Genius Hour – The Project Proposal.

Week 2:  Kicking off Genius Hour

Now that Genius Hour has been officially introduced, the next step was to channel the students’ excitement into picking a topic. There are now 7 teachers at 2 middle schools who have either started or about to start Genius Hour.  My next challenge was helping students narrow down a project idea.

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I led my first GH proposal lesson the other day in Kim’s room. Although I had done some research on this aspect of the project,  I was unable to take the information and structure it to my liking.  My vision on how to proceed wasn’t clear.  So … I jumped in with a very loose plan.

For me, a loose plan is better than not trying because it gets the ball rolling – and it worked. This experience gave me the clarity I needed to run a more thoughtful and organized brainstorming session.  I’m thankful that Kim went along with my informal agenda.

This is how I structured the GH proposal lesson the 2nd time around. 

  1. We started with a brainstorm activity. When I told Noreena that I wanted the students to brainstorm two categories: terrible topic ideas and possible topic ideas, she drew the following thinking map on the board
  1. Thinking map template
  1.  timnoreenaAs they created their lists, Noreena, Tim (fellow TOA/Coach) and I circulated around the room, joined groups and chatted with the kids.  We asked them to “Take it off the map” – which means to share their lists with their group. Students first shared the terrible topic list and then their possible project ideas.

4.  After a lot of sharing, talking, questioning and refining, students filled out a second               form.  The questions on this form were pulled from various GH sources.

5.  The Genius Hour Proposal form.

6.  For the students who still didn’t have an idea after the initial brainstorming session, I         gave them another form to get them thinking.  I don’t know what to do … yet… which I         got from

7.  One enthusiastic scientist in the making wanted to work with liquid hydrogen and                 another student wanted to create a cake with a vertical height of 5 ft.  Although the               scientist’s parents  were completely supportive of their son, in general Kim and I didn’t       want parents to get the wrong message.  Therefore, we drafted a parent letter                         explaining the project. We wanted parents to understand the goals of Genius Hour and       be clear that the project is designed to teach students how to educate themselves, how         to think critically and be creative.  Students are never to put themselves in danger or             spend lots of money to accomplish this task.

8.  Parent Letter.

9.  Our next step in this adventure …  Learning how to research…

10. An Eye Opening GH Brainstorming Session

Teacher Reflections



Some students where hesitant during the brain storming session writing little & a few wrote very traditional research topics.  I talked with these students &  learned they were nervous about their choice because they did not want to fail their presentation.  I felt the need to address the class and said:  “As you plan out your project,  do not be worried about what your final project will look like. Don’t choose a project because you can already see what it looks like at the end.  Choose something you are curious about.  As you learn, you will discover what you want to share. What you want to share will help you know how & what your presentation will look like.”

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Most students are ready to roll, others are still missing the point.  Some of our students are really struggling with creating a question or picking a topic. For some of them we’ve been able to offer guidance to (turning “I want to create a robot that brushes my hair.”  to “What are ways robots can help people?  How do they do this?”- Thanks Sharidy!)

Taking risks… I’m finding the students are willing and eager to take risks, but I’m finding that I’M hesitant to LET them.  I worry that they are getting in over their heads.  Will “Laney” really understand what she reads about how to create a website?  Will “Nick” understand all the math that goes into building a roller coaster?  I know the point of this project is to investigate an area of interest, but it’s difficult to turn them loose because I want to help! We’ve decided to let go (somewhat…).  At least they’ll learn SOMETHING!

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After a great discussion with Natalie, a sharpening of the scope of this project is needed (it kills me to do this but some ideas are just not going to work as an in-class project). Completing the Genius Hour proposal sheet was a great tool to move toward a real project. I tried to guide students to a question rather than a product and encouraged them to approach the GH like a scientist using the scientific method.

Momentum and excitement has not waned. Looking forward to digging into research once we’ve had our library day next week.  The students will receive training on how to conduct research. As many students just go to Google and find one website with all of the answers.

Other Posts in the Genius Hour Series


About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
This entry was posted in 20%time, 20time, genius hour, Genius Hour Proposal, introduction, livebinders, Perserverance, project proposal, proposal, Thinking Maps and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Genius Hour – The Project Proposal.

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