29 Practical Ways to Empower Learners in Your Classroom

By AJ Juliani, One comment

“Yea, but what does it look like?”

This is the question I hear and see most frequently online and at conferences when someone mentions the phrase empower students. 

As someone who just released a book with the title, Empower, I have gone in-depth talking about the differences between compliance (forcing kids to pay attention to our content), engagement (getting kids excited about our content), and empowerment (kids excited to learn on their own).

Bill Ferriter sums up the difference perfectly in this blog post with a visual:

Empower vs Engage by Bill Ferriter

To break it down ever further, I created this chart to show some of the differences between engagement and empowerment.

Engaged Environments Empowered Environments
Attentive and committed to our curriculum Attentive and committed to interests
“preparing for jobs” “preparing themselves for anything”
Teachers working to “making it interesting” Teachers working on “tapping into their interests”
You must learn _____ What do you want to learn?
Giving choice Inspired possibilities
Following the beaten path Making your own path
Taking an assessment Assessing your own learning
Consuming Creating
Differentiated instruction Personalized learning

Yet, most of us can understand the distinction when we see it. When we are part of one of these environments and experience the energy in a class full of students who are learning because they want to, not because they have to (we feel it).

Still, I haven’t answered the question, “Yea, but what does it look like?”

In our book, Empower, we share examples and stories throughout. But, I wanted to create a post that had a lot of examples for every grade level. The goal is to show how students can be empowered, while also hitting critical standards and skills that we are looking for in our schools.

It’s a long post (9000+ words), with a lot of detail, but I hope you get a few practical ways to empower learners in your classroom out of it!

29 Ways to Empower Your Learners

Each of the following lesson/activity/project ideas was shared by our community of over 50,000 teachers who subscribe to our weekly articles. If you are interested, subscribe here and get the Innovative Teaching Toolbox when you join!

I’m going to break it down by grade level at first, and then focus on some subjects when we get into the secondary level. Most of these folks can be found online via Twitter, but you can also leave a comment below if you’d like more information or specific details.

Table of Contents

K-5: Lessons, Activites, and Projects That Empower

Lynn Cashell – Bethel Springs Elementary School. 4th grade teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name 

Debates

Age Level and/or Subject

4th graders: 9-10 years old

Connected Standards (if applicable)

CC.1.2 Reading Informational Text; CC.1.4 Write information/explanatory text; CC.1.4 Write opinion pieces; CC.1.4 Conduct research; CC.1.5 Speaking and Listening; 3.4 Technology and Engineering Education

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students worked in small groups reading articles about the impact of robots on society. There were 3 different groups each with their own article. Each group was divided in half with some taking the “pro” side and others taking the “con” side of the argument. They used their article to form an opinion, did additional research on their topic, and then presented themselves to their classmates in the form of a debate. The rules of debate and how to present a counterpoint were taught prior to the event. We also discussed the need to be well-versed on your opponent’s opinion in order to respond. The principal and assistant principal were also invited to be in the audience.

Student Outcomes

The students were amazing! They spent 3 class periods reading and researching, then forming their opinion about their topic. They also had time to practice. As 4th graders tend to be more comfortable in same gender groups, I had their teams be boys vs. girls on each topic. This added to the investment of the whole class since the boys rooted for their side and the girls for theirs. Observing how each group approached the task, who took leadership, who was able to “think on their feet,” among other outcomes was fascinating. I was honestly surprised by one of my quieter girls who not only took leadership, but stood her ground so firmly, the boys backed down, even though they had the stronger argument!

How Are Students Assessed?

Students were given guidelines prior to the debate that included a self-reflection section for after the debate. The class, who comprised the audience, also offered feedback to each debate team and each team also self-evaluated the outcome. The groups were given a Post-Debate feedback form that listed their debate points, overall strengths, and individual contributions. The class’ feedback and team’s self-evaluation were included in the overall standards-based grade.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

I used articles from Newsela since the students were familiar with this resource.
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Chris Loeffler – Wilmington Friends School – Administrator (Former 3rd grade teacher)

Lesson/Project/Activity Name 

Makoce (Lakota word for “land”)

Age Level and/or Subject

3rd Grade Social Studies (Could easily be adapted to other subjects/units)

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

This game is inspired by The World Peace Game by John Hunter. It adapted a unit on Native Americans that was mainly research. The game starts with students in tribes with the goal of survival. To survive, students must complete mini research projects, which earn them skills, such as hunting, moving, saving food and water. There is a large game board that tribes can move around in order to find and hunt buffalo. There are chance rounds, in which students pick a card that can be positive or negative for their group, and they need certain skills to survive challenges or receive rewards (i.e. They must know how to save water if you happen upon a stream, or they must have learned about medicine at that time to save a family from illness.) Tribes can also help each other or attack with horse raids or war. During the game, tribes can lose people (although not the actual students in the group) and gain them in something called a Generation Round – they must teach their learned skills to others.

There are two elements of the game that I love. One is that the rules are minimal, and inherently students need to add their own. For example, the class might decide if they can team up for horse raids. They might decide if a smaller tribe who has lost members can join another tribe. Second is that there is no winning. At the end of the game, we ask the class as a whole if their tribe was successful and why (or why not)? They often realize that the success of one group does not come at the cost of another.

While this wouldn’t work for every classroom because of the specific content, the idea of designing a game that incorporates the most important skills you are already teaching is possible for many subjects/units/lessons. It took me a while to design this game, but starting simple and focusing on the key elements (for me, it was understanding the life of these tribes and improving our research skills) the unit requires. What game structure can I provide that encourages students to accomplish these goals? This game also provides the sense of competition without making it directly competitive with other students.

