1 Genius Thing We Did in Our Class This Year

This is a post long in the works and one that has seen many different versions prior to me pressing the publish button.  I hope you enjoy.

Welcome Sign

Image Courtesy of Denise Krebs

This past year I shared with my grade 7 students an exciting and creative project idea I learned about through my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter.  The idea is Genius Hour.  I first learned of this term after reading Denise Krebs blog and tweet where she referenced an article titled “Genius Hour” referenced on Daniel Pink’s Blog.   Genius Hour is an idea that gave employees in a work place a scheduled autonomous hour out of every week to think, learn, and explore on how to make themselves and their work environment better, more creative, and more exciting to be a part of.  From the blog entry I was immediately struck by how simple the idea is. If you give people time for creativity, discovery, learning, and a say in the culture of their environment, you create an opportunity for empowerment and growth of the individual and the organization.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Denise Krebs, connected this idea to the classroom. She questioned the possibility of adapting it as an exciting learning opportunity for her grade 7/8 classroom and the idea and movement was born.  My colleague in Surrey, Tia Henriksen (@tiahenriksen) has termed it the 100 minutes of Genius figuring 60 minutes is just not enough time for their creative ideas of an elementary student to develop.  Another colleague in Surrey, Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) gave her students 3 100 minute afternoons with a 4th afternoon being the Genius Hour sharing.  This is why I love Twitter.  It gives me a view into others classrooms and how they adapt ideas to meet their needs and the needs of students in their room.  Each of them have documented the rationale behind the genius hour and their student’s experiences with it.  I am reminded of this video when others ask me about why I do Genius Hour in my classroom.  It is also one I shared with my students.

In order for students to be innovative they need opportunity to explore their passions, question their learning, reflect, and show.  We must teach them how to question and how to be creative!  This is why Genius Hour or Genius 100 is an awesome experience for students and educators.  Below is how Genius time looked in our Classroom this year.

Image Courtesy of Denise Krebs

1.  I had a number of students curious about what 100 minutes of Genius was when they saw it on the daily schedule for the day.  Before I mentioned anything I showed them a couple videos Denise Krebs posted on her blog of her students showing and demonstrating their 100 minutes of Genius learning.  My students laughed at a fun, creative, and informative Christmas Tree video, were in in awe of the questioning of a young cardboard airplane inventor, and were excited at the prospects of using technology like their peers in Iowa were doing.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.  We explored some of the questions to think about prior to coming up with their own 100 minutes of Genius ideas.  Denise outlined some of the questions she gathered and used with her students.   The questions we asked ourselves included:

  1. What new idea do you want to develop?
  2. What have you been wanting to try?
  3. What skill can you master?
  4. What tool can you learn that will help you work better?
  5. What tool could help you create something beautiful?
  6. What tool could help you communicate better?

3.  Finally we were ready to look at what it meant to be creative.  My students and I studied the Creativity Rubric Denise created with her students.  We discussed with each other about the value of each section and discussed what each element would look like when we were working on our own projects.

4.  Students wrote a proposal for our 100 minutes of Genius.  The students took to their blogs and proposed what they were going to accomplish.  Here is one of Sara’s proposals.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5.  The students were excited on their first 100 minutes of Genius Day.  They created the following:

Long Phi’s Artwork using
Spray Can app for iPad

A hockey stick from scratch, baked cookies and cakes (yum!), how to videos, scratch, magnetic cars, a doll house using popsicle sticks, created movie trailers, iMovie about the history of computers, built websites and blogs using Weebly, a hockey net, painted pictures using spray can app on iPad, stop motion animation, novels, paintings, poetry, prezi’s and power points on invented games, favourite foods, teams, and people.

6.  I noticed engaged learners loving what they were doing.  I noticed some students more prepared than others but an improved awareness of themselves as learners.  The 2nd time we did Genius Hour they were much more prepared because they realized they cost themselves learning time.  They questioned themselves and took stock in what their strengths were and where they could improve.

7.  I noticed excitement to celebrate their learning and talk about it with others.  We were  now sharing our learning on Twitter using the classroom Twitter account (@mcdclassroom).  Students shared their learning and signed their tweets during their genius learning time.  Sharing and owning learning equals engaged and energized learners!

8.  Afterwards students completed: a reflection on their blogs (See Kalihan’s here),  a Creativity Self-Assessment, and conferenced with me to explain how they met the criteria.

At the end of every school year I have students write a letter to future students about what to expect for next year.  Almost all my students noted Genius Hour as one of their favourite activities we did.   It will be a part of our learning next year too.  What was your student’s favourite activity this year?  I would love to read about it and learn from you.


Hugh McDonald


If you enjoyed this blog entry, please consider sharing it!

