Shark Tank: A Project for the End of the Year
Have you been counting down the days left until the end of the school year? It’s okay - we all do it (although I wouldn’t recommend putting one of those countdowns on your whiteboard - the students have a hard enough time staying focused as it is!). Often, we find ourselves winding down the school year with a little wiggle room left over - say, a week or two (or three!) that we need to fill. But we don’t want to show our students movies or give them meaningless crossword puzzles and word searches - no! We want to keep our students engaged until the very. last. second.
This is where Shark Tank comes in.
You know - Shark Tank? The ABC hit show in which would-be entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of potential investors? You can enact your own version of this in your classroom at the end of the school year to keep students engaged and using the myriad skills you’ve taught them this year.
Here is the basic idea:
Students will come up with their own Shark Tank idea. This can be anything - yes, anything - as long as it’s appropriate to pitch to their classmates. I’ve seen students pitch everything from earbuds that mold to the shape of your ear, to time machines that take you back to the time of the dinosaurs - and everything in between. You are the arbiter of what constitutes a viable idea.
Students must pitch their product to a panel of “investors.” It is up to you who these “investors” will be, although it’s ideal if the panel is more than just you. Can you pull in an administrator or two? Teachers on their preps? How official can you make this? Perhaps you can create a scoring card that is used for each student’s pitch (this would essentially become the rubric for the project).
Students use their class time to put together a method of pitching their product - digitally or otherwise. In my class, many students made dynamic slide presentations about their products (Prezi would be a great tool for this), while others made videos or even physical prototypes. My only requirement for this portion of the project was that students had to create something to accompany their pitch; they couldn’t simply stand before the panel and talk. The panel has to have a visual of what they are trying to create.
What skills are students using when they do a Shark Tank project? Well, let’s see:
Informative writing - students must convey the complex ideas behind their product in a way that makes it comprehensible to the panel
Argument writing - students must create an argument for why the panel should choose to invest in their product
Presentation skills - students’ pitches must be clear, concise, and logically presented
Media skills - students must use various media strategically to aid in their presentation
This project also inherently contains a huge degree of student choice, which is the secret sauce when it comes to student engagement.
Hey everyone. Chris here. I wanted to chime in on this post a bit also. I did this in my class as well and I have to tell you, it was amazing! The kids produced products and prototypes beyond what I hoped or imagined they would. What I really liked about this project at the end of the year, and Erin alluded to it, was how it took so many of the skills we had worked on all year and wrapped it into one super-engaging and enjoyable project. It was really groundbreaking for a lot of students to think about how doing something like this fit into an English Language Arts class. Students didn't know they were “doing English.”
I still remember one student saying, “Mr. Butler, this is an English class, how is this English?” I asked him what-all they were being asked to do to for the project. We came up with research, multiple forms of writing, reading (websites and peer work), presentation skills, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and so on. At this point the student looked at me and said, “I guess you're right, this is English… It's awesome!” How great is that for an ending to a great school year?
Have you wrapped up your state testing? Finished all your required novels and pieces of writing? Give it a shot if you have time and you're looking for something to engage and fire up your students when everybody is probably counting down the days. Y’all might just lose track of that countdown to summer in your class.
If you try Shark Tank, let us know! What went well? What totally bombed? What will you tweak for next time?