Genius hour.
Curriculum Inspiration

How to Unleash the Genius in Your Students

Inspired by Google’s 20 percent time initiative, teachers are introducing classroom Genius Hour.

In a climate that stresses reaching measurable goals and adhering to preconstructed standards, it is not always easy to find our students’ passions and allow them to recognize their own curiosities. That’s why implementing genius hour is a huge step toward bringing independent learning and passion-based work into your classroom.

What is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour is, in a sense, freedom. It’s time set aside for kids of all ages to explore personal passions and interests. They are encouraged to ask their own questions and then seek out the answers all while within the classroom’s support system.



Where did the idea originate?

The concept is most notably attributed to digital mogul Google, which allows employees to spend 20% of their working time to investigate and explore topics that interest them. In fact, the idea has worked so well that Google says as many as 50% of its products are results of employee creative time.

Another origin of genius hour projects came from the book Drive by best-selling author Daniel Pink. In a blog post he writes how Google-time projects are also used in other corporations.

How does it translate to the classroom?

Just as Google gives its employees time to pursue passions, teachers can set an allotted time aside for students to do the same. Students spend several weeks researching a topic they are curious about before they start creating a product that will be shared with the classroom and beyond. Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged. Throughout the process the teacher facilitates student projects to ensure they stay on task.

This is not the differentiation model teachers have embraced in the classroom. It is a personalized education meant to engage every child in a unique quest. Despite the individual and personal aspects, the teacher’s role is vital as a facilitator and coach. It is closer to Inquiry Based learning than differentiation.

Typically teachers find one period a week (totaling one hour) to multiple class periods depending on the age, grade, or schedule.

Suggestions for classroom teachers launching Genius Hour

The teacher truly is the coach; there is no room for the sage on the stage. One on one interaction with each student to see where they are, where they are stuck, and where they are headed is necessary. The teacher’s role is to help students focus, solve problems, ask the right questions, reflect on their process and progress, and to motivate with genuine support and encouragement.

Brainstorming activities might be helpful when introducing a genius hour program. Remember that for most students this is a whole new way to do school!

Because students have a finite amount of time with each teacher, set an end date. Presenting the project to the other students is empowering. Some students will end up with a tangible project — an invention or prototype. Others will have some answers to share and even more questions at the end. Be careful not to make the presentation the main focus. Genius Hour is not about being tested or graded, which can quickly take away from the joy of self-exploration and discovery.


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