It’s important to help students to see the end result of their hard work. The way that I do this is to start the year with a career research project. Being in language arts, it’s easy to integrate the research, reading, and writing skills that my students need to practice, as well as help set a tone for my expectations in their work. I find that this works especially well with some of my less motivated students that may not be looking forward to the future and may not realize that 9th grade is the gateway to high school graduation and careers and education beyond.
This unit may take a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on how you want to design it and your students. We start by taking a career survey. You can find many online resources if you have the capability, or you can create an interest survey of your own. Students take some time to determine what they are interested and what their skills are. After they discover their interests, I have them choose a career that they might be interested in. We use that to start our research.
Once the students have found a career interest, they fill out a basic K-W-L chart with what they know about it and what they want to know about it. We fill out what they learned as they research. It’s important to explain to your students why they are using the K-W-L and what it’s purpose. This allows you to address common research strategies, as well as careers. Once the students have generated questions, I also add some questions to their list to help them get enough information. The students research their career on-line using state and career research websites. They fill out the remainder of their K-W-L, making sure to answer all of their questions, as well as the questions I provided.
Once the students have researched the career, I generally have them produce a poster with important information and pictures. They then present the information to the class. This can also be done in a Power Point presentation, a written report, or any number of other ways. If the students are lower level English learners, presentations might not be the best way to go. In this case, I use a “Gallery Walk” where the students hang their posters around the room and the other students go around and read them and record information on a worksheet.
Helping students keep the future in mind is always a good idea. Sometimes they forget that there are options out there. This research also helps you set up your research expectations and to teach the students research skills. You may also want to go over plagiarism & citation, valid sources, presentation formatting, or any number of skills you want your students to have as you start the new year. This project also helps you learn a little bit about the interests, personalities, and plans of your new students. Enjoy getting to know them and reminding them that there’s a big world out there.