Genius Hour Kickoff Day 3: Book Fair Visit and Proposal Writing

Today’s class was a hodgepodge of activities with the shortened class periods of Conference Week and the Book Fair being on campus.  After some brief discussion of the students’ desired Genius Hour topics (if they had not already shared this information yesterday), I addressed any concerns that arose regarding the writing of their proposals before our quick jaunt out to the Book Fair.

REMINDER: The Book Fair will be at school until this Friday.  Below are some book trailers for some of their featured texts:



Genius Hour Kickoff Week: Day 2-Driving Questions and Research Proposals

In this second day focused upon the Genius Hour semester project, the students had the opportunity to walk with me through my process of turning my prospective topic ideas into one solid topic. Then, I showed them how I would turn that topic into a up to five driving questions. From those questions, the students will then focus their research on one driving question as they write their research proposals and begin delving into their Genius Hour Projects.

Genius Hour Proposal Template

In education, it is seen as a best practice to do a lot of your writing work alongside the students so that you can have more meaningful conversations about the process since you would be in the same boat with them.  This typically isn’t that feasible in a real-world classroom because there is so much that we teachers must address and juggle.  Even with that in mind, I told the students that I would pledge to do Genius Hour alongside them as well.  For my project I will write and work to publish a book as a part of the NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month taking place this November.  A handful of students also expressed interest in signing up with the official site to embark upon the novel writing experience with me.  All-in-all, Genius Hour will surely be a lot of fun for all of us.

Genius Hour Semester Project Guidelines


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Complete up to 5 Driving Questions for Genius Hour Project.
  • Begin work on the rough draft of the Genius Hour Proposal.


Genius Hour Kickoff Week: Day 1

The time has finally arrived for the students to explore Genius Hour!  After viewing a selection of sample Genius Hour projects, the students then began brainstorming for their own.  I then took a moment to model how I would brainstorm and use that to create not only my driving question that I would be researching but also my Genius Hour Proposal.

The students then had the rest of class to work on brainstorming their possible Genius Hour topics.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Finish brainstorming Genius Hour topic options.


More Grammar Presentations and a Sneak Peek into the Future: Friday, October 17th, 2014

Aside from 3rd period, which fell a little behind due to testing, etc., today was the last day of presentations for 4th, 5th, and 6th periods. After the presentations, we took a look into the future…

Genius hour! This is the name of what will be our rest-of-the-semester project. The students have already been introduced to the concept on more than one occasion and today had the opportunity to see some examples of how some finished Genius Hour projects would look. All of the examples we saw are included in today’s PowerPoint (see below), but some of my favorites are featured below.

So what is Genius Hour again?

Genius Hour is where students are provided with roughly 20% free class time to focus on a topic of their own choosing.  For this class, I do not know the exact percentage of time we will spend.  We will start with a kickoff week during Conference Week (next week, October 20th-24th, 2014) and will revisit it with free time in class for the students to continue their individualized studies every-other-week.  The details and guidelines will be presented to the students on Monday. That said, here are some examples of what other students have done in their Genius Hour explorations:

One young lady chose to write a book and then published it on Google Docs.

Another student sought to find out why it is so hard to solve a Rubik’s Cube to eventually solve it and found this video:

One student opted to show the process in which she learned how to sew a stuffed bunny:

Finally another student decided to demonstrate proper horse etiquette as seen here:


  • Read for 60 minutes.
  • Begin thinking about a prospective Genius Hour topic to explore.


Grammar Project Work Day: Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

The atmospheric turbulence and regular raindrops coated this Tuesday in a tired haze.  Nevertheless, the students and I soldiered on in the planning of their Grammar Projects.

I first took a moment to share with them a few key tricks that we teachers use to make lessons more engaging.  First, I shared Schlechty’s Eight Engaging Qualities which, when utilized in a lesson, help students feel more connected to the content:

1.Personal Response-more than one right answer

2.Clear/Modeled Expectations-student knows what “success” looks like

3.Emotional/Intellectual Safety-Freedom to take risks

4.Learning with Others-learning socially

5.Sense of Audience-student work is shared

6.Choice-students have meaningful options

7.Novelty and Variety-unusual learning experiences

8.Authenticity-connects to prior learning


With a rain-themed playlist including songs such as “Blame it on the Rain,” “Singing in the Rain,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” and “Purple Rain,” fueling their work, the students had the rest of the class to complete their grammar projects.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Begin finishing work on your Grammar Presentation Project.



Anatomy of an Engaging Project: Monday, October 13th, 2014

We made sure to keep things lively on this gloomy and moist Monday.  First, the students had the opportunity to create a variety of expressions sharing their thoughts on grammar.  They received the following instructions:

You will have a choice of doing one of the following:

  • Create an analogy:  You will create 5 analogies such as the one below:
    • Grammar is to _________________ as _______________ is to _____________.
    • (You can also include similes and metaphors.)
  • Grammar Brainstorm: You will brainstorm why grammar is useful.
  • Grammar Pitfalls: You will brainstorm the problems with grammar.  The students will be encouraged to think about ELL and immigrant populations.
  • My Grammar Experience: You will share their experiences with grammar, whether positive or negative, and explain why.
  • Situational Grammar:  You will brainstorm the ways in which the rules of grammar change based upon the situation.

After presenting their creations, the students then created skits to illustrate what an engaging lesson looks like and how a not-so-engaging lesson might run.  Many of these were EXTREMELY funny to watch.  It was a great way to engage the students in understanding the expectations of their Grammar Presentation Project.

The students then divided themselves up into groups.  Each group had to decide which of the following topics they wished to present:

  • Compound Sentences
  • Complex Sentences
  • Simple Sentences
  • Compound-Complex Sentences
  • Transition Words
  • Run-on Sentences
  • Basic Capitalization Rules

Next, each group told me whether they wanted to present their grammar lesson on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of this week.  They will be allowed to bring their own devices to class tomorrow to work on the project in class, but they were also provided with a space on their project information sheet to record their groupmates’ roles, phone numbers, and email addresses.  This way, each group could devote time after school to complete their project and prepare it for presentation.

The Grammar Presentation instruction sheet can be found below:

Grammar Presentation Project Page 1Grammar Presentation Project Page 2

Grammar Presentation Project (PDF)


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Continue work on Grammar Presentation Project (see link above to PDF file).