How to Organize Genius Hour

How to Organize Genius HourHow do you organize Genius Hour in elementary classes? With all of those students and moving parts, it is hard to imagine that it could ever be organized. Don’t worry. Today we’re revealing our roadmap for organizing Genius Hour.

Sometimes the thing that keeps us from trying something new is not knowing how to manage the chaos that is sure to ensue.

Often teachers shy away from activities and projects like Genius Hour because they fear the complexity of a project where not all students are doing the same thing at the same time.

Trust me.

I get it.

I was so concerned about how to organize Genius Hour that I created a full lapbook around the project, and you know what? That did the trick. The lapbook provided the perfect amount of organization and direction without stifling my students’ creativity.

Now, I can tell you as someone who’s been there…Genius Hour can be totally magical when the right process is in place.

What is Genius Hour?

If you are new to the idea of Genius Hour, let me introduce you to the concept. 

‘Genius Hour’ is a trend in education that is used to describe time given to students to explore projects inspired by their own passions or interests. You may have heard of passion projects or purpose projects before… if so, Genius Hour is basically that.

This idea of giving people time to work on projects based on personal ideas and interests was actually inspired by Google back in the early 2000s. At that time, Google implemented a 20% time, telling their employees to use 20% of their paid time to explore projects of their own interests that may in some way benefit the company.

Since then, many schools and organizations alike have grasped on to this 20% time idea, and in my classroom it was through the use of Genius Hour.

How to Organize Genius Hour

In my class, the Genius Hour roadmap was broken down into 7 stops, and to keep students organized, I included each of these ‘stops’ as part of our Genius Hour Lapbook.


First Stop: Picking a Question

Organize Genius Hour LapbookTo launch the Genius Hour project, I knew I needed to help students come up with a question to explore throughout the project.

This couldn’t just be any question though. It needed to be a question they could research and explore over the course of the entire project.

So, we spend time at the beginning of the project talking about ‘thick’ vs. ‘thin’ questions.

A ‘thin’ question is one that can be answered simply and quickly with little effort. A ‘thick’ question is one that has a complex answer that takes time to solve and explore. 

A good question for Genius Hour is complex. If the answer can be found with a simple Google search, the question is not ideal for this type of project.


Second Stop: Question Approval

Organize Genius Hour LapbookOnce the students have done some thinking and researching, trying to come up with a question, I have them write it down, and get approval to begin working on the project. This allows us time to talk over their idea, consider any issues that may arise as they research and explore the question, and make a plan for continuing forward.

In the lapbook, I’ve created a place where the students can write their question, and I can initial it once the question has gotten my approval to move forward.


Third Stop: Research

Organize Genius Hour LapbookThis is where students really get a chance to start exploring. 

Research is often very overwhelming for students, so I like to provide cards like the one in the image to guide them to collect the right kind of information about their sources.

Sometimes I have students who need to research before they pick their questions. If that is the case, I direct them to use the cards in the same way.

Fourth Stop: The Proposal

Organize Genius HourNow that students have a question and they’ve done some research, they need to start making some decisions about what this project is actually going to become. They need to make a plan. So, step 4 is all about just that. 

This is when students will get a chance to think through the project as a whole (the dates, the different elements they want to include, the materials they’ll need, etc.) and create a full proposal that will act as their plan for moving forward.

In the lapbook, this is one of the heftier portions that students will work on, and it is laid out in the format of a tab book.

The tabs ask students to report on the following parts of their project.

  • Their RATIONALE for the project
  • The MATERIALS they’ll need 
  • Their PLAN for implementation
  • How they’ll PRESENT the project

Fifth Stop: Logging Progress

Organize Genius Hour LapbookNow that students are off to the races working on their individual projects, keeping an eye on their progress is the main focus, but I don’t want to be the one doing all the documenting here.

Since I believe it is important for students to hold themselves accountable for their progress, I’ve included a learning log as part of the lapbook. On these pages, students can report on how they spent their work time and how pleased they are with their progress.

Sixth Stop: Presentations

At the tail end of Genius Hour, students will present their projects. How they are presented is up to you and each individual student. They can present using a poster or a slide show. They may create a video, poem, or song. The presentations will look different for each project, and that’s great! The goal is to communicate the results of their work.

Seventh Stop: Reflection

Organize Genius Hour LapbookFinally, after the presentations are done, and the students have had some time to think, I ask them to reflect on their project and exploration of the question they selected back at Stop One of this Roadmap to Genius Hour success.

In the Genius Hour Lapbook, the reflection is 3-fold. First, students report on the results of their project, second they provide their afterthoughts and personal reflection, and lastly, there is a place to record the teacher’s thoughts. 

This final step is important to understanding how the project went for the student and how they might change and adapt during the next round of Genius Hour.

So what do you say? Are you going to take a chance at Genius Hour? I think you should. Giving students this time to explore their interests will show you just how invested they can be when they are truly interested in what they are learning about. It also gives you a chance to get to know your students and their skills even better.

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