Adapting Genius Hour – Make it Your Own

By Gallit Zvi

Cross-blogged from my website,

As a vice principal, I have the wonderful opportunity to spend time in many different classes over the school year and I always find it so exciting to see what folks are doing with their students!  Of course I get especially excited when teachers invite me into their classrooms to participate during Genius Hour.  Last year (the 2016-17 school year) I had several different teachers ask me to join in during Genius Hour and it was great to see how they all approached it in slightly different ways.  The overall structure was similar in each room: students were given time to brainstorm lists of things they were interested in, passionate about, cared about, etc and then students designed a project around one of these topics starting with an inquiry question that they would pursue.  Students were then given the opportunity to share their learning in a way that they chose–a fairly typical Genius Hour structure. Good stuff!

However, one teacher structured it a bit differently. Before introducing the concept of Genius Hour to her class, she noticed that students really wanted the opportunity to become the teacher and teach the class themselves. And so, in order to be responsive to this authentic enthusiasm in her class, she introduced Genius Hour and asked them to prepare a lesson at the end. She told them they would all get to be teacher! This is what they had been begging for!

So, we introduced Genius Hour in the same way as the other classes (following these steps). But she added that at the end they would have the opportunity to teach something to the rest of the class as part of their project.  Students in her grade 4/5 class were very excited about this presentation format.  They were thrilled to plan lessons and teach their peers a new skill, some new information, etc.

So, why am I writing about this now? I was recently perusing an article by Parker Palmer and was struck again by one of his famous quotes, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher”, and was reminded once again, how there cannot be one prescribed way to do Genius Hour. Like Denise Krebs and I state in our book, you have to make it your own and do what works for you.  I love that this teacher was in tune with what her students wanted to do and made that connection to what she wanted to do–Genius Hour.

It was a win-win for everyone. And I was thrilled to be able to support the learning in her classroom-so a win for me too.




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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Elementary, Genius Hour


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Authors of the Month

We are super excited to announce that the authors of The Genius Hour GuidebookScreen Shot 2015-05-01 at 7.26.21 AMDenise Krebs and Gallit Zvi, were selected as Routledge Eye on Education’s Authors of the Month!

Check out the exclusive interview here.

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Genius Hour


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More Genius Hour in Kindergarten

By Denise Krebs

Originally posted on her blog


I don’t want children to stop asking questions. I want to be the teacher that welcomes provocative questions. That’s why I so firmly believe in getting out of the way of children and letting them question and learn. Genius Hour has been a way to affirm this in my classroom.

I’ve been wondering how to do more Genius Hour in my kindergarten class. It was great with junior highers, but kindergarten has been a steep learning curve. I’m still on the uphill.Faige Meller has been a great resource for me and others. She is an active Kindergarten Genius Hour teacher! I’ve had some successes with making; I wrote about here. I thought I’d share some more that we’ve done in our class. Perhaps some reminders for me when I start with next year’s class.

First, just like with almost any activity in kindergarten, we don’t want to start Genius Hour until we have established rapport and routines with our young learners. They need to know they are in a safe learning environment where they are loved and trusted. They need to thoroughly know and practice the community’s expectations for behavior and how they get along with others in their new learning space. This will take weeks or for me and my children, maybe months.

In the meantime, during all of your days, starting on Day 1, we want to be sure to nurture young learners’ curiosity. Welcome questions, dive into inquiry, and laugh, learn and love with your students.

My students and I adopted this “Genius Hour anthem” from Debbie Clement,  “You’re Wonderful.” It’s a conversation between teacher and students:

Teacher: I think you’re wonderful. I think you’re marvelous. I think you’re beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams.

Students: You think I’m wonderful? You think I’m marvelous? You think I’m beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams?

Students: You’re right, I’m wonderful. You’re right I’m marvelous. You’re right I’m beautiful and magical and filled with curiosity and dreams?

It continues with the children telling the teacher she’s all these things, and then together they affirm they are all wonderful, marvelous, beautiful, magical and filled with curiosity and dreams. Singing a song like this has been a good reminder that we—teacher and children—are on an amazing and extraordinary adventure of learning together.

