My First Attempts At Genius Hour

This last year had me learning and researching Genius Hour.  I discovered some amazing resources including a Genius Hour live binder which was created by Joy Kirr.

I returned to work in January 2014 after finishing a 4 month education leave.  I was ready to get Genius Hour started with my grade 2’s!

The first thing I did was create these light bulbs with my students pictures.  Their names could be erased and their wonders and ideas could be added. Anyone walking by could see what their Genius Hour was about.  To be honest, topics kept changing and there were so many other things to do that we didn’t keep up with the door but I still like the idea.

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My classroom door.

The day I introduced Genius Hour I showed my students the Caine’s Arcade video.  My class loved this video and many of my students thought that Caine was the most creative kid out there!  After the video I showed my class the website which showcases many different skills for kids.  It’s like earning a badge in Girl Guides or Brownies but showcasing your work online.

Everyone was pumped and excited to get started.  The next day a student showed up with this board game that he had created at home.  He spent hours creating this game and everyone had a blast playing it.  This board game spent the rest of the year in our classroom.


For our first round of Genius Hour I had students make a list about things they wanted to learn about, a skill they wanted to acquire, or something they wanted to create.  I met with students and we talked about which ones would work well in our classroom. Some students picked topics with their friends while others worked independently.  Some topics were learning yoga, making ice cream, making jewellery, learning German, cooking,and learning how to draw.  One student researched recipes and went home and made them with her parents. She brought us a few treats!  One student focused on drawing. He took his work home and painted it with his grandma.

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Here are some students learning yoga.

Here are some students learning yoga.

We worked on Genius Hour projects every Friday for the last hour. I found resources during the week and tried to work with students as best I could during our hour.  It never seemed like enough time and I always felt pulled in many directions.  Many students needed help reading, searching online, making and creating.

Four weeks went by when we didn’t have school on Friday or something came up during our Genius Hour time and my students got mad.  They wanted to work on their projects.  Many lost interest and wanted to start a new project.  We had a class discussion and came up with a new plan.  Our new plan was to focus on Genius Hour on Mondays AND Fridays.  We decided that we would focus on “learn about” to see how that worked.  Everyone picked a topic they wanted to learn about and I found books that matched their topics.


Students came up with questions and got to work researching the answers.  When I’ve done inquiry with my students in the past they usually start with a questions which they record in their I WONDER books.  With this inquiry, students came up with more questions and wonders as they researched which is similar to Tony Stead’s R.A.N strategy. 

Some of my students had trouble reading the text to find out their answers.  When discussing Genius Hour with a colleague she mentioned that she only had 9 grade six students in her room while the rest were in band.  They too had just finished up Genius Hour projects and could assist us with ours.

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Many of my students would work on their projects during our Daily 5 cycles or if they had a spare moment.   I could always hear someone talking about their Genius Hour projects.

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Some students worked together but most worked independently.  When we decided how we were going to share our learning with the class EVERY student but one wanted to make a presentation poster board.  I thought that most students would want to present using technology but this wasn’t the case with my guys. Only one student wanted to make an Explain Everything presentation.

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Here are their final presentations!  Topics included polar bears, dogs, Spain, knights, WW1, weather, dolphins, human body, butterflies, volcanoes, earthquakes, shells, ladybugs, sharks, jewels, dinosaurs, and author Robert Munsch.


Students asked for round 2 of Genius Hour but unfortunately our year came to an end.  Would I do Genius Hour again? You bet!  There are a few things that I would do differently and I am still figuring that out.  My plan is constantly changing but there are a few things that I know I will do.

Next year I will start off with questioning and I WONDER books. I think I will start by exploring things students want to know and learn more about.  After we complete one cycle of Genius Hour we can try learning a new skill and creating something new.  I would love to create a maker space as part of Genius Hour.  The book Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager has a great shopping list to help create a maker space in the classroom.

Next year I would also like to do have students focus on projects that can help make a change.  If you aren’t familiar with Angela Maiers you need to check out her book called The Passion Driven Classroom.   Here is her YOU MATTER manifest.  There are many wonderful #youmatter resources out there including links compiled by Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1).

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I purchased this book last year that give examples for ways for kids to change the world.  I would love to have students incorporate YOU MATTER into their Genius Hour/Passion Projects.


