Genius Hour and Student Voice

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When thinking about a learner focussed classroom, the activity called Genius Hour is frequently mentioned. Genius Hour encapsulates a way to begin individualizing our student’s learning, and to do so in a project type of environment.

What is Genius Hour?

As we know, there are many ways to be innovative in solving problems in the world. Many companies have realized that as their employees have been given responsibilities for their positions their total skills, abilities, and interests are not always part of their job. The same is true for our students in which we have a set of lessons and activities that we ask them to do and yet there always seems to be those students who appear to have interests that they are passionate about that can’t seem to be incorporated into the day to day work. To solve this problem, companies such as Google, created what they called the 20% time policy. This policy allowed employees to devote 20% of their work day to projects that the employee would most benefit Google. Shifting this concept over to education the idea becomes one in which the student is allowed to work on something they are passionate about that would most benefit their own learning. As A.J. Juliana points out:

“Genius Hour is a time given to students in classrooms around the world to work on inquiry-driven and passion-based projects that are built on intrinsic motivation.”

During the projects students explore their creativity, develop habits for learning, and gain experiences that connect directly to fostering growth mindsets. The best projects also incorporate ways to improve or help the lives of others in the world.

You will see Genius Hour referred to as the 20% project time, passion project, mastery hour, wonder workshop, and innovation hour.

What are some key classroom management needs?

There are many resources to read and glean information as you’ll see below on the Padlet. The key to having a successful Genius Hour in the classroom is to:

  1. Begin by connecting students to their passion, or what they want to learn about.
  2. Have a clear essential question that requires students to research, process, and filter information to gain an understanding in their topic.
  3. Set clear milestones or goals along the way. Students should understand the sequence of steps to follow.
  4. Have a shared classroom tool for students to reflect on what they are learning during each step of their journey and what they will do next.
  5. Give students time at the end to create a presentation of what they learned and what they did.

Here’s a Padlet with links to get started and learn more about Genius Hour.

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Here’s a Genius Hour Hyperdoc presentation for students to get them started and keep track of their project..

Paul Solarz, author of Learn like a Pirate has several posts, here and here on getting started with Genius Hour.

CUSD 5th grade teacher Alyssa Gularte has had her students doing Genius Hour for several years. Here are some examples from her students’ 2016 and 2017 blogs.

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