Learning Circle Projects
Middle School (Text only)
Elementary School Project Ideas
High School Project Ideas (Text
- Writing highly descriptive, or "painted," poems
has inspired many poets on the Learning Network. Here are some ideas
for sponsoring a Learning Circle project on painted poetry.
Read the painted poem on baseball to your students.
Discuss how the poem makes you feel as if you are there. It paints
a picture with words. Then have your students suggest topics that
would make good word pictures. Topics that celebrate cultural or regional
diversity are particularly appropriate to share on the network. This
might include special school or holiday celebrations, activities around
an ocean, river or mountain, or places to visit in your area. Choose
one of the suggested topics that is likely to be important to most
of the students in your location and write it on the blackboard.
Ask students to contribute colorful, active, descriptive
words and phrases. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine the experience.
What do they see, taste, hear, smell or feel? Work cooperatively as
a group to combine and sequence these impressions to create a first
draft of an unrhymed poem.
Print a copy of the draft for each student to read and
edit. Then the whole group can edit, with students offering suggestions
based on their notes.
This process helps all of the students see how a piece
of writing can be improved with more work. The final poem can be displayed
in the classroom with art work and sent on the network to the other
classes. The sponsoring classroom might want to add pictures to go
with the painted poems they select for their section of the Mind Works
- Painted Poetry Example
You step up to the plate, gripping the bat.
Head up, elbows back, knees bent.
You sense the catcher giving signs to the pitcher.
All is silent as the pitcher winds up-
Delivery is fast and high in the outside corner,
You lunge into it and take a reaching swing.
The bat connects, the ball soars through the air.
The left fielder runs, but he cannot get to it.
Over the fence!!! Home run!!!
The crowd goes wild!
You slowly jog the bases.
High-fives from everyone back at home plate.
Product or Place Personifications: My Life as a...
- Students enjoy taking on the perspectives of inanimate
objects. They can write very creatively about a day in the life of a
pencil, a bandage, a door, or describe what it feels like to be a computer
modem, a car, or a drop of water. A classroom might want to sponsor
a Learning Circle project of this type of writing. A slightly different
approach would be to have students assume the identity of past inventions
and try to describe the life that this object from the past sees around
it. The World Almanac lists inventions according to date. Or students
could ask their grandparents or other elderly friends to describe the
interaction and activities that took place before and after a new invention
such as the radio, telephone, television or sewing machine came into
their home. One idea suggested by a teacher was to have students introduce
themselves as inanimate objects. Perhaps stories could be created about
a number of inanimate personas who meet over the Learning Network! Here
are some examples of student introductions:
- Hello! I'm Carla Clock. I am very important
because people always need to know what time it is. I make sure
people are on time. Some people forget to check me and then they
are late. I have an alarm to wake people up. They get angry, but
I'm just doing my job. I can never slow down or go backward. Always
forward. Tick Tock...Tick Tock...Tick Tock...
Hi! I'm Pam Palm Tree. I have a brown trunk and
green leaves. I grow coconuts for everyone to eat. I live at the
beautiful ocean. My favorite time of day is sunset because all
the colors are so beautiful and they blend together. I love to
have people sit under me and relax. It makes me feel relaxed,
too. During storms I bend all the way down to the ground because
of the wind. That really hurts! Sunny days are fun because there
are so many people on the beach to watch. I love being a palm
- Since students in the middle grades are focused
on the similarities and differences in their own lives and those of
others, writing about one's past can be a very effective form of self
reflection as well as creative writing. An autobiographical incident
asks students to interpret past events from their current perspective.
To do this, students need to chose details to create an impression and
analyze the situation to provide a specific understanding of the importance
of the events. This form of writing involves a form of self-disclosure
that will help students at in distant locations understand cultural
differences in the details and the universality of human experiences
in the larger contexts.
- *************** Topic Ideas *********************
A frightening experience
An accident or death
An experience from a move to a new house or school
Winning a game, an award, or prize
Missing the ball
A difficult decision
A funny circumstance
A conflict with a friend
The most embarrassing moment in my whole life
A musical encounter
A Traveling Tale
Some Writing Suggestions
Students can begin by describing the incident:
- Who was involved?
How would you describe the people?
Describe how the surroundings appeared to you at the time.
What exactly happened?
Why was it memorable?
