Genius Hour is a framework started by some of the major tech companies that run our world. They believe that if you give employees a chance to be creative and seek their own learning, productivity in other areas of growth will progress quicker and with better success.
Giving students a chance to research, create and present their passions adds intrinsic motivation to the learning environment, that depending on the student, may have been a weak connection before.
Genius Hour gives students just that. It gives them a time to be reflective, research and devote their creative interests to learning. Students learn 21st Century Skills, College and Career Readiness Skills in addition to promoting the connection of more brain synapses. It gets them excited about learning. This one hour each week will benefit you the entire week in other subjects!
In my class, Genius Hour takes place in the afternoon on Fridays. It lasts about 1 hour and each project spans about 4 Fridays (roughly 1 month). Sometimes I have them create the project plan for homework so we can get a head start on our creating! And full disclosure, my class is one-to-one Chromebooks, so my students have research materials at their (personal) fingertips... but this can easily be done in a computer lab, at home, or trading off computers during the research stage.
I require my 5th graders to connect their Genius Hour to standards (in the editable version, this can be removed and omitted from the rubric requirement and replaced). We talk at length about standards in education because I want them to own their learning. If the content standards are not of great interest, there is a standard they can connect through ISTE, College and Career Readiness or even Art. As I quick conference with each student, I have a chance to help them find those interests.
I start this in the very beginning of the school year. One of the first days of school, I give out the Student Interest Survey so I know their interests. When they get "stuck" on deciding what they want to create (whether that is with recycled goods, computer software, music, or something else...), I pull out the student interest survey and work through their interests and passions.
Genius Hour Poster
Student Reflection Sheet
Student Interest Survey
I have this available as a PDF but this is a Word doc. If you would prefer a PDF after purchasing, please send me a message and I'm happy to supply.
I typically copy the student plan and rubric back-to-back. Students should always know what they will be graded on. I always go over each of these items before we begin our first Genius Hour. We also brainstorm options for Genius Hour and discuss the possibilities, without including too many details (because I don't like to offer students ALL the answers and frankly, I could never offer the millions of options!). If you scaffold too much, they tend to "copy" out of lack of ideas or to fulfill requirements.
The survey and the half sheet student reflection must also be photocopied (which can be one in Google Classroom if you'd prefer to save paper...) but the total = about 2.5 sheets of paper per one month of GENIUS HOUR projects per student.
This is a hard process in the beginning but students gradually learn to love it as the year progresses! You're definitely not relaxing during this time, as project-based learning is messy and unorganized, but super rich for everyone. No one will want to miss a Friday!
I do have a PowerPoint I plan to add in TPT soon... so stay tuned!