Genius Hour in the Primary Classroom


Our latest #geniushour chat was on Thursday, April 7, 2016. The topic was Genius Hour in the Primary Classroom, grades K-3. We enjoyed the leadership of two primary teachers who rock Genius Hour with their students: Robyn Thiessen, grade 3 teacher from British Columbia, and Renee White, first grade teacher from North Carolina.

White-fairgroundsOther teachers were involved in the chat, many of them primary teachers already doing Genius Hour or wanting to participate in Genius Hour with their young students. Look no further to find some super passionate teachers to follow: @kstef2, @slwinegar, @CherylTeaches, @Michelle4EDU, @mel10597, @MsShute, @BieberJessicaL, @jcd118, @StacieGreening, @kimmykcollins, @paperiepam, @bceshayes, @BedfordJA, @Mrs_MLondon, @mRodey5, @nat1002, @MrsGadtke, @SchrockJo, @teacherplusmom, @TraceyCarayol, @yecca13, @kimberlie94, @cmccrorey2nd, @Brendaelcms, @MsHarnden, @hughtheteacher, @shannonmcmurtry, @PaulSolarz, @cya_outside, @teachbleggett, @BroncoTeacher1, @Edmison3rdGrade, ‎@AmyThompsonWES, and your hosts on this web page, @gallit_z and @mrsdkrebs

A summary of a great chat!

This summary of the tweet chat will give you lots of ideas straight from of the classroom on how to do Genius Hour with our youngest learners.

Q1: How do you introduce the concept of #geniushour to your little geniuses?

  • Teacher shows his/her own passions first, which leads students into thinking about theirs. ~Jessica via Angela
  • I ask “Would you be interested if I told you that you could learn about anything you wanted?” Eyes pop! ~Stacie
  • Give them time to build something with no directions or restrictions…just let them create! ~Ms. Hayes
  • I saw a kinder teacher have students draw something they loved and then ask them to come up with questions about it. ~Michelle
  • We have been building to it via PBL and projects like #cardboardchallenge. Talked about big wonder questions and things that interest them. ~Angela
  • Students were exposed last year to Genius Hour through learning lunches with older students. We combined interest list with Dot Day as a kick off this year. ~Jill (Clarified about learning lunches: “Now we are starting monthly Genius Hour lunches w/grades 2 and 6-8 to share and reflect. Students love it.”)
  • Record all their wondering questions! Throughout the day, have chart paper and record. ~Jessica
  • Michelle added that you can teach the difference between wonders that are researchable and those which are simple to figure out.
  • I like using picture books and videos to help introduce Genius Hour. ~Gallit
  • We used videos on YouTube explaining Genius Hour and Audri’s Rube Goldberg monster trap video. ~Jessica
  • Picture books – What Do You Do With an Idea? And The Most Magnificent Thing ~Pam and Kim
  • Read I Am Albert Einstein (Scholastic). Great book focusing on “genius behaviors.” ~Natalie
  • I have some favourite books that I use to introduce and then students do a ME project to figure out what they are interested in! ~Robyn
  • Teaching students how to question is important in the beginning. ~Brenda
  • Renee shared her Question Matrix based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to help teach questioning.
  • Start simple. Sometimes we just start with play-dough. ~Robyn
  • What Do You Do With an Idea? and videos, especially about growth mindset. ~Renee
  • Ask students, “What do you love? What are you passionate about? What do you want to know more about? Talk, talk, talk!” ~Stacie
  • …hands on and constructing with littles worked better than more abstract questions like, “How do you predict weather?” ~Angela
  • Another good video w/Kid President. A Pep Talk from Kid President. ~Brenda
  • Find something you’re good at and use it to help address a problem by raising awareness or helping cause. ~Hugh

Q2: How do primary students do #geniushour research when they aren’t yet independent with literacy skills? Share ideas.

