What is Genius Hour?
Genius Hour gives students one hour per week to work on any learning goal the student has. The difference between the 20% Project and Genius Hour is that there is no structured project- the outcome is largely dependent on what the teacher wants to require. Students learn how to become autonomous learners and are motivated because they are working on learning that THEY want to learn.
My favorite way to integrate Genius Hour is to allow students 45 minutes of the hour to search on a topic of their choice. In order to keep them focused I tell them they have to create five questions they want to answer about their topic.
After they've researched for 45 minutes, I "randomly" draw names out of a cup for informal presenations. Chosen students stand and tell the class what they learned in 1-2 minutes. We all learn pretty amazing things and I am always impressed by how interested everyone is in the presenter's information.
Amp it Up
After about 6 weeks, we all start to get a little restless so I tweek the process a bit by creating a 3-week cycle for topics.
Week 1: Students research a topic
Week 2: Students create a slide show presenation
Week 3: Students formally present their topic/presentation.
Note! After the first round of presenations, I realized students didn't know how to create interesting presentations. Each slide had 100 words on it and the students' backs were turned to us as they read each slide verbatim. They learned how to create a slide with just a title and a picture to represent their idea as they gave their presentations- much more interesting!
One more note! I always used the same rubric to guide their oral presenations whether it was for Genius Hour or another class presentation. Click here for a copy of the rubric.
As a final assessment of search/presentation/speaking skills you can require students do their last presentation PechaKucha style. The idea is that a speaker present 20 slides with 20 seconds for each slide...automatically rotating. This means the speaker needs to know and time the presentation so well, that when the slides revolve, the flow isn't disturbed.
Note! Don't assign this unless you try one first. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Amazing Genius Hour Teachers
Genius Hour Livebinder: A compilation of websites, how-tos, and articles about Genius Hour and other autonomous projects for students.
Gallit Zvi's Integrating Technology: My Journey: Gallit is a middle school teacher who gives some great motivating reasons for why a teacher should employ Genius Hour in the classroom.
Denise Krebs's Dare to Care: Denise is the woman, inspired by Daniel Pink's Drive (a must-read), who created and publicized Genius Hour. Her website gives motivation for teachers and students to add Genius Hour to the curriculum.
Joy Kirr's My Own Genius Hour: Joy posts about her own inspiration to create a genius hour in her classroom and what it looks like in her 7th grade classroom.
Hugh McDonald's Today is a Great Day for Learning: Hugh gives specific steps about how he began Genius Hour in his 7th grade classroom.
Nancy Carroll's Teaching is Elementary: Nancy gives us a look at how Genius Hour can be integrated into the elementary grades.