There are often times in school schedules when there is a planned period of non-academic studies. For example, middle schools and high schools sometimes allow students to have an activity, advisory, flex, or study period. However, there may be questions about how to use this time productively, while giving students the opportunity to make choices. Below are some ideas for student choice activities, we hope you find them helpful!


One thing that a student could do during this time is to set up a tutor from a classmate or teacher. Tutoring can be a productive and necessary activity that can occur during school hours as long as it does not affect any student’s academic schedule.

It may be challenging for a student to admit that they need tutoring. It also can be difficult to set up a time that works for both a knowledgeable and helpful tutor and the student. Only some tutors are the best fit for a student, and sometimes it can be very challenging to set up a helpful tutor at the right time.

Having a tutoring session with a known peer or teacher who has been helpful in the past can be beneficial for the student searching for help through tutoring. In addition, finding a peer or teacher with a free period and the knowledge of the subject at the same time during school hours can be easier to find than setting up a tutor outside of school. A daily flex period can be especially helpful for this reason.


If a student does not need tutoring, they could use a free period to catch up on homework or to study. This free period can be used productively by completing upcoming tasks so that students do not need to use their free time outside school to complete homework.

Doing homework during school also allows student to communicate with the teacher that they are doing the homework for. If a student finds themself struggling with homework while at school during a flex period, they can see that teacher when they get a chance and discuss the challenges they are having with the homework.

Having a flex period at school allows the student to stay set in the mindset to do academic activities. In addition, this time would be an excellent opportunity for the student to study. It allows them time to look over what they might need to know until they understand the material better.


This can also be a time when students begin studying for something such as a midterm or final, that usually students would only study for once it is close to the time for either event. However, having this free time would allow them to study each section as they work on it, in order to master the material. Doing this allows them time to understand the material as they learn it rather than cramming in information for a big test and suddenly realizing that they either need to remember an entire section of material or need help understanding how to complete the material.

Having a flex period allows the student to have time to learn the material and not need to feel stressed out. It can also give them a sense of control over their time when they have chosen to spend it in this way.

Genius Hour

Genius hour is question-based student learning. Students can look at the whole world and explore interests in a supportive but not strict manner. Genius hour is a time when students are in control. Students choose what they want to study, how they want to study, and what they want to create.

Genius hour allows students to research, ask questions, create and learn. There usually is little time during academics to have a loosely structured learning period; however, with a free period and enough willing students, you could create a genius hour during that free time. Genius hours would be beneficial during a free period because everyone involved would already be at school with time off from academics so that they could express and learn real-world opportunities.

Benefits of Genius Hour

Genius hour creates a path for internal motivation within the student based on their creativity and curiosity. Students develop questions and dive into topics that they are genuinely interested in. Genius hour creates an environment for students to want to be curious and continue learning throughout life.

Students build confidence by accomplishing something they are passionate about, and build social skills if they work together voluntarily. Students who start to work separately may find other students with similar interests who can help them with their work. Collaboration allows students to consult with each other and genuinely build something unique.

My Experience with Genius Hour

My students had a great experience with genius hour. I allowed them free time and to pick subjects that are not utilized during academic subjects. One project that a student worked on was creating a website. The student collaborated with a few other students and they created their own website from scratch!

Parents were thrilled with their children’s progress, interest, and ability to create something non-academic during school hours.

What Should Teachers Do?

The teacher’s role during a genius hour is to create an environment that allows freedom and has ground rules. In addition, teachers provide support in coaching, mentoring, talking with them about their projects, and helping them reflect and learn as they go through their self-directed process. Problem-solving and keeping students focused are also crucial for teachers during a flex period when they are providing a genius hour.

Set-up for a Genius Hour

  • The first thing to do during a genius hour is to pick a topic. Create ideas and narrow down options for what students should work on. Then, help guide them towards a subject that they can work well with and are interested in for themselves.
  • Another helpful task is creating a question to guide research for their project. What, why, and how things will or will not work are essential for researching an individual project.
  • Researching the topic and finding information will help the students with their projects. Reading books, articles, and websites and finding someone experienced and knowledgeable about the subject are a few ways to research a project. Writing in a journal to stay organized about their research can be helpful also for motivation and remembering details.
  • Creating an original project is the primary purpose of a genius hour, and students should therefore release their work to the public so that others can learn from their process. Teachers can recommend a way to present their information; however, students should ultimately decide how they want to express their work.
  • Lastly, it is important to reflect at the end of the project. Once the student(s) present their work, there should be a discussion. Reflection can involve how things went with the project or presentation, what went wrong and what went well. Questions such as what did you learn or would you have done anything differently are opportunities for advanced projects of the same idea for future genius hours.

(2018. Mulvahill, Elizabeth)

Making the Most of Student Choice Activities

There are so many different activities for students/teachers to be productive during their free time at school. Students can engage in high-impact tutoring opportunities, hone creative interests and skills, pursue what interests them, and learn how to make choices that impact their learning and life for good.