A Lesson In Kindness Through Genius Hour

I knew when we started our unit on neighborhoods that I wanted to add a Genius Hour component to it. Kinders are fascinated with building, making and designing with the various manipulatives they have available to them and the sheer joy of creating. Each piece they connect, whether on their own or with a friend, has a story: the how, the who and the what for about their structure/vehicle/invention. We introduced the idea of neighborhoods with brainstorming, read alouds and a Brainpopjr. We asked questions and created a Neighborhood Wonder Wall.


Both kindergarten classes created a neighborhood bulletin board.


We also made a beautiful night skyline. Math involved shapes, patterns and planning to create our scene.


Throughout the weeks we talked about neighborhoods and the people, places and things we would find in it. We had a homework assignment that included observation and invented spelling, which we decided to call “best try spelling”.  The kinders wrote what they saw on their way to school (making the connection that our school is part of their neighborhood) and then they drew their illustrations. And then it came time for Genius Hour. My builders were given an idea (truth be told, my goal, my intent and purpose for this time). I read The Teddy Bear book by David McPhail.


We had an incredible discussion about this book. The kinders shared an understanding beyond their years. And those who connected to the story on a different level shared willingly; knowing our safe inclusive environment valued all comments and discussions. Then it was time for Genius Hour to begin as I asked questions about people who had no homes and what we might be able to do for the homeless. My kinders eloquently and earnestly discussed what they knew and then talked about the homeless people they had seen. One little boy shared how he smiled at a man because he thought that the homeless man would like that. Another child shared that she had asked her parents to give someone a place to live, another asked her parents to give food to a person they saw as homeless. At our school we have a wonderful Community Service Program that includes all of our students and families. We make sandwiches and soup for a local soup kitchen. We have food and book drives. We collect clothes and sundries for shelters and for people who need help making ends meet. These ideas and outreach services are part of our school culture. So the kinders are familiar with the idea of “helping” people who need help. When our class was ready to try out their plans, we moved the furniture around the room to give them a big space to build and design a community that could help people who did not have a home. The kinders designed a hotel that had many rooms for people to live in. They built a place to make food and take showers. They designed kitchens where people could eat and one group of boys made a big house boat where homeless people could live, make their own food and get training for a job. Another group made a pet store to house pets that could no longer be taken care of by their owners because they were homeless. This place took care of the pets until the owners could find a home and then get their pets back. The pets would be safe here. I almost cried when they explained this building to me. The kinders worked in groups of three and four making houses, hotels and apartments. Two or three children decided to use the wood blocks to make a person, smiling and happy, then frowning and unhappy, and back to happy. Could I read into it, happy (shelter, food, family), sad (homeless) and back to happy (shelter, food, family)? By now their joy in this giant person had become contagious and we all reveled in the laughter.


In our reflection time, the kinders, in their own self created groupings talked about what they made and its purpose. As the kinders learned about neighborhoods, they made connections to what they see and have in their neighborhoods and how we can help each other. A lesson in kindness through Genius Hour.

Recently @joykirr connected me to this  link that had me thinking about my passion for #geniushour. Will my kinders change the world because they have time to learn through Genius Hour? I can’t answer that, but why not let us try? Have you had an opportunity to incorporate Genius Hour in your students learning?






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2 Responses to A Lesson In Kindness Through Genius Hour

  1. stangea says:

    I like the way your Wonderwall connected directly to the unit you were working on with your students. I have been struggling to find a place for a more general Wonderwall in my classroom. I think your example is my solution. I wonder though, whether a theme such as yours limits students choice in genius hour.

    My current strategy, trying to implement genius hour for the first time, has been to allow the students free range on their topics. Admittedly, this has led to many students not being able to find a focus for their own explorations. For sometime now, I have been planning to build additional structure into topics for students for those students who have difficulty picking a personal area to explore. Just like everything else, we need to be able to differentiate for student needs and readiness.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share the learning happening in your classroom.

    • faige says:

      I have more posts on geniushour which are opened ended student driven ideas and learning. I was curious to learn what my kinders understood about “homelessness”. And decided to explore it here. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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