Monday, November 25, 2013

My favorite things to assign students (that they enjoyed too)

I've been working on a book for a few months now. While finishing a chapter tonight, I was thinking of some things I have assigned over the years that students really enjoyed and that I also had fun making up, talking about or grading.

In no particular order, here's my list:

  • Self-reflection journals - I love to have students think about what they have learned or can learn from their own lives. Sometimes we delve into memories and sometimes we plan the future. The idea is to make school more purposeful by tying the content from the lesson to their lives. I believe all truly important learning has to start with a sense of purpose.
  • Reading interviews with artists - I like to have them look up the person behind their favorite entertainment and read an interview with the person. I am inspired by how my favorite artists think and I want the students to see that they do in fact think.
  • Similarly, quote assignments - Students love to find quotes they can relate to. I have them add the quote to pictures or incorporate them in their presentations in some way. You can also have students try to write their own "quote worthy" statements. We did one with six-word memoirs.
  • Writing scripts for videos - I don't recall anyone ever asking me what they were getting for a grade when they were writing a script or otherwise planning a video. It is an engaging activity.  When assigned properly, it simply cannot be done well without deeply thinking about the subject matter. Here are my recent video assignments for high school students.
  • Writing songs - These assignments can be difficult for students, but they are rewarding for all involved when the work is completed. Be sure to check those final submissions for plagiarism! See this page for my work in this area.
  • Puzzles - It is getting harder and harder to make a good assignment out of these if the internet is within reach. If you make your own it's still possible to get students thinking about a good challenge, though. My favorite creations involved:
    • A long list of directions that took them throughout pages in their math books.  Each step had them look up something that was used in the next step. 
    • A triple puzzle I created that had scrambled words (usually content area words, but some teacher names or other school related things thrown in) that were also hidden in a word search. The third part of the puzzle was usually a quote or advice that was formed by entering circled letters from the scrambled word part.  I made these with
    • Visual puns like these.
  • What advice would you give...? - I ask students to make comics or other creative works that could provide success tips to younger students. This makes it meaningful for them. I used to also give high school seniors a much loved assignment where they had to write letters filled with advice addressed to their past selves when they were freshmen. It is a good activity for teachers too!

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