Why You Have Time for Genius Hour in Your Classroom
(This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you buy from the links.) You do have time for Genius Hour in your classroom. In the nine years I’ve been using Genius Hour in the classroom in some shape or form, I’ve heard it 100 times.
I’d love to do it, but I don’t have time.
First, let me be clear. When I was teaching English, I had 100+ essays to grade at a time like everyone else. Of course, my students had required formative and summative assessments. There was state testing, MAP testing, testing, testing, testing. But, guess what? You have time for Genius Hour in Your Classroom. Here are some reasons why.
What is Genius Hour?
If you’ve been here before, you know about Genius Hour. After all, I talk about it every other post. But, if you’re new, you might not be familiar with Genius Hour. Here’s the short version:
Genius Hour is a passion-based, student-driven research project conducted at least an hour a week about whatever the students wants to learn!
I show this video from GeniusHour.com every time I introduce it to students. The video mentions the three rules of Genius Hour.
- Genius Hour starts with a question that can’t be answered with a quick Google Search.
- The project must involve research.
- The final product needs to be shared (ideally outside the classroom walls).
Look! There’s reading, writing, and research all embedded in Genius Hour. In fact, the research and writing standards mentioned in most state standards want students to conduct research over periods of time and short research projects. Genius Hour does both as students can build upon their questions throughout the year. There is no time limit for how long a Genius Hour project should take. So, yes, you have time!
Genius Hour Supports Language Arts Standards
If you review the college and career readiness standards that most states adopted for Language Arts (my state did not, but the standards are similar), they are all about reading and writing (integrating research). That’s not to say we should only be teaching things that are on a test, but why not have students read informational text and look at multiple sources (primary, secondary, online, and print) to research a topic of their choice.
Language Arts standards also include speaking and listening. Remember, Genius Hour is about sharing the final product. Presenting pitches early on and final products to the class with presentations or online sharing is the most authentic way to reach speaking and listening standards.
Project-Based Learning is Student-Centered
Think about the lessons you’ve taught in the last year. Which lessons did you notice more student engagement? I’d guess it’s the one where students take the lead. When I’ve lectured (yes, I’ve done it to), and the lesson centered around my words rather than the students’ ideas and feedback, I lost a lot of them.
First, I front-load by teaching brainstorming techniques, questioning, research, writing, and presentation skills every step of the way. But, throughout the process the students are doing. It’s not about me. If they have questions that can’t be answered with print resources, I don’t require a print resource. We find reputable online sources. I’ll vet mentors or subject matter experts to help them answer their questions. Students are engaging and learning, and those reading test scores are going up because they are reading. . .a lot!
Genius Hour Helps with Classroom Management
I am not saying Genius Hour is not chaotic or messy. On Friday Genius Hour days in my English classroom, there was hustle and bustle. It was often loud in the room. Students were playing music, reading, painting, sewing, and building. Most of them, however, were engaged! I rarely had to redirect behavior after the first few weeks because students were studying what they wanted to study. When school became focused on the learner’s questions rather than my questions, they wanted to be there and engage in learning. Imagine the time you’ll save correcting behavior and writing referrals. You have time!
Genius Hour is Researched-Based
Now, this may not help your hour-by-hour plan, but when it comes to justify using Genius Hour in your classroom, let your admin know, it is research based! Constructivists as far back as John Dewey (1933) advocated “Learning by Doing”. Genius Hour
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey
Students who participated in student-driven project-based learning methods reported higher levels of motivation and engagement than those of their peers (Schneider, 2022).
I am a huge fan of Daniel Pink and his evolved Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Self-Determination Theory states that humans need three basic psychological needs to be motivated: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Pink’s theory of motivation (Pink, 2009) focuses on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Oh, and Pink’s “The Puzzle of Motivation” TEDTalk (2009) was my impetus for starting Genius Hour in my classroom in 2015.
It’s the stuff we claim to know but don’t always practice in the classroom. Students functioning at the highest levels of motivation aren’t doing so to get the grade or avoid punishment. They are finding purpose in what they are doing, have the appropriate level of challenge to master their skills, and have choices or autonomy in their learning tasks and goals.
Daniel Pink even shared my Genius Hour article on his social media! If a New York Times best selling author, career analyst, and researcher thinks Genius Hour is what is right for kids, shouldn’t you (or your admin) get on board!
The Time is Now
You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true. Your students are not going to remember every little digit of lesson about pi (3.1415926536). I had to look up past 3.14 to prove my point.
They aren’t going to remember the character analysis of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or maybe even the order of the Presidents of the United States.
Look, I am not saying these lessons aren’t important, but you do have time to let students explore and have their own choices and connect them to standards.
If they remember those lessons. . .great! But if they don’t, does it matter? Of course, they are all things they can Google later.
They remember the lessons that are going to touch them when they are figuring out what they want to do with life. These are the lessons that they’ll internalize, practice, and apply to their future goals whether or not they are related to their Genius Hour question.
This is the stuff that matters:
Then: me, age 7, at the Field Museum when I first decided to be a paleontologist
Now: me, age 23, a visiting researcher in the paleo collections at the Field Museum studying dinosaurs pic.twitter.com/3C9weou5SH
— Lynnea Jackson (@LynneaSimone) March 14, 2022
It’s the art that they start during Genius Hour and turn into a career like Kanna. (Check out her Insta, and buy her art.)
Or. . .Kei’lah who turned her love in fashion into a leadership role in business and then construction management.
Or. . .Hope who is in college studying to be an English teacher, fueled by her love of writing and desire to make a difference.
There are so many more students in my classroom and yours.
The time is now to foster student autonomy, engagement, and motivation with Genius Hour or some form of student-driven project-based learning in your classroom.
What are you waiting for?
More Genius Hour Resources
Want some help? Join Genius Hour in Education, or reach out to me for consulting and coaching opportunities.
Overall, here are some great books to help you get started with Genius Hour!
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