After building rapport, establishing routines, and celebrating love of learning with our students, we can start “Genius Hour” doing a group project replete with choices and high-interest. Choose a topic that has captured children during regular school day activities. Or survey students with the simple question, “What do you want to learn? or What problem do you want to solve?” and then choose a popular group topic from their responses. Tell the students they are going to do a group “Genius Hour” and that they can learn whatever they want to about the topic/problem.

Before they start, gather resources–a stack of nonfiction and fiction books, art and building supplies, videos, appropriate web pages, etc. Then allow students to choose between the different resource “centers,” real choices based on the group topic/problem.

In my kindergarten English class, which includes 100% English language learners, we did two group projects for Genius Hour. One was a big numbers project. For weeks, two children had been interested in big numbers. About every other day, they would come to me trying to tell me about a number larger than the one they told me before. A thousand, a million, a billion, a billion and one.

One day I asked one of my little number engineers if he had ever heard of a googol. His eyes lit up with curiosity as he laughed at the funny word. I showed him a googol on Wikipedia. When he saw how long the number was, he was rightly impressed. He went right to work writing a one with 100 zeroes following. The learning was contagious; others joined around the computer as I read to them about this big number. Still more became interested as they learned about the nine-year-old boy, Milton, who named the large number. It turned into our first group project. One small group joined the first boy on the floor writing out a googol on long strips of cash register receipt paper. Another group wanted to put together number puzzles. Still others wanted to count to 100 with the Macarena song we had done for our 100 Day Party.

She started with 10 and added 33 sets of three zeroes, each separated with commas--one googol!

When asked later to complete the sentence, “This year, I learned____,”  one of the big number children wrote, “…how to count to a googol.” Now, I realize, of course, that he didn’t really, but for this five-year-old child, the big numbers project was a significant and memorable learning experience.

The second project the kindergarteners did centered around “zig zags.” One girl brought in a zig zag for show and tell during Z week. The next day she brought strips of paper and asked if the other children could make them too. I made time, and they all created zig zags–some more springy and shapely than others. Later, these zig zags, plus many more, turned into animals, pop-up books, greeting cards and more fun maker projects.

Finally, after several months of 1) setting up our loving and safe learning environment and 2) doing group projects, I started having students choose their own individual or small group projects.

I introduced personal Genius Hour during what was called “activity time” in the kindergarten schedule. (It is perfect because I only have half of my class of 26 at a time during activity.) We have access to an ongoing supply of art supplies, building materials, and former trash for rubbish re-creations. Our class library has books on subjects of great interest to the children.

During an earlier activity period, I had told the students that their interesting art projects reminded me of Genius Hour. (I actually had not called our group projects Genius Hour yet.) “Maybe next activity time we will do Genius Hour,” I said to them, marveling about how creative and curious they were.

One little guy asked, “What is Genius Hour?”

“It’s a time when you get to learn or make whatever you want to.”

“I like that,” he said.

Who would not like that?

By Denise Krebs


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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Genius Hour, Kindergarten


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The Genius Hour Guidebook – Coming Soon!

The Genius Hour Guidebook – Coming Soon!

By Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi

A few years ago the two of us took a risk in our practice–we asked our students what they wanted to learn about and let them take the reins and direct their own learning. Shortly after, we began the collaborative Genius Hour website,, and then the monthly Twitter chat using the hashtag #geniushour.  Along with our friends and fellow Genius Hour teachers, Hugh McDonald and Joy Kirr, we began to share Genius Hour with all the teachers that would listen.  We are both so passionate about Genius Hour and found that it not only benefited our students but also changed everything for us!

The two of us wanted to spread the Genius Hour love with even more educators, so we decided that the next step was to write a book about Genius Hour.  

We have been working on this book for a couple of years now and are really honoured that it has now gone to production by Routledge and MiddleWeb.  We truly hope that it will help educators implement Genius Hour with their students. Our hope is that one day all students will have the chance to work on their own Genius Hour projects.

We are so excited to announce that The Genius Hour Guidebook: Fostering Passion, Wonder and Inquiry in the Classroom is now available for presale and will be available this Fall.

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Click here for more information & to preorder on Routledge

Click here to preorder on Amazon

Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi

Denise Krebs and Gallit Zvi

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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Genius Hour


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The Genius Hour Manifesto

The Genius Hour Manifesto was written collaboratively by Denise Krebs, Gallit Zvi, Hugh McDonald and Joy Kirr in March of 2013 at the encouragement of AJ Julliani who later published it as a chapter in his eBook, The Best and Next in Education.

