Oh My Goodness - What Do I Do Now?

Because of snow days, our school year has been extended by over a week. We have 2 ½ weeks left, 4 days left in this unit we’re wrapping up, and I’m out of ideas. I don’t want to just watch endless movies for over a week. That is not an educationally sound investment (especially when I constantly say to the kids that every minute in class matters and we learn bell-to-bell and all that).

We’ve read all the required novels and I don’t want to start a new one. We’ve done all the writing pieces for the portfolio requirements and I don’t want to start an extended writing piece. Our Shark Tank activity (see Erin’s last blog post) is wrapped up. I’m, quite honestly, out of ideas... What do I do for the last week or more?

In the same boat?  Here’s something you could try:

Genius Hour!

Erin and I have mentioned Genius Hour briefly in previous pods and blogs. It’s not something we came up with. But, it is something I’ve dabbled with a bit in my class. Genius Hour is an idea borrowed from Google. Basically, Google gives its employees one day a week, 20% of their time, to work on a project of their own choosing. Anything at all. No specific direction by the company. No specific planned outcome. They encourage the outlandish. It’s where a small thing like G-mail originated from. They encourage employee choice, creativity, critical thinking, and possibly bringing the end product to fruition for a real-world “audience.” All of that sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Those are many of the tenets of Project Based Awesome. So, you have a week or more to fill? Why not try Genius Hour?

Ok, so let’s dive into this. You may be asking how to actually do this and it still be sound educational practice and tied to your curriculum. (I’m going to focus on Language Arts, because that’s what I know best, but I don’t see why this concept couldn’t work in other subject areas.)

Disclaimer: This is not the one right way to do a Genius Hour concept in class. Heck, I’m not sure there is a one right way when it involves something as free-flowing and creative as this. You do what works for you and your students. I’m just providing a framework.

Introduce the concept of Genius Hour

  • Students choose something they want to create, build, research, present, etc.

  • Prepare yourself for some bewildered reactions. (“But, what do you want me to do?”)  If faced with this question, encourage them to think of something they’ve always wanted to do in school, but not given the opportunity.  I’ve had kids write and record songs, make movie clips, design communities, build prototypes of cars, create art pieces, etc. The sky (and the number of days you have left) is the limit.

Figure out how you want the students to present their finished products.

  • I’m a big fan of gallery-walks here. Why? It doesn’t take multiple days for each student to present to the whole class. It creates a social feel as the students are wandering the class and viewing the projects. It’s easy and relaxed. No pressure at the end of the school year to stress the kids out with. Heck, you could even invite admin and other teachers in for the gallery walks, have treats, and treat it like a real art gallery.

Tie it in with Language Arts


  • I required writing as part of the project:

    • A daily reflection about the work they’re doing.

    • A final write-up describing the project, why they chose it, and how this project helped them grow.

Do you grade this? Treat it as just a learning experience? That’s up to you. I didn’t formally create a rubric or assess this project in my class, but instead used it as incentive. If a student was on the border between grades and they did a great job on this project and proved in their reflection that they improved, I moved them to the higher grade. (for instance: B+/A- move up to an A-) Maybe, if it’s done over the course of a full semester or year, you do formally assess.  Again, it’s up to you.

Give them time to:

  • Collaborate

  • Research

  • Create

  • Think critically

  • Make mistakes and learn from them

  • Discover

Reasons to use Genius Hour

  • Student Choice

  • Personalized learning

  • Technology integration

  • Critical Thinking

  • Embracing process over product

  • Creativity

  • Collaboration

  • Authentic learning experience tied to student’s interest

Now, this Genius Hour, if done in approximately a week, is not truly 20% of the student’s time in class. When Erin and I discussed doing this is our classes, we were going to give Friday to the students as their 20% to focus on their Genius Hour Projects. That may still be something you want to do looking towards next year. For now, a week. A modified Genius Hour. A dipping of your toes into the water that is Genius Hour. It’s worth a shot. Heck, it’s better than watching movies for 7 days.

chris butlerComment