Genius Hour – The Secret to Managing the Research Phase



The first time I organized a research session, I was working with Allison’s 6th grade AVID group – A great group of kids who are self-proclaimed talkers. It was clear I had to balance their social needs with quiet reading time while tending to accountability.

With Allison’s group, the single most important element that allowed me to juggle all three … Sharing Information. Students were constantly asked to share their learning. With this expectation, they quickly realized that research days were synonymous with sharing information, therefore they had to have a focused direction for the day.

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My current challenge is that students are so product oriented that they are not investing themselves in the research process. They want to start their speech/Powerpoint/video, etc. and be finished; students aren’t opening their eyes to the journey.

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Sharidy is part of the original pilot group.  Her concern was expressed by the first round of teachers implementing Genius Hour.  Because this semester was purely an experiment,  I didn’t have the foresight to address this issue at the beginning.  I’ve since learned.  By the time Allison reached the research phase, I had a clearer picture of how to structure student research.  In this piece, I outline strategies used to lead a successful research period.


Starting the Research


Watching a video and taking notes

  1. After I pass back their Genius Proposal Form and Thinking Map, I hand out the Research Form
  2. As a way to go over research expectations, I ask students to scan the research form. Then, as a class, we discuss the form’s various components.
  3. After that, students start researching.
  4. The classroom teacher (in this case, Allison) and I circulate around the room conferencing with students and answering questions.

The Silent Zone

Capture31.  Once the classroom teacher and I have touched based with any student who needs help getting started, I announce there’ll be 5 solid minutes of silent research time.

2.  For 5 minutes NO ONE is allowed to talk – Not even the teachers!!   The silence is contagious.  Students begin to focus. They are reading, watching videos and writing. Before they know it, 10,11,12 … minutes have passed!                                                                   🙂

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 9.16.19 PM 3.  What happens if a student has a  question?  I instruct all students to write down their questions and then tell them I’ll address their questions when the sacred research time is over.  When necessary, I’ll hand them a written response to their question.  If 5 or more full minutes have past, then I’ll respond in a whisper.

4.  I suggest extending the silent research for various periods of time based on their concentration level. Once students become fidgety, it’s time for them to wrap up research and start sharing.

Sharing Information

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 2.44.01 PM1.  When the silent time ends, I quietly ask them to finish recording their information and prepare to share.

2. There are many benefits to requiring students to share their newly found information.

  • Accountability
  • Helps students push their new information into their long term memory.
  • “We remember 95% of what we teach to others” – William Glasser
  • Helps students to keep moving forward with their project.
  • They want to talk with their friends so why not give them an academic focus for their conversation.

3.  For ex.  I pair up the kids and ask for partner A to share what he/she learned. Repeat the process with partner B.  At the end of this post, I’ll give other sharing strategies.

5.  After the pair share, I start calling on students to share with the class what they learned.  This is a time where I guide students towards acknowledging their next step.  See form:

Guiding Student Research 

  1. Students need guidance with their research.  The whole group share can help them determine a specific need an avoid vague statements such as, “Next time, I need to find more information” .  Here are a few examples outlining what I mean:

Me:  Jayden, please share something you learned today.

Jayden:  Music activates the hippocampus which is why music can help us remember         certain events.

Me:  Do you know what a hippocampus is?

Jayden:  (shyly) No.

Me:  Then that will be your next step.   Write,  I have to find out what a hippocampus is, in the Next Step box.


Me:  Angel, will you share with the group the results of our conversation?

Angel:  I got a lot of information from one website.  Tomorrow, I have to search other         sites to see if the information matches.

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Next Step: Voice exercises: Do re mi … , Choose a song – Spanish or English

Me:  Desiree, state something you learned today.

Desiree:  Music helps to modulate emotions.  I don’t know what modulate means.

Me:  What’s your next step then?

Desiree:  I need to find out what modulate means.

2. I give students a short period of time to write down their next research step.  It must be a specific statement – nothing vague.

3.  During the last few moments of the class, I try to call on a few more students to state out loud their next research step.  If necessary – guide them towards a specific statement.

The Next Research Day

1.  I start out asking a few students to state their Next Step.  I do this to set the stage for the day and make sure the students understand that the purpose of research days is to gather information.

2.  I’ll make a few comments such as:

Me: (To the class) The other day, Jayden told us that she needs to learn about the hippocampus.  (looking at Jayden).  Jayden, I’ll be asking you to explain what a hippocampus is.  So be ready!

Me:  Patricia, what’s your “next step”?

Patricia:  I want to learn more about the Bar Exam.

Me:  Great!  I be checking in with you at the end of the period.

3.  If you tell a student that you’ll be checking in with him/her at the end of the period, then make sure you follow up! If you don’t,  you weaken the accountability expectations.

Sharing Structures

1.  Pair-Share

  • Partner A shares what he/she learned.
  • Repeat the process with partner B.

Students participating in Inside-Outside Circle

2.  Inside-Outside Circle:

  • Students form 2 concentric circles
  • Students on the inside share first.  I tell them they have to talk/share for 30 seconds.
  • Students on the outside then get to “power talk” for 3o seconds.
  • After sharing, students on the inside slide 1 person to the left.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times if possible.  The more opportunities students get to share, the more comfortable they get with the material.

3.  Targeted Pair-Share:

  • Write 3 – 5 questions on the board.Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 8.58.38 PM
  • Ask student to prepare answers to the questions
  • Pair students up.  Give students 1 minute to discuss their answers.
  • Repeat with second person.

4.  Targeted Inside-Outside Circle

  • Give students a direction for what to share (like in Targeted Pair-Share)
  • Use the inside-outside circle format

5.  Whole class share:

  • Randomly call on a few student to share something they learned about their topic
  • Ask students to state a piece of information they learned about a classmate’s topic

6.  Rapid Fire share:


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
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6 Responses to Genius Hour – The Secret to Managing the Research Phase

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