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Part 1: What is Genius Hour? Where did the idea come from and how did it start? Why do it?

Denise: Genius hour is student-driven, passion-based learning. Very simply, it is a time when learners are asked what they want to learn, and the teacher gets out of their way. I was inspired to have genius hour by a tweet I saw from Angela Maiers in November 2011.

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After seeing that tweet, I did a Google search for genius hour and Dan Pink’s blog post “The Genius Hour: How 60 minutes a week can electrify your job” came up. That’s all I needed. I knew it was the kind of learning experience I wanted to provide for my students. We’ve been doing it ever since.

Last year, Gallit and I started the #geniushour Twitter chat. Our first chat in March 2012 challenged me to start having genius hour each week with my students.

Hugh:  I first learned of this term after reading Denise Krebs blog and the tweet (referenced above) where she referenced an article titled “Genius Hour” referenced on Daniel Pink’s Blog.   Genius Hour is an idea that gave employees in a work place a scheduled autonomous hour each week to think, learn, and explore on how to make themselves and their work environment better, more creative, and more exciting to be a part of.  From the blog entry I was immediately struck by how simple the idea is. If you give people time for creativity, discovery, learning, and a say in the culture of their environment, you create an opportunity for empowerment and growth of the individual and the organization.

I immediately loved the idea and retweeted Denise’s tweet and then began the journey in my classroom.  Denise did a lot of initial work connecting the idea to the classroom.  I used a lot of her initial samples and questions preparing my students to participate in their first Genius Hour in the later part of 2011 and early January 2012.

The joy in my students’ eyes and the eyes of the teachers in my school when they saw my students at work on their initial Genius Hour projects was priceless.  Genius Hour as an idea gives autonomous personalized learning time out of every week to students to question, think, learn, and explore the things they loved and were curious about.  This was something special that engaged learners like nothing I had seen before.  The learning atmosphere felt amazing.  I could walk down the hall and ask Gallit a question and return to see them all still on task, questioning, driving their own learning, and having fun being curious.  It was an amazing feeling as a teacher to see your students excited about learning.   By modelling what a learner thinks about when they are learning I was seeing individualized, personal, and passionate learning taking place before my eyes by a classroom full of 12 and 13 year olds.

Joy: I got the idea from Ewan McIntosh at a conference in Michigan, Feb. 2012. I didn’t have a name for it, but he encouraged us to let students pursue their own learning. He was ready to overhaul our schools so student schedules revolved around this type of learning! All I was looking for was an overhaul of the way our ELA department tackled independent reading. I was so tired of doing more work than the students, with quarterly book projects being due the week of grades, and knowing many students didn’t actually read any of the book. So… researching anything of their choice? Sounds like independent reading to me!!  The name came that same month, when Gallit and Denise held a #GeniusHour chat on Twitter… I was hooked on the idea that students could pursue their own learning!

Gallit: I first learned about Genius Hour on Twitter.  Hugh McDonald retweeted Denise Krebs’ blog post about Daniel Pink’s blog post on Genius Hour in the business world and I immediately loved the idea. I knew I had to try it with my students and have been hooked ever since.

Genius Hour has become a precious time, loved by all my students.  It is a time when they are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore.  We start by watching some inspirational videos, talking about our passions and our wonders, and then they develop their questions from there.  I think it is so important for students to have that time to really focus on their own wonders.  It is truly personalized learning and so vital because as one of my students, Morgan, pointed out, “you don’t want to learn your teacher’s passion, you want to learn your own passion”.

Genius Hour is amazing.  All the kids are excited and student engagement is at its highest. Some students are huddled around a laptop doing research on countries they are interested in, others are creating websites, PowerPoints and slideshows on an area of interest, and some are out in the hallway filming movies.  Some aren’t using technology at all, but rather are building and creating things with their hands. But no matter what they are working on, the common thread is that it is something they are passionate about and/or wonder about.

Two years later, Genius Hour is a permanent block on my schedule and the movement is spreading!  Every month we have new teachers joining our chat (first Thursday of each month) and our Genius Hour Wiki ( has had over 4000 hits these past two weeks alone!

