Genius Hour

Classroom Interactions Online

Posted on March 7, 2017. Filed under: digital citizenship, Eci834, educational, Genius Hour, Google Classroom, Masters, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

As I was reading through this week’s assigned chapters, I became very thankful that Alec and Katia know this research well, and have shown our class, by example, what online learning should/can look like. As I was thinking about learning communities, I decided that one of the reasons why I feel our class’s learning community connects so well is because of the systems this class has in place to connect with others.

  1. Zoom live video. I can’t think of a better tool to feel like part of the class without a classroom. Even if most students don’t speak out loud during the classes, the live feature of being able to see everyone if you wanted, really helps with accountability and presence.
  2. Zoom chat. I compare this to when the chapter was talkingzoom about the MSN chat. Having the chat option during the live feed really builds community as there can be joking go on, side conversations and little comments here and there that not only make people feel like they are contributing, but encourages participation.
  1. Zoom breakout rooms. These short small group interactions help put faces to names, and allows you to feel like you know at least a few people on a more personal level. Usually during these breakout sessions, you at least find out what grade the other people teach and possibly one or two things about their classroom.
  2. Twitter chats. Using a class hashtag is an effective way to have asynchronous twitterconversation and sharing with classmates. Because of it’s ‘favourite’ and ‘retweet’ options, you feel connected with other members of the class even when you are not speaking face to face.
  3. Google+. Because of its closed/private discussion boards, Google+ can feel like a safer social media sharing platform than Facebook or Twitter. There isn’t a chance of anyone else (besides those in the class) that could read the posts. I think this helps people feel secure when they share something.

I love Shweir’s definition of participation in regards to online learning communities. He says participation is

“social interaction, especially participation that promotes self- determination, respects the autonomy of members and sustains the community” (2002).

This is important as it moves past the definition of raising your hand- virtually, or face to face.  I also know from my own experience that mandatory participation and participation marks don’t automatically equal engagement. There have been discussion boards and conversations that I have been involved in only for the sake of that participation mark.


“Power Law of Participation” photo credit: Ross Mayfield via Flickr

Pedagogically speaking, I really feel like we need to move past participation marks… into finding ways for authentic participation and engagement that promotes a growth mindset. Our group has decided to use Google Classroom as our LMS. I have been learning about the different ways Google Classroom allows students to get involved within that platform, and I have been thinking about ways to use that platform to the best of my ability.


Our group has decided to use blogging/pingbacks as a way for students to interact with the teacher and each other. We have also thrown around the idea of having the students use Twitter or another similar tool to connect with each other. (Rochelle’s post this week confirmed this is always a great tool) BUT the more I think about it, the more I feel like Google+ might be the better option because we chose Google Classroom as the LMS, but I could be wrong. What do you think? Should our group use Google+ as an added learning community just because we are using GC as the learning management system? Do you think that kids will buy in more, or have a better understanding of how the tool works because it’s created by the same company?

This journal article talks about how gamification and student competitiveness can boost student learning. I know that I love a healthy competition between friends or classmates. That is why for my module, I chose to have the students share their score from a digital citizenship game that they will be taking part in. I created a Google Form for them to input screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-11-15-26-pmtheir answers. This game is a fun way to make dig cit choices, and because there’s really no right or wrong answers in this game, sharing their score is a healthy way to promote participation and a little competition within their learning community. Along with the score, they will be writing how they think they could improve their score if they played the game again.  This way, they are also sharing tips and tricks  with their classmates that will share their knowledge on good digital citizenship behaviour.


I believe the best way to have student interactions that are meaningful, relevant and supportive, is to have the students engage with relevant content and actually care about what they are talking about. I think our group has a hand up in this sense as our group is


“Genius Hour” photo credit Denise Krebs via Flickr

doing Genius Hour which is where the students get to learn about whatever they want! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to make curriculum fun and engaging, but I am very excited to see how the students will build a specialized learning community throughout this process.


