Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Student Centered Learning



Implementing a “Genius Hour” With Your Students

A response to Larry Ferlazzo’s “question-of-the-week,” How can I implement a “Genius Hour” with my students?

Response From Maurice Elias

There has been a lot of talk lately about implementing a “Genius Hour” with students.  Here is my take on it. Every student has genius. And time should be set aside to celebrate the genius of every student. It does not require a single hour; it’s something that can and should be scheduled throughout the school year. You can celebrate two students a week, half hour each; you can celebrate a student each day for 15 minutes—use your imaginations!

My suggestion is that you frame a Genius Hour in terms of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model. Gardner was interested to see if all cultures defined intelligence in terms of language arts and mathematical skills the way our Western educational culture seems to. Of course, he knew the answer would be, “No.” What Gardner also found is that there are physiological and specifically neurological bases for the different kinds of intelligence he identified—intelligences that collectively are essential for humanity and civilization, with some being emphasized by some cultures more than others.

The eight multiple intelligences (MI) Gardner has identified are:  Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Spiritual. There are formal ways to assess your students’ multiple intelligences strengths, and Thomas Armstrong has created some of the best, practical materials. But you are likely to know your students’ relative MI preferences pretty well.

Students learn well through their strengths and an opportunity to use their strengths can leverage a greater willingness to work on areas of weakness or learning difficulty. That is the importance of celebrating their strengths. Some students can go through a school day—in fact, many school days—without feeling a sense of celebration or accomplishment. A “Genius Hour” is and should be about recognizing things our students are good at and sharing them with classmates, making it clear that there is no hierarchy of intelligences, only multiple intelligences.

You can introduce the Genius Hour—or whatever you choose to all it—by introducing MI and asking students to identify what they think their strengths are—indeed, expanding their view of what a strength is. You can also have students share geniuses they admire, who display particular MI strengths.

An ongoing celebration of student strengths—or genius—represents finding windows into the soul of children and ways to reach them in powerful and meaningful ways. When students are working within their areas of MI strength, they are able to mobilize confidence and enjoyment in ways that can be cut off if they are “off-modality.”  Thus, it becomes vital for students to have opportunities to be recognized for — and to perform and learn in — their preferred modalities. 


Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. He is also author of the e-book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting  and The Other Side of the Report Card:  Assessing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Character Development (2016, Corwin):

See Larry Ferlazzo’s full blog here:




Student CIrcle

Students Learn Leadership, Soft Skills with Genius Hours

Summary:  This article talks about the use of “Genius Hours” as a way to personalize learning and develop a sense of community in the classroom.  Students have the opportunity to come up with creative questions and then answer that question through project-based learning.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, September 6, 2017

Categories:  Student-Centered Learning, Classroom Practice, Student Achievement, School Culture/Climate




The Fascinating Link Between Minecraft and SEL

Summary:  This article explores how Minecraft can support social-emotional learning.  A new report, How Minecraft Supports Social and Emotional Learning in K–12 Education, published by Getting Smart, investigates the connection between classroom use of Minecraft and the SEL outcomes of K– 12 students.

Source:  Laura Ascione, eSchool News, August 11, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, Student Engagement, Student-Centered Learning



Letting Students Succeed as Themselves

Summary:  This article speaks about the writer’s experiences in New Zealand where education focuses on a student’s cultural heritage and helps them understand their heritage and make connections with their learning.

Source:  Joshua Block, Edutopia, July 20, 2017

Categories:  School Culture/Climate, Student Centered Learning, Core Values, Student Engagement, Student Voice



PBL Classroom

Why Losing Control of Your Classroom is a Good Thing

Summary:  This article reports on efforts to implement problem based learning (PBL) and giving students control of lesson planning based on their individual projects.  Teachers play a supportive role while students are empowered and given voice.

Source: Stephen Noonoo, eSchool News, June 19, 2017

Categories: Student Centered Learning, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Student Voice



A Solution for Student Disengagement

Summary:  In this article, Daniel Oscar proposes engaging students by offering them opportunities for leadership in their schools. These include peer leadership opportunities, ways to honor student voice, and other methods of making schools a place where students want to be!

Source:  Daniel Oscar, Edutopia, May 23, 2017

Categories:  Student Engagement, Student Voice, Student Centered Learning




#ThinkPossible: Find and Work Through Children’s Strengths

Summary:  This is a story about how finding a child’s area of interest and ability was transformational in his progress.  This child was institutionalized in a residential treatment center, sent there from an urban district.  The key was his strength – Music!

Source:  Maurice Elias, Edutopia, July 27, 2016

Categories: SEL Basics, Student Centered Learning, Student Engagement



Student at Computer

Increase Social Connectedness Through Digital Peer Learning

Summary: This is an article sponsored by Canvas LMS touting a digital approach to peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching, and cooperative learning using technology while trying to maintain the feel of face-to-face interactions.

Source:  Canvas, Education DIVE, June 22, 2016

Categories:  SEL Basics, Technology, Student-Centered Learning



Interest-Based Electives: Engaging Students With STEAM Explorations

Summary:  Educators at Walter Bracken STEAM Academy engage students by letting them choose outside-the-box enrichment classes, like toy making, drones, and candy chemistry.

Source:  Walter Bracken STEAM Elementary School, “Schools That Work”, Edutopia, February 16, 2016

Categories:  Student Engagement, Student Centered Learning



These 3 schools focus on creativity over standardization

Summary: Sir Ken Robinson, best known for his viral 2006 TED Talk, “How School Kill Creativity,” urges schools to color outside the lines, detailing how he sees standardization killing creativity and student achievement. Instead of focusing on tests and rote memorization, he recommends personalized learning that is organic and molded after the specific interests and needs of students.

Source:  Allie Gross, Education DIVE, April 27, 2015

Categories: Student Achievement, Creativity, Student-Centered Learning