Part 2: How does Genius Hour work in your classes?

In Joy’s class, 7th graders have an 80 minute ELA block. We have one block, the first day of the week, dedicated to Genius Hour. Some students just read. Some research. All share, but in different ways (book talks, blog posts, presentations). My dream? For students to read, be inspired, and act on it. (I got this from Erin Olson, after I met her in Boston in July.) Students create a goal every other week, and then grade themselves on it during our one-on-one conferences. If they present what they’ve learned, they fill out a reflection form, but it is not graded.

Gallit and Hugh:

Last year, Gallit gave the students one hour per week and expected them to present about every fourth block, so that they roughly had 3 hours of Genius Hour time before they had to share their learning with the class.  Last year, Hugh based individual projects on the premise of 100 minutes of Genius each week.  After a couple weeks, Genius Hour students would share with the class via our blogs and in class presentations.

This year, we reflected on this practice and decided that we would lift those conditions.  Now, students work on their Genius Hour projects every Friday afternoon, and they present when they are ready.  For some students that will be after one session and for some it will be after 6.  It really depends on what they are learning about and how they plan to present.  Genius Hour is personalized learning and so we believe that presentations should take place when students feel ready, not because it is the ‘fourth’ session.  We check in with our students regularly and they blog about their progress as well.

 Denise: I give students two periods a week, about 85 minutes, to work on their genius hour projects. Each Wednesday, students know that they can work on their project of choice. Oftentimes, these projects are long-term, going for 4-6 weeks. Other times, students choose a new project each week. For the most part, students bring their own supplies from home.

 I believe experience and reflection are key reasons to have genius hour. The experiential learning is engaging and gives students great joy. However, I also believe, as many have said, that experience without reflection does not produce real learning. Therefore, as part of genius hour, we do three things. We keep in mind the essential questions that we are trying to answer, we create products of our learning, and we make our learning visible by reflecting in a blog post about what we have learned at least each month.

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Part 3: Why is this a “next practice” in education…what is the future of Genius Hour and this type of learning?

 Gallit: I feel passionately about the need for education to become more individualized.  I have spent the last two years researching motivation and personalized learning and there is much to be said for the connection between the two.  I know that my students love when they are given choice in an assignment or project.  They don’t all learn the same and they don’t all have the same interests.  That is why Genius Hour is so key; it gives the students the freedom to choose not only the subject matter, but also the method their inquiry project is to use.

In a time when answers to fact-based questions are so easily google-able, shouldn’t we be encouraging our students to create, innovate and ask deep, meaningful questions?  I don’t need my students to memorize dates and facts, I want them to push the boundaries of their imaginations and become creative doers who fully believe themselves capable of genius, because indeed they all are.

Hugh: I feel the importance of personalizing learning for students should be at the forefront of any discussion relating to education, and Genius Hour does that.  We want to find ways to engage students as learners and creators of inquiry-driven content.  Students want to feel connected to the learning that is happening in their classroom and the standardization of learning across North America does not do that.  Students in many classrooms around North America are motivated by letter grades and percentages and NOT LEARNING!  Students in our classrooms are like adults in the real world.  If you do not engage them in their learning then they will not know how to learn and not want to learn.  How else can you explain large chunks of the population dropping out from school?

Please check out this journal article published in Educational Leadership. “Special Report: Why Students Drop Out” by Amy Azzam. She states,

“Approximately ⅓ of all high school students in the United States fail to graduate.  For Blacks and Hispanics this rate rises to 50 percent.  Why are students dropping out in droves?  No one knows better than the students themselves.”

The number one reason the students gave for why they were dropping out was they were bored with school!  Yikes!!  Inquiry driven models like Genius Hour put the focus on how to question, persevere, and recognize the joy of learning more about their passions.  If we give students more opportunity (time) to be creative and connect with what they are learning, then I am sure legislatures around North America and the world will have to adjust their thinking and education policy.

Our understanding of school is shifting and we must embrace it and listen to what the world of learners is telling us.  “Connect me to my learning, so I can inspire others and myself.”  It is not enough anymore to say we are creating a generation of life-long learners if we are not embracing a change in our philosophy in schools to a more personalized, inquiry-driven model that connects a student’s learning to the world.