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Getting Started with Google Classroom

Posted on January 29, 2017. Filed under: digital citizenship, Eci834, educational, Genius Hour, Google Classroom, Masters, online safety, Technology |

Our ECI834 group has chosen to use Google Classroom as an LMS. It seems to be the most practical choice as many of us will have opportunities to use it now (or later) in our classrooms.


Photo credit: Alice Keeler via

I, for one, have not tested out Google Classroom before as I have taught grade 1 or 2 for the past 5 years and it’s a little bit too difficult to navigate for that age group. Instead, I have used SeeSaw pretty extensively. (Which I love btw!)

I am hoping to move up in grades in the next little while, so I know I will be able to use Google Classroom more and more.  I’m especially excited to use it for Genius Hour with older students.

The first thing I had to do in Google Classroom was create a class. I asked my group if we each wanted to create our own class for this project, or if we should have one class with different units. We decided on just one class.


That meant that the next thing I needed to do was add my group as co-collaboraters within our “Genius Hour” class. For that, I googled “collaborate with other teachers on Google Classroom.” Helpful Google gave me step by step instructions, and the first thing I had to do was go to the ‘About’ tab, and “Invite Teachers.”  The only problem was that there was no one to invite! I tried typing in my group’s email addresses, and it didn’t work. Nothing came up.


It turns out I needed to have these teachers as contacts before I could invite them to collaborate. So I had to open up ‘My Contacts’ with this specific Gmail account and add each of my group members as contacts.


This step seemed a little excessive, as I feel like I should have been able to input their email address directly into Google classroom. It was especially difficult as a couple of my group member’s uregina emails didn’t work.  Once we got that sorted out, I was able to add all of my group as co-teachers for our class.


Now I needed to create an assignment and somehow organize it so that my assignments would only show up in my module.  Google Classroom has a “Stream” for the students, and things show up in there as they are put in. I figured this could get confusing considering we were going to have six people adding assignments to this one class.  The Google expert, Alice Keeler, wrote a post about adding topics to Google Classroom. I learned that “topics” is a way that we can organize our content into units. I called my topic, “Digital Citizenship and Works Cited” as that is what my Genius Hour module is going to be on.screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-10-27-00-pm

I encouraged the rest of my group to create their own topic when they create an assignment as well. That way students can use the filter option later to navigate through the different assignments for each unit.  I will organize my own assignments with the Dig Cit/Works Cited topic/unit and then call them Assignment 1, 2, 3 etc. with a description of what they will be doing.


For my first assignment, I have decided to have the students complete an interactive digital citizenship game made by Digizen, write a reflective blog post, and fill out a Google Form that shares their digital citizenship score with the rest of the class. I figured this would be an interesting way to engage my students in the topic and get them thinking.

Some of my other EC&I834 classmates have also chosen to use Google Classroom for their LMS, and Jayme reminded me that one of the best features of Google Classroom is that students will have everything they need in one place. They won’t need to worry about losing assignments or misplacing certain instructions. I came across this powerful blog post a couple months back written by Pernille Ripp. It talks about how we as teachers need to try and remove barriers for learning rather than add them. This resonates with me while thinking about Google Classroom. Why would we get mad at students for losing assignments when we can help them by creating a place for them where this very thing is impossible? Google Classroom will be a great tool that will help students in this way, among others. I’m excited to dive into it further.

While testing it out this week, these are my Google Classroom pros and cons


  • Easy to navigate
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Simple ways to attach URLs, documents, Youtube videos, and any other Google Drive options to assignments


  • Had to add create new Google contacts to add other teachers as collaborators
  • There was no way to add a specific folder for a unit, so I had to use the “topics” tag
  • Once I have used the “topics” tag to specify units, I won’t be able to use it to specify other subjects.  I will have to create a new class for each new subject I would want. Ex: Science, ELA, Math etc.

Does anyone know a way around this issue? If so, please share in the comments!