Student Outcomes

The students improve research skills, learn how to work in a group to accomplish goals, gain a better understanding of native tribes in North America, learn different forms of presenting information (they have to show their learning in different ways – written, verbal, artistic).

How Are Students Assessed?

Assessments are informal, but demonstrate skills in research, reading, writing, oral presentation, understanding of new information, and their ability to make connections (students also read and write native stories in other parts of the day).

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

The google folder of rules and other game materials (https://goo.gl/VL2MYK) A video from the first year we played the game (https://vimeo.com/67857319) The world peace game website, which is an even more empowering activity.(http://worldpeacegame.org/)
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Laura Deutsch – Wasco Elementary School, St. Charles IL, 3rd Grade Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Inquiry/Research Social Science

Age Level and/or Subject

3rd Grade Social Science; Geography

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Multiple ELA Standards as well as Inquiry Skills: SS.IS.1.3-5. Develop essential questions and explain the importance of the questions to self and others. SS.IS.2.3-5. Create supporting questions to help answer essential questions in an inquiry. SS.IS.3.3-5. Determine sources representing multiple points of view that will assist in answering essential questions. Geographic Representations: Spatial Views of the World SS.G.1.3: Locate major landforms and bodies of water on a map or other representation. SS.G.2.3. Compare how people modify and adapt to the environment and culture in our community to other places. SS.G.3.3. Show how the consumption of products connects people to distant places.

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Through the lens of inquiry, we will use this essential question: How does the study of geography help us understand how people around the world live their daily lives?

Student Outcomes

Students will learn how to research and synthesize information to communicate what they have learned with a chosen audience.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students will share what they have learned with a chosen audience. They will also answer the essential question and write a self-reflection on themselves as a 3rd grade learner.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Here is everything in one place: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OlvtGHpe9_gjM0SJkTHOegMxAPlFKLb8lgH5aHnY6WE/edit?usp=sharing
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Karen Kraeger – Cobb Schools-GA, Gifted Specialist

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Movie Making-Documentary

Age Level and/or Subject

Gifted Resource-Gr 3-5

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Informational Reading & Writing, Listening, Speaking, Use of technology, research

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students were given choice to brainstorm movie topics. We voted on top 6 ideas. Students formed groups based on interest. Mini lessons on documentary film making, the movie making process (ideas, storyboarding, location scouting, question writing, filming-camera angles, lighting, sound, and post-production editing). Students chose roles and began work. Over the next several weeks, they completed filming and editing to prepare for our Premiere Party, including parents, administrators, and some other students.

Student Outcomes

A small-group created original short film about a student-chosen topic

How Are Students Assessed?

Using co-created rubrics for collaboration, good use of time, and completion of a finished project on time. Peer review between groups provided formative feedback, as well as teacher conferencing (small group and individual as needed).

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

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Elizabeth Chapman – Elementary; 4th grade Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Students have power to interrupt class using Give Me 5

Age Level and/or Subject

K-12

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

From Paul Solarz’s Learn Like a Pirate, students are given the privilege to interrupt learning with a Give Me 5 (traditionally and solely used by the teacher)

Student Outcomes

Through the use of this tool, students are given multiple opportunities throughout the school year to practice leadership skills and/or to show ownership of their learning and their classroom community.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students aren’t officially assessed but are guided on how to use this power respectfully throughout the school year.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

https://egchapman.com/give-me-5s-love-em-love-em-not/; Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz
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Scott Woller – Medford Elementary School – Grade 3

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

WollerVille Inspirational Choir Unit

Age Level and/or Subject

Grades 3 and 4 by choice

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

The WICU is an opportunity students have to join this choir that this year had 97 members. They create a story about a child who is struggling with something at school say bullies, not fitting in, not believing in themselves ect. Then they choose songs or write songs to fit the storyline, create dance and choreography, make props, create promotional material, and form a band and meet the family that inspired the choir because of their son who recently died.

Student Outcomes

Learning to inspire, do the right thing, make a difference, learn empathy, understand that this is something bigger than themselves, teamwork, dedication, timelines, and commitment.

How Are Students Assessed?

By the way the show is created and unfolds

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Check out WollerVille on YouTube and find the WICU
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Ashley Austin – Dry Creek Elementary School: 5th Grade Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Be the Teacher

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Speaking and Listening

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity
As review for an upcoming assessment, student work with their groups to correctly answer problems. When they are ready, they take turns teaching the class through the process of answering the problems. I usually use a study guide format. 1. Assign groups a problem set. (1 problem for each student in the group) 2. Each group member needs to complete the set individually. (5-10 minutes) 3. Groups collaborate to make sure that their answers are correct and fix them if they are not. (5-10 minutes) 4. Groups decide which team member is doing what. (Speaker, Writer, Response Team) for each problem. Everyone does the Speaker and Writer jobs one time. (2-5 minutes *limit this time to minimize bickering) 5. Each team presents their information to the class using the document camera and answers questions when needed. 6. Students who are not presenting are responsible for following along with the presenter on their own papers. 7. When everyone has presented, take any last questions and clear up any confusion that students may have. 8. Assess students as soon as your schedule allows.

Student Outcomes
Students will own their learning. Students will be excited and feel ready to take their assessment. Students will collaborate with their peers.

How Are Students Assessed?

