15 Genius Hour Ideas To Use in the Classroom

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A genius hour is a term used by educators that gives students one hour a week during class to focus on a topic that interests them. Implementing a genius hour in the classroom gives students the opportunity to take control of their own learning and introduces you to their interests while also gaining a better perspective on how they learn. In this article, we discuss what a genius hour is, why it's beneficial to use in the classroom and 15 genius hour ideas you can use with your students.

Related: 18 Student Skills For Effective Learning

What is a genius hour?

Genius hour is a learning concept that encourages creativity and intrinsic learning in students by allowing them to choose what they learn and how they learn it. Teachers provide an hour in class each week to let students focus on a topic of their choosing to work on creating a project on that topic over a set period of weeks or months. Because the genius hour is a student-centered approach to learning, the teacher's role is to set guidelines when introducing the concept and supporting and conferencing with them throughout the duration of time they are working on their projects.

Here is a brief summary of general guidelines some teachers use when implementing genius hour in the classroom:

  • Choose a topic: Give students an agreed-upon amount of time to research different topics. Ask them to choose something they feel passionate about and that interests them enough to focus on it for an extended period.

  • Receive project approval: Once each student has decided on a topic, they get present their plans and can choose to approve them. In order to get approval, students can write about or present their project idea, including a plan outlining how they are going to complete the project and what they hope to learn.

  • Complete the research: Students can use the technology, books and magazines at the student library to research their topic. They may find useful videos, blog posts, encyclopedia articles or interviews to provide them with information for their project.

  • Present your findings: Once they've completed their research, they begin their project. Because genius hour focuses on student-centered learning, they can choose the format in which they complete the project. For example, they can create a video, blog post, a formal essay, a piece of art, or perform in front of the class.

Related: 60 Research Ideas For Your Next Paper or Project

Benefits of implementing genius hour in the classroom

Teachers who choose to implement genius hour in the secondary classroom invest part of their weekly instructional time to permit their students to learn and create in a way that best represents each individual learner. This self-guided learning time each week provides many benefits to the learners:

Fosters creativity

Students get to be creative when choosing a format to complete their projects. Genius hour allows them to expand on their creative talents and gives them the opportunity to showcase the way their mind perceives the information they've learned. Whether they're planning a performance, painting on canvas or working on a vlog series documenting their experiences, every student can express their way of thinking and many realize new talents that they may choose to pursue in the future.

Grants time to practice using technology

Many learners are going to use technology in occupations after high school or college. Giving them access while in school provides them the chance to effectively learn how to use different platforms, such as social media or online library databases. They learn to create through technology as well, teaching themselves to make blog posts, podcasts and videos. Students practice those self-taught skills during genius hour, and those abilities are ones they can use outside of the classroom as they get older.

Provides an innovative way to meet state standards

There are many state standards, or curriculum-related learning goals, that educators must teach every year. After teaching a new standard, teachers then test students on their understanding of the standard learned in class. Providing them with a weekly genius hour gives them a chance to show their mastery of standards through outlets of their own choosing and creates a more student-centered approach to meeting state standards.

15 Genius Hour Ideas

Here is a list of 15 genius hour ideas some of your students may be interested in when choosing a topic:

1. Research your ideal career

Students can take time to research a career they have an interest in pursuing after school. After learning information such as required education, qualifications, average salary and job outlook, they can use different methods to display that information in their project. For example, depending on their preferences, they could write an essay, create a podcast with information or interview someone who works in that field.

2. Make your own video game

Students who are enjoy gaming might find it engaging to build their own video game. There are plenty of research opportunities with this project and they have the option to make the game based on whatever interests them the most. This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in programming as a potential career option.

Related: How To Become a Video Game Writer

3. Learn a new language

There are numerous apps to students can use to learn a new language. They could break their project into segments such as learning the language, writing about their experience and why they wanted to learn it and possibly even giving a short speech in the language they learned. This might even prepare them for other language classes in high school or college.

