Saturday, September 14, 2013

Genius Hour: What Are Your Passions?

If you do the math, you will find that I have been with most of my current third grade students for around 215 days.

(I had the excellent fortune of looping up to third grade with my students this year.)

You would think that I would know them extremely well, and I do.  I know their families, I know about their siblings. I know their strengths and weaknesses, where they go on vacations, which genres they love to read, what they bring for lunch every day.

But do I really know what they are PASSIONATE about in their lives?  I mean, outside of school?

For some of them I do, surely.  It's easy to tell what my vocal and extroverted students cannot stop talking about.  Topics like UFO's, Pokemon, Minecraft, horses, football, and  WWII come up constantly.

I asked myself though, what about the students who are the quiet thinkers?  Or the students who politely comply but whose minds are in another place?

In the last few months, I learned about a concept called Genius Hour.  You can read and watch more about the history behind it here:  We will take one hour, every week, to explore our passions.

We started this past week.

We watched Caine's Arcade to get us started.  My students were enthralled.  A boy, their age, with a passion for arcades, could go viral?

Then we discussed passsions.  We discussed how the constraints of school and home can sometimes keep us from exploring what we truly love.  What are those things we would love to do/test/change/make/learn about if we had no fear?

Every student received sticky notes to begin bravely brainstorming these passions of the heart.

I almost cried.  

I learned things that I never knew about some of my students.  I had no idea that one child always wanted to learn to play the guitar.  I didn't know that another student wants to know how houses are built.

We brainstormed for twenty minutes and the sticky notes full of ideas flooded our wondering charts in a way I never expected.

There will be rules for Genius Hour.  One is that the passions we explore have to be things that are not easily "Google-able." 


Imagine exploring a topic that cannot be easily answered with a quick Google search?  This is definitely going to take some time and thought.

I cannot wait to see where this journey is going to take us.

Thank you so much to Joy Kirr for unknowingly taking me under her Genius Hour wing.


  1. Ann, I get it. I used to have a difficult time remembering students' NAMES when they left me to go to 8th grade. After last year's group, however, I now not only remember their names, but I remember what they read during independent reading time, what they love to do, what they're good at, and how they struggled. We high five in the hallways, they come "bug" me during their lunch period & after school, and I know I've made connections. So many more than years prior.

    I'm very flattered that I could help nudge you to go this route, but there were many before me that helped me along the way, too! Soon it will be your turn, as well, to pay it forward. Let's get teachers passionate about teaching again - and let's get kids off on their way to becoming life-long learners! Kudos to you and yours!

  2. Joy, I honestly cannot thank you enough for your support. I have multiple other teachers in my building approaching me for information on how to support a passion project. I assure you that I will do my best to pay it forward! Thank you!

  3. Im going to get Genius Hour going in my classroom soon after Thanksgiving Break :) Im wondering if you have any resources for GH in the third grade classroom that you'd be willing to share. Thanks for sharinh yoir passion and I cant wait to see what your students produce :)

    1. Amber, How's it going with Genius Hour? I would love to hear about what has happened in your classroom!