Groups are scored using a check/plus/minus system. To earn the plus, they must collaborate effectively with their group, answer the problem correctly, present their information in an effective and concise manner, and effectively answer any questions that their peers ask.
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Darcy Dufresne – Munich International School, Grade 1 PYP Teacher, Inquiry Coordinator

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Create to Connect

Age Level and/or Subject

Grades 1 – 4

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Maths, Language, PYP, PSE, IT, Science, Art…endless!

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Be the guide on the ride, through inquiry, the design process and visible thinking routines, to plan, create and execute a real-live PURPOSE for inviting an audience that enables role play: An Eco-Shop of goods created or designed by students (reuseable bags/drink bottles, alternatives to plastic, DIY edible utensils…), A Wellness Day (massage/manicure/pedicure/hairstyling…), a Did You Know? Fair about local and global issues (trash on the playground/effects of plastic in oceans), a Restaurant Pop Up, a game arcade—- learners decide on who would be the ‘audience’ and take the time to plan, process, iterate, document reflect on the journey, providing and giving feedback to each other and from the ‘audience’. Each learner shines in self-discovery – designing signs, using language to welcome and connect to others, pride in ownership, taking action, enabling positive habits of mind and social responsibilities…

Student Outcomes 

Transdisciplinary connections, key skills, agency, community connections, lifelong learning, iteration, empowerment, confidence building, self-discovery, appreciation of each others’ skills and qualities…

How Are Students Assessed?

Learners decide – What do we need to think about when planning this? How do we know we are on track? What if we encounter speedbumps? How will we overcome them? Who or where can we go to for expert advice? How do we know we (each of us) are successful in our processes? …

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Just try it out and be fearless. Actively make links between the curriculum to that of fitting the learners, not the other way around. It IS possible, if we look for opportunities. 🙂 PS – Be prepared to get messages 15- 20 years later from your students and their parents of how memorable and useful these experiences were in ways you might not think imaginable!
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Kris McArtor, Stephanie Graham – Liberty, MO; 4th grade teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Recess ROCKS!

Age Level and/or Subject

4th grade; Math

Connected Standards (if applicable)

4.MD.3 – Apply area and perimeter formulas for rectangles to real-world problems

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students worked as designers/organizers, creating a solution for the storage of equipment on the playground for recess. It had to be secure, but able to be accessed by all grade levels; sturdy enough to last a few years; and out of the way enough not to create issues at recess. Students drew 2D models on grid paper to scale, then were able to build 3D models to show to the public, which included any interior storage ideas. We had the head of our grounds department give a talk about requirements, then help evaluate which projects would be viable. We also had those projects at a PTA meeting for the officers to view and mull over during the summer in hopes of constructing something for this school year.

Student Outcomes

Learning and applying the formulas for the area of squares and rectangles, as well as scale drawing, measurement conversions, presentation skills to multiple audiences, evaluation of playground usage, and suitable materials for model construction.

How Are Students Assessed?

  1. Exit tickets with squares and rectangles to evaluate use of formulas
    2. Evaluation of 2D scale drawing based on student measurements
    3. Reflection pieces for each day’s work once 3D models were started
    4. Evaluation of 3D scale model based on student measurements
    5. Evaluation of writing for “professional” PTA presentation (not done this year)

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Project planning document, rough schedule: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gPOMNlNGyvc_KY05xcfh8u35_aCD_4skEozrMZS_bPA/edit?usp=sharing
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Emily Owen – Kaneland Blackberry Creek, 4/5 STEM

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Hack the Classroom

Age Level and/or Subject

4/5 homeroom

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Through hacking the classroom, I allow students to decide where furniture goes and how it’s positioned. It’s a benign method to get students used to making their own decisions and reflecting on them. First they create ideal floor plans, then work in small groups to redesign them. Finally, we have an open discussion where they decide which floor plan they want to use, or create a new one based off others’ ideas. Students need to think through their rationales for moving furniture: How will its relocation lead to a better class flow? How will it improve focus? How will affect the overall feel of the room? After much discussion and debate, the classroom is changed.

Student Outcomes

Students see their classroom as truly theirs and not mine. They begin to have opinions that stem outside of classroom design. They feel empowered to make decisions. They feel more at home in the classroom because they were the ones to create it. They begin to see themselves as empowered learners.

How Are Students Assessed

I see this as a platform of encouraging student leadership and empowering kids. Later, through other activities, they’ll be assessed, but I don’t assess kids with this project.
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Robin Schuhmacher -Rolling Hills Elementary School; 2nd grade teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name 

My 2017 not Yet Mindset & One Word Challenge

Age Level and/or Subject

2nd, Literacy

Connected Standards (if applicable

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.3, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.4

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

My whole 2016-17 year was about ‘knowing my learners’ and building relationships; thus, we were able to build and cultivate a relationship together around learning where students explored through inquiry, and took on new challenges, solved problems together. Most importantly, they were creating and doing work that was meaningful to themselves in the classroom. This small project had a BIG outcome on my students. First, students watched this video: https://goo.gl/TJ3Cjx. Then we worked collaboratively through a sticky-note anchor of ideas for our ‘One Word.’ Here were some items we worked through together: https://goo.gl/55CjsQ. After selecting our one word, we illustrated them: https://goo.gl/XEz5B8 and shared it via small groups, whole group, and in our digital portfolios in Seesaw. Here’s an image of our words we kept up from Jan.-May, so we could focus and reflect through our daily adventures: https://goo.gl/XEz5B8. Students reflected on their ‘one word’ through their digital portfolios, their parents commented back and forth with them via their digital portfolio work, and we reflected as a class, group, and 1-on-1. While the ‘activity’ to many teachers was ‘not content related,’ it was EXTREMELY powerful. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brené Brown