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Please also consider joining #Geniushour Chat where ideas are exchanged and the learning continues (1st Wednesday each month @ 6pm PST).  You can also check out the Genius Hour Wiki which is compiling and sharing a large amount of quality resources that will help you with your journey into Genius Hour.  The chat and the wiki are moderated by Denise and Gallit.

Educators who blog about #Geniushour and other Education Topics

Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) – http://mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org/ (Thank you for some of the images used in this post!)

Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) – http://gallit.weebly.com/my-blog.html

Tia Henriksen (@tiahenriksen) – http://henriksenlearning.wordpress.com/

Joy Kirr (@joykirr) – http://geniushour.blogspot.com/

Kelley Inden (@ksinden) – http://messyprofessional.wordpress.com/

Hugh McDonald (@hughtheteacher) – http://hughtheteacher.wordpress

This entry was posted in Blogging, Differentiated Instruction, Education, Genius Hour, Personal Growth, PLN, Technology, Twitter and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to 1 Genius Thing We Did in Our Class This Year

  1. Joy Kirr says:

    Good morning! I love how you put the process together! I have yet to do that. Have you checked the wiki yet? There are more resources for students now! Also, my Genius hour is 80 min., because my block of time with my 7th graders is that long. I was thinking of what day is best next year… I don’t want it to be Mon or Fri, as we have many of those off of school. What day do you think is best? I’m tending towards Wed, but still not sure. Thanks for the comprehensive post!
    -@JoyKirr, all the way out here in IL

  2. Kari Sirup says:

    Thanks for sharing this Hugh! It’s helpful to see the “questions to think about” that you discussed with students as a means of prompting their thinking. As well, I love the notion of a creative slf assessment, blog reflection and conference afterward. All great ideas and resources! I am so excited to try this in my classroom next year.


  3. T. Henriksen says:

    Hi Hugh,

    I loved learning about Genius Hour this year. It was so fun to have the students in the 4 classes I taught prep to, to complete 100 minutes of Genius projects at the end of each term (that’s why I called it 100 minutes of genius – that’s the amount of time I had with each class each week – so they would have the whole week to do their projects.). Like your students, my students looked forward to it each term. It was so awesome to see even those students who seemed to be the least motivated during “regular” classes to be engaged, excited and motivated during our Genius Time. This made me really realize the importance of having choice and different opportunities for students to express their learning throughout the entire year, in all that we did.

    I really enjoyed your Genius Hour tweets from your kids throughout the year. Those pictures helped inspire some of my students to try different things they wouldn’t normally do. The students who made the cookies, inspired one of my special needs students to make French Toast at the end of the 2nd term. So much fun!

    Thanks for the inspiration and the continued professional growth. It’s great to learn and share with one another.


  4. Shelley says:


    Just briefly read over this article and it sounds great! Just wondering if anyone has tried this with young primary (grades 2/3) and what have you found worked/didn’t work? Suggestions for getting started, time allotments, ideas, etc? Thanks, kindly.

    • Hello Shelley!

      First thank you for your response to my post. I’m sorry I didn’t respond right away. I believe people have tried Genius Hour with younger students but off the top of my head I cannot think of a name. I will put a tweet out there on the #geniushour hashtag to see if I can connect you that way. What is your handle on twitter?

      I would get started by showing some examples of students with exceptional talents that obviously did a lot of learning and questioning on their own. Second I would introduce the Creativity rubric and maybe help them simplify the terms and model what each one looks like. I think a real big component to this is being open about something you are learning and some of the questions and challenges you are facing. By the students seeing you model the independent learning you are doing they will be more flexible to experiment with their own genius.

      With younger students I would look at giving them a few 100 minute periods to explore & create. I would also refer to them all as geniuses. The goal is to have a busy classroom where children are all learning and you are observing them owning their learning & questioning themslves. I would also get the kids to plan out what they want to learn about before they start.

      Referring back to my post I highly recommend students self assessing themselves using the creativity rubric & conferencing with them. They need time to reflect on what was successful & what they can work on. Any other questions I highly encourage you refer to Denise Kreb & Gallit Zvi’s posts on Genius hour or check out a Genius Hour Chat on the first Wednesday of each month on #geniushour @ 6:30pm.

      Thank you again for your questions! On a side note I grew up in Abbotsford. 🙂

  5. Denise Krebs says:

    You did write a comprehensive post here! I love how you linked to examples from Kalihan and Sara. It makes it so real to imagine your students doing each step. Your students have some really great technology skills! They are doing some great things during genius hour!

    Thanks for linking to my blog and using my pictures too. I am happy to make a small contribution!

    Warm regards,

    • Thank you Denise! You have been a big inspiration this year. I look forward to learning & sharing more with you in the future. I am hopeful to have more posts during the school year that shares their Genius examples.

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