One of my favorite parts of teaching is giving students a chance for a showy finale. If we’re studying theater, I love letting them perform scenes around campus. If we’re doing poetry, everything builds to our final poetry slam. If we’re creating artistic projects, there’s definitely going to be a showcase with food involved. If we’re writing This I Believe Essays with NPR’s national project, we’re going to have a live radio-esque show somewhere on campus by the end.
Giving students an audience beyond their teacher makes a world of difference in their classroom experience. The thrill of slamming an original poem, stepping onto the stage as Willy Loman, or being awarded first place for best essay by their peers is so much more memorable than a single A. That’s why I tend to teach from project unit to project unit.
But when you begin to incorporate these exciting events, the question becomes, who is going to organize all this? Should you, as teacher, stay up all night creating programs, baking cookies, designing lighting effects, etc.? Probably not, since chances are you have curriculum planning, grading, and family to take care of!
Luckily, just as it gives students a thrill to have a wider audience for their work, it boosts their interest and ownership to take care of these events themselves.
When I have a major event, be it an outside reading book fair, one-act play performance, series of speeches, etc., I like to hand over the reins to classroom committees. This is a huge time saver for me, and it actually makes the events far more unique and exciting for the students. To ensure that trying this time saver doesn’t end up making more work for you, I’ve created an event committee handout free for you to download over at Spark Creativity on TPT.
When it’s time for a new event, I simply announce the types of committees and let students drift into groups. If one group is way too heavy, I try to influence a few to join another group. Assigning groups would be a last resort. You can always give an extra big group a few extra tasks as needed.
Committees have led me down roads I never expected. I’ve eaten burritos at a poetry slam in the faculty meeting room. I’ve sat in a coffeehouse that used to be my own classroom. I’ve watched the shy and the brave act as emcees and realize they love the spotlight.
Whatever discipline you are in, unit finales can bring holiday sparkle and joy to your classroom at any time of the year. Invite guests to see an exhibition of Rube Goldberg machines or a robotics test session. Let students compete at doing proofs at speed for an audience of younger math students. Have students perform scenes from a play in the language that you teach. There is no end to the ways students can exhibit their creative learning. You will be empowering them by giving them a wider audience and by letting them run the show through classroom committees.