Engaging high school students is key to help them move forward with success in high school and beyond, out into college or the working world. Finding projects and activities that make students feel involved, included and challenged--even activities that are not purely academic-based but focus on fun and interaction---can make a difference in students' approach to learning and their careers.
A Picture Tells a Thousand Words
Place your students into groups of four or five each and give each group a photograph of a street scene or something that may conjure ideas for the group. Ask each group to create a story based on the photograph, and encourage each group member to contribute and be actively engaged in the activity. Ask the students to vividly use their imagination and apply names of anyone pictured, character traits and motivations. Ask each group to share their picture's story with the class and encourage other groups to ask questions about each other's group story.
This project may be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make it for the students, spanning one class setting or more intricate to allow more detailed stories and presentations, which may be appropriate to give the students a chance to be more creative and descriptive. No matter how prolonged or abbreviated this activity turns out, it gives students a chance to hone their perception, communication and teamwork skills.
Art, Literature and Music Gallery Opening
Perhaps you have a classroom of budding artists, writers or musicians. Even if your students aren't, you can drive an afternoon or evening in the arts for your classroom to help students understand the excitement of creating something special, working toward a goal to share that expression and having it come to fruition. You and your students can decide on a theme and the students can choose any medium--painting, sculpture, poetry, prose, songwriting/singing--and create a piece to share at the big "opening," where their families will attend. Students will help to design the space--even if it happens to be their classroom--helping to decide where to hang or place their work, schedule poetry readings and song performances.
This is clearly a larger activity, but one in which the students can learn a great deal about each other and work together collaboratively, cooperatively and with camaraderie. Students can encourage one another's artistic endeavours, as fledgling as they may be. This may give a budding singer a chance to learn to collaborate with a guitarist or pianist. Such an activity opens a world of possibilities for young people who might not have considered themselves artists before.
This activity is about survival, at least as a point of departure. You will ask students to consider what could happen if they were to become stranded in an environment where they would not have access to cellphones, easily accessible food, their family or anyone besides one another and their wits. Ask the students to consider what they will need in the survival situation of their choice, whether it is a plane crash on a desert island, the frozen tundra or barren desert. They will proceed to consider all that they will need and how they will acquire these things. Ask them to determine together, without voting, who would be best suited for certain tasks. They can volunteer their services based on how strongly they feel about a certain responsibility. This activity can help a group to improve communication and decision-making skills, along with realising how they might be able to practically apply skills they have learnt in scouts or other everyday activities such as swimming or hiking.