Finally the students should consider these two questions:
- How did you feel at the time?
How do you feel about it now?
Remember, an autobiographic incident is not just a story
about something that happened. It is a reflection on how a past incident
played a specific role in shaping who a person has become.
A story beginning could be written which results in a dilemma. For example,
a student could be involved in an incident with another student, teacher,
principal or parent; a student might overhear a conversation or see
actions of others that places him or her in a morally difficult position;
or groups of students might be involved in a conflict. Students at each
of the sites could be asked to complete the essay and resolve the dilemma.
Or, the sponsoring class can pose a problem presenting
two opposite positions. The students on the network would be asked
to write a persuasive argument that presents their position and addresses
the concerns of the other side. Here are two example:
Money for Chores?
Should teenagers get an allowance? If so, how much and should it be
related to specific jobs or tasks around the house?
Those who say "yes" use arguments like:
- Those who say "no" use arguments like:
- What is your position on teen allowances?
Teen Age Freedom
Your friends are going to go to an amusement park and
you want to go too. You need to get permission from your parents.
The driver of the car is an older brother of one of your friends.
Your friend is also going. They are planning to stay until closing
at 1:00 am. You are pretty sure that your parents will not want to
let you go but you do not want to be left out.
Use your creative energies to find a way to solve this
What strategies will you use?
How can you change the situation so that you will not be left out
of the fun?
Special Themes - Example Teenagers
- Your students might want to sponsor a creative
writing project on a special theme such as friendship, conflict, work,
responsibility, death or peace. The topic could have a special meaning
to your students because of the literature they are reading, some activity
they are involved in, or something drawn from curriculum in other areas
like social science. For example, Barbara Hughes (Lincoln Middle School,
Oceanside, California) was coordinating an exchange of letters between
her students and students in the U.S.S.R. and she decided to sponsor
a writing project on the topic of peace. Her students requested any
form of writing (poetry, letters, essays, opinions, etc.) on the topic
of peace. A group of students from Australia sponsored a creative writing
section on problems related to drug use in our society. Judith Vihonski
(Valley Middle School, Oakland, New Jersey) suggested a special section
on the topic of teenagers.
1. How has teen age life changed since the time
when your parents were teenagers.
2. Write a letter to parents explaining what it
is like to be a teenager in your location.
3. Write a recipe for a teenager who will survive
4. Write a letter of complaint to the adult world
about the treatment of teenagers in the media.
5. Look up a dictionary definition of a teenager.
Use part of the definition to create a story or poem about teenagers.
How are teenagers similar and different across the world?
6. Write your own definition of a teenager.
7. Use poetry to describe some of the relevant issues
that face teenagers in today's world.
8. List 6 reasons why people should be kind to teenagers.
9. Write a For Sale ad for a teenager.
10. If a teenager ran for president., what issues
would make up the platform?
11. Write a morality play that involves teenagers.
12. Write a rap poem about Teenagers.
A Look into the Future
- Some futurists believe that if we don't plan for,
or invent the future, others will do it for us. If that happens, the
future will not be something we actively shape. Students can be encouraged
to envision the future that they would like to have for themselves and
their families. While no one can accurately predict the transformations,
their dreams can become part of their work towards the creation of a
The purpose of this project is to encourage students
to analyze present conditions, speculate about the future, and compare
their views with students in other locations. The sponsoring class
might post an open-ended request for "future designs" from partner
classes. Or they might want to organize a look into the future in
a selected area. For example, "Describe what education will be like
in the year 2050." Or, "What type of vehicles will transport us in
A different strategy is to ask each class to contribute
a view of one aspect of life in the future. Then the sponsoring class
could edit a collective view of the future from all of the classes.
Here is an example of how the sponsoring class might organize this
**** Inventing the Future: A Collective Vision ******
This project will result in one vision of the future
constructed by students from many different locations. As the sponsoring
class, we would like to ask you to imagine the world in the middle
of the next century, 2050. Please send us a class or group essay that
describes the changes you imagine will occur in your location. We
have assigned each class a particular aspect to consider so that our
collective view will include information on a number of different
aspects of life in the future.
Class 1: Global Issues - Food supply, conflict resolution,
population growth, health.