Engage them and teach them how to learn and they will learn for a lifetime.  They will be motivated to ask questions and some may find solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems (poverty, cancer, aids, civil wars, the environment, etc…).  Dan Pink’s book “Drive” has really pushed my thinking on individual motivation.

Simply put, Genius Hour is here to stay because it engages the learner to question and want to learn more.  The only question should be is how do we create opportunities for all learners at all levels of schooling to experience the magic of Genius Hour on a regular basis?

Denise: Education has already changed from being the process of knowledge dispensing to a process of facilitating understanding. We need to fully embrace this “next practice,”  which is already here. Every day I read or view another example of this occurring today. Here are just two of the latest:

In a recent post on the blog Raising Modern Learners, “First Take: Teens Know…The Internet Changes Learning,” Will Richardson tells parents what they can do to ensure this “next practice” is happening in their children’s schools:

Ask your child’s teachers to describe the opportunities they give to students to learn deeply about the things they care about using technology. Start conversations focused on giving students more of a say over what they learn and how they learn it. Make it about developing kids as learners rather than developing them as consumers of what is in many ways an outdated curriculum

Another example is in a speech to education leaders in Iowa, Brandon Busteed education director at Gallup Polls, says, “The cost of knowledge is trending toward free.” That reminded me again, as educators we need to get out of the knowledge business and into the learning business. Busteed goes on to say that hope, engagement and well-being account for as much as one-third of the variance in student success.

If we want students to be successful, we don’t drive them toward success by continually working on standardized tests. We can take at least some of our time to give them choice in what they are doing in school. Genius hour gives students (and educators) hope, engagement and well-being. Read what Melina, a high school senior, says about this kind of learning:

For so long I have been told what to know and taught how to know it, but never once did I really feel in control of my learning. I felt like the knowledge went into my brain, stayed there until after exams, and then was thrown away like a smooth stone into a lake, out of my reach forever.

But when you are passionate about something and can learn it the way that YOUR brain understands it, it seems the knowledge takes root.

In this age where knowledge is ubiquitous, and no longer belongs to the teacher to dispense during lesson plans, school needs to change. We need to inspire students to become lifelong learners. Genius hour can do that.

Part 4: How can we all get involved? 

Joy: When I realized my students COULD and ARE owning their own learning outside of school, that’s when I realized I could give them the time inside of school. This would make school a more educational place for them, where they could see that they are valued as contributors to our learning. To be taught how to learn independently – that is the hook to creating life-long learners. 

Denise: Genius hour is not a program. I believe it comes from a student-centered educational philosophy. When I became a connected educator, lifelong learner, and one who makes my own learning visible, that’s when I wanted the same for my students. That’s when I began actively teaching students creativity and the skill of learning. That’s when I started giving them time for genius hour.

To get involved, you just need to give up the reins of your classroom for a portion of the day or week. The rewards will bring hope, engagement and well-being to you and your students. You will not be sorry.

Gallit: As Denise stated above, Genius Hour is not a program.  It is more like a movement in education…a philosophy…a belief that students should have more choice in their learning and more opportunities to be creative!

Anyone can do Genius Hour with their class!  All you have to do is set aside a little time (one day a month, one hour a week, whatever works for you) when you step aside and allow the students to create their own learning experiences and inquiry projects.

Before starting, it is a good idea to scaffold by talking about your passions, what you wonder about and creativity.  Some ideas on how to introduce Genius Hour can be found on my blog at and on the Genius Hour wiki at  You can also check out the #GeniusHour hashtag on Twitter and join in the conversation!  There are so many fantastic educators on Twitter who would be more than glad to help out! 

One of my students, Hunter, has a wish that “someday every teacher could let their children do [Genius Hour]”. Me too, Hunter, me too.

Hugh:  I agree with my colleagues above.  Genius Hour is a shift in education philosophy from teacher centered learning to student centered learning.  It puts students in charge of creating questions in their learning.  Genius Hour gives them opportunity to learn from their discoveries that work and don’t work and be okay with that, as long as they are prepared to ask more questions and be persistent in their learning.  The world needs generations of thinkers that are creating questions and working hard to answer them.