Student Outcomes

Determine the kind of person you want to be. Identify the characteristics of that person. Pick one word. Reflect on that word in your daily walk through our classroom.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students were measured through their reflection, connections, and work in their digital portfolios. Most importantly, the most impacting measures were not measured by a grade or star; they were measured by a class full of meaningful relationships and relevant learning.
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6-8: Lessons, Activites, and Projects That Empower

Diann Espinoza – Dual Language (Span/Eng) 7th & 8th Grade ScienceSouth Meadows Middle School in Hillsboro School District, Oregon

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Question Focus Technique

Age Level and/or Subject

Can be used for all ages and subjects

Connected Standards (if applicable)

NGSS Practice #1. 1. Asking questions and defining problems. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY. CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Small groups of students are presented with a whole class presentation of a short, looping video clip with or without sound (depending on whether there is an explanation, no not allow sound if something is explained in the video), a teacher demos, a statement, an intriguing picture or a quote. They are given a large piece of flipchart paper, one marker and a set of rules for formulating as many questions as possible about what they are seeing. The teacher circulates and encourages as many questions as are possible, without judging or answering any of their questions. Once all of the questions are made, students are then asked to mark all of the open questions with an O and the closed questions with a C (they are taught what this means in an initial lesson). They then are asked to choose the three most pressing questions they have about what they have seen. The teacher then collects the small piece of paper they have written their three questions on and later takes the time to read through them and compile them into 8 -10 main questions that are then posted on a poster in the classroom that will guide the whole unit.

Student Outcomes

When the “just right” question focus is presented to students before a unit, their interest is piqued and they are more in charge of what they are curious about with the new topic. It causes them to have more interest in what is coming up because they were the ones who decided what questions they want answered as they go through the activities. I have also allowed groups to take some of the class’s questions and do a research project and presentation about what they found out.

How Are Students Assessed?

As individuals, this is not really a formal assessment, rather informal, or formative, as the question forming process is happening. When the questions are used as research starters, then the results of that process can be assessed too.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

http://rightquestion.org/
http://rightquestion.org/make-just-one-change/
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Rachel Zonshine – McKinley School of the Arts; 7th-grade math/science

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Build a City

Age Level and/or Subject

7th-grade math

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Geometry

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students design their own city by developing a scale drawing and then building a 3D scale model based on certain geometrical parameters.

Student Outcomes

Students will develop skills in scale factor, scale drawing and scale models. Students will deepen their understanding of area, perimeter, surface area, and volume while developing real life application.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students are assessed on their transference of scale drawing to scale factor. They are also assessed on meeting the parameters of the project. I also look at design process, collaboration, reflection, and revisions.
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Amy Brownlee – Middle school mathematics teacher, Memphis TN

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

BreakoutEDU

Age Level and/or Subject

All age levels/all subject areas

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Depending on the game–any/all

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Building an escape room-style game for a specific concept

Student Outcomes

Students dive deep into the content, finding ways to use the content as clues/puzzles for other students to figure out. The students must understand the content in order to apply it to building a game. Their collaboration and communication skills are put to the test as they work together to build a game. Students beg to play the games and build clues for fun, even after the assignment has ended. I have found that they investigate the content more deeply in order to make the puzzles more challenging. Their peers test the created clues and provide feedback. This can be a long-term project with many iterations. As the students learn more, they want to add more information to the clues. It’s an exciting experience for everyone involved.

How Are Students Assessed?

Self assessment, peer assessment, collaboration and communication rubric

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

BreakoutEDU.com
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Ben – International School, Thailand. Teacher/Administrator

Lesson/Project/Activity Name
Introspective Journey

Age Level and/or Subject

Grade 8 Character Education

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

The premise for the assignment was that students work individually to reflect on a long term project they had been doing in social studies. The project required them to make a number of independent decisions each week both in terms of how they work and the content/skill that they would be focusing on. Working with the SS teacher, we developed this smaller reflective project for the students to essentially look at their decision making process, and to look at it through the lens of character values – these values are the 10 values connected to the school. Students chose between 3-5 of the values, then analysed the different decisions that they had made and reflected upon what these decision showed them about themselves. They were guided by these questions: Which of the values connects to the work and decisions you have had to make? What are areas of your own character that you feel could be developed? How would you go about doing that? If you have certain values or traits, where might you be able to go, what might you be able to do? As students worked, reflected and discussed with peers, it was phenomenal to hear how they were able to talk about their levels of procrastination, perfectionism, motivation in connections with the values such as, self-discipline, honesty, respect etc. Initially, students were not sure as to the “why”- but as they neared completion, and became more aware of their journey, they owned it and produced such things as a gazzette article, letters to their 8th grade self (after achieving success in the future)

Student Outcomes

students will be able to identify what specific character values affect their decision making processes in long term project work students will identify the connection between their character values and their learning style as a tool for self-improvement.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students present their ideas in a format of their choosing that reflects who they are as a learner. Peers also reflect on each other’s presentations and musings in order to enable both internal and external critique and understanding.
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Heather R. Green – STEM teacher for 7th and 8th graders in Philadelphia (I just left a hybrid teacher leader role at a Title 1 middle school in Texas).