A book that I am currently reading is called Inquiry And Innovation In The Classroom by A.J. Juliani.

There is a book talk happening on Twitter at #2k14reads created by @MrEhRon.  I am hoping to get some ideas and figure things out a little bit more this next month.


Books that I have on order that may work to introduce Genius Hour are:

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada


I Wonder by Annaka Harris


How do you plan on introducing Genius Hour?

Do you have any resources (books/videos) that you are planning on using?

How much time are you going to allot towards Genius Hour?

Do you think it’s important to incorporate “YOU MATTER”  into Genius Hour projects?




Summary Of Learning: EC&I 831

For my summary of learning I decided to try the Explain Everything app since I’ve heard many people mention how much they like using it.  The video is a short snippet of my learning and where I am headed.  I’ve decided to highlight the most meaningful things to me.  There are many more things I have learned and things that I am going to try.  I didn’t talk about all of our wonderful guest speakers but what they said did have an impact on my learning, especially Richard Schwier’s talk.  I think this was a great way to get us comfortable with our online community. Thank you for sharing my learning journey!

Reflecting on my PLN

For my EC &I 831 class we were required to develop a professional learning network (PLN).

During another class I had a classmate and colleague tell our class that we needed to get on Twitter.  I didn’t know why we needed to and I didn’t know what was so important.  I signed up for Twitter and found that I “wasted” time and on it.  I didn’t have a purpose as to why or what I was doing.  I followed a few people and found a few interesting things but then I lost interest.  Another colleague of mine confirmed that Twitter was a time waster so why should we bother.   A person who I admire and who holds a position of power tweeted this:


Well there I had it.  I shouldn’t be on Twitter.  I have young kids at home.  How dare I waste my time!

I am thankful that I had the chance to start using Twitter this term and I can now see why it is so important.  I have such a fabulous PLN that I can get information from.  They can answer my questions, encourage me, share their learning and so much more.  Who knew such a large and supportive PLN was right at my fingertips?   There are people who share the same passions that I do.  I get so many ideas and I am inspired.   I am connected with educators from all over the world.  No longer trying to make connections with only people at my school or division.  I have found new and exciting people to collaborate with and I will continue to network.  My PLN has grown and will continue to grow over time.

Telling staff to only tweet once or twice a day is like telling them to only read a paragraph of a page in a professional development book.  Tweeting is professional development anywhere, anytime.  Embrace it and tweet!

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Digital Media Project : Final Post But The Learning Continues


After our EC&I lecture on Digital Citizenship, Harmony McMillian and I decided that we needed to reach out to our parents at the school where we both teach.  We needed to share the information that we learned from class to help them raise connected caring citizens.  We decided to host a parent engagement night and present some of the good and some of the not so good.

photo(12)After getting our administration on board, the invitations were sent out to parents.  We had many positive responses saying that this was a wonderful topic and they wanted and needed to learn more.


We started by creating a resource blog for our families called  Connected For Good.  The blog includes the following sections:

There are some fabulous websites and resources out there for teaching kids about media.  One of my favorite websites is Common Sense Media.  They make it easy for educators to host engagement nights and provide an outreach kit.   One part that I loved about this website were the Family Tip Sheets.  If you haven’t explored this website yet, please do!


Our Prezi presentation was a combination of our learning from our Digital Citizenship class with Alec Couros and the Common Sense Media website.  We also added some personal pictures and shared our own stories as we engaged with our wonderful group of parents. The Prezi started out with a trip down memory lane and demonstrated the huge gap between parents and kids.  We then gave an overview of the presentation which were the reality, rules of the road, and the upside.

  • The reality deals with all of the not so good things happening online.  We discussed content, scale and searchability, anonymity.  Kids tech abilities are greater than their judgement.
  • The rules of the road focused on embracing technology and that ignorance is not bliss.  We encouraged parents to get in the game and share in their kids enthusiasm.  We talked about encouraging and modeling balance and establishing a healthy media diet.  Monitoring usage and family discussions were also talked about.  We encouraged parents to look at their own habits and to think about what they needed for their family.
  • The upside talked about creativity & collaboration, learning, impact and inspiration.  I encourage you to watch the Prezi,  I could write a whole other post just on the upside!


