Sunday, September 14, 2014

Genius Hour in Our Classroom

Last year, I looked into the concept of genius hour and really wanted to try it.  My biggest hurdle was the lack of computers access for my students.  Last December, our district gave each 3-6 grade classroom 3 Chromebook computers.  That was wonderful, and I was very grateful, but with 32 students, how does one effectively use 3 computers for anything really other than remediation for a few students?  

In the spring, my principal announced that he had some extra funds that he wanted to use to get more technology to us.  My team decided we wanted more Chromebooks, so we each received 2 more.  Then, I decided if I had 2 additional ones, I'd have enough for small group use and that would be a game changer for me.  Amazingly, thanks to the kindness of several donors, some of which were fellow bloggers, I had them both funded through DonorsChoose.  Now with seven computers in my classroom, we are able to use them to do so many things.  We also borrow from the other fifth grade classes when they are not using their computers.

One of my favorite pictures.  Totally didn't plan to capture this! 

One of the things I implemented this year is Genius Hour, which I called passion projects and passion time in my classroom.  It has been amazing!  My students can't wait for Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to work on their projects.  My colleague suggested using the first 20 minutes of class three days a week instead of an hour block one day a week.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, so that's what I chose to do.  Instead of morning work those three days, students work on their passion projects three mornings a week.  They have from the start of the day, 9:00, until 9:18 to work on them.  Many students come in early and work on them from the moment they enter the classroom.  I have students begin arriving at 8:30.  

Some of the projects that my students have chosen to work on include: 

  • How can I create a website?
  • How should one care for chickens? 
  • How did the library get so organized?
  • How does the computer language of coding work? (A group of students interested in this are all working through the lessons together)
  • How do you play the ukulele? 
  • How do you play the mandolin? 
  • How do you plan resonator bells? 
  • Learning about birds of prey. 
  • Teaching another student karate, the other students project is to learn karate. 

And several more.  Not only has the response from students been great, but the response from parents has been positive as well.  Parents have expressed appreciation for my ability to not only find time in our day for students to learn what they want to learn, but for igniting the love for learning in their children.  

I'll continue to share with you about how it's going in our classroom.  I'll also be sharing the results of each students passion work toward the end of the semester.  For now, enjoy the pictures throughout this article of my students working on their projects this week. 

Have you tried genius hour in your classroom?  Tell us about it in the comments. 

I've linked up this blog post to


  1. So glad you have linked up! I am getting ready to start Genius Hour as well...hoping to make good use of my new Chromebooks (I won't tell you that I have 12!!!). Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Of course I'm totally jealous! I'm just glad that for now I'm the only one on my team doing Genius Hour and my teammates have been very generous to let us borrow their Chromebooks. But, they're seeing all the fun we're having and wanting to follow in our footsteps.

  2. Starting genius hour next week! Glad for a peek at how it's going in other classrooms!! We are going to do it for an hour, twice a week, in our computer lab. I hope my students are as excited as yours.

    Wild About Fifth

    1. Melissa, that's so great that you have that time and access to the computer lab. Good Luck! I'd love to know how it goes for you.

  3. Love the idea!! I will give it a try with my 6th grade this week.

  4. Do you have them just research then type up a paper or hand write it? This sounds like a fun idea. I'm a 1st yr teacher so as much detail as you are willing to give would be great!!

    1. Raegen,
      Their final product is directly related to whatever their project was. Students who are learning instruments will perform for us, students who are coding will show us a program or action they have coded, etc. Those who are researching something like birds of prey will share their findings in some kind of more formal report or PowerPoint type project. I hope that's helpful. I did a lot of google-ing of genius hour and passion project. There are many teachers out there who have done this for a few years and have a lot of resources to share.

  5. I think Genius Hour sounds so cool! How awesome to hear positive parent feedback, too! The projects look incredible!

    1. Thanks Deb! Parents have been super supportive, so much so that many have been willing to work on projects with their students at home as well and support them in gathering materials and taking them to visit and interview people.

  6. Love... love... love Genius Hour! Started last year & response was great. Already started this year & my kids are so excited.

  7. This looks great! I'm going to try to do Genius Hour with a group of students this year. Can't wait.


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