How can you get involved?  You can be brave and join the conversation on the Genius Hour hashtag on twitter (#geniushour).  #geniushour is also home to a powerful and engaging chat hosted by Denise and Gallit that takes place the first Thursday of each month at 6pm PST.  You can also access the Genius Hour Wiki   It is filled with a lot of resources to guide you in establishing Genius Hour in your classroom.  There are a lot of amazing educators and risk-takers on there sharing their resources and engaging you in conversation about the personalized learning and inquiry taking place in their classes daily.  Join the conversation, learn, and share your experiences by blogging and tweeting about your experiences and the experiences of your students.

We all can learn from each other.  It reminds me of this blog post I wrote on Genius Hour “Sharing Genius Hour – Simple to You and Amazing to Others”.  You never know what will spark someone into exploring the genius within themselves.  It is what we do with our students.  Shouldn’t we be looking to do this for other educators too?  We are all learners, and we should all have the gift of time to explore our passions in creative ways.  We are all here to help guide students and each other in the journey of learning.

Resources are plentiful for helping get started in Genius Hour. Start here for a wealth of ideas:

Genius Hour Wiki

Joy’s LiveBinder



Joy Kirr (@joykirr) teaches seventh grade English language arts in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and blogs at My Own Genius Hour.

Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) teaches grades 7 and 8 at a small Catholic school in Granville, Iowa, and blogs at Dare to Care.

Hugh McDonald (@hughtheteacher) and Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) team teach grades 6/7 in Surrey, British Columbia. Hugh blogs at Today is a Great Day for Learning. Gallit blogs at Integrating Technology and Genius Hour: My Journey as a Teacher and Learner.


Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Elementary, Genius Hour, Secondary


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My Genius Hour Project

This post was originally posted on Ron Dorland’s blog.  It is reposted here with his permission.

My Genius Hour Project

By Ron Dorland

During Spring Break I started my Genius Hour Project. The idea was to tee up the second round of Genius Hour with my class. To show them I don’t just advocate for it but participate in Genius Hour too. 

I started it the same way I have my students start their projects. I ask them to answer the “Big Three” questions to get the ball rolling.

1.     What do you love?

2.      Within what you love, what bothers you?

3.      And then lastly, what are you going to do about it?

For my first answer I went on a little different tangent and thought if I weren’t a teacher what other job would I love to do?  With all the renovations that I have done of late, and how much I love it, the answer didn’t take long “carpenter!”

Please click here  to read the rest of this blog post.

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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Elementary, Genius Hour


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GH with My Geniuses–Week 1

Enjoy the sense of wonder & excitement in @gingyteach’s classroom as they embark on Genius Hour!


The Friday before Spring Break, usually one of the craziest days of the year, we held the gaze of 40 sets of 4th grade eyes. No one wanted to miss a word of what we were about to discuss…today ended the wonder…today we would answer the question “What is Genius Hour?”   I had teased my kids with the idea of studying anything THEY wanted for 30 minutes each Friday. It had been on the class calendar twice already, and each time it had been moved.   They were mesmerized….

After viewing a few videos collected by experienced GH teachers (see them from Hugh the Teacher here) and some talk from the two of us and our technology guru, who had, in her classroom, finished a few Genius Hour projects, the real questions started.

“Can I do my project on Legos?”

“I really like horses…”

“Me and my friend really want…

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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Genius Hour


An Unbelievable “AHA” Moment

By Marianne Smith


I first heard about Genius Hour from my colleague Gallit Zvi. She is a fabulous colleague and an amazing teacher! We were taking our PB+15 in Integrating Technology for the Digital Age through Simon Fraser University. It was our second Summer Institute of a two-year program. This is my story…

I was teaching at Hall’s Prairie Elementary School in Surrey, BC. It was September 2012 and it was my second year at the school with a 4/5 combined class. I had 18 wonderful students that year. The school itself was established in 1885 and is a small, rural school with approximately 90 students. The students at our school come from a variety of different backgrounds.

What prompted me to make Genius Hour a part of my practice and introduce it my students was the fact that I realized rather quickly into my Graduate Diploma program that I was a control freak! People that know my teaching style have had a good laugh because they have known this about me for years…why was it that I had know idea. I had been teaching for eleven years and didn’t have a clue until I formally examined my practice.

I was also finding out that many people close to me were not or did not work in a career that was fueled by their passion. Teaching is my passion and I just assumed that people close to me had also been working in careers that were passion based.

