New Kid on the Block

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, July 8, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute lesson plans


In this activity, students will consider what it is like to be a new student in their school. They will interview students who transferred into the school last year to learn about their experiences as incoming students, and create materials or a program to help new students with their transition into the school.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts
Strand Writing
Grade 6-8
Language Arts
Benchmark 4. Evaluates own and others’ writing (e.g., applies criteria generated by self and others, uses self-assessment to set and achieve goals as a writer, participates in peer response groups) Benchmark 5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform) Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes Benchmark 1. Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses) Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes Benchmark 6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media) Benchmark 7. Uses appropriate verbal and nonverbal techniques for oral presentations (e.g., inflection/modulation of voice, tempo, word choice, grammar, feeling, expression, tone, volume, enunciation, physical gestures, body movement, eye contact, posture)


Students will do the following: • interview students to gather information from a different perspective • design informational material to ease new students’ transitions into the school



Building Background New School Jitters
In this activity, students will listen to the story of the problems Ukrainian immigrants face in the Chicago schools.
1. Involve students in a discussion about what it is like to go to a new place for the first time. Turn the discussion to the topic of what it is like to move to a new area and go to a strange school for the first time. (Review) 2. Either listen to or read the transcript of Larissa Hotra’s story “Educating the Ukrainian Diaspora in Chicago” from the Chicago Public Radio Website. This story talks about the difficulties new immigrants from the Ukraine face when they walk through the doors of the Chicago schools. 3. Involve the students in a discussion about the difficulties the students in the story faced.
Steps for Learning Helping New Students
In this activity, students will interview other students who were new to the school last year to determine any difficulties they may have faced when they arrived. They will design a project that addresses the needs of new students entering the school.
Teacher Note: Before beginning this activity, you will need to get a list of students who were new to the school last year. 1. Tell the students that they are going to create a project that will help new students adjust to life in their school. 2. Explain to students that they are going to interview students who were new to the school last year to find out about any difficulties they had adjusting to the school. Arrange for students to meet with the people they are going to interview. (Investigate) 3. After students have completed the interview, have each student share what they learned with the class. Record the findings on the board or a piece of chart paper. Did anything surprise them about the new student experience? (Frame/Reframe) 4. Break the class into small groups. Based on the information students collected, have each group design a “Guide for New Students” project. This project could take many forms, i.e., a brochure, video, website, creation of a New Students’ club, etc. (Generate possible solutions) 5. Hand out the “Guide for New Students” worksheet and ask students to complete the tasks outlined in the handout. (Edit + Develop ideas)
6. Upon completion, have students share their project with the class. (Share + Evaluate)
Share the Knowledge
Invite the principal into the class for the presentations. Discuss the possibility of implementing some of the projects into the school to help new students with their adjustment period. (Finalize + Articulate Solution)


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric:
  • How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas?
  • Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your solution.
  • Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve.
  • Rate how clearly you communicated your solution.
  • Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
  • Pair up each new student with a "buddy" in their class who will help introduce them to the school, play with them at recess, introduce them to their friends, and help them get adjusted to their new environment.
  • In your class, read a storybook about a new student to develop empathy among your students.
  • If students are too young to design a brochure or website for new students, they can design welcome signs or posters in different languages to help new students feel more comfortable. They can also design activities for classrooms to participate in when a new student arrives, i.e. name games, ice-breaker activities, etc.
Differentiation for High School:
  • With older students, take the project to the next level! Based on their research, how can they redesign their school, classroom, cafeteria, and/or outdoor space to be more friendly and less intimidating to new students? Is there a way to modify school culture to be more welcoming to new students through design?

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