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Move Mr./Mrs. ___________ (insert principal’s last name)

Age Level and/or Subject

Grades 6- 12; any STEM subject

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students are invited to take part in a challenge that incorporates science, math, physics, creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and space concepts. The challenge entails students broken up into small teams where they create from the ground-up, with minimal teacher framework, an object that will move the principal. The objective is for the student team to create an object that enables the principal to sit on/ride on/stand on as the object moves him or her a specified length of distance using only gravity, electricity, and/or some other form of energy. The object can be steered by the principal, but the principal cannot be required to input his or her own energy into the movement to meet the challenge.

Student Outcomes

Successful completion of the challenge is evidenced at a designated reveal event where the principal sees the objects for the first time to participate as the challenge subject. Students present their object to the principal and the challenge commences! The public is invited to the reveal event as are students from across campus.

How Are Students Assessed?

The teacher should establish a rubric in advance of the challenge assignment which includes the teacher’s non-negotiable features (i.e., “students can incorporate a man-made item into their object, but the man-made item cannot comprise the entire object”). Students should ideally be assessed with a combination of feedback from teacher(s), students, and community members in attendance. The teacher can make the compilation of numerical feedback a simple task by employing a Google Form tied to a formatted Google Sheet.
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Hope Tuel – Teacher McAnally Intermediate Aledo Tx

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

This I Believe

Age Level and/or Subject

6th grade ELA

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

I found this lesson online. It is called “This I Believe” and it is a great essay writing unit. The lesson plan guides you and the students through the process of writing a This I Believe statement. For example, I believe in courage or empathy, or caring. Students pick what belief they want to write about and then tell how and why that is important to them.

Student Outcomes

This is one of my favorite units all year. I love seeing all the ideas and essays students come up with and it helps me get to know them even more and they get to know each other. Really gives me a look inside to what is important to them. I try to share the completed essays with their parents and you can submit them for publication to the website. This is a great essay to pair with a novel such as Wonder or The Cay.

How Are Students Assessed?

Through mini writer workshops such as pre-planning, revision, and their final essay.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Thisibelieve.org and then click the educators tab.
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Matt Miller – Cascade Middle School, 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Renaissance I, E, I (Inquiry, Exploration, and Innovation)

Age Level and/or Subject

6th Social Studies

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Indiana 6th SS Standard 6.1.8 + many ELA standards

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Student self-selected topic over the Renaissance. Starts with “Google-able” questions, then research on those questions, then moves into a deeper “Ungoogle-able” question that students create and innovate however they want to answer that question.

Student Outcomes

Up to the student to determine what they will create.

How Are Students Assessed?

Blogs/Reflections, and a target rubric from http://mikegwaltney.net/

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Here is the assignment description sheet that is distributed to students. https://docs.google.com/document/u/2/d/1OOvXm4qDw7FyF9JCxqI2X32Md5sYScWVlYjZGGUFrJw/copy
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9-12: Lessons, Activites, and Projects That Empower

Lynn Burleigh – Axtell HS Business/Technology/Journalism teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Student Weebly e-Portfolios

Age Level and/or Subject

9-12 Information Technology

Connected Standards (if applicable)

IT TEKS 130.272 http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter130/ch130k.html

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students create an e-Portfolio of the artifacts they create in class throughout the year. They follow a rubric, but create their own website design and choose their own artifacts with reflections of what they learned by creating the artifacts. Their e-Portfolio is worth 50% of their final grade.

Student Outcomes

Students feel pride and accomplishment when they put their e-Portfolio story together for their year. Every e-Portfolio is different, some include awards and certifications, artifacts from other classes, and even continue to grow year after year.

How Are Students Assessed?

A rubric is provided with specific criteria to follow.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Student links as samples: http://burlebytes.weebly.com/2016-2017-student-e-portfolios.html Rubric http://burlebytes.weebly.com/semester-2-final-review.html
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Barbara Anna Zielonka – Nannestad High School/Norway

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Be the Change,Take the Challenge

Age Level and/or Subject

15-18

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

1.Students get to know project partners (Skype sessions/ Padlet).
2.Students create maps addressing problems of their own choice in their own countries/ communities.
3.Students choose problems that need to be solved now.
4.Students work in international teams and create their own blogs using WordPress or other blog sites.
5.Students choose one real problem that is of significant interest.
6.Students find experts online using Twitter/Facebook.
7.Students interview their experts.
8.Students create presentations or posters using Google Slides or other software and post them on their blogs.
9.All the presentations are collected and an e-book is going to be published online.
10.Students assess their own products and three products submitted by other peers.

Student Outcomes

1.Students will be able to collect and organize appropriate data.
2.Students will be able to use technology effectively.
3.Students will be able to evaluate their own presentations.
4.Students will be able to demonstrate a strong knowledge of the SDGs.
5.Students will be able to discuss global challenges.
6.Students will develop and convey clear and logical arguments with respect to global issues.
7.Students will be able to generate professional‐looking presentations using Google Slides that include animations, graphs, tables and other graphical elements.
8.Students will be able to write clearly laid‐out, well‐structured and formatted texts that demonstrate an ability to correctly cite material referenced within the student’s own work.

How Are Students Assessed?

