6 Steps of Genius Hour for My Students, An Unpolished Set of Instructions

Since there are so many of us in this together, learning to do Genius Hour at home, I thought I would share the videos I made for my students. Of course, you will want to make your own, but maybe something will give a spark for how you can do it. I’d love to see your ideas too! Please share in the comments section. Thank you!

This sweet graphic was made by Valentina Gonzalez (@ValentinaESL)


Wonder page handout.

Students were to pause to watch John Spencer’s excellent summary that explains what Genius Hour is:

Slides for Question step and Genius Hour Proposal


My presentation

Slides and Google Form Reflection

My Genius Hour with Spices

This week I’ve been on an adventure with spices. My grade 5 students are doing genius hour from their homes, so that meant that I would be able to have time for my own genius hour with them. When we are in school, I usually help them instead of doing my own project.

But this chapter of learning is different, I am modeling genius hour for them from home. Here is my plan. My question was, “How can I organize my spice cabinet so the spices are more accessible and then try at least three spices I haven’t tried before? So, my plan was to clean out my spice cabinet, organize it alphabetically and use at least three of the dormant spices that have been there too long without any love.

First, I made a simple soup using Celery Salt. (Starting out small.)

Next, I went over the top! I made Machboos. It’s like a Middle Eastern version of biryani. I used two sources for the recipe and added my own vegan changes. (My sources are in the link to my version of the recipe.)

Altogether there were 7 tablespoons of spices in the machboos! 7 T.! Seven Tablespoons! What!? That’s almost a half cup, and it doesn’t count the five cloves of garlic, two onions, two green chilis, or the whole bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and black lime.

I’ve never made anything like this in my life. I felt empowered, bold, prodigious and prodigal. If I keep this up, I may use up a good chunk of the many spices I have in my cupboard.

Third, I made a savory and yummy mushroom stew. It had five different kinds of mushrooms and parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Since it’s April and National Poetry Month, I even wrote a spoken word poem about spices.

Four Things I’d Say to People Who Are Afraid of Their Spice Cabinet

1 – I used to be too, using cinnamon and basil and oregano and salt and pepper. 

When I felt exotic I’d add a pinch of cumin and a smidgen of chili powder. Nothing louder than what you’d find in a steaming bowl of chowder, though.

2 – Then I got older and bolder and experimented. I always loved to eat savory, flavory dishes, so why not recreate them in my kitchen? I can try. And try I do now because you see.

3 – My spices are becoming a touchstone for me. I look in my cupboard and see so many jars of hope, flavors brimming, ideas bubbling, whole leaves, pods, seeds, some crushed and powdered, as the hours are in my life. My time is limited in this place, in Bahrain where the flavors are exquisite and the spices are pennies. My time is limited on this earth. My time is limited in the kitchen, So,

4 – I want to use every hour, every recipe, every moment, every meal to the fullest. To the tastiest. To the joyful hope of a new beginning.

Here is a list of spices I used this week. Asterisks are by the spices that were used for the first time or in some new way.

  • celery salt*
  • black lime, whole and powder*
  • cinnamon, whole and powder
  • pepper, whole and ground
  • cumin, seeds* and powder
  • garam masala
  • bay leaf
  • cardamom, whole* and powder
  • salt
  • cloves, whole
  • coriander seeds*
  • saffron*
  • parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme* first time altogether

Here is my video of my genius hour for spring 2020:

Clean Towel Wednesday and Alphabetizing the Spices


My husband just came in and excitedly said, “I’ve changed the towels tonight.”

No response while I hovered over my computer.

“You know tomorrow is Clean Towel Wednesday, right?”

Oh, that’s right. We celebrate different holidays these days.

I had my own moment today, as well.

“I’m going to alphabetize the spice cabinet,” I announced after dinner.

And that’s what I did.

We have too much time on our hands.

This is only about half of the spice jars
Yes, I did start the alphabet at the bottom because all our favorites start with C. (My husband insists the peanut butter stays here too!)

Genius Hour at Home

I am in the middle of a very fun round of Genius Hour with my fifth grade geniuses! They are sheltering at home and doing lessons from there. We are giving Genius Hour a try.

Here is a five-minute summary of six steps for Genius Hour that you can do with your students. I hope it can be helpful to you or others.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions! Thanks!

This video was inspired by the same talk done at Bahrain’s April Virtual Teach Meet.

An article about Teach Meet Bahrain in today’s paper

Sweet Conversation Today

After a long day at work, I had  a sweet conversation with my team. It was a nice ending to a long day. In a meeting this morning, I came to learn of a GIGANTIC report that the Ministry of Education asked us to complete last week, while we were on spring break. God bless our administration for not calling us in and making us do it. Instead the Ministry gave us an extra week.

Yesterday our VP explained some things to us in email, but we had a lot of questions, so I just waited until our Tuesday morning meeting. Today we realized what it entailed. I started texting the teachers on my team:

We discussed and began to figure out what was entailed. We each had to gather eight different pieces of evidence for each class they teach. As well as figure out how to best represent it–photo, Google Doc, video, link page.

It was a lot of work. Of course, we didn’t do only that all day! We had family commitments, other school work and connecting with students. I even participated in a virtual TeachMeet by leading a five minute session.

But at ten minutes before our deadline, ten hours after we started, we were finished, and it was a job really well done! We gave each other virtual high fives and applause. We gave flowers and congratulations.

There were lots more messages flying through the virtual airwaves. But the best one for me, as the team leader was this note telling about a Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol quote about how the best thing that functioned was the team. I miss them so much.