My journey was two-fold: 1) I needed to let go as a teacher and 2) I wanted my students to authentically experience the spark that a person feels when they are doing exactly what they are meant to do.

Genius Hour was every Friday afternoon for yep, you guessed it, one hour and it was going to run for six weeks. We started by talking about Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. My students were then to pick 2-3 intelligences that best suited them and based on what they choose come up with what their genius was. I use the word “their” based on a suggestion from my father. Thanks Dad. My students knew that I was not going to be assessing or evaluating their genius for report cards or anything of the sort. This was simply their time to explore, learn and have fun.

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My students’ genius consisted of many things: volleyball skills, clay wiener dogs, paintings, oil pastels, garage band, creating a catapult out of basic classroom items, a comic book and a written short story complete with illustrations.

As Genius Hour got underway I started to offer my students unsolicited advice. I reminded myself that this was their time to make their own decisions. I quickly learned to back off and when I did the most amazing thing happened…I physically felt lighter! I was able to breathe better! I was happy! I was laughing and smiling! I did not have to manage students’ behavior they were completely engaged and therefore managing themselves. I was able to walk around the room and see different parts of their personalities that I had not noticed before because they had not had an opportunity to shine through. I did not have to worry about assessing and evaluating. I did not have worry about meeting the PLO’s.

All of my students were engaged, all of my students were happy, all of my students were learning!! I was happy and I was learning! It was quite literally like a huge weight had been lifted. I felt mentally and physically free. It was an unbelievable “AHA” moment. It truly was an awakening within my self and within my teaching practice. And even more then that I had one student whom I had taught the previous year in grade four begin to flourish.

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I’ll call her Pippa. Pippa was a talented, bright young girl who had a great sense humour, but for many reasons failed to produce much work the previous school year and was not off to a much better start in September 2012. She brought nothing between school and home and would spend much of the day hiding behind her gorgeous dark hair or curled up in her chair with her down on her desk.

Genius Hour struck the most beautiful cord with her. She was so excited about it that the next school day she showed up with a Tupperware bin full of paint brushes and a plastic mattress cover to keep the clay and paint from getting on the classroom floor!! How fantastically, beautiful is that! Her Tupperware bin actually broke…she brought it to me right away and was not leaving for the day until we had fixed it! Thanks to masking tape we were able to get it ship shape in no time.

The following Friday when she knew Genius Hour was about to start she literally jumped up and down and yelled, “It’s time for Genius Hour, it’s time for Genius Hour!”  Her face displayed a wide, fabulous smile. I had never seen her get excited about anything in the past. I had found a way to reach her. What a wonderfully, amazing thing!

I later interviewed Pippa as a part of my Field Study and I asked her if she liked Genius Hour. She replied with, “Yes, because I get to do art in class for an hour, but I don’t like it because it is only one hour.” Another girl in the class called out, “It should be Genius Two Hours.” To which I laughed out loud. What a wonderful thing to laugh out loud on a Friday afternoon with your students.

About four weeks into Genius Hour Pippa and her family moved to another part of the province. It was very sad to see her go. My hope is that she has and will take the amazing feelings that she experienced with Genius Hour and use it to help guide her in her life so that she is able to choose a career path that is best suited for her. Good luck Pippa!

Genius Hour continued for another couple of weeks. On week five I casually asked my students who wanted to present their genius next week (they had been reminded that I was not marking their presentations). Without hesitation every student (but one) raised his/her hand. They were incredibly excited to share their genius with the class. The following Friday the students presented and their presentations were effective and engaging. They didn’t appear to be nervous because this was something they chose to do. As a teacher I had never witnessed the majority of the class being so excited to present in front of their peers before. Great job boys and girls!

As for myself I am continuing to implement Genius Hour into my practice on a yearly basis. I will be introducing it to this year’s class in mid October. I still find myself trying to control things, but with the experience of Genius Hour am able to recognize it quickly and remind myself to let go.

Good luck to those of you that decide to try Genius Hour in your classrooms. You will not be disappointed.