Peer assessment/Self-assessment

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

https://bethechangetakethechallenge.wordpress.com/
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Patricia Bergström – Arenas Sur International School, Gran Canaria. English literature teacher, mediator, ToK teacher and CAS coordinator (IB Diploma)

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

My own Multiple Intelligence project

Age Level and/or Subject

Secondary – English Readers or English Literature

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Introduce the book through the eight intelligences: Musical, Linguistic, Logico-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Kinaesthetic, Natural, Inter- and Intrapersonal intelligences. Preparation: music connected to book, coloured card, coloured felt tips, 360 cities selecting th city or landscape that would be representative of the one appearing in the book Intro and warm-up: select music connected to the book (i.e. If Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the soundtrack from the film could be used).

Ask students to close their eyes and listen to the music. Tell them that they should just let the music take them on a journey. Play the music in a way that envolves all students. When it finishes, ask students to open their eyes and with a colored felt-tip pen they should write between 3-5 words or sentences or draw a picture that represents what they experienced on the coloured card. They then tell the person to their left (or right) what they felt or saw. Ask whether anyone felt that the music had narrated a story. If this is the case, ask them to share the story with the person next to them or alternatively with the class.

On the board, I have written some words connected to the plot, setting, and characters they are about to start reading. We elicit what they think the connection between these words and the book is. We then play the music again, this time asking students to let the music narrate a story for them, with the words on the board present in their minds. When they open their eyes they write down their story as a piece of creative writing that they share in a learning journal ( my students absolutely LOVE e online journal Seesaw). If the book has a known plot (i.e. Romeo and Juliet ) ask students to pair up or make groups of 3-4 students, if possible with students they don’t usually work with, explaining that this will enhance their work by adding new points of view. In their groups, students then improvise a 2-3 minute role play of a new version of a known scene (i.e. The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet) and comment (positively and constructively)on each other’s versions. If the plot isn’t known, they can role play what they think will happen. If time, the city or landscape that will be the setting in the book can be visually explored through ie 360cities.

All these activities are quite short so they should be able to fit into the first lesson or first two lessons on the book. Students are then given a Multiple Intelligence toolbox with sample activities for each Intelligence. They draw up six circles on a pice of paper and set about creating their own, personalised project on the book by choosing an activity type that appeals to them from six of the eight intelligences ( the inter- and intrapersonal intelligences are worked on in our online journal where students share personal and spontaneous reflections and comments on their reading, as well as comment and like their peers’ comments and work). Once they have chosen their six activities they post a screen shot of their activities in our online journal (if you do not use tablets, iPads or laptops then you can post them on the walls or just have students share them with each other orally) where they should look for peers who have chosen a similar activity to them in any of the categories.

Out of the six activities, the rule is that at least one has to be in a group and at least one has to be done individually, the rest can be done whichever way they wish ( so they could have 1 individual and 5 in a group, 3 individual and 2 in a group etc). They can also use more than one Intelligence in one activity, as long as they activity shows all the intelligences that they are supposed to include (i.e. A mind map connecting events would be logico-Mathematical and if we add pictures and coloured then it could also be visual-spatial and if we add more elaborate explanations then it’s also linguistic…).

Students are then given a certain amount of time to read the book and complete their tasks, uploading them as they go along to the shared online learning journal (or alternatively putting their work up on the walls or on shelves etc). All the activities have to be connected to the book in some way.

Student Outcomes

Many different outcomes as each student has chosen their own activities from the toolbox. Some examples are: drawings, paintings, collages, mind Maps. Articles, rewriting of the ending, puzzles, word games, research, role-plays, vídeos, audios…

How Are Students Assessed?

Using rubrics where both the process and product is evaluated.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

As Seesaw, our online learning journal, allows for parents to gain access to their child’s work, and with a click we can also publish good work to a class blog, the project can be shared by a larger public. Students are fully empowered as they choose their own components of the project and they can also empower other students by asking for their work to be published on the blog and by commenting and liking. (All comments are filtered by the teacher to avoid negative input and rude comments). By using multiple intelligences as the backbone, you ensure that students will be working on the book (or the unit or whatever you decide to apply the personal project to) in many ways, which increases the possibility to work standards and skills, but letting te student be in control of the process and product, as long as it is connected to the book/topic/unit in question. If you like the idea and want more information, feel free to email me on p.bergstrom@arenassur.com
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Jaime Gama – Colegio Grimm / Project coordinator and English teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Legacy Project

Age Level and/or Subject

9th grade English / 12th grade English

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students are tasked with creating a legacy which will represent them, improve the school and remain to be enjoyed by future generations. Last year, one of the 9th grade classes designed a new version of the school uniform since the students kept getting in trouble for not wearing it. The 12th graders designed a mascot for the school and a slogan to be used in events.

Student Outcomes

In both cases, the students started out anxious about not being able to do anything that would have an actual impact on the school culture or future in general. As the work progressed, they encountered many obstacles but realized that nothing was necessarily impossible if they worked together to find a feasible solution. Amazingly, they got the whole student body excited, along with teachers and the authorities in the school (who ended up getting their own sweatshirt with the design the 9th graders created). In the end, the students became closer and felt that they actually could make a change, regardless of the seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

How Are Students Assessed?

