K-12, Teaching Tools

Genius Hour Course Bundle Now Available!

I posted my third Genius Hour course, Genius Hour: The Quest, on Friday. The course is $58, and you can earn 2 CPE credits for completion. The best deal, of course, is to sign up for the course bundle, which is all three of my courses, for $87. For that you will receive: An Introduction to Genius Hour, Genius Hour: The Quest Begins, and Genius Hour: The Quest, a total of 4 CPE credits, free templates and links to resources, and time to plan out how you would like Genius Hour to go in your classroom. This is not just for GT teachers, but certainly fits very well into pull-out programs. However, I think many teachers are concerned that Genius Hour can’t work in other contexts, and I address how GH can work in regular classrooms from K-12, or as an elective, too.

I do not like asking teachers to pay for things out of their own pockets, so there is also a link at the top of the course page for administrators, regional/area directors, and others to request information for Purchase Orders and bulk discounts. Also, if you ever want me to present “live”, don’t forget to check out my PD page, and please know that I love customizing workshops for your audience!

If you’re interested in more news, including special coupons and discounts, feel free to sign up for my weekly newsletter below!


Genius Hour: The Quest Begins

Man, how do people publish a bazillion of these online courses? It takes me all month to make just one, and it’s not like I don’t have all of the resources. Plus, the host website is all like, “Don’t underprice your course because you’ll actually lose money. A good course price is about $150” and I’m like, “You realize I’m offering these to teachers, right? You know, the people who already spend an arm and a leg every year buying luxuries like tissues and pencils for their classrooms?” I’m beginning to feel just like I used to during my 29 years of teaching, which is to say that I spend every night asking myself, “What was I thinking?” so, in some strange way, I actually enjoy making these courses as it seems my brain pretty much prefers chaos, unpredictability, and working on projects that promise next to zero return on investment.

This is my odd way of announcing that I have a new course available, a follow-up to An Introduction to Genius Hour. The new one is “Genius Hour: The Quest Begins,” which you may have guessed from the title of this post. I’m about to break another business rule by telling you not to buy it yet if you didn’t take the first one when it was free. That’s because there’s a thing called “Price Bumps” on the site that I thought I figured out, but sadly was wrong. The idea is to help you save money when you purchase both courses, so that you could get both for $40 total instead of $58, but somehow I misread the directions and the site wanted to give you both courses for $11 (one course is $29) instead of charging you $29 for the first and $11 for the second. That will take me another 24 hours to figure out, so I’m sure you are now beginning to understand why it takes me so long to get these courses out to the world.

Plus dogs.

Dogs who bark during recording, flap their ears constantly to get my attention, start marching around the house with unmentionables (also for attention, I assume), and leap behind me on the chair when the garbage truck turns the corner.

Back to the course.

This second course will help you communicate with stakeholders about Genius Hour, get your students psyched for the project, brainstorm billions of topic ideas, and then narrow those ideas down to just one amazing idea. That last one is a gift, trust me.

You can see both courses on this page. I’ll try to have the price bump thing straightened out by Thursday, just in case you are in some kind of incredible rush to get Continuing Education hours and my course are your last chance on Earth. Be sure to get your courses soon because the prices will probably go up to a kajillion dollars each once my husband figures out I’m currently operating at a net loss.

Oh, and in case you want to get on the list to receive more scintillating notifications from me about new courses and Great Danes who Are the Worst Work from Home Dogs Ever, you can add your name below. Don’t worry; I won’t sell your information to anyone. Because that would make good business sense, which I clearly don’t have 🙂

close up photo of stamped text
K-12, Teaching Tools

Feedback Needed!

As I mentioned yesterday, I have published my first online course, An Introduction to Genius Hour (free until March 1st, 2022). I’ve already begun to work on the follow-up course, but I definitely want to improve as I go. Therefore, I’ve decided to offer a 50% discount on the next course (which will not be free) to the first 5 people who give me productive feedback on my first course. There is a form linked in the curriculum in the course that you can fill out when you complete the rest of the lectures. Peer feedback is super important, and I really want to make these courses the best quality that they can be! There is nothing you can say that will hurt my feelings more than my own self-criticism, so be honest!

women having a conversation
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com
a smart boy doing a science experiment
K-12, Teaching Tools

Intro to Genius Hour Now Live!

Okay everyone, my first course is up and it’s free (until March 1st). Intro to Genius Hour will give you a short history of Genius Hour, dispel some myths, and give you practical advice for getting started to plan your own Genius Hour. And you will get a certificate for 1 hour of Continuing Education at the end of the course (check with your CE administrator to make sure it will be accepted).

I’m going to admit that some of my videos are not as crisp as I planned. Any constructive feedback you want to give will be deeply appreciated as I am going to begin recording the next course in the series later this week. My adventures with Laryngeal Dystonia, which have resulted in periodic botox injections in my vocal cords, have made my speech somewhat unpredictable – not to mention a Great Dane whose breathing/snoring you could hear during several segments where my voice was actually decent and a Schnauzer mix who likes to walk back and forth behind me while recording. I’m definitely going to upgrade some equipment when I can!

