Snowball fight!

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paper by TanteTati via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

It’s February.

It was 60 degrees today.

We had a snowball fight in Digital Communications.

Let me explain.

One of the issues I fight the most is that my students don’t like being put on the spot, don’t like speaking up, sharing their ideas. There are a couple of reasons. DigiComm is a one-semester class, so we really haven’t been together but about five weeks, and much of that, they’ve been at their computer stations creating whatever it is that I’ve asked them to do, which will likely turn into a blog post. Another reason is that I allow them to sit where they want. I have a mix of iMacs along the walls and some laptops they can take back to the tables in the center of the room, whatever they prefer. So they generally prefer to sit with those they know or in solitude if they don’t know others well. There’s been little (though some) opportunity to “mingle.” Another reason is that I don’t believe this age group has been taught to “mingle.” Sure there are groups of friends, but those groups become cliques that one is accepted into or not. Few have the type of personality that gets along with everyone. In addition, social media can be awesome – there are so many opportunities to network and learn and share material – BUT people often hide behind it to socialize without having to be in others’ presence. Consequently, being in others’ presence has become more difficult for these kids. It’s a trend I’ve noticed.

Here we are, however, trying to develop ideas for Passion Projects and, as usual, there are some blank looks. Those looks could be illustrating blank minds behind them, but they could also be hiding moving gears, ideas being generated. It’s just that students are very often afraid of sharing those ideas because they’ve had the experience of being ridiculed or told they’re wrong or stupid. In a brainstorming session, there are (almost) no dumb ideas.

I had a “not dumb” idea come to me yesterday. Snowball fight. I didn’t invent it. I just decided to use it for sharing ideas for Passion Projects. My first paper snowball fight was at a Herff Jones Adviser Essentials workshop a couple of summers ago. I truthfully cannot remember what we were writing on our sheets of paper, but I knew then that the idea could be used many different ways.

This is what we did today: After some time for researching ideas (either looking into a passion they already have for a project idea, or just Googling Genius Hour or 20% Time), they were to jot down 2-3 ideas, whether those were ideas they wanted to do themselves or not. Then I provided half sheets of paper (waste not, want not – #budgetcuts) and asked them to write individual ideas down on separate sheets of paper. I requested a sentence or two describing what the project was and in most cases, that’s what happened. Several began to fold their papers and hand them to me.

No, no, no! Scrunch them up! I demonstrated. It took a couple of minutes and some very animated movements, but I finally got all of the students to move from the computers to the middle-ish of the room. I explained we were going to have a snowball fight on the count of three.

One-two-three! We began to throw them at each other, pick them up from the floor and throw them again. Then we all grabbed a couple, making sure everyone had at least one and none were left on the floor.

Naturally, I volunteered to go first, and I read the idea on my crumpled paper. Then I expanded on the idea and asked for other ideas that would work. Sure enough, I got a couple comments. Next? Someone else read theirs. We shared some expansion ideas, then moved on to the next. Everyone shared, most people helped expand on the ideas. I think everyone got a wider idea of what could be done for projects.

Tomorrow they are to try to decide on their own project, a driving question, an end product envisioned, maybe some steps to get there and a potential mentor. I’m excited to see some of the things they come up with. I know some will struggle, but hopefully today’s activity will give them some ideas and will have made them a little more comfortable interacting with each other.

If nothing else, they got to chunk things at other people.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

One Response to Snowball fight!

  1. Joy Kirr says:

    Hi, Lisa! We all love a safe snowball fight once in a while. 😉 One idea I revert back to often is to have students write three ideas on three different sticky notes. (This could be for ANYthing – words from the text, phrases, thoughts, questions, etc.) Once they do this, they choose their best or favorite one, and put it up on the board. Anonymous, but we count to make sure we have them all. That way, their BEST idea gets shared, and often they have the same as other students, so they see the “risk” of sharing as less. Thanks for tagging me on your post so I could be reminded of the snowballs! (Even though I can’t believe we’ve only shoveled TWO days here in NE IL!)

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