Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are You The Genius Hunter In Your Classroom?

If you work in an inner city public school, and even some who don’t, know that one teacher per 30 or more students is difficult at best. Fortunately, innovative educators have figured out that while they may be experts in pedagogy, they have a whole class full of experts in technology.  We all enjoy being recognized for our talents. Figuring out who your classroom geniuses are during the first 30 days of school is an inspiring activity for all grade levels.

Innovative educators already know that it is best to give students options in showing what they know by giving choice of creation and platform. Students often know how to use apps and sites educators may never have heard of. When teachers take on the role of genius hunter they are intentional when they discover which students are great at using various resources and they chart it. Do you have a student who made an excellent story in Snapchat? List them as the Snapchat expert. Is there a student who rocked Piktochart to explain a concept? Boom. They’re the expert in Piktochart. Maybe you have a student who created something they learned in history using Minecraft. Share their expertise!

When teachers celebrate student genius, the focus in class moves to student strengths and the ongoing internal conversation with your students and external conversation in the class, is to think about what their particular genius is.
Angela Maiers is at the forefront of helping educators seek out the genius in their students. Read her blog here.

You can create the chart by listing student names along the left side of the chart. As areas of expertise present themselves, place them on the top of the chart. Then put stars in the boxes indicating who has expertise in that area.

While the teacher may start as the lead genius detector, it becomes even better when students join in acknowledging peers for their expertise. Encourage your students to find the genius in themselves and others.  

Naming expertise not only benefits students, it also benefits the teacher. No longer is she the main person in the room that students can learn from. As expertise across a class is identified, when students get to work, they know which peers they can collaborate with for help and support.  

So what do you think? Is this something you might want to try in your classroom? Are you already doing something like this? Please share your thoughts in the comments...


  1. Thank you Lisa, yet again you inspired another create idea in me for the new year. I have known about Genius Hour for some time now. I began using it last year when the book was only online. I started last year with Thrively, which is a great program to determine students strengths and favorite activities. My classes met 3x a week and my goal was to use the third day we met as time to explore their genius.
    Students enjoyed the choice and freedom. The problem was finding time in that schedule for students to work on their project while also working on other class projects. This year I will try the following. I will also use Thrively as it gave me great information about each child and the class as a whole. But, I will also now ask students as a 2nd day of school activity to share with me (have not decided how yet-maybe a Google form) their technology/social media expertise and maybe design a chart to put up in the classroom. Genius Hour itself will be a unit at the end of the school year. I think it could be a great way to end the year. However, the philosophy of genius hour is everyday in a class full of technology. Let your students get out of their seats and collaborate and share what they know. That has always saved me in a class of 33. I just guide them and help them ask better questions and even if they are shy how to ask and accept help. These are my thoughts for now and they are always changing and adapting as the world and students in front of me change.

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  3. Thank you Lisa for sharing the idea to incorporate genius time. It is inspiring to recognize individual talents in the classroom. Being the early stages of the school year, it is a great time to start learning about student’s strengths. I really found your viewpoint about students knowing the latest apps and sites more than teachers very relatable. When Snapchat first came out, I was very confused about the whole concept. When I asked students to explain the idea of Snapchat they excitedly showed me. “The teacher doesn’t know something that I know?” That’s unheard of. ;) I think I should apply this student-teacher approach to multiple scenarios, such as how to movie make, who types fast, and how do I make a collage. I will also incorporate the word “genius” when students show strength in something. I believe this will give them a confidence boost and allow them to ask each other for help. I want to enforce time dedicated to technology at least once a week. Whether, it is sharing an online article, creating a Flipgram, or sharing a storyboard that relates to subject specific matter, I think students would feel interested making classroom connections with social relations. Thank you for inspiring me to enhance student motivation. It’s great getting a different perspective on teaching.

  4. Thank you Lisa, this is a great idea! We already give our students options in demonstrating their knowledge why not let them demonstrate their strengths in technology as well? Students love to get praised and many of them already have strong technology skills when they come into our classes. Finding technology experts within our students helps us greatly because those students can help the rest of our class. They can also help the teacher learn about apps that we may have not used before.