Genius Hour:  
How to Get Started In your Classrom

Angela Stallbaumer

Professional Twitter: @AngStallbaumer

Classroom Twitter: @mrsstallbaumer

Suggested Lesson Design

Modeled after Google’s “20% Time”, students create a driving question that is individualized to reflect their personal learning interests. They then research, plan, design, and prepare a presentation that will share their work and further questions with an audience.  

Day 1


  1. Discuss and define 'genius'.  
  2. Discuss and define 'passion'.
  3. Show one of the many inspirational videos or resources that create curiosity and interest.  Videos 4 Genius Hour (Steve Jobs: The Crazy Ones, Just One Girl)
  4. Introduce Genius Hour and create suspense by posing the question, "What if I let you learn what ever you want...," or showing similar resources like, What if... Haiku Deck,
  5. Show a "Genius Hour"  video, Powtoon, Haiku Deck presentation, or explain the process to students.  

Brainstorm:  Before allowing students to begin brainstorming, model brainstorming. Then, have students brainstorm their interests in their journal or use an app like Poplett, a website like Padlet, or Google Docs.  (What interests you?  What are you curious about?  What are your concerns?  About what would you like to know more?  If you could learn about anything you wanted, what would it be?)

Day 2

Model:  How to determine purpose and completion of KWLQ chart.

Purpose:  Students select a passion/interest from the list they brainstormed and identify the purpose for their 20% time during Genius Hour:

  • Learn something new
  • Improve/master a talent or skill
  • Explore an interest
  • Raise awareness, Educate others
  • Solve a problem
  • Build, Design, Create, Invent
  • Other

Activate Prior Knowledge:  Students complete KWLQ chart or compile a list of questions they have about their passion/interest.

Day 3

Mini-Lesson:  Model how to write a driving question/statement.

  • NonGoogleable:  The question/statement should not be Googleable as to get the answers immediately and with little effort.
  • Differentiate by adding criteria:  STEM related, potential to positively impact society, etc...
  • Resources:  Crafting Questions That Drive Projects,  Driving Question 2.0

Driving Question or Statement:   Considering their knowledge, purpose, and questions, students write a driving question or statement to research.

Plan/Proposal:  Students complete a written Genius Hour Proposal.                  

  • Resources needed (creditable online resources, software, computer programs, apps, expert to interview face-to-face, through a Twitter chat, Skype, or Google Hangout, informational books, etc).
  • Materials
  • What resources and materials do I need help acquiring?  Who am I going to ask to help me with these resources and materials?
  • Presentation:  How will I share my learning?
  • Determine Method of Organization for Research: KWL charts, Tackk, Genius Hour Packets, Composition Notebooks, Google Docs, etc. (Google Docs is my preference.)

Teacher Approval/Conference:  Genius Hour project/driving question or statement must be approved by the teacher.  Teacher should conference with students individually to discuss the project, needs, and TEKS.

TEKS:  Teachers may choose not to identify Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for student Genius Hour projects.  Your decision to evaluate based on the TEKS will depend on the expectations of your campus and district. If you evaluate, it is important to identify TEKS and provide students with a rubric prior to beginning their project.  TEKs are determined and based on the student's passion and desired project. (Guide students to determine and narrow down the TEKS for their project. Include TEKS across the disciplines, including research and inquiry.)  

Whether evaluating based on TEKS or based on the process and presentation, students should be provided a rubric prior to beginning the project.

Day 4

Mini-Lesson:  Research & Inquiry

Lessons will vary depending on previous research experience.  If this is the first experience students have with research and note taking, you may want to spend more time focusing on these skills before introducing Genius Hour.  Then, present a mini-lesson as a refresher prior to students beginning the research phase.

Teaching and modeling research skills is essential to student success.

Suggested research mini-lessons include:

  • Locating credible sources
  • Safe Internet searches, setting filters on Google Advanced Search
  • Copyright laws and fair use
  • Proper citing of sources
  • Locating facts using nonfiction conventions
  • Taking notes, paraphrasing, avoiding plagiarism

Day 5 to Day ?

Determine the length of time Genius Hour will occur and on what days.  Provide students with a calendar and daily learning log.  Make sure the timeline includes:

  • Research & inquiry
  • Building, designing, creating, inventing, & creating a presentation
  • Practicing presentation

Genius Hour Begins:  Students spend class time researching their driving questions and taking detailed notes, connecting with experts, and asking further questions.   Teachers conference with students and ask clarifying questions to encourage depth and complexity of thinking.

Students may request conferences or workshops if they have questions or need guidance. Teachers may also request to meet with students. Daily learning logs are completed to document progress and maintain accountability.

Final Day

Genius Hour Expo:  Students present their Genius Hour projects to their audience. Determine if the audience will be the class, grade level, school community, parents, or a global community. (Edmodo, Skype, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Class webpages, and Facebook are a few ways to share projects on a global platform.)  Make arrangements with the school library media specialist to use the Learning Commons for the Expo.  Don't forget to send home invitations and create posters advertising the Expo well in advance.