Sunday, January 19, 2014


     I am a Pinterest junkie! I love it and ALL of the ideas that I get! I pin good looking ideas to my boards and then I go back and look at them closer when I get some time. This was how I found Genius Hour. I pinned it back in the Fall and then over Winter Break I finally had some time to look into this new concept. I started reading a few blogs and my interest was piqued. I then went to and explored the concept even further  This was going to be perfect for my class!!! I thought, "THEY ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS!!"
     When we were planning our gifted program this summer we discussed "choice" projects and were even a bit unsure about how these projects would look. We tossed around a few ideas and thought we would worry more about this near the end of the year. GENIUS HOUR is PERFECT as a "choice project" and so I asked my 5th grade MOSAIC teaching partner if she would like to try to do this together with our 2 classes. (MOSAIC is a full day gifted classroom that provides a challenging curriculum at an accelerated pace to highly gifted learners.)  She was super excited and jumped right in to help put this project together. We decided that we would combine our 4th and 5th grade classes and team teach during Genius Hour and work on putting this project together as a team.
   We have decided to meet every other day for 1 hour, instead of just one hour a week. We are really trying to focus on letting them have a voice and a choice in their learning, so we thought that 3 hours a week of self-guided learning would be a good start.  We started by revealing the concept of GENIUS HOUR to the students and they were super excited!  We kicked it off by showing them a couple of videos for inspiration. We showed the students "A PEP TALK FROM KID PRESIDENT TO YOU"...I mean KID PRESIDENT can inspire anybody...he's just so cute! We also showed a video that introduced the concept of Genius Hour and the concept of 20% time. I'd have to say...they enjoyed the KID PRESIDENT video the best! The students then brainstormed their passions and we discussed how they could turn this into a possible project.  Their next step was to create an e-portfolio on Google Drive. They created a folder entitled, "Operation Passion Project" where they will keep all of their work in one place. They just love the concept of keeping an e-portfolio with a cool name!!!! It's the little things in life! :-)
The bulletin board coming to life....

    The next day that we met, we focused on developing a "deep" question to research. We modeled many different questions and discussed as a group what makes a question "open vs. closed, thick vs. thin, deep vs. shallow." We have been using the book, Comprehension & Collaboration, Inquiry Circles in Action by: Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels to help guide our mini-lessons and the development behind this project. It's a great book that guides teachers in creating "well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects." Developing the "deep" questions was by far the most challenging part of the project thus far, but the students are getting closer to understanding.  On Friday, I showed my class a list of "wonders" on the Wonderopolis site and we were able to identify which questions were "deep" and which questions were easily answered by simply "googling" the question. This really helped to firm up their understanding and they were able to notice patterns about "deep" questions. 
     I then started to conference which each student to identify a "passion project." They had to complete their "Topic Approval" paper that I pulled from and then they had to fill out their Genius Hour contract that we had developed for them. 
    We are having the students complete a final product to showcase their learning.  We are also incorporating our new iPads and having the students create a final product on their iPad as well! They are very excited about the choice of this project and the endless possibilities.  We'll see how this develops....
     So far the passion projects look pretty are some examples...
1.  How do black holes work?
2.  If stars are so bright, why is the night sky dark?
3.  How does the Lincoln Memorial reflect the memory of Abraham Lincoln?-she's headed to DC soon and wants to learn it!
4. Which method helps kids learn piano faster-the Suzuki method or just regular teaching? Why?
5.  Why are all snowflakes different?
6.  How are rocks difference on Mars vs. Earth?
7.  How can someone with a disability develop a passion to do the para-Olympics?
8.  How do nuclear power plants work?
9.  How do snowboarders incorporate gravity into their tricks?
10.  How do you know what is edible in the woods? (good question...right?)
11.  Why do plants need water, sunlight, and oxygen?

Just a sample...but off to a great start! I'm anxious to see how these projects come together! Stay tuned!!!


  1. Thank you for sharing what you're doing with your students! I've added your sample of questions your students have to this GDoc:

    Could you add more when you get more? Many teachers go to this doc for ideas for their own students, and you could continue helping them. Thank you! Of course, I also added this post to the Genius Hour LiveBinder under 4th grade, as well. Any others that you tag with "Genius Hour" will show up under the one link. Thank you so very much for sharing!!

  2. Joy, Thank you for sharing my blog and for including the post in the livebinder. I will continue to add more posts about Genius Hour as it evolves.