Many teachers like to begin the school year or a new semester with a One Word reflection and/or art project to help students choose a focal point for their academic and personal lives.  I decided to kick off the new semester and new year earlier this month with our own variation on a One Word project.

We began with this reflection tool; students warmed up their thinking by responding to the first three questions.  We then talked about how reflection can hep us think about where we’ve been and where we want to go as learners and as individuals.

Next, we watched this short video to frame the “One Word” concept:

I then asked students to think about what might be one word that would represent the kind of learner and person they aspired to be in their school and home lives.  In our Canvas learning management system, I posted this list of words to help students who might be struggling to think of word choices.  Students used the second half of the reflection tool to brainstorm ten words; once students had generated ten words, they selected their top choice.

Once students selected their one word, they began writing a paragraph reflection using the guidelines, model paragraph, and writing checklist I posted in the assignment section of Canvas.  Students composed in Google Docs and then submitted their written reflection in Canvas.

We worked on thinking piece and composing our paragraphs for about three days in the computer lab and with our classroom Chromebooks.

I was impressed by the thought and depth of reflection many students, especially those in my 6th period, put into their paragraphs.  Many students really invested themselves both intellectually and emotionally in their word choices.  I definitely recommend frontloading this activity with the word selection piece and the written reflection before beginning the artwork.

Once students finished their written reflection, they could browse design ideas for inspiration to create their artistic representation of their one word.  I collected some examples from the web, but I primarily used examples in the slideshow from my fellow Language Arts teacher Jeanne Rountree and her 8th grade students.  After browsing some ideas on TPT, my requirements for the art piece included:

  • The one word should be crafted in a bold and prominent way on your paper.
  • You should repeat the word or a phrase of significance to you with the word in smaller paper.
  • Thoughtful use of color, hand-crafted fonts, and images should be used to enhance the message you want to convey about the importance of this one word to you.

I provided paper, colored pencils, markers, and rulers for students to use; most needed at least two class periods to craft their work.  Below is a gallery of their creations:

We now have our one word gallery going up in the front of the room so our words are there to help us stay the course on our aspirations and to serve as a compass.  How have you used a one word project in your classroom?