Innovation in the CTE Classroom

Keeping lessons fresh and fun can be a challenge, but as Career and Technical Education teachers, we have a great opportunity to be innovative in our classrooms.  CTE classes lend themselves naturally to being outside of the box classes.  Here are a couple of ways I keep things fresh in my CTE classes.

Badges and Brags Wall

As part of my entrepreneurship class’s business project, I do a  “Badges and Brags Wall.” As students start and develop their businesses they can earn “badges” I have created.  They can also add things they are proud of, “brags,” so everyone else in the class knows what they are up to.

This addition to the class has really moved the students along with their businesses.  The “badges” have motivated them, as they are continuously trying to earn more, and the “brags” have been a great way to share their successes.  Compared to years past, my students this year are much further along with their business projects, and I have to give credit to the “Badges and Brags Wall.”

Badges and Brag Wall 2
“Whatever it is that you are working on with your students, ask yourself, ‘How can I make this memorable for my students?’”

Maker Spaces

It is so easy to incorporate hand-on building into different CTE classes.  Having a maker space in your classroom will come in handy.  Maker spaces don’t have to be super expensive or elaborate.  It’s amazing what kids can do with some cardboard and tape.

Maker Space and it's contents.

My maker space consists of the following:

  • Markers/ crayons/ colored pencils/ highlighters
  • Cardboard
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Beads
  • Play-doh
  • Legos
  • Laminator
  • 3-D Printer
  • Cricut machine
  • Random craft items

Here’s a video tour of my Maker Space.

How to Involve the Maker Space:

Cost of Goods Activity

When studying the cost of goods, we use legos.  I give the students an item they have to build (i.e. a phone stand). They then build that item and figure out how much it cost in materials and labor to build it.

Wanted Posters

When looking for group members for a project, I sometimes have students create “wanted posters.”  They describe what qualities they are looking for in a group member for this particular project.  We then do a gallery walk and students decide on their groups/partners.

The Disruptus Challenge

This challenge can be used to get creativity flowing in the classroom, as a team building activity, or as a starting point for a business idea. Students quickly go from idea to prototype in one class period.  The maker space contains the tools the students use to create their prototype.

Business Projects

Students use the maker space for a number of different reasons to work on their business project in my entrepreneurship class. From the Cricut machine to make t-shirts to the 3-D printer to make initial prototypes of their products, the maker space has been instrumental.

Guest Speakers

Guest Speaker Posters.

Have you ever told your students something forty times and they think it’s a bad idea? Then, someone else says the same thing and your students think they are a genius! Frustrating, I know! Sometimes students need to hear it from someone else.  Guest speakers are the answer!

I invite as many guest speakers as possible into my room, especially for my entrepreneurship class. Students can learn from their successes and struggles.  As the guest is speaking, students are writing down things that really stuck with them.  We then make posters of these speakers and their quotes to hang in the room so we can see them all year long. You can design and print posters from easily and cheaply.

Projects with a Purpose

Creating projects that ultimately serve a purpose are more meaningful to students than assignments which are hypothetical.  Finding organizations, businesses, or other classes to team up with can put meaning behind your next project.

I’ve had marketing students go through design, sales, and advertising lessons by creating and selling t-shirts.  The profits from these shirts went to a local non-profit organization. Not only did the students learn about design, sales, and advertising, but they got the satisfaction of helping others in the process.

I’ve had my personal finance and banking classes write and illustrate a children’s book about the importance of savings.  They then read those books to second grade classes. (You will hear more about this project in my next blog.)

Students have started businesses in my entrepreneurship class that they are still running years after they graduate.

Celebrate Your Students

Student Celebrations

Any chance you get, find a way to celebrate your students in and out of the school.  If students know you are going to display and brag about their work, they take more pride and put in more effort.  This is also a great way to attract more community partners.  If local businesses see the cool things you are doing, they will want to get involved and help fund some of the projects you have planned.

One new way I will be celebrating students this year is with an “Entrepreneurship Fair.”  My students will set up displays of the business they have created so members of the community can come and ask questions and see the work they have done (think science fair style). I received a grant, so we will be able to award prizes to the students after the event.

Ways to Celebrate Student Work:

  • Send out press releases to local newspapers and news stations.
  • Display work in an empty display case around the school.
  • Create posters of students and their work to hang in your classroom for students to see year after year.
  • Have students present their work to the school board.
  • Collaborate with local businesses on projects.
  • Host a “Students’ Work Fair” for other students and community members to view.
  • Post student work on your and your school’s social media pages.
  • Enter students’ work into competitions.

Whatever it is that you are working on with your students, ask yourself, “How can I make this memorable for my students?” This is what will take your classroom to the next level.


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