Monday, June 17, 2019

The Cieling Tile Project

This is a post long over due. One of my favorite projects that I created a couple years ago, and one that gets a lot of attention anytime someone walks into my classroom. I love this project for so many reasons, but one of those being the flexibilty of it. Different age group, different content, different "canvas" - - No problem!

Here are the details!

Diclaimer... This project involves decorating the ceiling tile in the classroom. I often get asked "how" I was able to get permission for this. Technically it was one of those "permission vs. forgiveness" situations. If you are not in the position to do this with the tiles, I have seen it adapted by using bulletin board paper and hung as posters on the wall instead. (Although it is WAY cool on the ceiling!)

The Original MS Project: Ceiling Tile Dedication Project

Objective: Students would chose an event, person, or document in US history that they believe is "worthy" to be dedicated to the classroom. They would research the topic to create a dedication statement explaining the impact of that event/person/document on American History. Working in teams students will decorate the tile to honor that event/person/document.

Set up: This project was created to be a PBL style project. Students do everything from chose topics, to help design the rubric.

Done by me:
Group Students
Hook Students
Guide the rubric creating session
Assist/Guide the Team Contract Writing
Facilitate learning/working throughout class time.
Provide resources for students to decorate tiles

OK...this project does require an aesthetic piece. It is important that these tiles look "good." I am a firm believer in NOT grading a kid down due to a lack in artistic ability. I have a trick to make this work for everyone. For this project I group based on artistic talent. On the first day of school I have my student do a simple drawing exercise. (I blogged about there HERE). I take these papers and divvy up the groups based on the best illustrators...sort of like the NFL draft, only with drawing skills instead of football skills. The GREAT thing about this, is sometimes your most talented illustrators aren't the most academically strong. This method of grouping gives those kids a chance to shine and really be the anchor for the team. It's a great way to pump up that kid's confidence to their team.... "Wow, did you guys hit the jackpot with Steve on your team. Have you seen how he can draw? You're welcome..."

The Hook:
This intro is by far one of my favorites. I sent out this teaser photo a couple days before the project with the caption "Why is Mrs. Weber on the floor? Find out on Monday!" This got their curiosity flowing before the day actually go here.

On Monday, I got on the floor just like that as the kids came into the classroom. I didn't move a muscle. As they finally noticed what I was doing, I had them HOOKED. Without saying a word, and continuing to look up at the ceiling, I climbed on a desk and took down a ceiling tile. I then complained that these were too bland, boring, and white and needed to change. I asked the kids if they would like to decorate the tiles for me...of course YES! BUT...we needed to figure out what to decorate. What should a social studies classroom have? The kids then started shouting out different topics. As a class they decided that it needed to be people, events, or documents that impacted our history. (See what I did there...That's what I wanted all along but the students THINK THEY CAME UP WITH THE CRITERIA...Genius!)

The Rubric: As with most PBL, the students were included in the rubric guidelines. Don't be afraid to try this...they are better at it than you think. I just had three categories (Content - Tile Design - Presentation) and they helped give ideas of what to include in each one. I then took all their ideas from all of my classes and created a more "polished" rubric took. Click here for the final RUBRIC.

Contract writing: In order to try and keep this project from falling into the group project pit of "some do all and some do none" I have my kids create team contract. Similar in idea to a job contract that adults sign when starting a new job. To keep it short... students come up with a list of things they will do and won't do in order to be successful, make an "absent policy" and come up with a strike system. This SAVES me a lot of grief during the work days of the project and it is a HUGE learning opportunity for students. For more information on contracts, read this blog post.

The Presentation:
When groups are finished and the tiles are all done, it's time for the presentation. I set this up sort of like a "living art gallery." I have the groups line up with their tiles. I go LIVE on social media for these presentations and just move from on team to the next as they give their short "impact" statement. This gives the kids a "real" audience. They are always nervous and act all worried about it being on social media, but in the end want reports on how many "views" and "comments" they got. Then the tiles go on display in the classroom. Kids pick their spots and we put the back.

I totally had to let go of control with the display. Oh how I wanted to evenly distribute where the tiles went and what colors went where, but this is THEIR project, this helps the room become THEIRS. And in the end they are always a conversation piece when people enter my classroom.

Other Ideas:
I LOVE this project, but one thing I love about it is the flexibility of it. Content areas? Any. Higher/More requirements? Sure. I am planning on having my high school kids do this, but I'm going to add more specifics to it such as...
A Primary Source
Pictures with captions
A Poem
Cited sources and explanations.
A longer "speech"... for high school students I'm thinking about the Hollywood Star Ceremonies when there's an entire speech delivered on why this actor/actress deserves a star. I think my kids can deliver an entire speech why they think Carry Nation deserves to be on the ceiling. So many possibilities!!!

So much fun! The kids absolutely LOVE this! Give it a try and then give me a shout out on Twitter so I can see it! (@JillWebs).


  1. I absolutely love your ideas and use so many of them in my classroom! Thanks so much for sharing and good luck with your new endeavor this school year. I am excited to read about it.