I feel like I have so much on my mind about Genius Hour! 

Before spring break, we required all of our students to share and present to us about their latest project.  This allowed us to tie things up a bit before our break and it gave people who were desperately crying out to change or start over an opportunity to do that. Finally, it pushed some kids, who would’ve been researching and working on presentations until the end of time, a much-needed stopping point. 

Coming back from spring break was exhilarating and felt exciting and empowering too.  It was like we were starting Genius Hour for a second time so we have affectionately called this new beginning our Genius “Second” Hour.  We (Danielle, Katie, and I) as their teachers, had an opportunity we didn’t want to miss: we had a chance to get everyone psyched up once again…

So we reflected, we wrote, we discussed… we shared more clips, more quotes, a little kid President video telling us that we had EVERHTHING needed to change the world (cause who doesn’t get psyched when Kid President is involved?!).  We were more deliberate and intentional in our teaching of how to site sources, how to secure a mentor, and all the MILLIONS of ways a person could show what they had learned.  We even cleared our Genius Hour board as a symbolic gesture. 

The other thing this natural break allowed us to do was to push and challenge our sixth graders in a way we hadn’t yet…

The way I believe we have began to push/challenge our students even more in Genius “Second” Hour than we were before is by US asking our students the right questions.  We initially started by showing our kids this:

Taken from Julie Darling @julielibrarian

Taken from Julie Darling @julielibrarian

Our students NEED to have the awareness to know who their project is helping and supporting.  We had several students who wanted to learn about famous people (athletes mostly).  Great, but what does knowing that Steph Curry was born in 1988 do for us or you or our school?  Thinking with this visual in mind helped our students think deeper, which was GREAT!

Another way we pushed with questions was to ask them this: “So once you know about this topic… THEN WHAT?   What do you want to DO with this information?!”

We are always trying to get out students to think with the end in mind – we as teachers know the value of backwards planning after all – but asking them THIS type of question did something different… it somehow made our students think bigger

An example of how this is playing out…

An student in our team, who loves sports, wanted to learn about a sport.  Before spring break, that student would’ve learned about the history of basketball and would’ve presented it to us; we would’ve learned and it would’ve been great.  NOW, that same student went from wanting to learn about basketball –> learning about stats on kids in poverty having or not having access to sports –> finding an organization that helps gets kids access to athletic equipment (Level the Playing Field) –> contacting the leader of that organization and speaking to him on the phone in the evening, outside of school hours –> wanting to present his findings in front of our whole school to raise awareness, and is planning to run his own fundraiser where students can donate a dollar to wear PJs to school and the money would go to this organization to help kids get access to sports and equipment. 

Asking “Who is benefitting from what you’re learning?” and “What do you want to DO with this information?” helped him get to that place. 

There are other examples like it playing our in our team.  I chose this one because I got the HONOR of being at school the morning after that student talked on the phone with the leader of Level the Playing Field.  If I could bottle up the excitement in his eyes, the joy in his tone of voice, and how much it meant to him that someone that busy gave him the time of day, I would sell it all over this world! 

We here in Team 61 are NOT perfect at Genius Hour…. not even close.  We have so much to learn and so much farther to grow.  But I am so proud to be a part of this team and so so so SO happy we have made Genius Hour a part of our week.  It may be the best thing professionally that I have ever done for myself and, most importantly, for my students. 

BEFORE: Symbolic Starting Over

BEFORE: Symbolic Starting Over


AFTER: Ready to go!





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