First, I realized that in order to embrace the idea of more student choice, I needed to focus less on the content and more on what type of choices I was going to provide within a history curriculum. I thought of several options, including drawing political cartoons, creating comic strips, quoting famous people, etc. These activities incorporate creativity and can be applied to almost any historical topic or unit.
Next, I gave students an opportunity to post their work on social media, namely Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. (Students who did not have social media could ask another student to post it for them or send it to me to post anonymously.) This opportunity was extra credit, but proved to be a fun element for students and one that effectively created an online digital class journal of the exercise.
Three examples of choice that I incorporated within the first two units I taught this year are as follows:
1. Machiavelli Quotes
Students researched famous quotes by Niccolo Machiavelli and analyzed three of their choice. They also selected one of the quotes and identified a historical figure that exemplified that quote. For example, one student selected, "It is better to be feared than loved." and applied that quote to Joseph Stalin. After this analysis they had the extra credit option of choosing another Machiavelli quote and relating it to another person through a post on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) using the hashtag #BHSMachiavelli
2. Renaissance Art Show
Students chose a specific artwork from the Renaissance and completed a detailed analysis of the work in order to give a 1 minute presentation of the work to the class. After their presentations, students shared their chosen art pieces through social media using the hashtag #BHSRenArt. This essentially was the creation of a digital art show, all done very efficiently and displaying student choice and the reasons they chose each particular work.
3. Martin Luther vs. Leo X: Rap Battle or Propaganda Poster
After completing lessons about the start of the Protestant Reformation students were challenged to create either a rap battle between Martin Luther and Pope Leo X or a propaganda poster promoting the perspective of Luther or Leo X. Then they posted their work to social media using the hashtag #LuthervsLeo
I encourage you to search for these hashtags on Twitter, where most students posted them, to see the work that students produced.
Overall, this has been one of these easiest activities that I have created and one that students look forward to completing. Why? They are always on social media and they enjoy sharing what they do. Thus, creating a forum for them to do just that, and allowing them choice, engages them and makes learning a little more fun.
Please feel free to comment and add share any ideas you may have about incorporating choice or the use of social media in the classroom.