College Awareness

One Thing Teachers Can Do to Help Students Get into Selective Colleges

Jenn Liu

So you’re thinking it would be nice if a few of your students were accepted to selective colleges.

Have you heard of a Genius Hour project? 

It’s a project that students choose themselves and work on individually or with a partner or group while documenting and sharing their progress. Genius Hour projects are also referred to as passion projects or 20% Time.

The purpose is to increase students’ self-motivation and excitement for learning while also developing their communication, academic, creative, and critical thinking skills.

genius hour project goals

This is the Best Part…

Working on Genius Hour projects helps students gain more clarity about their interests and direction in life. This could even mean finding their passion!

As I’m sure you know, admissions officers at competitive colleges don’t just favor students with high grades in rigorous courses. These colleges also favor students who express a passion for learning and take action to pursue their passions! 

And if their pursuits also make a difference or impact, that’s even better!

If you would like a complete Genius Hour project unit with everything you need, click HERE!

My Genius Hour resource on Teachers Pay Teachers is an interactive Google Slides presentation that teaches students what Genius Hour is, the goals of Genius Hour, and steps to complete their own Genius Hour projects.

The slides include interactive organizers with space for students to type their ideas to help them brainstorm, plan their projects, and track and reflect on their progress. A list of project ideas and a rubric/scoring guide are also included!

This is a complete lesson that uses the 5E Learning Cycle!

  • Engage: Questions to hook students.
  • Explore: Questions to activate prior knowledge and the chance to ask questions before getting into the lesson.
  • Explain: An explanation of what Genius Hour is, its goals, and steps.
  • Elaborate/Extend: The extension part of the lesson with graphic organizers students can type on to brainstorm, plan, and carry out their projects.
  • Evaluate: Discussion and reflection questions at the end of the presentation. An interactive project rubric is included.
  • Extra: Ideas for engaging students and extending the lesson further!

genius hour project

⭐️ This presentation can be used by teachers with distance learning, face-to-face instruction, OR a hybrid approach in any secondary class. You can present the lesson to the whole class or have students review it themselves in small groups! This is the perfect lesson for a middle or high school AVID, advisory, language arts, or CTE class!

⭐️ This resource is a COMPLETE LESSON in one place (similar to a Hyperdoc, which takes students through the learning cycle in one doc or slide deck using hyperlinks and other media). Perfect for using as a differentiated, self-paced, student-centered lesson and/or whole class presentation!

⭐️ The time it takes for the entire lesson will vary depending on how much time you allow for group discussions, follow-up class sharing, and extension activities. I would plan on it taking at least seven weeks.

Click HERE to see this product.

If you found this article helpful, share it with your teacher friends and colleagues!


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I'm Jenn, your new teacher friend.

I know how you feel about teaching college and career readiness. You care deeply about helping your students reach their dreams, but you have a lot on your plate already and not enough time to design more lessons. No worries--I can help!

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