How to Get Started With Genius Hour for Elementary Classrooms?

I believe that every single child is gifted and that every kid has a talent which we as educators should help uncover. This is not easy when you have a curriculum to follow and tons of material to teach. But that given we need to make time to work with kids in a different and more creative setting. It’s important to let them explore new things that may not be present in your curriculum but are in your students’ heads all the time. This is how we can awaken curiosity in young children and help them develop creative thinking.

Interestingly though, this idea does not originate in education or teaching practice. It was actually inspired by Google’s “20% Time” rule, which encourages employees to spend 20% of their time working on their own projects and ideas outside Google. This concept inspired the idea of a “Genius Hour” at school.

What is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour is a concept which allows students spend a set amount of time (usually one hour per week) exploring their passions, researching topics of interest and experimenting. It encourages diversity thinking and creativity in the classroom, teaching students to work independently and pursue their passions.

How to Get Started with Genius Hour?

First of all, you need to make time for “Genius Hour”, which I know is hard but certainly possible. In order to have one spare hour per week you need to optimize your teaching schedule and save as much time as possible. A good starting point might be reviewing your lesson plans and trying to reorganize it with Genius Hour in mind.

When that’s done, you can go ahead and start planning your first session!

  1. Talk to your students.

The whole idea of the Genius Hour is to make it fun for the students in the first place. You need to make sure that every student enjoys his hour of genius, otherwise it’s just another hour of class. So spend some time talking with your students and discussing their ideas. Understand what each of them loves and is passionate about and help them decide on a topic of research for the Genius Hour. It can be basically anything from learning to play piano to engineering a robot.

  1. Generate research questions.

While your goal is to encourage independent learning, you still need to guide your little explorers in the right direction so that they don’t get stuck with what to do next. Let your students think of 3-5 questions they want to answer about their topic and help them structure their research around those questions. This way they will not only have fun with their projects but will also learn how to do a real research.

  1. Communicate with parents.

Let parents know what projects their kids have chosen so that they can prepare all necessary material to support the research in class. Other than that, students can have access to ipads, stationary, as well as classroom library to research their ideas.

  1. Research and experiment in class.

Dedicate one day every week for the Genius Hour. Friday seems like a perfect day for this, as it can serve as a wind down closing activity for the week. But on the other hand choosing Wednesday or Thursday can amp up student engagement and excitement about school during the week. Whichever you choose, try to stick to it. Prepare the classroom for the Genius Hour, so that kids do not crowd up and disturb each other. Be present to help and guide students if they’re stuck and simply watch them create and learn.

  1. Let them share their passion.

Since every project is different, you can let students choose how they want to present their findings (it can be a powerpoint presentation, a DIY project, a miniature, a painting, etc) and encourage them to share their ideas with peers at the end of the Genius Hour session.

Let me know if you have implemented Genius Hour in your classroom and share your advice on how to make it work in comments below. I would absolutely love to hear from you.



Mother. Teacher. Keynote. Author

Erin Klein is an award winning educator, national keynote speaker, author, and mother.

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  2. Thanks to Kayla Delzer I do Genius Hour in my classroom. We are actually presenting it today and the kids are loving it. The students are so engaged learning about what others are passionate about. On thing we practice when presenting is giving the presenter something they can work on, something they did great and any questions. This helps the student with public speaking in front of the peers plus gives them a chance to know what to improve on next time! Love it!

  3. I have heard a lot of interesting things about "Genius Hour"- it sounds very intriguing. I think I might try it in my classroom. It seems that the classroom management piece of it might be a little difficult to manage. There would need to be a lot of time in the setting up of expectations. Once it got going though I'm sure that the kids would take off running with it. Another question- how do you have supplies available for the students?

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