Books That Genius Hour Teachers Love

Since starting teaching with Genius Hour, we have read so many inspirational books that have changed us and our pedagogy. With the help of my GH friends and fellow contributors – Joy Kirr, Hugh McDonald and Gallit Zvi – we have compiled this list of books that we know Genius Hour teachers love.

Of course we know it is incomplete, as we haven’t read all the great books out there, and new books are coming out regularly. We hope you will add to this list by sharing your favorite book in the comments section. We look forward to more great GH-friendly reading!Role Reversal

Barnes, Mark. ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Good Results in the Student-Centered Classroom. (2013). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

We had been doing Genius Hour for two years when I read Mark Barnes’ book about a Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE). It’s a great next step to transforming your whole class!

Brookhouser, Kevin. The 20Time Project: How educators can launch Google’s formula for future-ready innovation. (2015). Independently published.

Kevin wrote The 20Time Project for teachers and funded it through Kickstarter. He is a learner, so after five years of experience with high school students doing #20Time projects and helping lots of teachers learn about #20Time, he has a lot of wisdom to share. This one is especially great for high school teachers.

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (2006). Random House.

The #geniushour Twitter chat read Dweck’s Mindset and discussed the importance of giving students the gift of a growth mindset. Children and adults need to learn how to embrace hard work and failure as evidence of learning. Mindset helps us steer away from identifying, praising and “fixing” abilities in our students.

Harvey, Stephanie & Harvey Daniels. Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action. (Revised 2015). Heinemann.

Harvey and Daniels have updated their comprehensive text about inquiry based learning in the classroom. Lots of practical examples including approaching lit circles with a more inquiry based approach.

Choice WordsJohnston, Peter. Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning. (2004). Stenhouse Publishers

Choice Words will have you thinking about how you speak – to children and adults. It’s one that any person who works with children should read.

Juliani, A.J. Inquiry and Innovation: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour and PBL to Drive Student Success. (2014). Routledge Eye on Education.

A.J.’s book gives some practical tips and examples of ways to incorporate more inquiry into our classrooms, using a variety of teaching strategies including Genius Hour.

Maiers, Angela. Classroom Habitudes: How to Teach 21st Century Learning Habits and Attitudes. (Revised 2012). Solution Tree.

You will find yourself referring to Angela’s habitudes throughout your year. Students will start to point out who is practicing these valuable habits, and they’ll practice with each other.

Maiers, Angela & Amy Sandvold. The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning. (2010). Routledge.

The Passion-Driven Classroom is a great starting point for beginning to think about the importance of passion based learning. Lots of examples of how teachers have incorporated it. This gem was a former #geniushour book chat.

Great-Ideas-singleMcIntosh, Ewan. How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen. (2015). NoTosh Publishing.

Great book for leaders! McIntosh helps get innovations like Genius Hour out of just a few classrooms and into a whole new way of doing school. He suggests starting with those few teachers who make magic happen in their students’ learning, and putting them together to form an innovation team. Innovation at the grass roots level.

Forget the massive, excessive top-down technological fixes for education, which schools are either not ready for or the fixes become outdated before implementation. Leaders can empower all the staff now to make the changes needed to ensure a difference in student learning.

November, Alan. Who Owns the Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age. (2012). Solution Tree.

We love Who Owns the Learning? and believe it is a foundational book about student centered learning. It had us rethinking and changing many aspects of our classroom, including creating purposeful classroom jobs that make our students own their own learning.

Parker-Palmer_Courage-to-Teach-cvrPalmer, Parker J. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. (1997). Jossey-Bass.

An inspiring must-read for all teachers. Palmer tells us that “you teach who you are.” He unpacks all of the wonderful possibilities of teaching who you are and also what some of the dangers can be.

Pink, DanielDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. (2011). Riverhead Books.

Although this fantastic book was written with a business audience in mind, there is so much a teacher can take from this! In fact, it is one of the things that motivated us to start Genius Hour. Pink discusses studies that show us that folks are not really motivated by pay (grades for students) but by purpose, autonomy and mastery. You may have seen the famous animated video of Pink talking about motivation, based on this book.

sir-ken-and-coffeeRobinson, Sir Ken. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything(2009). Penguin Books.

Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element was our first Twitter chat book. Gallit and Denise probably quote Sir Ken more than anyone else! This book is foundational reading for Genius Hour teachers, and Sir Ken comments are sprinkled throughout our own book.

Solarz, Paul. Learn Like a Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed. (2015). Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Learn Like a Pirate is one of the most practical books on this list! Paul explains how to create a student-led classroom using the acronym PIRATE – Peer Collaboration, Improvement Focus, Responsibility, Active Learning, Twenty-First Century Skills and Empowerment. This book transformed Denise’s classroom when she moved to second grade this year. (Here’s a MiddleWeb review.)

Invent-to-Learn-cvr-trimStager, Gary & Sylvia Martinez. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. (2013). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

“Making things and then making those things better is at the core of humanity.” That’s the first sentence of Invent to Learn, which sets a firm foundation for making and innovation in any classroom. Practical supply lists and room set-up advice is great.

Wagner, Tony. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. (2012). Scribner.

Creating Innovators is a great read, especially for parents, teachers and employers who care about building innovation in our young people. Full of stories to inspire and transform.

Wiggins, Grant & Jay McTighe. Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding. (2012). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development

Students are creating their own essential questions in Genius Hour. Think about the rest of our day: How many questions do we ask of students? How many of those questions are timeless, foundational and vital? We want more and more of our questions to be “essential.” Let this book guide you and your students as you ask meaningful questions in all your hours together.

If you have other favorite books that can support Genius Hour classrooms, please share in the comments!

Denise Krebs

Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) is a connected educator, leader, and learner with 25 years’ experience in private and public schools and recreation centers in California, Iowa, Michigan, Arizona, and Bahrain. Denise was teaching junior high when she dove into Genius Hour. Her smart and intrepid junior high students and the #geniushour community helped her find her way. Currently, Denise teaches grade 5 English language learners in Bahrain. She also serves as elementary English subjects coordinator. She has had the joy of seeing genius hour work with students in kindergarten through grade 8.

2 Responses

  1. PS: You’ll find more resource suggestions like this in the Genius Hour Guidebook at Appendix C: Genius Hour Reading List for Educators. Denise and Zvi have included some of their favorite blogs and a must-have list of picture books that are great tools to introduce Genius Hour to students in every age group.

    Here’s a sample:

    What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

    In this story, a little boy has an idea (represented as an egg) but he doesn’t know what to do with it. He carries it around for a long time until he finally learns that ideas are meant to change the world. This picture book would be perfect for taking Genius Hour from inquiry-based and passion-based learning to the level of compassion-based learning! Perhaps one to consider after your class has done a round of Genius Hour and you want to bring back the discussion on making a difference in the world. Amazon

  2. Denise Krebs says:

    I have a new book to add to our list. As I said, this list will forever grow. Right now I am in a book club with hundreds of other passionate learner/educators. We are reading Pernille Ripp’s book: Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students. It’s just beginning, so learn more at the hashtag #plbc2016 if you want to join in.


    What books would you add to the list?