In the past, I’ve always chosen a series of ice breakers (even though it’s way outside of my comfort zone) and a History of Me project. I felt like the safest topic for a student was writing about one’s own life. I believed that this was a great chance to affirm a student’s identity and build a class community.
This year, however, I gave the students other options. Instead of creating a History of Me presentation, I told them they could geek out about something that they’re interested in. I called it the Geek Out Project. It was a horrible title, but it worked.
I started with these questions:
- What do you really care about? Why?
- What is something that you’re passionate about?
- What is something you know inside and out?
- What are some things you believe deeply in? What are some convictions you have about life?
I explained that geekiness is a passion, interest, enjoyment and often convictions about a particular topic. I then gave them stems they could use:
- Seven Reasons Why __________
- Seven Ways to _________
- Seven Things to Know About ___________
- Seven Best _____________
- The Seven (Adjective) _________ in ____________
They were all over the place. A girl chose Korean pop music while the girl next to her delved into issues of immigration. A boy across the room chose Minecraft while the kid next to him gave seven amazing reasons why zombies would make great pets. A few kids wrote about their lives, their families or their cultures.
We ended up getting into digital citizenship and digital ethics. We started our blogs and added multimedia elements. We got into visual design and the do’s and don’ts of slideshows (yes, I have them create Keynotes even if that’s considered uncool these days). They learned about copyright and Creative Commons and developed a set of digital ethics in the process.
We’ll eventually do the Create a Product project and the Global Issues unit. Hopefully, they’ll collaborate with students in other countries. But for now, we’re building a community in our own classroom.
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