Anyway, I hope you find the course helpful and I’ll let you know when the next one drops!

Genius Hour Presentation Planner
3-12, Teaching Tools

Genius Hour Presentation Planner

I’ve updated the free Genius Hour Presentation Planner, and I’ve added it to my Genius Hour Resources page under “Free Genius Hour Downloads.” This is a digital planner made in Google Slides, and is meant to be used after students have completed the Genius Hour Research Notes (also on the Free Genius Hour Downloads page). In the past, I noticed that students often jumped to creating their presentations before acquiring very much new knowledge, so these two resources gave them a framework to help them with gathering information and preparing to share with others. I would also recommend taking a look at my post, “Step Away from the Slideshow,” to get some ideas on how students can present without boring themselves or their audiences to tears. One particular addition I made in the update to this Presentation Planner was to add some guidelines for the Timeline to help students understand what needed to be done before each of the three dates (Rough Draft, Rehearsal, Final Presentation).

(“From Jaded to Joyful: Galvanizing Students with Genius Hour” is one of the many Professional Development sessions that I offer, and can be done virtually or in person.)

person holding yellow paper with blue eyes
Independent Study, K-5

One-Pager for Genius Hour in Kindergarten and First Grades

Many of the Genius Hour resources that I and others have made assume a basic level of reading and research skills. Of course, with Kindergarten and 1st grades, many students may not have those foundational skills. I wanted to round up a few suggestions for primary teachers, so I went in search of resources that I could summarize and/or link to in case you want to save yourself a bit of time.

Of course, Joy Kirr’s Livebinder for Genius Hour is always my first stop because I definitely don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are many examples of Genius Hour projects from every grade level, as well as links to teacher blog posts that are very helpful. This post is not comprehensive, but might be a good place to begin for some suggestions. As I say when I speak with other teachers, Genius Hour can look dramatically different from room to room while still maintaining the goal of student-directed learning, and its structure should vary based on student needs. It is not a free-for-all time, but it’s also not an “I’m going to tell you what you need to learn, how to learn it, and how to show you learned it” time.

There are three basic steps to Genius Hour: Wondering, Finding and Noting Information, Presenting. With younger students, I would take a very gradual release approach for each of those steps. Begin with whole group modeling, and slowly transition to giving more freedom of choice as students grasp the concept.

How does one begin Genius Hour with the youngest of our students? It’s actually quite easy because they naturally wonder about the world, and haven’t had this curiosity stifled as it often is in later grades. Another Genius Hour expert, Denise Krebs, wrote about transitioning her students from large groups with common interests to smaller, more focused groups in this post. You could also try these suggestions for a “Think, Wonder, Explore” time. Or, try a Wonder Wall, like this teacher. Of course, a favorite way to start is with a picture book. Here are some great recommendations from Gallit Zvi, who wrote The Genius Hour Guide Book with Denise Krebs.

But, wait! What if my students can’t write? You, as the teacher, could write for them, of course. To make this less overwhelming, you could have small groups settle on Wonders. Or, you can do what many of the articles I read seemed to recommend – link your students with Buddies. Whether they are students from another grade level or parent volunteers, Buddies can foster a great sense of community while helping with some of the challenging tasks during Genius Hour time. Another idea is to partner with your librarian. You can also try a rotation process, like this teacher does.

Can students this age really come up with research questions? Sure! Again, modeling with the whole group a few times is key before starting to let students work independently or in small groups. Since these students are new to research, you don’t need to insist on “thick” research questions with complex vocabulary from all of them, but certainly differentiate for advanced students with higher Bloom’s questions. Here are some question stems you could use.

And then they’re going to research? But they can’t even read! This is another phase where rotations, Buddies, and/or your librarian can be essential. One tip that I like from teacher Renee Dooly is to use QR codes to help students find digital information. I used to introduce different types of resources to my students one at a time. For example, I checked out a bunch of books by the same publishing group about different countries, and showed them how to find the information in those books. They had a choice of country, but we stuck to the same type of resource and presentation. As they learned about other resource types, those choices were added in on other projects later in the year. Also, don’t forget about free tools like Immersive Reader, which are getting built in to many online educational resources.

What about methods for presenting what they learned? Some teachers have one way for all students to present, such as using Book Creator. Others give a limited number of choices, as you can see in this blog post. Once the whole class has learned how to do something, make that a new option. Or, get together all of the students who want to do the same type of presentation, such as a video, and give a mini-lesson. (Buddies are good for this, too!) Got a classroom iPad? Record your mini-lessons, upload them to Google Drive, and give students QR codes to scan when they are ready to watch.

Genius Hour can be done with younger students, but a lot of scaffolding is needed. The good news is that students who get this exposure in younger grades will really be able to take the skills for self-directed learning and blossom with them in later grades.

photo of a boy reading book
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com