[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on January 26th of this year, was our #7 most popular story of the year. The countdown continues tomorrow with #6, so be sure to check back!]

What are you passionate about? What do you want to do more than anything in the world? Well I hope you said what you are doing right now. This is not always the case. Some people hate what they are doing. They may hate it because it pays too little, but being a teacher doesn’t make me very wealthy and I love what I’m doing. More importantly, people may hate their job because they would rather be doing something else. This is where I think we can do better in education.

As educators, we can help our students find and explore their passions. Once they discover what they’re truly passionate about, the learning and engagement will never stop. The best way for students to explore their passions is through Genius Hour.

Genius Hour isn’t new concept. Many teachers and businesses have been doing this for a while. Companies like HP and Google started “20 Time” so their staff could pursue passions projects and make their organizations stronger. Similarly, teachers have allowed students to read any book and present a book report in any format for a while now, giving them a chance to indulge their interests while learning. Of course, the true concept of Genius Hour is more open than a book report. It recognizes the need for students to have the freedom to explore their passions and not be restricted.

However, even with all this freedom, we still need some rules. The way I see it, the four rules to Genius Hour are: propose, research, create, and present. As long as your students are following this basic structure, they should have a successful Genius Hour experience. Here some tips for making those rules work in your classroom.

Let students explore their passions First things first: make sure kids have enough time to explore what makes them passionate in the first place. After all, they need to know what their interests are in order to be able to explore them in depth. I use Thrively as a starter. The kids use the site to take an assessment that will show them their strengths. They can then use this strength assessment to watch videos, choose a Genius Hour project, or look at events happening around them. Letting students explore their passions is an essential part of Genius Hour. Another way to help students explore themselves is to create a Wonder wall or a Problem-Solvers Wall. This is simply a space for students to put sticky notes with questions or problems the want to solve. These walls aren’t just impactful for the students. The teachers can learn a lot about their students by looking at their “wonders” and “problems”. Once the students have asked those questions and explored themselves they can now decide what they want their focus to be. I also use a worksheet so students can get their ideas out about who they are and what their interests are. The next step is for each student to make a Project Proposal.

(Next page: 3 more tips for a Genius Hour)