Sunday, April 28, 2013

Is It Possible To Make Genius Hour Longer?

What is Genius Hour?

This is a time when all students can create their own inquiry question and answer their question by researching and creating some sort of final project to show to their classmates.  

How We Started 

When I first introduced genius hour, we did a lot of wondering and coming up with questions.  I ran into some problems at the beginning because my grade 1 and 2 students were coming up with questions that we could answer in about 2 minutes by googling it.  We then talked about coming up with "meatier" questions and we talked about how they would create a final project to share with the class at the end of the inquiry.  Joy Kirr has put together a fantastic Livebinder resource for genius hour with resources for teachers and videos to show your students explaining genius hour here.  Students then started brainstorming what they wanted to learn about.  We then hung up all of the wonder and idea posters and tried to group the students into similar groupings.  My teaching partner and I needed to do this due to the age of our students.  We knew that all of the groups would need an adult to help supervise each group.  We grouped them into the following groups:  book making, building, knitting, baking/cooking, and painting/sculpture.  We recruited our vice principal, 2 DSW's and my teaching partner and I to facilitate the groups.  We also had the students write down what materials they would like for their projects.  We told them, it was more like a wish list and that we would do what we could to get as many of the materials on the list. 

Students were also asked to write out their inquiry question, their plan, the materials they would need and an idea on how they would present their learning to the class.

Letting Them Loose

Last Friday, we put them into their groups for the first time to plan and research.  The knitting group learned the basics of knitting.


The students that wanted to learn about a certain animal or topic started to do their researching in the library.

Some students started watching videos on youtube.  This student is learning how to do different magic tricks. I love how she is taking notes!

Reactions From The Students

At the end of the day on Friday, (genius hour is the last hour of the day on Fridays) my students were groaning that they had to go home.  They were just getting started and were so excited!  I had many question if they could take their research home, and the library books they checked out.  I also had many of them ask if they would be given time to work on their projects on Monday.  


I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I want my classroom to look like and how I want it to run next year.  Is it possible to have a "genius curriculum" most of the day instead of having it one hour a week?  Could I cover the curriculum I need to cover in this way?  Could I physically do it by myself?  My students are so young that they need a lot of guidance and help.  However, I have grade 1 students thinking critically about their chosen projects, researching above a typical grade 1 level and asking if they can do it for homework!  This past weekend, I ordered a few more inquiry books from amazon so I can continue my professional learning in this area, and start playing with the idea of expanding genius hour to possibly an hour a day or more.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  


  1. Hello from IL!
    I don't know much about 1st graders, but my niece and nephew are in 1st grade, and I bet they'd love Genius Hour time once a day, or three times a week. I know they also need specific lessons, as well, but you can incorporate many choices in this learning, too, I'd bet. I'm trying my darnedest to give my 7th graders choices each day, especially the days we don't have Genius Hour. I know they feel a part of the system when I do this, and I believe I get more participation when I do so. I HAVE to do grammar instruction. But I let classes choose - all in one day, or each day as a warm up? I HAVE to do writing prompts, but I let them choose - on the laptop? IPad? Writing? Take home to finish? Choose a different topic? As long as we are covering the standards, and what we're doing is not impacting their learning, I'm good.

    Enjoy the journey with those little ones. I'm excited for them, and hope they ask their teacher next year for their own personalized learning time!! Thanks for this post!

  2. Great to hear your experiences with genius hour. I am going to try and implement this too, I know my kids would love it. Any good finds and recommended reads on the inquiry books you brought from Amazon?

    Thanks for sharing all your ideas on your blog, I get new ideas every visit!

  3. I loved your description of Genius Hour in your classroom. I too work with younger ones from K-3rd grade -- all subjects. Having the freedom to design my own schedule, which is pretty open-ended most of the time, I feel very strongly that we can design our curriculum to be a 'genius one' most of the time and still fit in most if not all of the standards you are expected to cover.

    I'm not sure the labels are so important although I did wonder myself whether or not I was doing 'Genius Hour' when my kids spent several hours a day fully engaged. Is it now 'passion-based learning' or is it 'challenge-based learning' or 'PBL' but then I thought it didn't really matter. Kids were engaged, excited, and felt empowered to make decisions about their learning.

    For me, I found it's not as easy as just letting my kids go, doing whatever they wanted because then it became just projects, and we do them all the time as a way to apply and demonstrate information. Instead for me it became discovering ways to guide their thinking so they were analyzing and synthesizing, thinking critically and creatively. Any yes, kids of the age we teach can begin to do this!

  4. I teach 2nd grade cluster, so I'm definitely going to look into how I can incorporate Genius Hour into my week somehow (shut the door & do my thing ;) Which books did you order? I'm looking to do more reading as well :)

  5. Darnee,
    Inquiry Circles is a great book to start with and although I have not read it yet, A place of Wonder, is the book currently on my desk to read next.

  6. I am so excited to read your blog and thank you for the link to the live binders. I am thinking about calling it "Wonder Time" in my classroom and designating time in the morning 3 days a week and then on a Friday afternoon. My kids are tired, but would be engaged in their own projects on a Friday!