6 Tips for a Successful Genius Hour Experience in Elementary School
I know sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to make Genius Hour run smoothly. The challenge is finding balance between allowing students to have creative freedom and keeping some semblance of control in the classroom.
Sometimes Genius Hour can feel a little…well…
And that’s okay. Sometimes classrooms need a little creative chaos to spice up the learning.
If your not familiar with Genius Hour (also called 20%, Passion Projects, or Genius Time), it is simply giving your students time in class to research and learn about a project of their choice. It is SO COOL!
Many successful businesses have been implementing this strategy in the work place, and now it is taking off in education. The main benefits are high student engagement, acquisition of 21st Century Learning skills, and creative problem solving. Having tried, failed, and succeeded with Genius Hour, I want to share 6 Tips that have helped make my Genius Hour experience with my second graders successful.
6 Tips to Successful Genius Hour 1. Allow Students Free Research Time
The first time I did Genius Hour, I didn’t allow time for students to explore and research their topics before writing questions. Students who had little to no background knowledge on their topic really struggled with forming inquiry questions because they didn’t even know where to begin. However, when I gave students a little time to explore their passion, they discovered facts that piqued their interest. This triggered natural curiosity and students formed more unique questions.
2. Help Students Ask Good Questions
Engage students’ curiosity by having them ask questions to focus their research. By doing this, Genius Hour becomes inquiry-based learning as students’ questions guide their learning. I started by asking students to come up with 3 or 4 “I wonder…” questions. Link Elementary School helps students evaluate Red Light and Green Light questions.
Since writing good, open-ended questions can be challenging, be sure to model a few good questions and analyze questions with your students. Once students write their questions, be sure to conference with them to be sure their questions are going to guide their learning.
3. Make Time for Teacher-Student Conferences
Before students get too far in this process, it is important to conference with them to be sure their topic and questions are on point. I initially skipped this step and noticed some students had some pretty confusing questions. Now I make time to meet with students to review and tweak their questions, discuss next steps and make sure they are on the right track. Even though Genius Hour is very student driven, students still need a lot of support and guidance (especially elementary students).
4. Help Students Identify Sources
As students conduct their research and take notes, they should take time to analyze the validity of sources. This is an important step that supports critical thinking skills and digital and information literacy. Students should take time to identify the source of their information (was it a website or a book?) and determine whether the source is valid. Take time to discuss the importance of choosing a reliable source. Here’s an article on Scholastic about reliable sources and an anchor chart to help kids determine if a site is reliable.
5. Have Students Create Content
Once students finish their research, they should publish their findings by creating their own content in the form of a final project or product. The means by which students do this is up to you. Some ideas include: student blog, presentation software (PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentations), poster, movie…the possibilities are endless.
6. Showcase Learning Through Project Presentations
This is my favorite part of Genius Hour since students have a chance to showcase their learning. Students are now the experts or “geniuses” and they get to teach the rest of us what they learned. Inviting other teachers, your principal, or other members of the community adds an extra level of importance and usually improves output quality.
Hopefully you’ll fall head over heels for Genius Hour just as I did. It is now an important part of my teaching that I can’t live without! For other great resources on Genius Hour and 20% Time check out the following links:
My favorite is when students ask to work on their Genius Hour projects whenever they have extra time! It literally became something they love to learn about!
Have you tried Genius Hour in your classroom? Is there something that works great for you? Let us know what tips you have to share!
Thanks for stopping by!
Want to learn more? Check out some of my other posts on Genius Hour: