If you walk into an elementary school and ask students what their favorite school activity is you will most likely hear recess or Show & Tell. Why do we think that high school seniors are any different?
When I think back to my days of elementary, my experiences with Show & Tell bring the biggest smile. I remember my friend brought her dog in one day, a girl in my class brought her favorite doll, I even brought a Furby that the teacher banned after it would not stop squawking in my book bag! These are the things that excited us as kids and surprisingly still excite our grown students (and even us adults). Why is this?
As an experiment with this idea, I implemented Friday Current Event Time in my classroom. Student were expected to read magazines, articles, listen to NPR, ect. They were then expected to summarize and discuss the current event of their choice. Well, much to any teachers surprise, the students HATED the current event assignment and were bored (obviously). Some even protested and just did not do it. Well that's lame. Was it that they were not trying or they did not like the resources I offered? Of course not, the assignment simply lacked creativity.
Something I learned very quickly in my first year of teaching is teachers MUST be flexible and not take themselves too seriously. So, with this new found attitude and the day before current events were due, I announced "Scrap it! We're having Show & Tell from now on!" You would not believe the screams of joy I heard. "You mean, we can bring our sketchbooks!? I can talk about game design!? I can show and tell you about this new app I downloaded on my phone!?" Now, granted I do teach a digital media class, however these subjects are actually very applicable in other classrooms as well. What I discovered in this experiment is that students crave space for their individualized creativity and interests. As soon as you give that to them, their confidence levels rise and their projects and classwork become more creative and innovative. They are allowed to let their guard down by showing and telling their own ideas and stories.
My original goal in assigning the current event assignment was to get the students to reach out and discover new technologies and ideas developing around them in the world. I wanted them to be inspired by others. The only problem was the way in which I was going about it. Believe it or not, our high schoolers are quite smart and innovative already if you just give them the space to be creative and develop. They are continually bombarded with new products and technologies resulting in the formation of new innovative and creative ideas in their minds. The Show & Tell assignment gave students a forum made up of real live humans (imagine that!). One student held up a sketch and said, "I drew this symbol because I was watching [insert animated tv show] and wanted to show how just like [insert character name] sometimes people feel good and bad at the same time." I'm thinking in my head, "Great!! That's empathy!" Another student showed a comic book project she was working on and students went around and commented on the sequencing and character development. "Great!" Another student even held a class room discussion about the marketing schemes of video game companies by means of DLC. "Great, not only is he learning about marketing but he's learning to manage and guide a debate!" And another student showed an inspiring video of a new technology that allowed for color blind individuals to see color. My favorite was the one student who spontaneously pulled up his pant-legs revealing two mismatched multicolored pineapple covered socks to explain his new favorite trend in fashion.
In the end, my original goal was met it just took some tweaking. The students wanted space for their innovative and creative ideas to naturally form and I was able to facilitate it through Show and Tell, though it took some trial and error. From creativity comes innovation.
Directions on how to facilitate Show & Tell for high schoolers.
Step 1: Schedule Show & Tell on Fridays. Friday is a more relaxing day. Allot an amount of time, depending on the length of your class. I have found that about 2 - 5 minutes per student (with a small class) is good. Have Show and Tell on a schedule so students can expect it, prepare, and look forward to it.
Step 2: Get different types of chairs to make the space less uniform and more creative. I have yoga balls and knee chairs in addition to normal classroom chairs.
Step 3: Set the rules. Instruct the students on how to constructively criticize. Sit in a circle. No one can be left out or hog the center. Do not interrupt the presenting student. Comment once the present has completed. Everyone must share and comment.
Step 4: The first person must volunteer themselves and 'popcorn' choose the next person. From then on the 'popcorn' cycle continues until each person has gone. (The instructor should sit in the circle with the students and add his or her own value.)
Step 5: Debrief by encouraging and thanking the students and break for the next class activity.