Students can become very passionate about a project they have strong feelings about. Invite them to create a "passion list" of the people, places and things they love -- and hate. Or ask them to stand up and talk for two minutes about their likes or dislikes. (They can't name another student or a teacher.) Then tie your activities to students' interests.
If second graders are interested in dinosaurs, for example, develop math activities around numbers involving dinosaurs. Have students figure out how many different kinds of dinosaurs existed during each time period, what percentage of dinosaurs were herbivorous and carnivorous, and so on. Then invite them to create a spreadsheet with the information and graph it.
If your fourth graders are interested in U.S. geography, have them pick their favorite state and do a research report on it or make a poster. Invite them to imagine they are traveling to that state and create an itinerary. Have them pretend they are selling the state to tourists and do a sales speech with posters, and so on. Encourage them to create a PowerPoint presentation about the state. If everyone picks a different state, you'll also have a lot of comparison information.
Students will learn and want to do the activities because they are already interested in the topic.
For more about activities that tap into students' interests, read about Interest Fairs.
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