Blog by Marianne Smith

Grade 3/4/5 Teacher

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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Elementary, Genius Hour


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Fortune Does Favour The Bold – My Genius Hour Presentation

Today is a Great Day for Learning

This Blog was written in response to the December Precept from R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder” I am reading with my class.   In this post I wanted to model reflective thinking of the precept “Fortune favours the Bold” which is highlighted in the book by one of August’s teachers and deeply thought about from the perspective of the character Jack Will.  Here are my awesome student’s Fortune Favours the Bold reflections from the novel Wonder.  I’m sure they would love some comments and feedback.  😀

Here goes me being bold…

I have many examples in my life of when I was bold.  Being bold to me means that I challenge myself to be great.  One of the most recent examples of me being bold was when I presented 2 workshops at the Provincial Intermediate Teachers Association Fall 2013 Conference in Burnaby.  I found out shortly after registration had started that…

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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Elementary, Genius Hour


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Genius Hour: An Avenue to Better Teaching

Genius Hour has gotten a lot of attention on Twitter, blogs, and in classes the start of this school year.

With all the success stories, there will be a few who criticize, or write to provoke conversation, at the very least.

I’m writing today to defend Genius Hour, and explain how it has affected the rest of my students’ week.

What I will do is tell you what’s happened in my class this year, as a result of spending FORTY minutes talking about what genius is, and what it is not. We spent time discussing the seven “habitudes” of geniuses that Angela teaches about in Classroom Habitudes. Here are some quips from my 7th graders that I’ve actually written down for a post such as this.
“These are great! We have some really creative people in this class!”
“That must be his genius!!”
“Look at what I did – it’s genius!”
“He’s got perseverance, creativity, AND imagination.”
“I worked on being ‘adaptable’ yesterday after school…”
“Please add me to the ‘resident expert’ list under ‘neat & organized.'”

My students are realizing what they’re skilled at, and with what skills they may need help. They have already started asking each other for help during our creative days (Dot Day being the most recent). They are relying on me less this year than any other group I’ve had, and instead going to each other. We have already started building a wonderful community of learners. I’m going to continue telling my students that they have genius in them. We all do.

I have to say that I’m very fortunate to work where I do. Many teachers do not have any time to spare – to hand over to their students. Others who are allowed time for this need to make sure it ties to standards, and that students are graded on it. I have the luxury of attaching it to standards my way (see this LiveBinder and specific plans I’m using in 7th grade ELA), but I am also allowed leeway on how to use the rest of our time during the week. Here is a list of how, by implementing Genius Hour ideas in my classes, the concepts have seeped into the other 80% of our time.
Students can choose where (and how) to sit, as long as it’s safe and not distracting to them or others.
Students can write in response to a prompt of their choice, as long as they write in relation to our goal or focus for the day.
Students decorate the room. Many put up their own ideas made at home.
There is no teacher desk. It is converted into a student station, with supplies for students to use whenever they have a need. (They can also sit there!)
The only front of the room is when we have the projector on. The rest of the room is fair game for where the speaker (me or a student) stands. (I’m actually always on the move.)
Student passions are used as catalysts for discussions or writing, or reading, or…
Students give book talks.
Students read what they choose.
Students take pictures for our movie updates for parents.
Students have blogs for authentic purposes – not for grades.
Students are asked, “Why not?” more often than they hear the word, “No.”


I am no longer the “sage on the stage.” I am truly the “guide on the side” for most of our lessons. Implementing Genius Hour in my classroom has made me ask these questions (from p34 of The Passion-Driven Classroom) every day: Who is in charge of learning at our school? Who does the most work in our classroom? Who does the creating, constructing, producing, performing? The answer must be: The learners.

Many teachers remain disconnected from their students. As Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold share in The Passion-Driven Classroom, “96% of teachers reported that creativity should be promoted in the classroom. However, when asked which students they actually preferred to teach, teachers chose the students who were most compliant” (5). “Messy” learning, which is what Genius Hour is, and times when the learners are working the hardest, is difficult for me to see with my “old school” eyes. I like order. I appreciate quiet. … But the things I HEAR from students during these “messy” times are precious gems. They alert me to the fact that students are learning, and enjoying the process simultaneously. That’s what it’s about. And that is how implementing Genius Hour has affected my teaching during the other 80% of the week.

This has been cross-blogged from Joy Kirr‘s personal blog.  Click here to read the original post.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Elementary, Genius Hour, Secondary


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