December 2nd was a snowy Monday night.  In the invitation we mentioned that an RSVP was not required but appreciated. We were expecting around 15-20 parents.  Throughout the day we had a few parents email and cancel due to illness and other commitments that had come up.   At 6:55 people started coming.  By 7:05 we had a room full of 21 people.  We started the night with an icebreaker activity about naming the icons while people were making their way in.  They were encouraged to work with the people beside them to see if they could name more.


After the icebreaker we introduced ourselves and met the people in the room.  We had a very diverse crowd which provided for an interesting and engaging evening.  We had stay at home moms, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a librarian, and some parents who had just immigrated to Canada.  One thing that we had in common was that we were parents (or we worked with kids…Harmony!) and we knew that this was an important topic.

We reminded our parents that this was an engagement night and to please stop us to ask questions or comment on a topic.  I really enjoyed watching their faces throughout the presentation.  The laughter at the beginning and the looks of shock when we discussed the reality.  The parents seemed to respond to the rules of the road and that they needed to figure out what worked best for their families.  We all have different rules and ways to raise our kids.  The upside was inspiring and a great way to end the presentation.  The parents were equipped with new information to get discussions going with their families and new tools such as the media agreement.  They also had direction about some positive things that they could do on the Internet with their child. We had some media agreements and handouts for the parents to take including this THINK sheet.


At the end of our presentation, one of our parents who is a high school guidance counselor shared some of the mistakes and problems her students were dealing with surrounding social media.  She deals with these issues on an ongoing basis.  She stressed to the parents that ignorance was not bliss and that many parents thought their kids did not have social media accounts when in fact they had more than one account .  If kids want it bad enough they will find a way.  She also reiterated our points that keeping the lines of communication open was key.  Kids will make mistakes but kids also need someone to go to when they do make mistakes so that they can help and try and fix it.  Her perspective opened my eyes even more to to the importance of educating these kids.  I feel a sense of urgency in educating our needs to be done now.  One of the parents asked what grades do we start teaching this to kids.  I feel like parents assume that their kids will be taught this in school so that they are off the hook when in fact this isn’t the case.  Parents and educators need to work together now more then ever.

When reviewing our comments from parents I could see that there is need for more of these types of engagement nights.  How can I do this?  I think that I need to host some Media Engagement Nights with parents and kids in my grade 2 classroom to get the conversations started.  We often have literacy nights and math fair nights but I think we need to have media engagement nights where we can learn together.  I love the idea of the SOME summit that was held in Kelowna.  Youth educating youth on social media for change.  We need this in Regina.   I am still thinking about how I need to make things like this happen!

Comments from Parents:

I feel that our parents were inspired to talk more and explore more with their kids.  Parents spent the time to fill out a feedback sheet for us.  Some of the comments were:

  • “One thing that I will take away from tonight is that it is NOT all bad.  It was a good reminder that social media can be used for good things.  We must just all be aware and present and teach our kids the rights and wrongs just as we do with all things in life.  And also, that it goes both ways-my kids can usually teach me more than I can teach them and I can be open to that.  Thank you!”
  • “Fun activities for imagination activities online.  (right now I don’t do anything online with my kids but there is great stuff on there)”
  • “I would be interested in more sessions like this.  Anything that can help me feel more comfortable with the technology my child is exposed to is greatly appreciated.”
  • That as parents we need to be good role models not just in life but in the social media world and to help kids make good decisions.  Also, to establish a healthy media diet.”
  • “Likely to biggest point I will take away is that “Ignorance is NOT Bliss!” I am afraid of social media but your presentation has inspired me to become engaged and learn more about these sites along with my children.  They are just starting to be interested in signing up for these accounts so we will learn together.  I plan to use the Family Media Agreement to begin the discussions.  Thank you for this!  Your blog will be a great resource!”



Harmony: I want to thank Harmony for being such a dedicated and hard working partner.  She is a passionate and creative educator who pushed me out of my comfort zone.   Public speaking is an area I continue to work on and Harmony recognized this and worked with me to ensure that I was comfortable.  She put the room at ease and is a fabulous presenter.  She continued to invite people even though I said I only wanted to present to five people!  Thank you Harmony!

