Genius Hour

I’ve been given a genius hour this morning. State testing is happening right now at my school, and only half of the staff is charged with testing different groups of students at any one time. The other half of the staff has an extra long “prep” period, or what today I am calling my “genius hour.”

Yesterday, I followed the excellent tweeters from the first day of authorspeak2011, a conference featuring 99 Solution Tree authors, currently underway for three days in Indianapolis.

One of my favorite tweeters, Angela Maiers (follow her at @angelamaiers), sent out a tweet about genius hour. I retweeted it, saying I wanted to hear more. Angela’s first tweet was inspired by Dan Pink as he talked about motivation. (I sit up and listen when I see tweets inspired by Dan Pink; I just wrote a blog post about his work last week.)

Well, I did want to hear more, so I did a search for genius hour on Google. The first hit was a link to Dan Pink’s post called “The Genius Hour: How 60 minutes a week can electrify your job.” I read the article this morning (the first step of my own genius hour–before I even realized I was calling it that!)

Of course, as I read it, my thoughts turned immediately to my genius students! How exciting!

I have a day already picked out for genius hour–the morning before Thanksgiving in America because I know I will have some extra time with them. It’s on the books–our first genius hour!

Here are my initial thoughts. (These are open to revisions, via your suggestions!)

  1. One full hour for 11 randomly-chosen teams of 3 to work together. They will be charged with communicating, collaborating, and creating. They will have freedom within their group, though, to work on more than one idea. They will have access to three computers, if needed.
  2. By the end of the hour, they will connect and contribute, reporting their genius work to the world on at least one blog post.
  3. We’ll have 35 minutes at the end to report back–three minutes for each group.
  4. Here are some guiding questions in case they need them:
      • What new idea do you have that you want time to develop?
      • What skill can you master?
      • What tool can you learn to help you work more efficiently?
      • What tool can you learn to do work more beautifully?
      • What tool can you learn to help us communicate better?

A great resource to start with: Cool Tools for Schools Wiki

That’s all I have so far.

Now, I have just finished my first genius hour! Actually, it’s been about 1.5 hours. I have never before been able to research, conceive, draft AND post on this blog during a school day. This morning, I have done all those things, as well as planned a potentially revolutionary lesson plan for 33 junior highers. Pretty productive morning, I’d say, thanks to the fact that I was given a “genius hour”!

I find it sad that my students are busy taking state-mandated tests while I get to have a genius hour.

What else should I add to our first student genius hour?
Have you done or will you do genius hour with your students?
Please report about it on Twitter with the hashtag #geniushour.

December Update: Genius Hour Blog Post Index


18 thoughts on “Genius Hour

  1. Laura,
    I am so glad you mentioned that. I love your genius post. I am always telling my students that they are geniuses, but now I can add some meat to it with your great etymological study. Thank you for directing us to your post.


  2. It funny – it’s been almost 5 months since I wrote that post, and your post made me think of it immediately. For the life of me I can’t even think of what inspired the post in the first place. Just meant to be I guess 😉


  3. Really love the idea, and that there are teachers out there willing to step outside the little box that curriculum, testing and schools have placed around learning. Providing students the opportunity to make an actual contribution, to find a problem and pose a solution, is an invaluable experience. I hope you post more about this project as it moves along. I am interested to see what your geniuses come up with.

  4. Devin,
    Thanks for the comment and the visit. Another illustration from Dan Pink’s talk I read about in a blog was awesome, and so I’m going to be reading his book Drive. I’ve been thinking for days about this great illustration and it’s application for teachers: A group of artists were asked to create artworks–some pieces were commissioned by outsiders and some were creations of their own choice. Then the art was evaluated by an impartial art critic. Not surprisingly, the art critic found more value in the works that were created by the artists’ choice. Although the commissioned pieces were technically well-done, they were missing the special ingredient that the choice brought to the piece–perhaps, passion.

    Anyway, my goal with this project is to let students create their own impassioned school work, not commissioned by me.

    Thanks again,

  5. James,
    My daughter painted that acrylic flower painting. I took a photo of it and cut out that section of the painting. (She asked me why I put it on sideways, but I think it’s beautiful any which way.) Thanks for asking. I need to give her credit, so I’m going to add that to my sidebar.

  6. Hi Denise,
    First of all – I love your new graphic – it’s beautiful and just perfect for the “genius” post. I am impressed that while your students were testing, you were making plans for them. BIG plans! How exciting to be given the time to work on something of their own choosing. I can’t wait to hear how it all will unfold.

    One suggestion (maybe)…you are putting the students in random groupings. Do you think you could present your idea to the class and then allow them to work with others who might have the same interest? Just a thought. Sometimes it works out best if the groups are random.

    I’ll bet you’ll find that after the hour the students will not be quite done and want to continue…they will be so engrossed in what they are doing.

    The kids in your classroom are very lucky to have such a caring and inspiring teacher who, as Devin says, ‘steps outside the little box’!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks, Nancy, for the comment and the idea. I began telling the students about our plan, so they can start thinking about what they might want to do. They are excited. I’m also able to give them a bit over an hour (maybe up to 1.5) because I realized I have an extra period for reporting back. I think you are right, the time will go fast for them.

    I like your idea about grouping by interest, though I don’t want the groups larger than three. I do want to try to implement a modified grouping. I’m not sure how it will look exactly. I want to be sensitive to those who don’t fit in as easily. Thanks for your thoughts!

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