Genius Hour in the Early Elementary Grades K-2

Genius Hour in the Early Elementary Grades K-2

Genius Hour Plan

Getting Started

Name: Sarah Rollins

Short Bio: I teach at a Title I school and I am in my 6th year of teaching, and I am taking this course to obtain my EdTech endorsement

Grade Level/Subject: 1st grade


ISTE standard(s) for students covered in this unit: 1a. Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes. 3a. Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits. 3d. Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions. 6a. Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
Create a mini-lesson plan for how you will introduce inquiry and select their Genius Hour question. Using photos that are interesting and intriguing to young students, have them participate in an I See, I Think, I Wonder activity using these photos. This will be done in 3 phases.
  1. Students look at the photos on their own looking for what they SEE
  2. Then they will discuss what they see with a small group
  3. Then students will share what they SEE with the whole class, while the teacher records their answers on a I See, I Think, I Wonder chart.
  4. This same process is then repeated with the THINK and WONDER categories

After the teacher has gathered many students' responses about what students wonder, the class will take a look at these wonderings together, and discuss what inquiry means, and how we can come up with questions about things we want to learn more about and we can go out and seek our own knowledge and find the answers to our questions. The teacher will talk about what a strong question is, and that the answer requires research and it cannot be answered with just yes or no, or a one word response.

Explain to students that they get to choose a question about something they are wondering about, and then use research tools to find the answer to their question, and then they will come up with a way to share their knowledge with other students and parents.

Have students choose a topic of something they are interested in, and begin coming up with a list of questions about that topic (sentences starters of Who, What, When, Where, Why, How could be provided for scaffolding). Over the next few days, students will meet with the teacher to discuss their topic choice as well as work with the teacher on selecting a Genius Hour question. The teacher will review their questions and guide each student as needed to create a strong question. The teacher will then write this question down for their records, as well as write it down all spelled correctly for the student at the top of their Genius Hour Plan paper.

If you were doing your own Genius Hour project… What would your Genius Hour question be? How are the rides in Disneyland operated and kept up, and how have they changed over time in the way they are operated?


Create your mini-lesson plan on how you intend to teach research and what databases and other resources your students will use. Be sure to include how you will hold students accountable for research during this time. To begin teaching my students to research I will model how to use the databases and resources that are available to them using a topic that none of the students have chosen. I will look at my question and model what key phrases or words I can type into the search bar to look for my answers. I will also model navigational aspects of the databases and how to get around. For example, I would show my students how to use Gale in Context and start in the broader topic area and maybe use a series of clicks to find their information rather than using the search bar. Giving both these options will help my students to use all the tools available to find what they need. Additionally, I will model summarizing and note taking for students, and stress the importance of citing sources and not just copying someone else’s ideas. Students will be shown where to find citations and assisted in copying them to a resources page for their final project.

Databases and Resources: Gale in Context and EBSCO for Elementary, read-to-me books and videos on EPIC!

Following the modeling, I will have my students use their plan paper with their question(s) on it, and have them choose 1 database or resource to explore that day to find all they can about their question or topic. I will provide students with research pages that have both lines for notes as well as places to draw pictures for students who struggle to write. I will also be available to help students in writing things down. If possible, students could also be taught how to use a text to speech tool to record their findings without the struggle of writing as an accommodation.

At the end of each day students will complete an exit ticket to show 1 thing they learned and reflect on their progress. Students will then continue on each day choosing a new resource to find more information on their question until they have explored all 3 databases/resources.

How will you be checking in on your student’s progress? What will your daily/weekly exit ticket/stand-up meeting ask of your students? I will use an exit ticket each day/week to check where they are at and help them reflect on what they learned as well as what they will be doing next time. I created a very simple exit ticket with pictures students can circle and a sentence stem to make it quick but informative.

Click here to see the exit ticket

Images used:

RRZEicons, April 2, 2010, Audio Visual Slide, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Fat Cow Web Hosting, Sept. 19, 2010, Fram-Fresh Thumb Up, CC-BY-3.0-US

Implementation and Presentations

Make a rubric specifically for your student’s Genius Hour project.


