Everyone is a genius!! - Incorporating genius hour in the classroom

Every student is a genius and should have the opportunity to share what they know with others!  What better way to do this than to allow students time in the week to explore their passions and share them with classmates.  

When I first heard of genius hour I thought, "Oh how I wish I could incorporate that into my classroom, but I just don't have enough time to get to everything I already 'have' to do, how can I add something new?  But then I thought - I could start small, just an hour a week.  I can manage that, for the sake of choice and autonomy and passion and self-motivation and enjoyment and collaboration and..........  the benefits are endless.

Genius Hour History

I attended #nErDcampmi this past week.  If you are not a follower of the Nerdy Book Club Blog or #colbysharp and #donalynbooks on Twitter, go....now.....seriously........the best free PD any reading teacher can ever hope for!!
At #nErDcampmi, I went to a session on genius hour (because I'm always interested in educational movements that provide choice and autonomy for learners) and I found out that one major force behind the beginnings of genius hour is Google.  Google decided that to improve employee productivity and advance the company, they would encourage their employees to spend 20% of the week working on choice projects to explore their passions.  "Allowing employees to work on what interests them increases productivity," (see any classroom connections here???). What came out of this 20% time? Only 50% of Google's products that are on the market today!  Can you imagine the possibilities in your classroom?  Are you inspired yet to give it a try?

What is Genius Hour?  

Picture one hour a week in your classroom, all year long, where everyone is learning about what interests them.  Learners are researching, discussing, reading, collaborating, creating, writing, and so on.  There's time built in for generating ideas, investigation, sharing and learning.  Learners are applying their Common Core skills as they are truly meant to be developed and used.  Students have control over their decisions and needs and are motivated to share what they've learned with an audience beyond their teacher - classmates and outside peers through blogs, Skype, etc.


Here's some #nErDcampmi quotes for you if you're still in the 'thinking about it' stage......

"Genius Hour builds expertise with authentically reading, writing and presenting expository text."

"Genius Hour helps build lifelong learners."

"This type of inquiry learning should be happening all the time."

"The beauty of what a kid can do, if you give them an inch."

"Kids have the view that school isn't authentic, they have to do things that aren't real to life. Genius Hour lets them think about real life stuff."

Genius Hour Resources

If you're starting to consider the possibilities of including time for Genius Hour in your classroom, here are some of the resources I gathered from #nErDcampmi, as well as what I've been collecting on my own.  I hope you'll find it useful if you decide to give time to Genius Hour for your learners.

We all know that some kids struggle with finding a topic they are passionate about. The first question I asked myself is what about those kids who lack motivation, will they just sit around and do nothing during genius hour?  Cause trouble, sleep, fake it???  The optimist side of me is thinking that maybe this will be the case for a few kiddos at the beginning.  However, implemented and modeled with passion and rigor by me, will soon spark some interest for those kids who despise school and being forced to learn about and do things they aren't interested in.

Here are some resources I plan to use to help my learners gather ideas:  

Kid President Videos (If you haven't heard of him yet, you have to watch a video - you won't be disappointed)

Caine's arcade Videos (how a 9 year old boy created a cardboard arcade during summer vacation)

Have your learners take an online career interest survey to discover their passions.

Share your interests, passions and ideas! Be a learner yourself to model the expectations. Share that failure is okay and expected at times.

Check out my Genius Hour Pinterest board which contains some amazing record keeping opportunities, videos and more!

Twitter links to teachers who are already giving learners time to explore their passions - @thenerdyteacher @paulsolarz @auntierez @kingandkids @angelamaiers @joykirr  

Hashtags to follow that are overflowing with information about genius hour -  #geniuscon #geniushour #choose2matter

Here's a livebinder created by Joy Kirr that is invaluable!  OMG is all I can say!  Everything you will ever need all in one organized place!

Implement a Wonder Wall where your learners can post questions and ideas to spark interest

Genius Hour Expectations

What are my expectations for Genius Hour this year?  Great question, I'm not exactly sure since I will be learning right along with my kiddos. Here is what I'm thinking though.  I'd love some advice from all of you on expectations I could add to the list!

1. You MAY NOT do something that is easily googled, you can't just research and do a "report."
2. You MAY research a topic and use a specific structure to present the information to your classmates.
3. You MUST plan your time for each day and record what you learn each day.
4. You MUST ask lots of questions - it's how researchers and investigators learn.
5.  Expect to fail a few time before you find the perfect project for you.  It happens to all of us!
6.  Help others and find peers with similar interests to collaborate with.
7.  You MUST share what you've learned with your peers or an outside audience (blog, Skype, etc.) at least once a marking period.

Are you inspired yet?  My goals for this first year are to:

  1. Devote one hour a week to genius hour.  
  2. To make this time sacred and consistent.  
  3. To document our journey as much as possible.
  4. To Skype about our learning with at least one other class.

So what are your thoughts?  If you haven't incorporated Genius Hour into your week before, are you considering it now?  What are your questions?  If you already give your learners time for inquiry learning, what are your tips and advice?  I can't wait to hear from you.


  1. I stumbled upon Genius Hour in the winter. Then lost lots of teaching during snow days. I didn't want to wait to try Genius Hour, so I did a modified version the last month of school. Setting aside an hour or more every day. It was incredible to see how children can excel when given the chance to control their own learning. I plan on trying to implement it again in the fall. Would love to Skype with your kids about it. We are a fifth grade class, also in Michigan.

    1. Marcia, email me at missyobryan@aol.com and we can help each other out this year. We would love to Skype with you! Thank you so much for offering! Can't wait to hear from you!

  2. What an interesting idea! I have some colleagues that would love ths.

    The Math Maniac

  3. This is a very ambitious and exciting idea! Can't wait to hear more about it on our next walk! :)

    Forever in Fifth Grade

  4. My fifth grade team is starting to incorporate genius hour this school year because of this blog post. We've signed our kids up for DIY.org to help encourage those students that are afraid to take that first step. After the kids have earned a few badges, I'm sure they will be strong enough to venture out on their own. We're so excited! Maybe we can Skype or do a Google Hangout sometime! (My students discovered video calling on their Gmail accounts today. Yay!)

    1. Melina, that is so awesome!! I can't wait to hear all about how it goes for you! Email me at missyobryan@aol.com and we can set up a skype date.

  5. This is what john holt and john Taylor gatto and Charlotte mason says all along. You are amazing to implement this in a system that is fundamentally flawed. An hour is better than nothing - so thankful for teachers like you.