Thursday, March 09, 2017

Genius Hour & STEM in First Grade

I'm back!  It has been TOO long!  If you don't know, I had a baby last year (yes he is 1 already) and I am still trying to find the balance between everything life has to offer!  Unfortunately, blogging has taken the brunt of this.  You would think I would be better at this since I have done it before (I have a 14 year old)... 

BUT ANYWAY... enough about my life-balance problems....

I wanted to share with you how I have been running "GENIUS HOUR" in my first grade classroom!  I still have tweaks to make but so far, it has been great!  I incorporate STEM, brain games, and reading games into this time.

Genius Hour is defined as "a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom." (

How do we make this work in primary grades where our students still need a lot of direction and are still figuring out what they like and dislike?  I am excited to share with you what I have been doing to make this work...

So, first of all, you are probably asking where in the world I find time for this, right?  I do Genius Hour everyday and I do this during my RTI time.  A lot of teachers do Genius Hour once a week (on Fridays) but just find a designated time that works for you!

After I have trained my students to work independently during this time, I can still meet with students during this time for interventions if I need to.

Here is how I have Genius Hour choice centers set up...

So if you look at the bottom of the picture, there is a plastic bag.  This is where I have all the students' name cards (they are just index cards and their names are at the top).  Every morning they come in and choose a center for the day.  At the end of the day, a student is responsible for putting all the cards back.  (For me, I just added this job to whoever was the computer helper for the day instead of creating a new job).

What are these centers?

Most of my current centers are STEM games.  I did a Donor's Choose Project to get these resources.  I also use Brain Games & some reading games.  I switch the centers every once in awhile if I notice students are getting bored.

I currently have 22 students and I wanted smaller groups so this is why I have so many options!

I also made sure to find a variety of things that would apply to a variety of interests.  The point of Genius Hour is to let students explore their interests & promote creativity so I looked for games that would do this.

Each week, 3 students have an opportunity to be researchers.  I took time to teach my whole class the research process.  The researchers are allowed to research anything they are interested in (but they do have to get it approved).  On Fridays, they present to the class and we skip Genius Hour centers on that day.

You can get these posters & presentation ideas HERE!

For the rest of the students who are not researching that week, here are some of the centers I have for Genius Hour. 

(I am not being paid any affiliate fees for these links but if anyone would like to send me money, feel free!).

Center 1: Magnet Builders

Center 3: GEARS!

Center 5: I Sea Ten

Center 6: Magnet Express
Center 7: Spot It!

Center 8: Q-Bitz

Center 9: Sight Word Slap Jack

This is simply a back of sight word flash cards.  The group gets together and one person is the "teacher".  The teacher puts out 4 cards.  Then the teacher calls out one word.  The other students have to try to be the first one to slap the correct word.  If they do, they get to keep the card.  The person with the most cards at the end gets to be the new "teacher"!

These are just some of the centers I use!  If you want to learn more about BRAIN GAMES in the classroom, click here!

Here are some of the products from the Research Presentations...

Are you doing Genius Hour in a primary classroom?  I would love to hear how it works in your classroom as I am still looking to evolve mine!  Please leave me a comment and let me know!


  1. Heidi,
    I loved your post and all the great ideas you have. I am currently doing Genius Hour/Passion Projects with my K-6 students now. I was interested in the posters & presentations you mentioned under the "Research Process Poster", but the link didn't seem to be active. Would you be able to share these?


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