For assignments, consider letting students choose from a menu of “salads,” “appetizers,” “main courses” and “desserts”

Let me preface this article by giving you context. I’ve been teaching Video Production for 11 years, and it can get stale. Stale with a capital S. I attend all sorts of EdTech conferences to find tools and tricks to help classrooms spice it up. Most are geared towards the littles (elementary) or would be difficult to put in my classroom where we are project-based. But a trend in “digital choice boards” had me curious. How would that work in my Digital Journalism class? I toyed with the idea, but set it to the side, and set the class to the side (I would start it the year after things calmed down).

I attended the MediaNow camp and was LIT ON FIRE with ideas and passion. Kudos to Aaron Manfull for creating a great environment for advisers and students to experience this during the summer. The idea of the “choice boards” was brought up during this camp in my advising session. This is the methodology behind letting students choose what they will do for the Quarter. I will still get what I want out of the deal, and students feel like they have a final say in what they are accomplishing for our student publication. And thus, “Order Your Quarter” was born.

The whole idea of the concept stems on the fact we call it our “menu.” The menu is broken down into 4 parts: Salad, Appetizers, Main Course, and Desserts.

Salads: These are the little things that keep our website “green and fresh.” Updating recent sports scores, adding daily announcements, one “quality” news article, one “Humans of Your School” post, one “Memes on Themes” and one podcast. These are things that take very little time, or can be done quickly.

Appetizer: This is our Social Media Focus. We have a Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. Each student gets a different focus every Quarter, so at the end of the year, they’ve challenged themselves to learn each social media. They are in Social Media teams of 5 students (one is the “manager”) and they are required to make one post a day, and game day posts for sports.

Main Courses: This is where they get the chunk of their grade. They all must choose a “documentary.” This is our “bread and butter” of our class, which are 3 minute packages on a topic of their choosing. Our community likes and responds to these best. The second thing they pick is a Director role (a leadership position such as Editor in Chief, Asst. Editor in Chief, Sports Director, Media Director, Publicity Director, Social Media Manager, a Literary Magazine Editor, or Reporter (additional Quality News Articles).

Desserts: Finally, the desserts are the fun things. The icing on the cakes. Things to make us smile, and go “that’s cool.” Things like drone montages, 360 videos, ThingLinks, Infographics, Timelapse, AdFlyers, Publicity Flyers, Hype videos, stop motion videos, SloMotion videos, BulletTime video, etc. Students can spend as little or as much time as they want on this. They are meant to be fun, let the students have fun, and try something new. They have to change their desserts every quarter, and cannot do the same thing twice.

Overall, this approach has empowered students to be more focused and self-managing with their” projects. And because they selected their projects, there are no “eye rolls” when it comes to having something assigned to them.

The word “desserts” and “salads” has also become part of their vocabulary, saying “when is my Dessert due?” The students keep the title of the projects to maintain consistency.

So in my classroom setting, this has worked great, and gets everything done I want done to publish. The Student Directors assign specific due dates so everything is not due at once, and is scattered among the Quarter.


To start, maybe start small, with a few things selected. Or you can do it Jessica Roberts style, which is test out the water with both feet. Go big or go home. But make sure to do it with a smile! 

To see what students choose, follow this link:

Jessica Roberts

Jessica is the Director of Digital Media at Arlington High School, located in Shelby County outside of Memphis, in West Tennessee. Her students operate a News Website, a weekly TV Show, and a public access station. Her school system went 1:1 with iPad Pros, 12.9inch, with her students utilizing the iPads in innovative and unique ways. Jessica is the 2019 Tennessee High School Press Association Teacher of the Year, along with her student winning Student Journalist of the Year, and her Principal awarded Administrator of the Year. Jessica was also named an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2019. Jessica has been teaching Film and Media Production for 10 years.

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