Class 2: Transportation - Mass transport, individual travel, vehicles,
Class 3: Employment - Job market, working hours and conditions, job
Class 4: Recreation - Sports, movies, theater, dance, music, video
Class 5: Education - School buildings, goals, methods, technology
Class 6: Health - Vaccinations, medicine, surgery, dentistry, vision
Class 7: Daily Life - Shopping, pets, communication, fashions, trends,
Class 8: Architecture - Building design, city plans, parks, shopping
You might want to interview parents, community leaders,
university professors, doctors or other local experts to collect ideas
to build into your vision of the future.
Civic Leadership and Visions
- Leaders of countries are under considerable pressure
to solve many problems. They make decisions on a daily basis that affect
the life, security, and health of their citizens; they are often criticized
for their judgments. Solutions for a country's problems are often expensive
in terms of money (tax dollars) and human sacrifice (wars and program
cuts). Leaders create policies and programs in the hope that the country
will be better off in the future. For example, Lyndon Johnson enacted
the costly series of programs called The Great Society intending to
wipe out poverty in the United States. Mikhail Gorbachev set in place
an extensive plan of "glasnost" and "perestroika" to restructure every
aspect of life in the Soviet Union. History is the ultimate judge of
the contributions of a leader since some decisions are unpopular at
the time they are made.
The purpose of this project is to analyze the present
conditions in a particular area (e.g. the economy, poverty, or crime),
make predictions based on the present conditions, and suggest a course
of action to improve the situation. The sponsoring class might request
essays describing how students from different locations would change
their world if they were the leader of the country. Students may want
to write their essays in the form of a State of the Union Address
in which they outline several broad policy changes and initiatives.
Another approach is to ask each class to submit their view of the
most serious problem facing their country today.
****** If I was to lead.... ******
We are collecting opinions from teenagers on what they
would do if they were leaders of their countries. We ask that each
class submit an essay or speech that presents your vision for the
future. You may want to interview your local elected officials to
get their views or read the editorial section of your newspaper for
views of other elected leaders. Here are some topic ideas and an outline:
Conflicts - Involvement of troops, mediating disputes,
Poverty - Inner city or urban areas, welfare, nutrition, drug addiction
Immigration - Policies and their enforcement, quotas
Economy - Employment, job market, consumer spending
Crime - Police protection, sentencing, punishment
Environmental Protection - Laws, cleanup efforts, acid rain, pollution
Space Program - Space shuttle, manned space station, exploration
Taxes - Increases or decreases, shifting tax burdens, "sin" taxes
Essay or Speech Outline
1. Describe a problem facing your country today and
how it affects citizens.
2. Explain what changes you would make to solve the problem.
3. Describe how your policies would solve the problem and how long
it would take. 4. Explain how you will pay for these programs and
5. Conclude with some words of inspiration and a prediction for success.
What I Would Do as President of the United States
by Julie Concerno
Felix Junior High San Diego, California
My fellow Americans, Im here today to describe
the new federal government policy that we will develop over the next six
months. As you know, in every city and state of our union, we face serious
problems in disposing of the huge amount of garbage Americans produce
each day. Many of our nation's landfills are overfull, outdated, and present
a serious environmental hazard in terms of runoff water seeping through
the landfill and into the drinking water tables. My administration has
studied the problem extensively and determined that the problems of hazardous
landfills can be minimized greatly if every American recycles 60% of their
Beginning June 1st, every citizen will be required to separate and recycle
all items made of glass, paper, metal, plastic and rubber. Yard and lawn
clippings will also be recycled. State and city governments will be given
a one time monetary grant to develop a method to collect and recycle these
products. The federal government will build recycling plants at strategic
locations across the country to assist the state and city governments
in the processing of recyclable materials.
The estimated cost for this program is 50 billion dollars. To pay the
bill, I propose that we raise 25 billion dollars by increasing income
taxes, another 20 billion dollars by increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes,
and we estimate receiving 5 billion dollars income from sales of the recycled
In conclusion, 60% of ones garbage may sound like a considerable amount
to recycle. It is, but we have no choice. Our nations health is in jeopardy.
If we dont confront this problem today, our children and grandchildren
will suffer immensely. Significant sacrifices will have to be made but
Im confident that this great nation will succeed. We will meet this challenge
facing us and find success. Our children are depending on us. Thank you.
Elementary School Project Ideas
High School Project Ideas (Text
to Mind Works
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