Interest = Engagement

Love of School

We kicked off the first session of the 2018/19 school year with a group project based on the Avengers. This came off the momentum of Avengers: Infinity War, which had released the previous Spring. Our plan was to use the movie and characters as a springboard for rigorous (but engaging!) academic exercises.

The guides carefully mapped out a session-long progression that would have students research characters, edit the script, and ultimately write and film a sequel to the movie. But after four weeks, we realized we had to make a change. Only a third of the group was genuinely interested in the project, and the rest of the students were simply going through the motions. This wasn’t a good use of their time. We moved on.

Two awesome lessons came out of this first project:

  1. students will put in time and effort if a project is aligned with their interests.
  2. projects based on interest are hard to pull off for an entire group of 11.

Now we try to tailor individual afternoon projects to students’ interest. For example, a student in Level 3 is working on a Hip-Hop research project that has him fired up about writing and reading this session.


2x Learning

One thing students love about Newsela is that they can read articles on subjects they are interested in. Newsela’s text sets, built around a wide range of topics, are a great way to further engage a student in their area of interest. Texts sets typically group articles under a common academic subject, historical time period, or area of interest (e.g. Food: Science and Culture).

Part of the payoff of Text Sets comes when Newsela integrates an academic subject or a real-world application. If a student is interested in math, for example, assign them one of the Newsela text sets, which blend math with everything from art to sports to math-heavy career paths. Students learn how an area of interest branches out into other subjects, and they are challenged to see their favorite subject in a different context.

Text sets also work as a perfect supplement for group activities. We assigned students a text set called “It’s Greek to Us” in preparation for a mock Senate debate between Sparta and Athens.


Life Skills

A life skill can be as simple as remembering a person’s name.

When Trevor Moawad met with L3 students he stressed the importance of a first impression. Remembering someone’s name and a small fact about them shows you care. These details make a difference no matter your age.