Monday, November 19, 2012

How I improvised my 20% Project

My head is all abuzz from the night I just had....and no alcohol was involved.

Tonight, I had my "final presentation" for my personal 20% Project.

In the past, I've blogged about the 20% Project I have my students do. It is a great experience for them and I'm saddened when a student doesn't take the opportunity to learn something meaningful for them. This semester, I allowed my students to work in groups and some chose the group over their project. In other words, they sacrificed doing a project they really wanted to do in order to work with a specific person or group.

As I was brainstorming how to inspire them next semester, I thought, how could I model the process for them. Then it hit my own 20% Project. I kicked around some ideas and decided there was one thing I really have wanted to learn for a long time, but never had the courage to do....Improv Comedy!

So, for the past 8 weeks, every Monday night I met with 10 other aspiring improvers and learned games, practiced techniques, developed scenes, and had a wonderful time. I even used some of the games with my students to teach some aspects of storytelling and purchased a book about improv games in the classroom.

Tonight, we ended the class with a public performance attended by about 25 of our friends and family. Fittingly, it was our best performance in the 8 weeks. After the show, several of us went out for a celebratory dinner. One of my classmates asked us all why we took the class to begin with. We all had different reasons; One person wanted to be a profession improv comedian, a couple wanted to improve on public speaking skills, and some just thought it sounded like fun. But, whatever the reason, we all had that internal motivation to learn something new whether it had a practical application or not.

I know it sounds cliche, but I really can't put into words the effect this class had on me. I do, however, know I want my students to experience the same rewarding feeling I had. I'm going to share with my students about my journey these past 8 weeks and let them see the enthusiasm that is created by learning something for the sake of learning.

The Level 2 class starts in January and most, if not all, of our makeshift troupe plans to continue this journey together. I challenge anyone considering or doing a 20% Project with their students to do one of their own. The personal fulfillment was so much more than I anticipated. Now, I just need to get the courage to take the next step in this adventure....inviting students to my next public performance.



  1. Wonderful!
    I share with my students my own... Learning how to Geocache! I've since become part of the geocaching community - attended events, hidden our own, and sent off a travel bug with its own blog!!

    Yes, the modeling will be even more inspiration for your students. Keep updating them with other projects you try, as well. I'm pretty sure they'll appreciate learning about you as a lifetime learner...

  2. First of all, I think it's terrific that you did your own 20% project. What a great way to show your students what a lifelong learner looks like! And, I love that you took this class as your personal 20% project. How fun. Did you record your performance so your kids could see it, or are the pictures going to be enough?

    Now, I've got to think about mine.....

  3. Excellent, Mr. Cockrum,
    I love how you are taking 20% time (genius hour) to the next level with your students. You have inspired me too. I love the vulnerability. I'll look forward to hearing about the reward you receive when some of your students see your performance.

    This semester I'm working on stop motion animation and learning about Albert Einstein for genius hour.

    Denise Krebs

  4. So glad that it went well! And I was happy to read on the newer post that some of the students made some very real gains with their 20% projects :)