Saturday, January 31, 2015

Genius Hour...Just Keeps Getting Better

This week was so exciting as it was pitch week for my students.  We have been implementing Genius Hour for over a year now and the projects continue to get better and better each semester.  You can read about the beginning our Genius Hour journey HERE.

This semester, I decided to challenge my students to consider doing a project that would impact the life of someone else or "change the world" in some way.  We have been talking about this idea for a while and I asked students to let it "marinate" over Christmas break and come back with some awesome ideas.

After the break, we spent some of our class time discussing service projects and why they are important.  Then, we decided to explore our options by completing the Genius Hour Bracket that I found on Joy Kirr's LiveBinder (which is ABSOLUTELY amazing).  The bracket idea as well as several other ideas for encouraging students to find their passions can be found on AJ Juliani's blog post, 6 Simple Strategies to Help Find Your Passion.

The brackets were so much fun and gave me an opportunity to learn so much about my students.  I had a short conference with each student and discussed their brackets and what types of projects might be most meaningful for them.  They were excited to share their ideas and plans with me as I offered suggestions and thoughts on how they could get started.

Then it was time to pitch our projects.  I asked each student to complete the Pitch Planning Sheet and then prepare a short presentation for our class.  We used Google Slides for our presentations and I was very impressed.  You can view an example of a third grade student's pitch HERE.

As the students shared their projects, I was so proud of their ability to communicate and share the vision for their project.  They shared their plans, ideas, and questions with their classmates and then listened as their peers offered encouragement, suggestions, and advice.  They were collaborating and listening to each other!  It was a wonderful learning experience and so fun to watch as they took control of their own learning.  As a teacher, this was definitely one my favorite classroom moments.

This semester, we are doing a couple of different things.  We are using Trello to document our projects and share them with others.  Each project has a Trello board with the following cards...KWHLAQ, Math, Reading, Tech, and Progress.  I have asked that each student update their cards as they work on their projects.

KWHLAQ - On this card, students will share what they already know, what they want to know, and how they will find out before we begin our projects.  After we have completed their projects, they will share what they learned, what actions they took, and questions that they still have.

Math - This card will include Math standards, examples, and problems that are used and addressed while working on the project.

Reading/Writing - Students will share how they are using Reading and Writing while working on their project.

Tech - On this card, students will share the different technology that they use while completing their project.

Progress - This is a card that students will use to document progress as they work on their project.  It will be an easy way for them to remain accountable and use their class time appropriately.

I have asked students to document this information in an effort to share the wide variety of standards, skills, and tools that each project addresses.  I want my students to see and understand that they are using these skills to accomplish a goal and challenge themselves to incorporate a variety of disciplines into their projects.

In addition to Trello, my students will blog often to reflect on their projects.  What is working?  What isn't working?  I will also make it a priority to share their blogs often so that they can experience writing for an authentic audience.  I have found that reflection plays such an important role in the learning experience and we have spent much of this year learning how to reflect and why it is so important.

And so it begins...a new round of Genius Hour projects.  New possibilities bring excitement and the potential to impact the lives of others gives my students a second wind as we start our second semester of school.  I have to say that I am very excited about these new projects and so proud of my students for choosing such meaningful and challenging topics.  They have grown so much since we first began Genius Hour and that is evident in our newest list of ideas.

And so here they are, ladies and gentlemen...our 2015 Spring Genius Hour Projects (drum roll please)...

Backyard Classroom - Designing and creating a space for students to learn/read/create outdoors
Pillowcases for People - Sewing pillowcases for the homeless, will be donating pillowcases and pillows to those in need
Mystery Magical Fashion - Studying how fashion has changed over the years and creating a website to share that information with others
Reptile Book - Writing a digital book about reptiles and then finding a way to publish that book for our school library
Minecraft Club - Designing lessons/ideas for a Minecraft Club
Waterfalls - Studying how waterfalls work and then designing a working waterfall to share with others
Legos for Littles - Teaching younger students how to use Legos to create and design
Food for Homeless - Finding recipes and making food bags to share with those in need
Best Day Ever - Visiting children with cancer in hospital, singing, playing board games, and sharing treats
Backyard Farmer - Learning about livestock, farming, and completing challenges to earn the Backyard Farmer Master Badge on DIY
Disabled Animals - Creating an event to help people understand how they can help disabled animals and make their lives more manageable
Feeding Hungry Children - Making people aware of hunger in our community and finding ways to feed local children that do not have food
Cup of Milk - Helping this organization by raising enough money to feed 100 children for a month
Stop Euthanization of Animals - Find ways to help raise money for a local animal shelter trying to expand to so that they will have room for more animals
Water Pollution - Make others aware of the dangers of pollution in our oceans and how it affects marine life
Bully Busters - Coding/creating a video game about bullying and its effect on others
Football Game to Help Homeless - Organizing a football game to collect food for those in need
Extreme Weather Documentary - Using graphic design and researching weather to create a documentary explaining extreme weather to others

If you have suggestions for outside experts, information to share, or anything else that would be beneficial for any of these projects, please feel free to contact us.  I would also love to hear how you are using Genius Hour in your classroom.

If you are just getting started or want to know more about Genius Hour, check out Joy Kirr's Livebinder and Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick.


  1. Oh my goodness, Andi! I love this post - so full of great information and ideas! Quick note - I put the bracket on the LiveBinder as a result of reading one of AJ Juliani's informative posts. He had the idea - I just created the actual bracket to help one of my own students. I love how teachers are sharing their ideas through blogging and curating, so we can all "keep getting better." Thank you for sharing - AGAIN and AGAIN! :D

  2. Trello is one of the first and most popular task management tools that exist, although there are also other new and more complete solutions in terms of collaboration that can offer much more than a simple business software. One of them is Comidor ( which is based on cloud and is a full package for every small- medium business

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