Give Them Something to Talk About
Students will become aware and engaged with the bigger picture of their school community by engaging in interactive online discussion posts.
An online discussion platform or comment feature through Google Docs.
In a busy leadership classroom, this can be set up on a weekly or biweekly basis so students can participate when it works with their daily schedule. Five to 10 minutes will be needed at the beginning of the week to explain the project, then additional time must be allotted for Friday reflections, either with the teacher through private responses, or through lively in-person discussions about new ideas to strengthen school culture.
The idea of discussion posts started as a way to increase student leader interaction and accountability. Our high school sends out an electronic newsletter twice a month. While this is emailed to students, they do not always take the time to read it. This activity requires that they read the newsletter and process all the information and events at the school; it may also serve as a vehicle for other ideas and uses.
Set up a discussion post. Ask students to read through the newsletter (or other school communication) and comment three times throughout the week. The first post should be a new point that focuses on something they are excited about or may not have realized was happening at school. The next two posts can be new threads or posts that they write as comments to their classmates.
- If you do not have the option to set up a discussion post electronically, this could be done using the comment feature on a Google document. Students could be placed in smaller groups of three to five people so posts are more manageable.
- Sometimes it is nice to set aside the technology and to set up signs around the room categorized by the sections of the newsletter. Students can read through the document and then write comments and post them on poster boards using sticky notes. The content of these notes can become a Friday reflection activity.
- If students do not complete the posts, new post options can be set up the following week, and students can have the opportunity to post more comments to make up for the ones they have missed. Leadership students are often busy with academic classes, after-school activities, and sports. This flexibility allows for continued growth.
Incorporating discussion posts into the leadership group is a great way to set the stage for accountability and interaction throughout the very busy flow of the school year. This idea starts with a school newsletter but can easily be adapted to many other ideas. Some of these include:
- Asking students to explore their own school website and list ideas for programs and events that leadership can continue (or start) to support.
- Asking students to explore other schools’ websites for ideas and suggestions.
- Asking students to annotate or comment on the leadership class syllabus to pull out the phrases and ideas that stand out to them.
Through these suggestions, powerful moments can happen in the leadership group. Students will develop ownership and a connection to their schools, which can only strengthen school culture and instill a passion that will help to empower students. This will lead the students to bring activities and programs to their school that make a difference in the lives of the community, staff, and student body they serve.
Marianne Griffin is the activities director/leadership teacher at Alhambra High School in Martinez, CA. She may be reached at email@example.com.