Genius Hour in the Primary Classroom

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Have you heard about genius hour?  Have you thought about trying it in the primary grade classroom? It was originally a Google thing that the company did to encourage creativity in their employees.  Well, I decided to give it a try this year, with first graders.  And you know what? It worked, and they loved it!  

SQ Genius Hour

Genius Hour in the Primary Classroom

I will be the first to admit that the first time I did genius hour it was messy and often I thought, What was I thinking?  But, I learned a lot and I will definitely be doing it again!  Four different parents emailed telling me how excited their kid was.  One of my students made their parents take them to the public library to find books about their subject.  

Here is an overview of our plan.

research plan anchor chart
genius hour planning worksheets

How Did We begin?

We began talking about what we wonder about.  If they could choose to learn about anything, what would it be? They came up with so many ideas…way more than I was expecting.  At our library time, I suggested they look at books for more ideas.  They had a week to mull their ideas over.  

Next, we wrote down our wonderings on sticky notes.  

Genius Hour wonderings

Finding the Question

We spent some time brainstorming ideas. We narrowed down what we wanted to learn about.  This was the hardest part.  Some of my students thought of very broad topics, so we had to learn how to narrow down our topic. We used question starters to help guide this part of the process.

genius hour question starters

Some of the topics included:

  • The Titanic
  • Animals (various: penguins, weasels, service dogs, and a few more)
  • The Poison Cave (I had never heard of this!)
  • Justin Timberlake
  • How to Make a Video Game
  • Stop Motion Animation

We used a planning sheet to help keep us on track.

genius hour planning worksheets

The Research

Researching our topic was the next step. This was an area that I needed help with.  I had a parent come in and recruited some 5th graders to help.  We used Chromebooks and iPads for the research. On the iPads, the app Epic was our favorite to use.  On the Chromebooks, they scanned QR cards with kid-friendly websites.

I had gathered kid-friendly websites and attached them to QR codes.  My students were able to scan them and search their topic.

Genius Hour kid-friendly website

One major issue I came across with this part of the process was that my students didn’t know what to research.  We talked about what information was important or interesting.  We used research helpers to guide students who needed a little help what to research.

Genius Hour research helpers

Let’s Create!

The third step in the process was creating something with our new knowledge. As a class, I had modeled various things we could create.


My students chose a wide range of things to create; models, movies, books, timelines, life-sized animals, Haiku Deck slideshows, and more. It was so fun to see their excitement about this process.

Time to Share

The last step for us was to share our genius hour projects.  We invited various classes into our room and parents. Their job was to share the information they learned about their topic and what they created.  They were amazing presenters and really had a great time with this.

After we finished our sharing of the process, I asked my students if they enjoyed it.  Every one of them loved it!  We talked about what was hard, and most agreed that the research was the hardest.  For most of them, it was a new experience to research a topic.  Some of them were ready to pick a new topic and do their own genius hour in the summer.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Would I do this again? Yes! Each student kept a checklist, which helped them stay on track and guide them through the process.

genius hour planning worksheets

If you are interested in the tools that I used to help organize and guide my students through the genius hour process, you can find them in my TPT store or The Teacher Bag Store.


One Comment

  1. Tiffany O'Connell says:

    This is very helpful! There is such much written for older students and so much less out there for primary students. If you don’t mind, I had a few questions:
    -Had you done whole group projects with this general process and fewer choices before students did these individual projects?
    -If students had similar interests, did you let them work together?
    -Is this correct? They had a topic but then narrowed it down to one question for their research?
    -How much time did the students work on these from the beginning to the end? How much time each week? What months of the year?
    -I noticed this post was written 5 years ago. What would you add/change now based on new understandings or resources available?
    Thank you again–now off to your TpT store!

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