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An Online Genius Hour Unit

Posted on January 23, 2017. Filed under: digital citizenship, Eci834, Genius Hour, Masters, Technology |

I am excited to be working with Jen Huber, Jorie Gilroy, Kyle Dumont, Adam Krammer, and Lorraine Wagner on creating a Genius Hour unit/class online! Not only do we have a super sized group- we have a super awesome group. 😉 There is a lot of teaching expertise among these 5 teachers and I’m looking forward to working with them on our project.

twitterFirst, we decided to communicate through a Twitter chat. We are all using Twitter anyway, so it seemed like an easy tool for a group chat. From there, we decided on a Saturday morning Zoom meeting to meet “face to screen” and discuss where we were heading.zoom

During our conversation, different ideas came up around what type of modules should be included in this course. We decided on 6. One for each of us:

1) Introduction/start up- Jen

2) Questioning- Lorraine

3) Research- Adam

4) Works cited and dig cit.- myself

5) Demonstrating knowledge- Kyle

6) Evaluation- Jorie

I am really happy with these modules as I feel they encompass what Genius Hour can/should look like. Since I won’t spoil the rest of my group’s amazing modules, I will talk about my plans for how I will manage works cited and digital citizenship.


In her blog, Jen Stewart Mitchell explains how she has seen the researched benefits of exploration and student driven inquiry. She notes that these types of projects help students become “passionate and engaged life-long learners.” I completely agree.  In fact, incorporating Genius Hour has changed my classroom entirely… BUT I don’t want this project to just be an explanation of how to do Genius Hour in a classroom. I feel it’s very important that since this is going to be an online course, there needs to be a reason it’s online. It really needs to be 2.0… It should not be paper content horizontally transferred to a word processing page on the computer. There should be a certain depth and interactive component that only online tools can bring.

img_1927My tension with this is that when I have done Genius Hour in my class, (check out my posts about those times under my category, “Genius Hour”) I have used many paper activities or resources. In fact, I still stand by the philosophy of using paper if it’s easier than tech, BUT for the sake of our course development, I want my module to be able to be used completely online, and then adapted for less tech rich classrooms if need be.

Making Genius Hour substitutions from paper activities to tech activities can be quick and easy; instead of students writing down their Genius Hour project ideas in a notebook or on scrap paper, they can send their ideas to Padlet or brainstorm using an app like BaiBoard. Though this substitution is pretty low on Bloom’s Technology Taxonomy, it does allow for some more interaction and collaboration between students, which may up their engagement level.


Bloom’s Taxonomy for iPads via Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s

For my module around citation and dig cit, what I really want to do is find valuable interactive ways for students to practice these skills within our course. I don’t want them to just learn how to cite properly and remember what being a good digital citizen looks like.  That wouldn’t move past the lowest two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, Remembering and Understanding. I want to see students engage with Genius Hour citation and digital citizenship in a way that helps them retain it. If possible, I want to help them evaluate and create!



I know there are many resources out there that allow for students to practice citing things properly and to be good digital citizens, but if you have one that you think this project should NOT do without, please comment below, and I will incorporate it!

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Learn Like a Pirate in Primary Grades

Posted on July 9, 2015. Filed under: educational, Genius Hour, Grade 1 & 2, LearnLAP | Tags: |

This summer I have had the awesome opportunity to read the book Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz. I have had some great conversations about its content through friendships, an ISTE tweet up, and the hashtag #2k15reads.  One of the best moments for me at ISTE was when I met Angela Gadtke @mrsgadtke at the #LearnLAP #ISTE2015 tweetup.  She is a Kindergarten teacher, and so we started chatting back and forth about what learning like a pirate could look like in the primary grades. We are even hoping to have a Google hangout one of these days to chat more. I think we will have to invite the #LearnLAP primary community in on it as well!

By no means have I come to ANY conclusions about how to teach this way seamlessly, and because it’s still July, I haven’t had the chance to test any of the ideas with my students yet, but here are some of my thoughts so far:

Student Jobs-

Paul has lots of his students do his job for him. He has them transition each other from one subject to the next, he has students give instructions, meet kids at the door and do the other “regular” teacher jobs of a classroom. Here are some I think could work in primary:

Meet students at the door: Love this one. I think it could totally work, and there is always that 1 kid who is in class way before the rest of the students anyways.

