Friday, March 28, 2014


Genius Hour. Passion Projects. 20% time. Open Inquiry Projects. I've been pondering these ideas a lot lately. So much has been written on blogs and on Twitter about how teachers are incorporating this into their classrooms. I was fortunate to also sit in on a session with Paul Solarz at the ICE conference a few weeks ago. The more I hear/read about it all, the more I know I just have to jump in.

Why am I considering adding this to our already-packed day? Why add more to our already-full plate? I think kids need it, want it, and deserve it. If we don't foster their creativity, their curiosity, and their sense of wonder, how can we help them learn what they are passionate about?

Times like this with my niece
remind me of the importance of wonder.
As I start to figure out how this will look in our classroom, I'm starting to piece together my "must-haves". After conversations with colleagues, my principal, and my friend Franki, I've come up with a few ideas to push me forward.

My "Must-Haves" as of right now...
1. My mind tells me it's not all about the name... but I think the name sets the tone for what will happen during this block of time. I'm toying with the idea of a "Wonder Workshop" to place the emphasis on the wondering and questioning part of what happens.**

2. I'm thinking about starting off next year with a Wonder Wall to encourage students to start sharing their wonders and questions. From there, we'll learn about different types of questions and higher order thinking. Some wonders may be ones that can be easily answered when others will take time... and may never actually  be answered.

3. It's not all about the product. I truly believe it's about the process we'll go through. While there may be a final product (an actual creation, a video, a blog post, a presentation, or whatever else they come up with,) our focus will be on the learning that takes place along the way.

4. Choice will continue to be key. Our classroom is already filled with lots of choices and independent thinking, and this time will be no different. Students need to choose their own topics, ask their own questions, and decide how they want to report their findings.

5. Collaboration will be encouraged. More often than not, my kids have the choice of working as a "lone wolf" or working in a "wolf pack." We use those terms often, and students are welcome to decide what works best for them.

6. My job will be that of facilitator. Nudging their thinking. Pushing them forward. Encouraging them to reflect and make decisions. Asking questions to help them ask questions of their own.

Now What?
I don't know yet where this will fit into our schedule. Is it better to devote small chunks of time daily? Or a longer period of time once or twice a week? I'd love to hear any advice or experience people have had! I love to use the last chunk of the year to try out new things to give them a trial run. I've found it shakes things up a bit for the kids and helps me work through logistics. It looks like this just might be something we try in the upcoming months!

As I'm thinking and planning and reflecting, I decided a Pinterest board was in order so I could easily locate all of the resources I'm finding. You can visit my board by clicking here.

Are you currently incorporating some sort of Genius Hour into your classroom? What grade level do you teach? What are you finding works or doesn't work? Any feedback you'd like to share would be helpful!

**It is entirely possible that others in my building are jumping on board with Genius Hour. If that is the case, I'll stick with calling it Genius Hour so we're all consistent! :)


  1. Loved your post Laura! I have just jumped into this with my grade 3 students. We started in January with a Not A Box project (check out Braybrook's Bunch blog for information) which was quite teacher directed as I really wanted my students to understand collaboration and "thinking outside the box". Just yesterday, I introduced the students to a shift in genius hour that will be more student driven, inquiry focused...something like what you described. They were so excited! They were also very disappointed when the end of our time came and they hadn't had a chance to really jump in with both feet yet...but the wheels were turning and now I can't wait to see where they go with it. I look forward to hearing more about your journey with genius hour!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tanya! I'm going to search for the Not A Box project. I think it might help me and the other teachers from my school who are interested in jumping in!

  2. Laura, so glad you're jumping in! I work in the same district as Paul, and his passion IS contagious - for life as well as for his students - I'm so glad he hooked you at ICE! Here are three tips: 1-Keep it one hour for the week, not smaller chunks spread throughout. It's too hard for students to get into something and then have to stop. 2-Share your questions on the #geniushour hashtag so other 4th grade teachers can help out when you're struggling - for you will probably struggle with a few students. 3-Just keep tweaking, just keep tweaking... Enjoy the messy learning!!

    1. P.S. If you tag your blog posts "genius hour," they'll all show up with one link. I'm putting your blog post on the LiveBinder, and would love for other 4th grade teachers to see all of your posts regarding your trials and tribulations. :)

    2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love your tips, Joy. It's exactly what I needed to hear. I'm jealous that your district has both you and Paul to motivate both teachers and students!!

    3. I added the tags to my post and will make sure I continue to do that as we move forward with this new adventure!