Monday, December 21, 2015

12 Steps to #GeniusHour

From HaikuDeck

Over the last year at #Cantiague we have made a concerted effort to meaningfully integrate the Genius Hour experience throughout our building. We were looking for a way to continue to amplify student voice and act on their input and feedback. As Genius Hour slowly trickled into the classrooms at the beginning of last year, the feedback was incredibly positive and the children wanted more of it. They were excited, passionate and they were owning their learning. 

The other thing that happened as a result of the genius hour movement at #Cantiague was that the children were no longer just learning to please their teachers; instead, they were learning because it mattered to them and they were passionate about the subject matter!

From Edutopia

With that in mind, our amazing second grade team decided to refine the process last year to better meet the needs of the children and be more "faithful" to the Genius Hour experience. Nancy, Carly, Adam and Carolyn are the guest authors of this post that offers 12 steps to implementing the #GeniusHour experience in any school and any grade level!

Genius Hour Experience (#Cantiague Second Grade Style)

Last year, we launched our Genius Hour experience in second grade.  After the first “go around” we reflected on our experience.  We realized what we loved, but also what we wanted to make better.  This year is off to a great start!  Here is what Genius Hour looks like in our room the second time around...  

1.  We started our first session by discussing our passions.  We gave each child a piece of paper with 2 dots. We asked them to draw something from those two dots that they love.  Students wrote the topic of their drawing/idea on an index card. Each student filed the index card in their Genius Hour index card box.  Some topics included beaches, nature, American Girl Dolls, hockey etc.

2. In our next session, we gave each child a piece of paper with a squiggly line and challenged them to turn that line into something they love or feel passionate about, completely different from the last session.  Students drew cars, Pandas, Hawaii, diamonds etc. Just like the last session, students wrote this new topic on a different colored index card and filed it in their Genius Hour box.

3. In the next session, we revisited their drawings and cards. We asked them to make a decision about which topic they would like to stick with for this round of Genius Hour.  They spent some time thinking and deciding. Students selected the card they chose to further research.  We collected this card.

4. In the next session, we gave back their topic index cards and asked students to brainstorm what he/she already knows about this topic, in the “K” section of KWL.  They had to really think about everything they knew and jot it down. 

5. Next session, we asked students to generate questions he/she has on their topic of choice. It was a great lesson to show students that we may still have questions on things we already love. They wrote down everything they are curious about or want to know more about! We also explained that “good” questions are not yes or no question; it needs to be something that you can find lots of information on. 

6. After that, each child needed to reflect on all their questions and pick the 5 they wanted to take through the process of researching.  We spent a lot of time focusing on the kinds of questions they should ask.

7. In our next session, students wrote down their five questions (one on each index cards) and teachers stapled their topic card on top, followed by the five index cards into a booklet. Students filed this booklet into their Genius Hour box.

8. Before the next Genius Hour, we sent a note home to each family with their child’s topic and asked parents to help us prepare students by sending in materials that their children can use for researching. We also encouraged the kids to check out books for the library on their topic. We asked for things like books, magazines, websites, articles, apps, or anything else that would help his/her child learn more on this passion topic.

9. After that, the kids were ready to start their research in class.  Students were provided with several sessions to find answers to their questions.  Some students realized that the materials they brought in were either very helpful or not helpful at all for the questions he/she have on their topic. Students were given opportunities to look for other materials in school or at home before the next Genius Hour session.  At this point, most students have completed their research and are ready for the next step! 

10. Future sessions: From there, we will give children the opportunity to pick how they would like to present their information and findings.  Last year, we had students make books, scrap books, dioramas, posters, video presentations, PowerPoints, Sock Puppet, and Show Me presentations.  This year, we have so many more ideas on ways for the students to present.  QR codes, Google Slides, new Apps, coding, and so many other cool ways to present findings.  We tell the kids…..The Sky is the Limit!

11. Finally, we will allow time for each child to share their passion project with the class.  This is such a wonderful opportunity for the students to build confidence and feel proud of all their hard work.  We can’t wait to see how it all turns out this year! Stay tuned on Twitter to see the final presentations! 

12. Have fun... Genius Hour is another way to amplify student voice and empower our learners to take ownership of their learning by incorporating their passions and interests as described in the following graphic...

From TeachThought

So, are you ready for the Genius Hour experience? If so, try the steps above and share any feedback with us on how we can enhance or refine the experience!


  1. I still fondly remember the kind and awesome custodian with the cardboard boxes. The kids were running up to him asking him if he needed the boxes and he explained which students had already claimed them and what they were working on. It was a whole school effort. Cantiague Rocks.

  2. This is a great list. I love how you broke down each session for the students. This is a great blueprint for those of us looking to bring this great idea into our schools. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post! Thanks so much for writing about your experience with Genius Hour.