Mail helper– Rather than me standing by the lockers trying to hurry the kids up to get their backpacks off, get out their mail etc. I would love to pass this job onto a naturally bossy child who loves that kind of stuff anyways lol! I think giving them a job where they can use their “gift” for good is a nice way to honour who they are while training them to be helpful rather than bossy.

Attendance Taker: I have some kids who would definitely be able to login to a classroom laptop, use my password and put in the attendance for the day.  What I think I would like to do is have a check in system on the lockers so that attendance taking would be easy. I’m thinking of drawing on the lockers and sectioning it into four parts- Home/School/Appointment/Washroom.  If the students had a magnet that represented themselves, they would be able to move it from home to school when they arrived in the morning.  If they knew they were going to be away the next day for an appointment, they could shift their magnet from school to appointment at the end of the day.  This might also be a way to have students police their own bathroom use. As a rule, I don’t let students go to the washroom when I am teaching from the carpet.  We do tons of centre based/student directed work during the day, so when I need to teach a concept on the carpet, I need them there. That said, when I am working with small groups or individuals, the other children are working on their own stuff, and this is usually the time where I get interrupted the most. The question is usually, “can I go to the bathroom?” If I had a magnet system, the students could see if someone else was in the washroom and they would just have to wait until that person gets back.

Computer Cart- This year I had a tech helper who did all things techy for me or for any subs who came into my class.  He also was in charge of making sure the other children had plugged in the laptops, and that the laptop cart was closed and locked. My colleague Trina Crawford @tcrawford2011 inspired me on this one as I always see her little tech helpers wheeling the laptop cart down the hallway and making sure everything is put away properly!

Other jobs– During our tweet up, Cindy Scheurer @cscheuer48 said that her students know that if they have to remind her to do something more than once, then it becomes their job. I love that. If I’ve forgotten to do something more than once, chances are the kid who realized it is going to be watching for that anyways. Why not pass off the responsibility!


I loved Paul’s energy lesson debate that he does in his class. It seemed like such a fun engaging way to have children learn content and promote retention.  In primary, the only debate I have done was one on hunting. Before we had any conversations about the use of animals for needs and wants, (Science curriculum) the children debated whether they thought hunting was good or bad.  It was interesting to see the children take in the other side’s ideas and then offer a rebuttal. Before we formally addressed any of their thoughts, I had the children record their views, and we put the videos on YouTube.  As the lesson went on, we would revisit some of the arguments and talk about how they developed and if ideas had changed.  The part I find funny about the whole situation is that the “Hunting is Bad” YouTube video gets quite a few hits daily, and I get a ridiculous comment at least once or twice a month (sometimes more) from pro-hunting advocates who are furious with me and the children for this point of view. Warning: If you are going to check out the comments, beware of some extreme language and complete idiocy. 😉

Project Based Learning:

This is something I would like to get better at.  My classroom participates in Genius Hour, and they love it. It’s their favourite “subject” at school.  But, I would like to try and incorporate some more PBL.  I went to an awesome PBL session with Mike Gwaltney @mikegwaltney at ISTE, and it got me thinking about what I could do next year.  Up until this year, every year my class has adopted an animal.  The first couple years we adopted an elephant from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (that I got to visit on my trip to Kenya).


The year after that we adopted a penguin, then we adopted a polar bear.  The kids always loved it.  We would get a little stuffed animal that would be representative of our real animal, and I would send it home with the students with a video camera so they could document the time our class pet spent with them.  I would compile all the clips together and we would watch what the animal did at every house.

The students loved this project, and they developed a real love for our adopted animal.  I even had students asking their parents if they could adopt their own penguin/elephant/polar bear. In fact, for one student’s birthday, she asked her friends to donate money rather than a present so that she could adopt her own elephant!

This past year, I was convicted that we could probably do more than just adopt an animal. There are people in our world who are surviving on much less than our $50 that we pay to adopt an animal, and so I started looking into our class sponsoring a child. I found this awesome organization called Chat to the Future. This organization was set up by a teacher who wants to connect schools in North America with a household of children of all ages in Uganda. The whole set up is amazing and the children from the USA and Canada can regularly Skype the children in Uganda to connect with them and share songs, stories and dances.

