Genius Hour At Home Blog Post Index

Genius Hour at home has been a serendipity for my students and me. In this time of emergency remote learning, it has not been easy. We are in our 12th week of this. We have three weeks to go, and we are all exhausted and lonely, but Genius Hour is a light in the darkness. Here are the Genius Hour posts and resources my students and I have created over the past weeks.

You can access this list at:

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:

Day 6 Slice of LIfe – Geniushour Chat and a Challenge

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Hmmm…Will I go back to sleep? I wondered. I didn’t think so, but I brought my pillow and alarm clock out to the living room. I got myself cozy reclining on the Lazy Boy and tried to sleep for another hour. I couldn’t, so I sat up and started working. It helped me wake up enough to get ready for the #GeniusHour chat. That’s the once-a-month chat I always try to join at 5:00 a.m. in the winter. (Next month, it will start being at 4:00 a.m. Arabia Standard Time.)

Anyway, I was excited this morning. Dave Quinn was leading us in questions about the role of teacher during the Genius Hour experience. I was there to welcome people, and introduce Dave, though he didn’t need introduction. He’s led us before and been at other chats. Anyway, I made it and was awake enough, even if my Internet was sluggish.

At the end of the chat, one of the last mentions I noticed was from Gary Stager. The first time I “met” him was in a workshop at the Iowa Technology in Education Conference in 2011. He was the speaker and I was a fan in the audience. When I searched my blog, his name came up on six posts. In all my experience with him, I would describe Gary as a provocateur. He has provoked me to think many times, and he did again today. During the chat Dave quoted him and mentioned him in the following tweet. Some provocative tweets followed.

My whimpering response, “It’s changed how I teach, Gary.”

Then when the chat finished, I went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep. We had such a nice chat, and then that Pterodactyl came and…and…and…

What? Really, Denise? What did he do? Hmmm…I had to think about that.

He didn’t agree? Maybe.  Was I upset or sad because he didn’t agree with us, he wasn’t as excited about Genius Hour as we were? When I realized those last thoughts, I stopped and considered the importance of provocations in my life. I don’t appreciate agree-ers. I need people to push me, to challenge and disagree and tell me why. It’s always how I have grown.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The verb “spur on” in the Greek is paroxusmos and literally means to come alongside and jab into action, in this case jab “one another on toward love and good deeds.”

I thought about Gary’s jabs. He came alongside this morning and gave us a jab. Maybe on some level toward the same thing the Bible is talking about–love and good deeds. He jabs us toward loving students, jabs us toward giving ownership of learning back to those who are most qualified to own it–the learners. He jabs us into action to discover how we can make school good, really good. He jabs us to make education more humane and school curriculum and culture the best, and not to settle for less.

The hour is late, and I will now go back to bed and probably think more about these things. Another post soon about jabbing, but also coming alongside.

Inviting Innovation

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

Who or what experiences have built you up into the educator you are today?

Joy Kirr’s post is the first I read during Week 2 of the challenge. Her story is familiar to me, as I’ve heard her tell it before. It also runs parallel to my own story, which began at about the same time.

I had been teaching since 1984–sometimes to a group of grade 2, grade 3, grade 7, grade 8, as a reading specialist with small groups of children, or for ten years as a stay-at-home mom with my two daughters. I loved all my students and schools. I always felt I was out-of-the-box and looking for how to be better.

However, in late 2010, something switched for me. Two colleagues came back from the Iowa Technology Education Conference and told me that teachers were using Twitter. OK, I thought. So what. They continued telling me about the connections they made, the Web 2.0 tools they discovered, the people that inspired them. They told me enough that I got interested and began exploring with them.

One of my first tweets happened while I sat at a Digital Literacy conference with Angela Maiers. I was at a table with Erin OlsonStacy Brown, Brenda Ortmann, and Eileen Kinney listening to Angela’s challenging message. As you can see that uphill was a steep learning curve for me in more ways than one. I had to figure out the difference between # and @ on Twitter.

Angela Maiers was inspiring and challenging. Here is the post referred to in the tweet below. The people I met on Twitter enabled me to learn much more than I was used to learning. I began to read more books, read and write more blog posts, and I learned in a new and exciting way how to own my own learning, how to take responsibility for making a new way.

When I was searching for my first tweets, I also ran across this one I wrote in 2011 to Jee Young Kim. At that time, I was helping someone find resources to teach overseas. I myself had never been out of North America, but here I was saying, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to teach overseas!” What? I was sure I was making that up to be polite or make conversation. I had never had that thought before. But three years later I was doing just that!

I have now been teaching in Bahrain for six years. Thankfully, the things I learned from others and my commitment to innovation and improvement have not stopped.

I’m still connected with educators all over the world through Twitter.  Even though education is much more traditional here, we are still growing professionally at each turn. Soon we will have the third annual EdCampBahrain. We have quarterly TeachMeets and hashtags to share our learning in the Middle East (#bahrainedu, #edchatMENA)

Then today I humbly received one of my Principal’s Innovation Awards at our school for engaging my students with things like blogging, Pearls of Wisdom, and Genius Hour.

Life is sweet, and there is such joy in this journey. I am very thankful for those who taught me what I know and for those who continually teach and challenge me.