  • Pair them up with an upper grade! Maybe do passion projects together to get the ball rolling! ~Ms. Harnden
  • PebbleGo will read to the students, also it’s a perfect 1st grade reading level. ~Natalie
  • Angela had also used PebbleGo and loved it, but expressed concern about the limited number of topics.
  • Use databases and visually rich resources – books, Kiddle, schooltube — ask your #librarian 🙂 ~Jill
  • My students have done well with using, I have placed predetermined websites in Google Classroom ~Jessica
  • I found videos and added links to @Seesaw. Students could view that content to start some research. Still tricky, though. ~Angela
  • I do research with buddy teams. Students use safe sites all listed in my website and paper research guide. Many have read aloud feature. ~Renee
  • Started it with 1st grade today. Used @Wonderopolis where they could see video and listen to reading on topic too ~Brandi
  • My third graders are currently researching U.S. symbols…learning so much from pictures alone! ~Maria
  • I tend to not focus on research with the littles, more creation. However, @Wonderopolis is wonderful to differentiate for littles. ~Robyn
  • Ask them to interview experts, pair w/ older kids to mentor, conduct experiments for their own research. ~Michelle
  • They could partner with an upper grade class, buddies, at home project–if possible, parent volunteer, center time, buddies. ~Kim
  • Give them guiding questions. Model research. Do a whole class passion project first. ~Ms. Hayes
  • Yes we use PebbleGo and @Wonderopolis @WonderBoxApp a lot because of the read aloud features and videos! ~Renee
  • Here is a post by @JPulvers about how we did it with her kinder class – “‘Genius Hour’ for Kindergarten? Is That Even Possible?” (big buddies helped out) ~Gallit
  • I love Google Classroom for students to have quick access to links and access to a Google Doc for their work for the day. I have been having my kids bouncing back and forth between GC and @Seesaw to show their work and they love both! I have them complete a Google Doc or Google Drawing to show their thoughts. ~Jessica
  • I’ve reached out to bring in business people to my classroom to assist students… awesome experience ~Mr. Pete
  • I have several parents that volunteer during our work time…~Robyn
  • Robyn and Renee, the moderators, also helped some of us know it was OK to not focus on research, but to let students create. Robyn said regarding what Genius Hour looked like in her room, “Many of my students choose to create, make and tinker.” “Some will need to explore with their hands and minds first before running into need for research,” said Renee. And Robyn added, “For me it is the student’s time, if I tell them they have to research then I am limiting their creativity.” We are so happy that they brought this up and we advocate for this creative freedom in our book as well.
  • We had a research boot camp with our media specialist as part of our kickoff last year ~Carrie
  • My students are older but maybe try OK-Google or how-to books. Team up with librarian or reading buddies. ~Jessica
  • @Wonderopolis is a fantastic resource that would be a great introductory tool to support teachers and primary learners ~Hugh
  • Maria wondered, “Anyone ever used class experts to help students who may not be as strong in reading?”
  • @Seesaw I have been using the QR feature too so students can scan the code and bring them right to resource ~Angela
  • We are buddying up with another grade but working to ensure no one is “in charge”– that’s it’s a learning process together! ~Melissa
  • Happy to be here! PebbleGo has been great..reads to kids. Newsela has options for changing lexile level ~Amy
  • Several different apps available to read text to younger students. Read Comfortably- cleans up page. ~Stacie


Q3: How do you manage all of the #geniushour projects of your little learners?

  • For me Genius Hour time is the craziest, busiest most awesome time of the week, it is magical! ~Robyn
  • We use @trello to plan out our steps for Genius Hour projects. Helps us manage our time. ~Paul
  • I started out with a student binder but am thinking that isn’t the best. I am loving my @Seesaw Genius Hour folder and index cards for myself. ~Jessica
  • We use Blendspace at the moment and also starting Google drive with them ~Jill
  • “The Kid Should See This: Smart Videos for Curious Minds of All Ages” has great sparks for curiosity and wonder, leading to interesting learning possibilities. ~Karen
  • I have binders mine keep research guides, sticky notes, and drafts in. I am a butterfly on Genius Hour days all over room conferring. ~Renee
  • Status of the Class board was helpful. We had 17 different projects going on, from a music video to stop-motion animation ~Carrie
  • Students have simple notebooks for brainstorming, taking notes, difficulties, questions. Students meet a deadline date for final idea. ~Stacie
  • In the beginning it’s more work, after they get going it’s the students managing themselves. When they get to this point, it’s fun to see! ~Brenda
  • I just made a website where every student had a tab. As they completed their project posted it on there ~Brandi
  • it’s not easy. A lot of movement checklists. I like to use google apps too so I can check in at home. ~Jessica
  • My students reflect and capture progress in @Seesaw and Genius Hour folder. And on the teacher side, I had lots of post-it notes, sheets, and stacks of books ~Angela
  • Students also chose faculty mentors to meet with about projects (dance, science, admin, etc.) Students presented ideas/thoughts to them ~Carrie
  • Just starting but envisioning a combination of paper journal/binder and digital portfolio. Teaching balance just like we do! ~Melissa
  • I have Wonder Wednesday, Genius Hour in the morning and @wonderopolis in the afternoon. ~Robyn

And lots of us want to hear more about this, Robyn. Might there be a blog post about Wonder Wednesday in our future?

Q4: Do you collaborate with and/or have mentors in other grades/classes for #geniushour? How does this benefit your young geniuses?

