3. LEGO Play
Playing with Legos is one of the best student-directed learning experiences you can offer within your classroom. Kids worldwide create and love learning with all types of Lego products. In this case, just a simple box of Legos will do! You can even have your students write down their idea and then spend time making them come to life.
4. Mentally Stimulating Board Games
Games such as Chess, Checkers, Dominoes, Scrabble, and so on are excellent Genius Hour activities! One hour of these mentally stimulating games will have your class begging for more. This particular activity is both an extrinsic and intrinsic motivation tool. My students love to challenge their teachers to a chess or dominoes match. Sometimes, in those difficult times of the year, an extra offering of the Genius Hour goes a long way in pushing kids to get their other classwork done!
5. Trivia Time!
Trivia is such a fun way to engage your students! Students can easily use technology programs such as Kahoot or Quizziz to create a trivia game based on their own passions. But don’t just do one trivia for everyone; instead, let your students create their trivia to share with the class. Teachers, feel free to participate in this student-led teaching!
With my students, this trivia game becomes somewhat of a pet project they do during Genius Hour. This may not be something they finish all in one sitting. Have your students start creating their project trivia on something they love, then allow them the time to research and create great questions.
6. Community Engagement
With Genius Hour, you want your students to be interested in whatever ideas they are exploring. However, sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to provide the umbrella under which they will explore. Have part of your Genius Hour include some involvement with community members. People in the community can provide genuine material that will help spark an idea in students and teachers alike. If the point of Genius Hour is to discover something new, why not build new relationships?
Implementing Genius Hour
First of all, when I told my students that they could do a project or activity about anything that they wanted for one whole hour, I had to repeat myself because they didn’t believe me. My first Genius Hour was a total success! Some people who teach older students might think that this is more for younger students, but it isn’t. High school-age students like to explore and question just as much as the younger ones do.
My students worked for the entire hour, feeling like they were getting the freedom of free time. I felt as though I were the proud mother who had successfully hidden vegetables in their toddler’s dinner. There are very few students who get the chance and opportunity to explore their own unique interests, and this hour allows them to do just that.