Alec: Thank you for inspiring me through your work and presentations.  The structure of our presentation was similar to yours and made a huge impact.  Start with the ugly truth and move to inspire.  We shared some personal stories which are parts that I enjoy most about your presentations.  Thank you Alec!

Classmates: Thank you to my EC&I classmates who shared resources and expertise.  When we needed something, we asked and you answered.  It has been fabulous meeting and learning from all of you.  Thank you!

My Administration: Even though they were unable to attend our engagement night, their support for this project from the beginning was appreciated.  Thank you Russ and Tracy!

Our parents:  Thank you to our wonderful group of parents who came to our engagement night and contributed to the rich discussions.

Thank you for reading and I will leave you with some inspiration from our presentation!

Exploring Passions: Moving Beyond The Minecraft Obsession

My daughters and many other children are addicted to Minecraft.  They play it every chance they get.  When their time on electronics is over, they are still focused on Minecraft.   They draw pictures, write stories, and plan what they are going to do the next time they log on.

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Without Minecraft they are bored.  I have read an article called Disruptions: Minecraft, an Obsession and an Educational Tool that discusses some of the good things about Minecraft.  It is a great article but I still think there is more out there for my children to explore and learn.  How do I help get them interested in other things?  How do I foster their creativity? These are questions that I struggle with as a parent.  I want my kids to wonder and ask questions about the world.  I want them to explore their passions.  Is this happening when they are on electronics? Perhaps, but I am still not convinced that letting my kids play Minecraft is the answer to developing creativity and discovering passions. With that being said,  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the website.  A website for kids to explore passions and develop skills while completing challenges.  Every child has their own portfolio and they can earn badges based on they challenges they complete. There is everything from Lego Master, Bee Keeper, Astronomer, Chef and even Minecrafter.

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Once kids have completed a challenge, they can share it on the website for others to see.

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Sir Ken Robinson writes on his blog that “Individual creativity is almost always affected by the work of other people. In this sense, our own creative work is part of a much larger cultural conversation.”  By observing what others are creating and doing could foster my daughters creativity.  It could motivate them to explore other areas and learn new things.   I am excited to see which areas they choose and how this all works out.  I also think that this website could help me in my classroom when I am doing genius hour which I previously blogged about.

Another website that came to my attention is called   I like the idea of having mentors in the field.   I am still exploring this website and am trying figuring out where to submit the projects and how it all works.

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Have you used either of these websites?  Do you have any other websites to suggest?

How do you help foster creativity in your child?


#Nerdlution starts tomorrow and runs until January 20th!  What is Nerdlution?  Basically you choose a habit and stick with it for 50 days.  You can share your journey on Twitter with other people who are doing the challenge. People are choosing to read, write and even making a point of being happy.

What is my Nerdlution?  I have been working on grad classes this semester and I have many professional nerdlution ideas.  I have been extremely focused on my mental health and I think it is time to focus on some other areas.


My physical health and my family are two areas that I have not been as focused on.  My nerdlution will be to do one thing for my health a day (exercise, cook a healthy meal, etc) and do one thing that betters my family relationship or household (making time to go skating, cleaning a space in our home, etc).   I have missed out on some fun family times since I have been doing homework so I am excited to make a conscious effort to focus on my loved ones.   I have tried to maintain balance.  I know that at times I have let my work take over. I want to set realistic goals that I know I will achieve so if I do more than one thing a day it is a bonus!   I have one more week of grad classes and a few assignments to go.  I am excited to get this journey started tomorrow even though I am a bit nervous. It’s hard to find a balance at crunch time.

I know that becoming more mindful and having a like minded support group on Twitter will help me to succeed!

What is your #Nerdlution?

Want more information or to see how it all started?  Read Chris Lehman’s FAQ blog for all the answers!

Genius Hour

“Every student starts school with the unbounded imagination, curiosity, and creativity, — until he or she learns that knowing the right answer is far more important than asking a thoughtful question”  ~ Tony Wagner

“At the moment, instead of promoting creativity, I think we are systematically educating it out of our kids”  ~ Sir Ken Robinson

How can we fix this?  During my EC&I 831 class I learned about something called Genius Hour.