ISTE Standard for Educator 7a is “Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology”. How could you incorporate this into Genius Hour? This is incorporated into Genius Hour because students are able to choose how they want to share their findings or what they learned from their project. In my classroom, I would offer for my students to use technology to share their learning through many platforms: video, presentations, audio, digital posters, etc. I would even offer that students come up with their own idea or technology resource to use, as long as they clear it with me first. These are all alternative ways, using technology, that students can show their competency. They will have the choice of how they will show that they learned something new.

Community Sharing

Describe how your students will share their Genius Hour projects. Be sure to take your school/district’s social media and privacy guidelines into account. Because I would allow my students to choose many formats in which to share their Genius Hour projects, I would probably create a class website where student’s projects could be shared. This way whether they made a video, digital poster, or I filmed them actually showing their new skill, it can all be put in one central place where students, parents, and administrators can view the content.

In my district students sign a media release form that would allow me to post their work on a class website for others to view. If students did not have this permission form then I would share their work in our classroom and with their parents only.

How could you meet ISTE Standard for Educators Collaborator 4c “Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams, and students, locally and globally” with Genius Hour? I can think of two ways. The first is a bit easier, and it would involve forming a virtual classroom connection with another 1st grade class somewhere else. It could be across town or even across the country. Students could share their work virtually with the other 1st grade students and be able to have an audience of peers their age outside of the classroom walls that could give them feedback and provide them an authentic way to share their work. Another option would be, that depending on students topic choices and the opportunities available, students could be connected virtually with someone in that field of work or with that skill who they can ask questions to during their research or who they can share their presentation with at the end of their project to receive feedback from a real-world expert in that area.


Now that you have completed this course, how do you plan to structure Genius Hour in your class?  Because I teach 1st grade, I believe the best way to start out and help my students experience Genius Hour would be to choose a question of interest to all my students, and do a project together as a class. This way students can experience a very guided approach to begin with that will prepare them to do it on their own. From there, I can guide my students to then choose their own topics/questions and experience the process independently. I would have my students work on their projects once or twice a week. We would begin by making sure everyone had a topic and the questions for their research. Then students would complete their research with daily check-ins using the exit ticket I created. During that research time, I would conference with multiple students throughout the week to check in on their projects and give them support as needed. Finally, students would choose their presentation method and begin turning their answered questions into a format to share their knowledge with others. They will complete their projects and they will be shared with our class, parents, other students, and larger audiences through our class website.
What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success? My next steps would be first to do a project together to scaffold my students through the Genius Hour process. This step is pretty easy because all students are doing the same topic and we are working together as a class. The hardest part would be to compile all the different research and ideas from students on that topic into one presentation at the end. From there students will begin their own projects, and I think choosing topics and questions will be fairly easy, but when it comes to research with 1st graders, this will be rocky terrain. They can sometimes struggle to navigate websites without an adult there every step of the way, they cannot all read, and knowing what information to pull out from their research can be tricky for them. Some ways I can navigate this with success is by giving my students research tools that always have options of being read to them. I can ask for parent volunteers to come in during Genius Hour to help students with research questions and navigating the technology. I can also provide students with graphic organizers and note taking pages that will help guide them to what they need from their research for their project.
How will you allow students to reflect on their Genius Hour experience? Along with the natural reflection that comes from the student compiling all of their findings into their final presentation, I would also have students partner together with their projects at the end and talk about what they really liked about their project, and what they feel like they could do better next time. We can also have class discussions about what they learned, not about their topic, but about how to do research or create their presentation. I think reflecting on the “how to” of Genius Hour can be just as powerful as the reflection on their actual project. Students need to have a chance to think about how they can make the Genius Hour project go more smoothly or how they can pace their time better, etc. These reflections will help them to improve in other areas as well and not just in Genius Hour.




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