Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shark Tank Reform: The Idea

For the last two years in my 7th grade class, I have had a final project which involved the students taking a topic from our study of Kansas history and come up with a reality show based on the content.  

I loved this project.  The amount of creativity in the students ideas were astounding.  Last year Glenn Wiebe came and participated as a judge, and then wrote about it here.  

But things don't seem to last too long in my classroom.  Even good projects get replaced either by better ideas or because of a shift in curriculum.  

And it is due to both that my reality show project gets the boot.  

I love teaching Kansas History in 7th grade.  So much, that I end up spending most of the year on it.  

I need to make some changes to my 8th grade class, which include cutting out my "background information" on Colonial America and the Declaration of Independence.  I teach this first thing in August, because it has been since the 5th grade that my kids did any kind of study on this subject. 

They forget it.

It is necessary information.  They have to have a "refresher" on the subject. 

So, I need to move that to the end of the 7th grade year.  The same time that those kids are usually working on the reality show project.

Bump.

Luckily, I had a new idea brewing in my head.  

Something that takes some of the same requirements...creating a pitch presentation, speaking in front of a team of guest judges, and using technology to aid in the presentation, but becomes the end of a unit project rather than a final over all content taught throughout the year.

The unit is over Progressive and Reform movements of the early 1900's.

I'll be honest.  This used to be my LEAST favorite unit to teach.  It is hard to get 12-year-olds to understand those topics and the politics behind it.  Throughout the years I have narrowed it down to four reform movements and we spend the majority of our time on those.

Prohibition and temperance, women's suffrage, health reform, and child labor.

Enter the idea.

Shark Tank Reform.

I based this idea off of the popular reality show "Shark Tank."

The general idea is this...
  1. Students are placed in groups and given one of the above reform movements.
  2. They are required to "pitch" their reform movement to a team of "Political Sharks."  I am in the process of trying to recruit elected members of our community.  The Mayor, school board members, and possibly even a state senator or representative depending on their schedule to serve as a team of "sharks."  
  3. The student's goal is to convince as many "sharks" to pledge their support the reform movement in the next upcoming election.
  4. They will have to use technology to aid in their presentation (basically...early 1900 politics with the technology of today).
I am still in the design process of this assignment and trying to figure out all possible requirements, rubrics, and how much time will be needed to put all of this together.  I will write about the final product so I can give some examples and share any of the reflections I make.

What ways could you adapt "Shark Tank" or any other reality show to fit your classroom?  

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