I wanted to further explore the research behind genius hour so I checked out a few of the book recommendations listed on the genius hour website.  Three of the ones that I have browsed through are:

Drive By Daniel Pink, Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson, and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

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I love the idea about giving kids time to explore their passions.  I believe that we should be teaching how to learn not just what to learn.   By providing children opportunities like genius hour they can develop many skills.    Inquiry based, self-directed, and problem-based learning studies have shown that students are more motivated and engaged when they are given ownership of their learning.

I would like to get started on some genius hour projects in my classroom.  Here is a fabulous livebinder resource if you are interested in getting started with genius hour.

I think that this blog may be a safe place to share and reflect on my genius hour experiences.  I have made connections with a few other Genius Hour teachers on Twitter and through their blogs.  Here is a list of blogs by grade 2 teachers who are exploring Genius hour!

Many things I have read have said that the learning is in the journey and the reflection.   My question is how can we assess this?  Do Genius Hour projects need to be assessed?  How do we get our administrators/parents on board?

My next reads are:

The Passion-Driven Classroom by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold  and Teach Like A Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator.

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I am so excited to get started with my geniuses!!

Another Way To Connect People With Books!

I am passionate about literacy and love sharing books. I get excited when I find tools that help people share books like the Goodreads app that I previously blogged about. A new website that has come to my attention is Basically bookcrossing is the world’s biggest library. You register your book, put a sticker inside and then leave your books anywhere in the world. People find the books, read them and release them. You can track the books progress on the website. You can also go to the website to locate books where you are. I have signed up for an account but I haven’t released any of my books yet.  I think I will do this with my own children and my grade class.

The bookcrossing website says: “don’t be ‘shelf’ish with your books – read and release!”
a) Wouldn’t this be a great project for students?
b) How to the children at your school share books? I know at our school we’ve done a book swap once a year and the kids love it. Bring a book and take a book.

Maker Movement Isn’t For Everyone

In my EC&I class we had a guest speaker, Sylvia Libow Martinez, who wrote the book Invent To Learn.  She talked to us about the maker movement and shared many of her ideas with us.  To be perfectly honest, I had no clue what she was saying for most of her presentation.  She was excited about the topic and she used lots of fun words like Makey Makey.  My seven year daughter watched her presentation with me.  She was so excited and thought that we needed to get some of the materials that Sylvia had mentioned.   She showed us what a Makey Makey was and what it did.  I decided to order one even though I still really didn’t have a clue.   When our Makey Makey arrived my two daughters decided to explore and play with it.  My 9 year old is a thinker, she likes things to be just so, and she doesn’t like to take risks.  My 7 year old is a risk taker and a colour out of the line sort of kid.   They are complete opposites and both had different experiences with the Makey Makey.   My 9 year old was frustrated that it didn’t work exactly as she thought it should.  She got frustrated and walked away telling me that I had wasted my money.  My 7 year old was engaged and played with the Makey Makey for a long time using different materials.  Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of tinkering with the Makey Makey.  My 9 year old and I have similar personalities.  This experience has taught me to think more outside of the box and to find ways to engage my 7 year old with her tinkering projects.  I teach grade 2 and have many students who like to tinker.  I need to find ways to embrace their tinkering play.  My plan is to get my hands on Sylvia’s book and invest in some more materials.  I will provide tinker time and see what happens!  A classroom is filled with many different types of learners and tinkering is definitely one way to learn.

“Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing.” 

Do you like to tinker?

Are there any materials that you think are a must have for my tinker box?

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After our EC&I lecture on Digital Citizenship, Harmony McMillian and I decided that we needed to reach out to our parents at the school where we both teach.  We needed to share the information that we learned from class to help them raise connected caring citizens.  We decided to host a parent engagement night and present some of the good and some of the not so good.

Originally for this project, I had wanted to make books for the K-2 level about The Best Digital Me I Can Be.  I haven’t given this up.  I am still writing the books and want to get them published on paper, not digital form.  There are already tons of great digital resources but not as much in print.  If a parent is uncomfortable with online activity these books may educate them and give them a push.

With that being said, I still want to create something useful for parents.  I am searching for and creating activities for parents to do with their kids to encourage positive online activity.  My questions for you are:

What positive experiences do you have with your kids online?

What ways to you teach them be a positive digital citizen?

How to you share your rules and expectations about online behaviour?

If you don’t have children, what ways could you see all of the above looking like in a home?

Thank you in advance for sharing your expertise and experiences at home!