Enrichment Ideas and Resources
Want to incorporate more enrichment in your class, but you're not sure where to start?
There are entire books written about some of these ideas, but this list is designed to encourage teachers to try some new enrichment activities that have wide support communities.
From STEM/Maker to Ed Tech tools and Genius Hour projects, take a look at the ideas, links, and resources and try a new enrichment activity with your students.
The Global Read-Aloud is an excellent, easy way to connect with other classrooms. Each year, five books are selected for different age ranges (picture, early reader, upper elementary, middle school, teen/ya), and participants can sign up to share those books with their classes and talk to other students about the book. There is a Facebook page to support teachers, and classrooms can connect about the book through Twitter, FlipGrid, Skype, email, Padlet, blogs, or even regular mail - and more. Founded by Pernille Ripp in 2010, this initiative can involve a big time commitment or a small one.
In spite of its name, this activity also applies to Mystery Google Hangouts and Mystery FaceTimes, depending on your access to technology. There are formal buddy programs you can join with guidelines about how to connect with different classrooms, but you can connect through Twitter, or even try someone in your own own school building or district first.
Often, the mystery element is that students in one class try to be the first to guess the location of students in the other class. They ask yes/no questions, record data, and formulate new questions to narrow their guesses. In addition to location, you could also play Mystery Number, Mystery Author, Mystery Animal, or other topics that connect to your units of study. It's a great logic and communication exercise, and when the guessing is over, you can follow up with a few other questions between students about their school and local customs. Obviously, you want to connect safely and be sure you are buddied with a reputable teacher; it's fine for you to know the person in advance, as long as there is a mystery element for the students.
Mr. Kemp's website has steps to set up a Mystery Skype, including a list of roles for students. The Microsoft Educator Community also has an official guide to Mystery Skypes.
Hour of Code
The Hour of Code was designed to make coding accessible to everyone. While it is officially held during Computer Science Education Week, the site has tons of different activities and resources to try, and you don't have to register to browse the ideas. Access to technology varies so much from school to school that it's hard to recommend one single program to try, but the Hour of Code includes an "unplugged" lesson filter that allows you to choose lesson ideas that support coding fundamentals even if you don't have any computers or devices.
Caine's Arcade: Cardboard Challenge
One boy decided to invent a cardboard arcade, and the video of his original game designs and the people who came to play them has spread worldwide. Cardboard challenges are in schools everywhere, with young students designing and building arcade games with cardboard and recyclable materials. The finished products can be shared with class members, or you can invite parents and other classes to try the students' games.
Project Runway is another fun inspiration for building challenges, and it works well for mixed age teams. Groups can use recyclable materials to design and build a single outfit for a designated model, and then walk a school "runway" (the gym works well!) to showcase their designs.
This idea can be easily adapted to fit curricular standards, since students can design inventions and build prototypes for all kinds of purposes.
Destination Imagination is a worldwide problem-solving tournament, in which groups of students can respond to a choice of five different problem types. One component of the tournament is the Instant Challenge, which asks students to collaborate to complete a timed surprise task. These are really easy to incorporate into class lessons, as the actual time for the task can take just 5-10 minutes, although a worthwhile reflection afterward is recommended and will take more time.
Present groups with a task card, performance points/criteria, and materials.
Quick ideas include:
Build the tallest free-standing tower with the materials given
Build the structure that will support the most weight
Build a vehicle that will transport a marble from Point A to Point B without directly touching it
The Instant Challenge Library at the Iowa DI Affiliate Organization has many more ideas to try
Genius Hour, ISP, or 20% Time Projects
The idea behind this is that students have ongoing opportunities to pursue independent projects of interest to them, even if those projects aren't directly tied to grade-level standards. While the implementation of this is not strictly "easy," the concept is simple: students consider questions and topics of interest, choose one to research and experiment about, create a product to demonstrate understanding, and present it, preferably to a real-world audience.
ISP stands for independent study projects, and students can develop these at their own pace. You can begin with some project suggestions and models, and help students develop criteria and time management for the products and process, and gradually allow students more flexibility as they work through the process. Some students might develop several projects through the year, while others might continue to work on a single project and refine it over time.
Genius Hour has a similar premise, in that students choose a topic of interest, research it, develop products, and share them. This program can work with children as young as first grade, and buddy classes and parent volunteers can assist with gathering materials and asking questions to keep younger students moving forward. The amazing Cult of Pedagogy blog has a guest post interview of A.J. Juliani (co-author of Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning), responding to "Your Top 10 Genius Hour Questions."
20% time (described in Daniel Pink's book, Drive) comes from a business management concept from Google, in which employees were encouraged to use 20% of their time to pursue projects that interested them, as opposed to projects they were assigned to complete. Even if students were given 10% or 5% of their class time to explore projects of interest, it would still be preferable to nothing. Kevin Brookhouser's 20time site has 5 steps to show how to use 20% time with students. Although his site features examples with high school students, this idea can still be adapted to work with younger learners.
If it seems overwhelming, try project time for three days - a mini-project. This works well for time leading up to a vacation or following test sessions when your normal routine is already adjusted. Spend the first day on wonders, project selection, and criteria - how will students know when they achieved what they set out to achieve? What will be known? What will be created? What resources are necessary? Spend the second day collecting research, including experimentation. Spend the third day building, revising, and presenting the learning. If the final results are not well-researched or elaborately polished, you have a good target for mini-lessons to apply to other class work, and more confidence to try again, improving the process.