4. Build a city

The infrastructure of a city can be quite interesting to some students, and building a city can be a beneficial way to learn more about the different types of infrastructure involved in creating a functioning city. They can build a city using a computer program, drawings or by making a 3D model. After making their city, they might write a page explaining the different types of infrastructure in their city and why each one is important to the daily operation of their city.

Related: 9 Types of Infrastructure (Plus Examples)

5. Complete a mini-engineering project

Students interested in a career in engineering might find it engaging to research an engineering project they can work on throughout the duration of the project. They can investigate different projects and work on the completion of the project at home. When completed, they could bring the project in and present it in front of the class or create videos as they work on the project and turn those videos into a video blog to share with the class.

Related: 15 Careers in Design and Technology

6. Write a story

Students who enjoy writing for pleasure may enjoy the idea of writing their own story. They can research topics like plot development, different points of view and genres of writing. Once they've done their research, they can write, edit and proofread their story. They might even choose to make cover art for their book.

7. Make a website

Creating a website could be an ideal choice for students who are interested in web design. Implementing genius hour gives them a chance to learn the techniques required to build a website at their own pace and the freedom to make the focus of the site something that interests them such as their favorite video game or book series. They can practice beneficial researching skills, research the step-by-step process of building a website and learn about a topic that interests them when creating the site.

8. Create a charity event

This would be a great opportunity for a student who is interesting in fundraising or working with charities. They could research all the steps involved, arrange a time to interview someone involved in charities and find a cause they would like to use as the focus of their charity. They may choose to do a 5K, host a guest speaker, create an online fundraiser or have some type of marathon. They could video blog each step of experience and share it with the class.

9. Set up a blog

Students can choose a topic that interests them and create weekly blog posts centered on that topic. It gives them an opportunity to talk about something that they're passionate about while also focusing on improving their writing skills. There are numerous topics they could choose but if they're looking for ideas they could focus on writing about the day in the life of a student or a how-to blog that has a new focus each week depending on their research.

Related: Blog vs. Website: Definitions and Key Differences

10. Create, market and sell a product

Aspiring entrepreneurs might enjoy the idea of creating and selling a product. There are many steps involved in this process, so they would need to find a product or service they could create. They could also research marketing strategies to help sell their product. It might be an opportune chance to understand the different aspects of how a business works. They could document each step by writing it down or creating mini podcasts to share with the class.

11. Design and create a cookbook

Students who enjoy cooking may like the idea of creating their own recipes and documenting them in a cookbook. This idea gives them the opportunity to be creative when designing the cover of the book and the recipes they choose to include. They might choose to bring in some recipes from their cookbook when they present their project to the class.

12. Establish and implement an exercise routine

Learners interested in personal fitness can research different styles of exercise and create their own fitness regimen. They can create their own workouts, log them every time they exercise and record their progress. They may choose to implement social media by creating workout videos or vlogging the experience to share with the class for their presentation.

13. Create a club at school

Students who have a specific interest might like to start a club at school. They can speak with your school's administration about guidelines, research how to market their club throughout the school and find time to host the club each week during genius hour. This also gives them the opportunity to collaborate with other individuals who share similar interests.

14. Learn Morse code

Morse code is a system that uses dots and dashes to relay coded messages. Learning Morse code could be an engaging project for some students who are interested in solving puzzles and learning a new way of sending messages. They can research background information on the history of Morse code and watch how-to videos to study different ways of learning the technique themselves. After practicing and memorizing the different codes, they could showcase their skills in a presentation in front of the class.

15. Write a play

Students interested in the arts and possibly a career in theater or writing screenplays might find interest in writing a play and finding volunteers to perform it in front of the class. They can research proper formatting for screenplays, think about a plot that interests them and take the time in class each week to form the outline of the play. Once complete, they can recruit actors and get the opportunity not only to write their play but direct it on stage as well.

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