The problem was that my students really didn’t connect with this project as much as they did to the other ones.  It got me thinking about their scope and what matters to them.  During the ISTE session, I started thinking about ways that my grade 1/2 class could do something relevant to them. The people at my table were talking me through different options, and I think I might have to do something at the student level.  I really want the project to be developed and initiated through student interest. There are plenty of great PBL ideas and resources on teachers pay teachers, but I don’t want to print out a nice cookie cutter project and fit my students into the pre made mould. I want to support them through the development of an authentic project themselves.

Give me 5:

Ahhhh….I don’t know if I can do this!! Paul allows his students to interrupt the class (as a teacher would) and yell “GIVE ME 5” when they have something important to say, share or ask. He trains them on how this looks and he proves in his book that it is an effective way to support student leadership and risk taking.

The problem with this for me is that I can totally see a grade one student yelling “GIVE ME 5!” and getting the whole class’s attention only to show them the neat little ant that is crawling across the carpet at that very moment. I can just see the whole lesson being de-railed by the class crowding around that ant, and it taking 20 minutes to get them back on task and focused on what they were doing.  I’m not entirely sure that my young students have the developmental capacity to understand when to interrupt the class to share relevant learning. That said, by no means am I opposed to the idea, I just need some more conversation about how it might work itself out. I might try something out in my math or Daily 5 Centres where the students know their job the best and have a self directed engaging task to get back to if there was an interruption.

Since I have never used the term “Give me 5” with my students, I was thinking about which attention grabbing strategy I could teach the students to use.  I use several in my classroom. Sometimes I sing a little tune and have the students finish the tune off.  Sometimes I ring my chime hanging from the roof or the bell that’s by my desk.  Sometimes I say 5 and then clap 5 times, then 4 and clap 4 times, etc. all the way to 1. No matter what attention grab I use, I always say Stop, Look, and Listen before beginning what I am going to say.  I have watched my students mimic my classroom management countless times, and I always laugh when a little 6 year old student says (with sass) something like, “I will just wait until you are all ready before I pick someone.” I have no doubt in my mind that the students will be able to get the other students attention in a positive way, I just don’t know how and when I want them to do it yet!

This post is way longer than I had planned, and for that I apologize. Hopefully this sparked some ideas of your own and you would be willing to continue the conversation with me.  Feel free to tweet me at @mrsmaley or join in at #LearnLAP or #2k15reads

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Genius Hour Resources from ISTE 2015

Posted on June 30, 2015. Filed under: Genius Hour, Grade 1 & 2 |

I just finished presenting on Genius Hour in the primary classroom at ISTE 2015, and it was such an honour to tell everyone about this amazing new educator movement! I’m not sure what I expected a poster session presentation to be like, but it was kind of intense! I really feel like my Genius Hour experience is a story, and people kept stopping by halfway through my story! I didn’t know if I should re-start, or jump around, talk to the new people, or the people who had been there for a while! What a learning experience! So I apologize if you stopped by and my presentation seemed disjointed! …It was.

I am going to post the resources I talked about in one place (this post) so you can see the tools that go into my Genius Hours.

My ISTE Keynote in a PDF:

Genius Hour

The apps we use throughout GH:

Please visit my teaching website and click on “Apps We Use” to see some of the collaborative apps I mentioned in my session. These were used for the students to brainstorm ideas in real time about what their project would be about. When you click on the picture of the app, it will take you directly to the iTunes store to download it onto your device.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 4.20.13 PM

The research stage:

Ask an expert!! My biggest suggestion to teachers today was to move from teacher to facilitator.  Use your time to find experts for your students.  When my students wanted to learn about Monster High, I thought it was going to be one of “those” projects. I was wrong. William Lau, the director, agreed to answer some of my student’s questions. Here is some example of how awesome our experts can really be!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 4.27.52 PM

aniamtors 1anim 2 anim direction and supervisingdreditor imagingmodeling production storyboard0246_001-2

Presentation Stage

During the presenting stage, students use all sorts of apps. (Check my teaching website out to find those!) The app I used to live stream my student’s projects so parents could watch from work or from home is Bambuser. It stores the videos on its website so they can be re-visited at anytime. Best part about this? You can get your students to go back and use their highest level thinking skills to analyze their own presentation.


