Savvy Strategy: End of Year Student Awards {Generated and Presented by Students}

awardsWhile the Pinterest Princesses are glittering and gluing the final touches on student awards for their little herd, I simply lack the creativity, moreover the desire to spend time in that area.  Not because my crafting skills have remained stagnant since kindergarten, but because quite frankly, the awards mean nothing to our students.  Why not center it on your students?  After all, flipping your class is the must-do of the year.  When I was in college, a guest lecturer presented a workshop centered on connecting with kids.  In it, she focused on her experience with advisories.  Maybe it was just her delivery, she was one of those individuals who carried that, “I may be old, but damn was I good?” respect without coming off as arrogant or self-promoting.  Anyways, she spoke about a very meaningful activity that she conducted year after year.  She had students draw a name out of a hat and create an award for their selected student.  It took me several years to implement this strategy, and after using it several times, I have to say the process is more than worthwhile.

For starters, I modified the activity for slighter older students by asking them to write down the names of 3-5 students they would like to create an award.  Luckily, it has always worked out that every student gets matched using this technique.  Though, you may need to make adjustments based on your class.  Next, I look at the results and sit back and reflect on whether or not my judgments were correct regarding who is most-liked, most-feared, etc. I pair students and remind them to keep their selection a secret.

We spend a day brainstorming potential awards.  “Best shoe collection” does not count.  “Funniest” does not count.  We discuss the qualities that make for a good award.  I ask them to write down a list of things they would want to be recognized for.  This usually generates a deeper list, with recognition lines that stretch beyond, “best belt collection.”  We create a list of criteria for awards and then students get rolling.

Students submit their award writings to me and I revise or approve them.  Next, students begin the creative process of determining the best way to visually represent the award.  I’ve had students create popsicle stick structures, origami animals (to represent a quality in a student), and even dreamcatchers.  Students include the award blurb somewhere on the final product.

During the last week of school, students present the awards to one another.  They leave with a memory of the school year and without a doubt, feel accomplished because they received a nod from their peer.

On a smaller, more manageable scale, I’ve seen wordle used to complete this task (I would challenge students to complete this, rather than the teacher).

Savvy Strategy: Who am I? Who are We?

Icebreakers.  Kids hate ’em.  You hate planning and facilitating ’em.  But, you continue to go back to the drawing board every year and pretend to half-smile your way through yet another year of class introductions, builders, and breakers.

I have one fool-proof exercise that seems to be appropriate for the wide spectrum of middle school monkeys of all stages of development and fails to tire itself.  I begin by drawing puzzle pieces onto a piece of posterboard.  I make sure to draw one piece for every student, one “title” piece, and one piece for myself.  I write “back” on the back of every piece so that students have a sense of direction and draw on the correct side.

Instructions are simple.  Decorate your piece with images, words, designs that represent who you are.  Things to consider:  your family, interests, hobbies, friends, strengths, etc.

IMG_20130906_182220_201Next, I have students share with a partner and then introduce to the class (if the number is manageable).  Then, students assemble and glue the pieces to a second piece of poster board.  I hang the puzzles on my wall and have quite a display from prior year’s classes.

Overall, idea achieves the purpose of class introductions without the cheesiness, forced nature that so many introduction activities have a tendency to do.  It also is a nice addition to the classroom on Back to School Night.