Sprinting All the Way to the Finish (or How to Maintain Engagement up Until the Bitter End)

During the last week of school, I received an email from a parent informing me that her son was running around the house, excitedly telling anyone who would listen about the end-of-year History project that he was due to present on that day.  With two days left of school, I was thrilled to hear that he was excited about coming to school (and History class, in particular). More importantly, she was thrilled to witness his excitement for going to school during the last week before summer vacation.

I have to admit, this year was the first year that I did not witness my students engage in  end-of-year exasperation, misbehavior, or outright apathy that accompanies the final stages of the school year. I am confident that this is directly related to the fact that I did not act like it was the end of the school year, and I did not let up on the hard work, high expectations or interest level in my classroom. I did not begin to clean out my room, take down posters, clean out my desk or pack up while school was still in session.  I did not reserve the last week of school for my students to clean, take out the trash or waste precious time with them by watching movies, just to make it to the end of the day. (This is not meant to be a criticism for those teachers who do those things; I am simply observing the fact that when I continued to be engaged until the bitter end, so did my students.)

I continued the challenging, interesting and exciting work that we had been doing together all year long, even to the final day of school.  In fact, on the last academic day of school I had students finishing up presentations of inquiry work that we had been doing for about two weeks prior to the end of school. So, on the morning that I received the email, two days before the end of school, this boy was preparing to present his findings to the class. He was practicing his presentation, and trying to explain how cool he thought the assignment was to his parents.

The assignment he chose was to create a fake twitter account of a regular, average, everyday peasant who may have lived on a hypothetical (but accurate) Manor in 11th century England.  Just like with a real Twitter account, he was to create a profile, including a bio, picture and background pictures.  The Twitter feed was supposed to have covered about two months of his life, so we could get a feel for his everyday life, as well as the happenings around the Manor and the larger town. Also, like a real Twitter pro, he was to add links to articles, youtube videos, pictures, ads, or other social media. 

If you think about the amount of work this project entails you will begin to understand the magnitude of this student's project. By the way, this particular project was not even one of the original options that I offered. He took different elements of other options and combined them to make this one. Since I think students should have as much ownership in their work as possible,  I really have no problem with them creating their own projects.

The most important thing:  Sprint to the finish.  Make every second count.

5 Inquiry Based Projects to Close out the Year

1)  Create a Soundtrack of the journey or events of one of the Crusades.  Make sure that the songs you pick tell the story from start to finish.  Your completed project must include song titles, an album cover, and a brief explanation of how these works tell the story of the event that you are trying to portray.  (Aside: Several students decided to work together on this choice. These groups created full-on albums, complete with songs and lyrics related to the Crusades.  One student created a complete Vangelis style album with 15 songs that told the story of the third Crusades in instrumental, only, using Garage Band.  I'll have a link to that music as soon as I upload it to my channel on Youtube.  Stay tuned!)

2)  Pamphlet of a Crusade.  Choose a Crusade.  Your job is to create an advertising pamphlet that would entice tourists to flock to your vacation adventure.  You must highlight at least three major cities involved in the Crusade that you have chosen, briefly reenact what took place there (think modern-day Williamsburg-living history and all), and plan special activities or tours for your clients.  Feel free to highlight any modern day attractions as well.  Your pamphlet must include maps and routes.

3)  Famous Crusader Twitter Feeds. Pick a character or group of characters in one of the Crusades.  Create a twitter feed for them of an important event or events in the Crusade that they would have experienced.  Remember Twitter allows only 140 characters per tweet, and tweets are often followed by a hashtag (#).  It is also common for tweets to have links to pictures, news articles or videos.

4)  Same as , except you can create a video of their experiences and adventures. We can then upload the video to Vimeo or Youtube, or simply use iMovie so we can watch it in class. The video should be long enough to tell an accurate story of the character or event that you have chosen to research. (Think, 3-6 minutes)

5)  Same as , except, instead of creating a twitter feed, you will create a fake Facebook profile page with at least 20-30 status updates on an event in the Crusades.  Remember your fake Facebook profile should include a biography, complete with a picture and quick profile.  Your Facebook should include status updates as your Crusaders travel to fight in the Crusades.  You should consider using characters from the Middle East, as well, like Saladin.  You do not have to limit your profile to the European Crusaders.




What a wonderful, contemporary, and easy way to integrate a technology that students use with a primary source-based assignment. The possibilities for using Twitter this way are limitless.

Thanks. Yes, there are lots of possibilities for Twitter and many other SM applications. One group chose to create a story of the 4th Crusade using Instagram. The visual story-telling was compelling and poignant, demonstrating a deep understanding of the material.

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