The students were assessed with a rubric for the final product and five “project check-in’s” where we discussed their progress and involvement. The rubric was focused on students being able to work in teams, being assertive, ethical and, most of all, creative. Whether their legacy project were adopted by the school had no weight on their grade; however, by the time they were close to the end, it became their own personal challenge to make sure their legacy became part of the school.
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Krista Willertz – Anderson High School, Cincinnati, OH. Science teacher (Freshmen and AP Biology)

Lesson/Project/Activity Name 

“Take us on a trip” project/contest

Age Level and/or Subject

9, Biology

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students choose (in a lottery format – no two groups can “travel” to the same area) an area of the world (particular biome) and choose a specific destination to research. Their goal is to act as travel agents and provide interesting/factual information about their location. We “sneak” content in there about the different climates, how to travel “green” (conservation ecology), etc., but the students are so focused on researching something that interests them, they don’t even mind that they are learning 🙂

These are the most at risk Freshmen in the school (part of the Freshman Cohort program we started recently to target those students in danger of failing multiple classes) and I’m always encouraged by how much ownership they take with this assignment (especially since it’s at the end of the year – after “the test”). They put their own spin on it and I have other adults to come in on presentation day to judge each group. All students dress professionally and are prepared with some sort of multimedia presentation (I work with them on what will work best with their group). They have daily checklists that their group turns in to receive credit for that day’s work (to help them remain focused over the course of the 6-7 day project).

They learn a great deal about using time wisely, delegating work, doing the “hard stuff” first (so they can focus on the “fun stuff” like researching how much it would cost to rent a Lamborghini – there is a group every year who thinks this would be amazing!), budgeting (they create a budget based on 2-3 levels of traveler income), communication and much more. The other teachers who judge (using a rubric the students and I create together) are often surprised by the quality of work they witness coming from a group of students who are seen by many as “unmotivated”, “lazy”, “not smart” or any of the other monikers given students who don’t “play the game of school” well. The judges select a “best presentation” from each class. We make a big deal out of it and display that group’s work in the hallway monitor by the main office (a copy of their multimedia presentation gets played in the loop of digital information played during the day).

Student Outcomes

Students continue to discover that learning can be fun AND educational when it is linked to something they can choose/create.

How Are Students Assessed? 

I score the students using a rubric (they are given the rubric on the second day of the project so they know how they are being assessed). The guest judges also use a similar rubric and write comments for the students.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

I have lots of stuff on this, including student work (some on Google slides, Prezis, etc.) I can share more later if you would like!
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Alan Corbett- Salmon Arm Secondary in BC Canada, Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

InspirED

Age Level and/or Subject

Gr 9/10 Social Studies, English, Science, Math

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

I teach a program called InspirEd. It has run now for 2 years. The motto of the program is “Think Big and Dig Deep!” Through project work, design challenges, individual inquiry and a potpourri of activities students are taught the core skills they need for each subject. (The content of each subject is not emphasized at all.) Students range from topall round student in the school to students with significant learning challenges. In fact, out of 53 students currently in the program, 20 of them have individual learning plans. The hope is to show that this style of learning is not only valid but is good for any student. Our Year End Project was very open ended – it was to create a project that demonstrates your understanding of our motto – Think Big and Dig Deep. Students did a wide variety of projects from communicating the need for acceptance of people who identify with the LGBTQ community to the concept of 3D printing of shark fins and ivory to avoid poaching of those animals, to the plight of the common bumblebee. Students presented their projects at our Year End Gala to parents, teachers, admin and local school board officials. Empowerment can not be boiled down to doing one activity or another in the middle of regular didactic teaching, it needs to be an entire approach in the classroom, it requires a different way of thinking about education entirely.

Student Outcomes

Extremely varied. When the whole point is to empower students, specifying a particular outcome stifles the process. When students are empowered to learn, I know they are learning something. I dont know what they are learning but I know they are learning something that is important to them.

How Are Students Assessed?

No grades, no percents. When students are learning this way, grades and percents make less and less sense all the time. Students are “coached” along the way to get better at what they are doing much in the same way a basketball coach would help an athlete become better at shooting baskets. This may involve how to make their presentation more effective to learning the math required to make better sense of what they are learning. Comments help parents understand what each student is working on but in no way are students compared with each other. Students are assessed on core competencies – critical and creative thinking skills, communication and collaboration skills, and personal and social skills. This, however, is mainly a self-assessment.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Google salmon arm secondary, Jackson campus and look for the tab regarding the InspirEd program.
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Elliott Karetny – Timber Creek High School Science Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Environmental Justice

Age Level and/or Subject

High School 11th graders in Environmental Science

Connected Standards 

Vague connections to NGSS ETS-1

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Using environmental justice to teach environmental science: I infused current events (aka socioscientific issues) into my curriculum, and integrated politics, morals, and ethics into the study of environmental problems.

Student Outcomes
Students created a more democratic setting, in which they encouraged me to offer my opinions, and they encouraged each other to speak up. They made strong connections between courses and felt an urgent potential to participate in petitions, marches, and other forms of civic engagement. It seems the concept of environmental justice itself required a shift in my pedagogy to emulate the rights that we want to see all people enjoy.

How Are Students Assessed?

Written reflections, narratives, and other authentic assignments

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

This was the subject of my dissertation.
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Bridget Dean-Pratt – George Mason HS, Falls Church, VA, 9-12 teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Book Trailer Project and Discussion Board

Age Level and/or Subject

10 Honors English MYP

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Because we are only able to read selected American Lit. texts during this class, this project allows students in small groups to select from various significant fiction and non-fiction American Lit. to read out-of-class. Each individual must write a research paper based on aspects of the text and author and the group must then create a 3-5 minute book trailer film with original music to share with the entire class in an “American Lit. Cinema Day” complete with popcorn. While watching or by reviewing the discussion board thereafter, each individual must provide the others with commentary concerning the film-making process, content ideas, American Lit. themes, and/or relevance to American issues today. Netiquette is a priority, as are discussions involving the above-mentioned areas..

