Genius Hour: A Stroke Of Genius

Sir Ken Robinson told us that in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything and there would be very few who would disagree.

But be honest, do we really give students the time to find and follow their passions?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the highly-structured school day for most pupils means they have little time to pursue a personal interest, unless one of their passions is an actual curriculum subject.

Some teachers have decided to adopt the Genius Hour or 20% Time as a way of giving learners an opportunity their passions.

For one hour in the week, students can direct their own learning and devote it to what they are good at, to what they love – an interest that is their element and where they can get in the zone.

Genius Hour is a pretty loose structure because it encourages students to be creative and follow their own paths and explore their own unique interests. They are in control and study the way they want to – it is their quest. This helps them be intrinsically motivated learners responsible for their own projects.

Genius Hour stems from the ‘genius projects’ and the 20% time Google encourages their employees to take learning things that are of interest to them and work on something else besides their current project.

Brookhouser and plenty of others think we can do the same and students will be future ready if we give them the time.

According to TeachThought, Genius Hour is…

  1. Student-centred
  2. Messy
  3. Emphasises enquiry and research
  4. Authentic
  5. New challenges (i.e., it creates new problems to solve in your classroom)
  6. Inherently personalised
  7. Inherently creative
  8. Purpose-driven
  9. Maker-friendly
  10. Often collaborative and social

Genius Hour can help tap into what learners are really interested in and give them the chance to show you and others their hidden talents. It is differentiation at its best!

Here are 20 ideas for Genius Hour taken from Sword (2021):

  1. Create a podcast.
  2. Write a poem, play, song, story, blog, or whole book.
  3. Learn a new language or create your own.
  4. Teach a younger student a skill.
  5. Build a website or make an app.
  6. Make your own video game or cartoon (try this website for help with videogames and this for cartoons).
  7. Learn to code.
  8. Investigate different careers.
  9. Paint a picture or learn photography.
  10. Design a 3D model.
  11. Create your own board game.
  12. Create your own sport.
  13. Watch TED talks and make your own.
  14. Investigate a time period or event in history.
  15. Design your own clothes or makeup.
  16. Learn more about a type of animal you’re interested in.
  17. Learn how to sew.
  18. Create, market, and sell a product you design.
  19. Carry out a science experiment or create a science cookery book.
  20. Make a sculpture.

Want to know more? Take a look at these videos:

Sir Ken Robinson encourages us to include creativity in the classroom. He says,

Students do have immense talents and we serve them badly if we don’t give them the right kind of frameworks and structures. There are lots of examples we could go into of schools that come alive with students who are thought to be very unpromising but who’ve flourished quite different when the conditions have changed. And I believe that all of our students have much more to offer than our current system often allows them.

Genius Hour might fall into the ‘alternative education’ model but it’s just an hour a week. Students need longer than this to pursue their passions but if we give them at least this, we might just ignite something special purely by giving them a bit of time to go off-piste. As Don Wettrick says in his book, innovation deserves more than one hour a week!

20% is not enough, it should be more!

If you are looking for details about how to implement Genius Hour in your class then take a look at Genius Hour by Andi McNair and her easy-to-follow 6Ps strategy – passion, plan, pitch, project, product, and presentation – as a map for students to follow as they create, design, and carry out projects.


Show students the following video and see where it takes you!

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