Writers Revel In Identifying Their Excellence: Technology-Enhanced Genius Hour & Writing Workshop

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Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Megan McCormick  
Janeen Pizzo  

When genius hour connects with writing workshop, students practice writing in an authentic, student-centered approach. In the digital age, creating differentiated mini-lessons individualized for each student has never been easier. While we aren't experts, we have lived this amazing writing experience and want to share it with you!

Audience: Teachers
Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Screencastify, Padlet, Google Suite, YouTube, Microsoft OneDrive
Topic: Student agency, choice & voice
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Language arts, Special education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The Genius Hour Writing Workshop (GHWW) combines two powerful, yet often separate, forms of learning that our students should engage with daily. With the natural differentiation that is engrained in Genius Hour Writing Workshop, GHWW engages students of all levels and backgrounds ESPECIALLY our ELL, IEP, 504 students, and students who are at-risk or already are disengaged from their education due to a lack of equitable and culturally responsive teaching. Students whose voices are stifled by standardized forms of writing and curriculum constraints.

With larger class sizes, managing choice-driven, inquiry writing projects is a daunting task. However, technology, specifically video-based tutorials, makes writing workshop truly individualized and goal-driven. Educators will leave this session with a concrete plan to set up the Genius Hour Writing Workshop in their own classrooms, a bank of writing tutorials that can be used as tutorials and a PLN of like-minded educators who want to remain connected throughout the process. Participants will receive a framework which sets up the GHWW for success, digital planning tools for both educators and students, a research-based rationale supporting GWHH in the classroom, access to a presenter-created bank of writing tutorials, and specific instructional activities that should be implemented before, during and after the Genius Hour Writing Workshop.

Lastly, we will share our own experiences with the GHWW, student examples at the various stages of the GHWW, and our own personal reflection journals that were completed during the project.


1. Establish Schema of Audience - 10 minutes - Padlet Responses that are real-time and can be addressed throughout the session focusing on Genius Hour and Writing Workshop

2. Discuss the rationale behind the Genius Hour Writing Workshop - 10 minutes - lecture

3. Setting Up Genius Hour Writing Workshop - 15 minutes - Interactive Lecture around GHWW framework including handouts for brainstorming, planning and conferring with students - participants will be completing their own examples as we go through for guided practice

4. How to Individualize Instruction and Progress Monitor Easily with Technology - 15 minutes - Interactive Lecture with participants working through conferring and creating writing tutorials

5. Final Products of the GHWW - 5 minutes - Lecture sharing out different projects our students completed

6. Closure - 5 minutes - Participants can ask questions, plan for their GHWW, connect with other participants

Supporting research

- 180 Days: Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher
- Quickwrites Handbook: Linda Rief
- Feedback that Moves Writers Forward: Patty McGee
- Project-Based Writing: Liz Prather
- The Genius Hour Guidebook: Denise Krebs
- Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry: Andi McNair
- Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom (Eye on Education): A.J. Juliani
- Disrupting Thinking: Kylene Beers, Bob Probst
- Passionate Readers: Pernille Ripp

- National Council of Teachers of English
- International Literacy Association

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Megan McCormick, Arlington Public Schools, Gunston M.S.

Megan McCormick is an empathetic, kind, open-minded educator who has taught reading in Northern Virginia and middle school English and Intervention services in Western New York for eight collective incredibly informative, thought-provoking, and ever-evolving years. Her passions include obsessive reflection on how effective her instruction is in guiding students toward becoming lifelong readers and writers. She empowers her students to persevere, communicate boldly yet responsibly, and advocate not only for themselves but for those whose voices are underrepresented.

Janeen Pizzo, SUNY Brockport
ISTE Certified Educator

Janeen Pizzo is an exuberant, highly energetic, and engaging educator who taught English and literacy at the secondary level for 14 pragmatic, purposeful, and challenging years. She now works with pre-service teachers at the SUNY College at Brockport in Brockport, New York. Her passions are deeply rooted in current, research-based, literacy education, and helping students realize their capabilities and exceeding their own expectations. She believes all educators have the power and moral obligation to help students better their future lives through progressive, differentiated, and research-based instruction.