How I made Genius Hour work in my Classroom
Have you ever heard of Genius Time or Genius Hour? It’s been a wonderful addition to my class schedule. It is based off of something that Google does. I mean, how can you go wrong with trying something that has benefitted one of the most successful companies of our time?
In a nutshell, Google gives its engineers 20% of their time to work on any project they want. This gives them the freedom to explore what interests them and through that freedom, productivity has gone up.
I am all for this – kids have different interests and when I started Genius Hour I was looking for an activity that would spike my student’s productivity and overall buy-in to school. I started implementing Genius Hour four years ago and through lots of changes and ‘tweaks’ it has become a favorite part of everyone’s day.
I have three basic rules for Genius Time in my classroom:
1. Work on something you’re passionate about.
Students should be choosing projects and activities that they are genuinely passionate about. They should not be doing something just because a friend is doing it.
2. This should involve some learning/research.
No matter what students are working on, there should be some learning involved. This goes hand-in-hand with growth mindset. Their goal for this time is to become a ‘genius’ at something. This does not come easily or without some hard work.
3. At the end, you will share your learning.
Students have to share their learning when they are ‘done’ with a genius project. ‘Done’ means different things for different projects. Some students can work two weeks on something and be ready to move on. Other students may spend the entire year focusing on one genius project. It is important that at the end of a project, they are given time to share their learning with the class or another appropriate audience.
I have created a planning sheet for kids to use while they are brainstorming a project. It can help remind them of the three rules and guide them through the process. Click here to download it!
Here are some of the Genius Time projects my students have worked on:
o This is very popular this year. My students love working on code.org. You can sign up and get them free logins so they can save their progress.
o I have some students who love writing. They spend this time working on their stories, watching videos/reading books and articles about improving their writing, and publishing their work into a portfolio.
o Some students have a topic they’re interested in and will create mini-books or picture books about it.
o This had me skeptical at first, but I am so glad that students thought of this! They want to improve their skills and create an art portfolio. They spend Genius Time researching artists, different techniques, and creating art.
These are the most common projects kids are interested in. But, like I said about Art, they can surprise you! It’s so fun to see the kids own their learning and figure out what they want to learn about.
Do you do Genius Hour in your classroom? What works and what doesn’t work? Comment your thoughts below!