Finished their presentation

When the students finish, I allow them to work on Makerspace. Our classroom Makerspace just uses recycled materials from my home, and whatever the students want to bring or donate. Click on the ThingLink below to get an understanding on what some of those things are:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 5.00.54 PM

Read and listen to this CBC article to hear how our class does Makerspace!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 4.42.38 PM

Still have questions? Please feel free to tweet me @mrsmaley or follow what my students are doing @mrsmaleysclass

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Genius Year

Posted on January 4, 2015. Filed under: educational, Genius Hour, Grade 1 & 2, reflection, teaching and learning |

When I tried Genius Hour late last year, it literally changed my teaching life. Read about that story here. I was so amazed at the engagement, in depth learning, expertise and presentations from the 6 and 7 year olds in my classroom. I knew that I had to re-think how I was teaching so that I could incorporate Genius Hour all year, so I vowed to find a way to incorporate Genius Hour into the rest of my teaching. In the past, I have done inquiry projects where you start with the curriculum, show the kids what they need to learn, and then let them get there how they would like. It was ok, but it was never life changing. What makes Genius Hour GREAT, not GOOD, was that it was the students own passions, interests and choice. I didn’t direct it, I facilitated it. What was life changing for myself and the kids was the FREEDOM. Some kids were excited about those inquiry projects, but to be honest, those were the kids that would have been excited no matter what I did/how I taught.
I needed to somehow bring Genius Hour into the classroom without the curriculum. Sounds bad, I know… But hear me out.

I decided that I would cover the Health, Science, and Social curriculums quickly, and then give opportunity for a Health Genius Hour project, a Science Genius Hour project, a Social Genius Hour project and a “free” Genius Hour project. I didn’t know what this would look like exactly, but I knew I needed to try it. As I was talking this over with my mentor teacher, Jann Porritt, she suggested that instead of trying to fit all the different subject outcomes in throughout the year, why not cover one each term! I decided to go for it. This term, I worked on getting through the Grade 1/2 Health outcomes fast. I have scheduled my year in a way that there are 3 Genius Hour times throughout the week.

Weekly schedule

For the first month and a bit, I used all three of those hours to teach the year’s Health outcomes. We did booklets, activities, and worksheets. I graded things, and used those as the student’s Health mark. I wanted a hard copy of what we went through so if parents did ask when we covered this, I could show them the backup.
In early October, I officially started our Health Genius Hour. I have looped with some of my students from last year, so as soon as they heard me say Genius Hour, they were very excited! I can’t help but wonder if that student excitement naturally passed on to the other kids as well. I told them that it had to be a Health Genius Hour; whatever they wanted to learn about had to have something to do with health. We used the app Baiboard to brainstorm the kid’s ideas. We had an iPad for every three kids, and they each wrote 3 ideas that they were interested in. This worked ok. Some were better than others depending on the student’s tech skills, their writing skills, and their concepts. I did scribe for a couple kids as well. Ps: this is a shared document, so if the students pressed that little arrow on the right or left side, they could see in live time what their friends were writing, and get ideas if they needed.

Photo 2015-01-04, 8 29 59 PM Photo 2015-01-04, 8 31 01 PM Photo 2015-01-04, 8 31 15 PM

From there, I looked for themes in what the students wanted to know, and wrote those themes on big pieces of chart paper. I hung the paper around the room, and in true “EdCamp sign up style,” each child got 2 sticky notes. They wrote their names on them and wandered the room choosing the top two topics they were most interested in. I found that this was a good strategy, as there were lots of kids mulling about, and they actually did choose the topic they were interested in rather than just going to a group where their friends were. Once they had it narrowed down to 2, I let them sit on it for a day, and then the next day I made them narrow it down to one. (Side note: I have used the pyramid example in the past to choose their GH topic. I got that idea from Joy Kerr’s livebinder). Some topics had multiple kids in them, and others, just the one child.