Student Outcomes

Since this project goes in phases and takes almost the entire Spring, students learn quite a few “how to” skills (library data searching skills, research paper, collaboration, technical computer skills, discussion board mode) mostly from one another and they work almost entirely on their own (except technical difficulties) and outside of class. They really enjoy the feedback from one another. Almost all report that this project taught them the most all year. It prioritizes real-world skills like research, independence and cooperation as well as life-long learning.

How Are Students Assessed?

There are multiple stages. Research paper (1), film & collaboration (2) and discussion commentary (3). Scaffolding the skills in the project allows students to observe how the parts (reading & research) inform the next aspect to give the film and discussions more depth and interest.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

If you are interested I can request permission to offer examples. One discussion about Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried evolved into a question about whether fiction can sometimes offer more truth than fact.
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Mark Arrington -Madison County High School, Physical Education/Driver’s Education

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Making Cents of Pedometers

Age Level and/or Subject

10 PE

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

In a nutshell my students do a webquest through google forms to come up with a cost of living analysis based on actual vehicles, apartments, etc. Then they use census data to find out what what the average income is for the city they chose to move to. We convert the income into cents per step they take and they build up money to pay their bills at the end of each month. It is a way for them to understand cost of living as well as encourage them to move more to earn more.

Student Outcomes

Students are using skills that they will need beyond to school to make life decisions. Students will have a way to reflect on different aspects of their activity level.
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Steve Walk – Governor’s School for Science and Technology, Hampton, VA. Teacher, 12th Grade Modern Physics and Engineering

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Engineering: What’s Up With That?

Age Level and/or Subject

High school seniors, Introduction to Engineering

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Dual Enrolled, meets partial standards of Virginia DOE course: EGR 120

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Students discover for each other relevant information needed for their engineering career and college choices.

Student Outcomes

  1. To best provide answers to their colleagues’ career and college questions, students must exercise empathy for their ‘client’, a primary objective of this project.
    2. Students have the advantage of a classroom of ‘consultants’ to help them with their career and college decisions.
    3. Students engage in a real-world and closely personal issue in which to practice professional research, presentation design, and communication skills.
    4. Students are necessarily discouraged from following the all too common, narrow, and seductive approach of ‘going for the grade by impressing the teacher’.

How Are Students Assessed?

Classroom presentation rubric. CAWAT – Continuous assessment by walking around and talking.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

Announced purpose of the project:
• Focus: Team Success – Everyone helps everyone else become better informed about careers, schools, and curricula of his or her interest
• Intended Audience: Classmates
• Objective: Help meet the ‘clients’ needs – Help fill their information gaps – Help them achieve their decision making goals •
Content: Referenced; useable; actionable; quantitative wherever possibleProcedure:
1. Each student writes down and submits to me five top questions they have about a career in engineering.
2. I sort and gather the questions into four categories: The Engineering Profession, Engineering Colleges, College Preparation, and the Engineering Workplace.
3. I give short lists of questions to randomly assigned 2-3 student teams.
4. Teams have two weeks to research, prepare, and present information in answer to their assigned questions. Some dedicated class time is made available. Teams are encouraged to contact question originators to clarify their information needs.
5. Presentations include open-ended time for whole class discussion.
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Lisa Carothers – Waunakee High School, English Teacher

Lesson/Project/Activity Name

Explore

Age Level and/or Subject

9th Grade English

Connected Standards (if applicable)

Common Core Standards: Addresses several standards for grades 9-10 in areas of Reading Informational, Writing, and Language. For more detail, please see this document: https://goo.gl/YGvjnh

Overview of Lesson/Project/Activity

Inspired by the 20% time concept, students select an area of interest to independently explore and blog about.They share their conclusions/learning in a final product of their choice. Please see more about the project here: https://goo.gl/YGvjnh

Student Outcomes

Students develop ownership of their learning, engage in critical thinking, and form a collaborative learning community. All students write at least one effective essay, develop their reading comprehension, and evaluate the validity of informational sources.

How Are Students Assessed?

Students are assessed mostly through informative feedback via teacher conferences and student replies to their blogs. I do provide rubrics for the proposal and blog to guide their efforts, but those “scores” are largely anecdotal. They are recorded in Infinite Campus, but do not mathematically calculate into the grade. The final product student create is the only item that receives a grade in a traditional sense. I have provided a holistic rubric for this as well. The idea here is for students to enjoy the learning process. They are doing lots of other required curriculum throughout the semester, so they have plenty of grades on those items. As a result, I tend to downplay points and grades on the Explore project as much as possible.

Any further information? (Links, related resources etc)

This is an ever-evolving project. I have included a Google folder of files I used last fall. I imagine I will modify things again for this year. Here is the link: https://goo.gl/2bmVkc It’s always a bit awkward to put my name on anything I share because I know my teaching has been influenced my amazing colleagues and other teaching resources from over the years. I’d like to specifically call out the following individuals whose imprint you can see in my Explore project: -Jennifer Doucette. Jen is an amazing teacher in our English department and inspired me with her work on evaluating student writing. Jen’s blog: https://medium.com/@jendoucette -Jim Burke. I’ve never met Mr. Burke, but I have read several of his books and have often participated on his English Companion Ning. His book, What’s the Big Idea?, gave me the spark for this project. I also borrowed some of his topic ideas for my students. English Companion Ning: http://englishcompanion.ning.com/ What’s the Big Idea: http://www.heinemann.com/products/e02157.aspx
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