  • Some of us had to say, “Not yet” to this question, but we’re hopeful.
  • I have the best tech facilitator! We co-plan and team-teach Genius Hour ~Natalie
  • A 5th grade class mentored a kinder class and it was magical. Good for 5th too because they learn how to guide and not take over! ~Michelle
  • Molly, on partnering with Jessica, tweeted, “It makes it easier to make mistakes and learn when you have someone to bounce ideas off of!”
  • And Jessica about Molly: “@mRodey5 is going to be joining me in this adventure soon and our classes can collaborate/share with each other!”
  • Yes, we share with grades 6-8. Keeps motivation, ideas, curiosity flowing. ~Jill
  • In the past we have mostly worked on our own…but we did help out little kindergarten friends with their projects one year. ~Gallit
  • I don’t assess but rather guide and have students share their success, failures and learning. ~Robyn
  • We have amazing teachers willing to dive in and work together!!!! ~Mrs. Harnden
  • We make an “Expert Wall” in hopes that students will use each other. I want them to interview at least one expert on their Genius Hour. ~Stacie
  • Had 1st graders do inside/outside circle where they could talk about their research and say why it was a wonder to reflect ~Brandi
  • has some good learning paths/projects for students too ~Angela


Q5: What does #GeniusHour look like in your room? For example many of my students choose to create, make and tinker…..

  • Each year the groups have been different but solo projects seem to be most successful in grade 3. ~Robyn
  • Happy, engaged students working on various things sharing and collaborating constantly ~Jill
  • Still trying to figure out exactly what it looks like. However, creating, moving, building, rethinking, and not giving up ~Angela
  • Genius Hour is Tu/Th for 30 minutes each day w/ time to research, create, and make. Students on computers, looking at books, and using building supplies ~Jessica
  • Genius Hour in my room is messy, noisy, but students are super engaged! It’s like a crazy science lab of researching, planning, designing, etc. ~Renee
  • For 6th grade, they had to create driving questions and research questions. Connected with experts. They chose presentation style ~Brandi
  • The kindergarten class I saw was great because of variety. Some experimented, others researched, others created. Teacher supported each S’s ❤. ~Michelle
  • Genius Hour looks like students’ dream of the perfect school. To adults it looks like a creative mess and smiling, engaged kids ~Jessica
  • Crazy, messy, and noisy are all indicators of student learning! Love it! ~Jessica
  • Organized chaos! One student may interview someone about music videos; one is creating a Safe Kids program; another is on phone with the zoo. ~Carrie
  • It’s fun, students talking, sharing, getting up, interrupting one another, but then we have “the quiet zone” so they can zero in. ~Stacie

Q6: Are you building in a reflection or self-evaluation piece for your little geniuses? How? Feel free to share any documents. #geniushour

  • Here’s an example of 4th grade reflection log after Genius Hour. Maybe adapt for younger students? Credit: @KathyHill20 ~Michelle


  • Yes! Always room for reflection! What it will look like, I am not sure, but it is in the plans! ~Kim
  • Tied it in with Growth Mindset chats. We celebrate mistakes and share them out on a mistake wall! ~Jessica
  • Love for students to answer reflect on anything they do! It’s important for Ts to model this too! #lifelonglearners ~Maria
  • I have used blogs, journals and 1-1 conversations in the past ~Gallit
  • Yes! Performance and Effort Rubric completed by students, also has place for students to write their steps for next time ~Natalie
  • My students use @Seesaw with pics, video, and voice to reflect during and after Genius Hour.
  • YES! Reflection and then setting goals for new learning is key for me! What worked, what didn’t, and what am I wondering now? ~Melissa
  • Reflection is so important! I built it in kid style with and a sentence or two on students’ research guides. The research guide with reflective piece at end is also on my Genius Hour / Makerspace blog site ~Renee
  • Included habits of mind with 2nd graders. They incorporated those and assessed how doing while doing Genius Hour ~Brandi
  • We meet and chat. Also created a reflection bingo sheet they fill out weekly. Bunch of questions. They pick and answer one with few words ~Jill
  • Reflection logs after each session, reflection after the project is presented. ~Michelle

More ideas from this rich chat for you and your students to consider


Jill, teacher librarian, from New Hampshire, asked if anyone would like to Skype with students about Genius Hour.


Online Graphic Organizer

Can anyone help Jessica answer this question? Popplet and MindMup were two that were mentioned. Any others?



Renee White, our co-moderator, introduced me to a resource that was new to me: There is an educational account. She used Buncee to create the graphics for her chat questions, like the one at the top of this post!

ISTE 2106

Angela Gadtke shared that she was inspired by Gallit’s ISTE2015 presentation. She will present at ISTE2016 about Kindergarteners in Genius Hour. Robyn and Jessica will be there too. I hope you will all share pictures and tell us how it goes!


Keep Connecting

Robyn, Molly, Renee, Pam, Jessica and Angela all talked about connecting with one or another after the chat. You can connect too. Add new members to your PLN. Join others in connecting about Genius Hour for primary students! You can also share with the hashtag #PrimaryGH, which is not as busy as the #geniushour hashtag. Together we are smarter!

Now, we’ll end with a couple of our favorite tweets from this primary chat. True for all ages!


We hope you enjoy Genius Hour, a rich learning experience for you and your students!

Please, do leave a comment and join us here in talking about Genius Hour. We’re listening!

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.

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  1. April 22, 2019

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