This is a picture of days and minutes spinning by…

… Let’s fast forward to today, January 4th, 2015. (I started this original post earlier on in the term.)  Listen carefully…


I thought it was going to be so great! Well, it sucked. The Health Genius Hour sucked! I am going to try and give you 5 reasons why, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

1) LESS FREEDOM. Remember up there, when I was talking about how great GH is because of the freedom? Well, having a Health Genius Hour kind of took that away. Sure they still got to choose anything they wanted related to Health, but the same drive was JUST NOT THERE. The engagement was lacking, and the outcomes were not as brilliant. True Genius Hour needs to be 100% guided and chosen by the kids.

2) THE CONTENT. So you want to know what kids are interested in when it comes to Health? Well… they are interested in really hard medical stuff! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that two of my student groups pretty much wanted to cure cancer, but it made it awfully hard for the little buggers to figure out what they were studying and eventually presenting on. Even though it was pretty fabulous that a pediatric oncologist decided to come and be that group’s expert, they still ended up telling all the other kids that white blood cells kill you, and cancer is contagious. #fail

3) THE CONTENT PART 2- Did I also mention that more than just the cancer group was giving inaccurate information? I’ve learned that Health Genius Hour is too difficult a task for grade 1’s and 2’s. Their interests were about things that their brains couldn’t really comprehend. I mean they were as cute as anything, but yeah.. they were a little fuzzy on the medical details. Watch this hilarious clip from the hospital workers group trying to explain a c-section, as opposed to… you know… the other way women have babies. Watch from 7:15-8:10. (They did try to connect it to the other group’s cancer presentation- which also becomes a problem.)

See what I mean? It was a little bit of a gong show.

4) THE EXPERTS- When all the students choose a topic within the same “genre,” it makes it difficult to find experts for them.  When we had an open Genius Hour last year, I had to find a Michael Jackson expert, a movie director, a NASA scientist, a NHL hockey player, a hip hop expert, a paper plane expert etc., but it was STILL easier than trying to round up a whole bunch of medical professionals this term.  I called on every nurse friend I knew, but it was difficult trying to find people for the specialized Health topics my kids wanted to know about. For example, I am so glad Dr. Brown (the pediatric oncologist) was able to come in and talk to the kids, but it was a run around to go through the right avenues to contact her.  It took weeks and weeks before I could get a hold of her to set a date. She did an excellent job explaining cancer to the kids, but unfortunately 6 and 7 year old’s minds didn’t quite internalize all the information effectively.

5) THE RETENTION- I bet you $10 that in 7 years, if you ask my students from last year what they learned about in their Genius Hour, they will be able to tell you the topic and at least 2 or 3 things they learned and remember vividly. This is because the information was valuable to them. When students have an “open” Genius Hour, they are choosing something that is valuable, applicable, interesting, and exciting to them.  Wait, what’s that you say? Learning needs to be relateable? Oh is that why we have such poor retention from students year to year! Imagine that! Students remember content they are interested in, and forget the stuff that’s not applicable to them!


One of the things I initially fell in love with about Genius Hour, is the one thing that lacked this last time we tried it.  The student MUST be engaged and interested in their topic. As much as I thought doing a Health Genius Hour was a great way to bring in curriculum AND bring a passion project into the classroom, it just flat out didn’t work. The students didn’t fail the project, the project failed the students.

You might be asking, “What’s my plan now?” Well, I’m not exactly sure. I think I might follow the same timeline as before, where I quickly cover the Social curriculum, and then give time for a free Genius Hour during those periods. I know I don’t want to even try a Social Genius Hour.  My saving grace is that if I allow for at least 3 more GH projects this year, some students are bound to cover some social and science outcomes anyway, and when the kids are more excited and into their project, the other students will no doubt learn and develop new wonders about those topics/content.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I’m open to hearing them! Please comment below!

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