One of the resources we published last fall offered students three tips for making meaningful and engaging personal pieces — in writing, video, photography, painting, podcasting, cartooning or any other format. Now that the contest is over, if you match the work the judges chose with the tips, below, you can see that most pieces managed to follow all three. There is much more detail about each in this resource, but here is a summary of the tips and why they are important:
Create from who you are and what you genuinely care about. As we wrote: “When students are given the freedom to make what they want, and use their own real voices to do it, the resulting work shines. If there was ever a time to bring your own identity, circumstances and emotions into a piece, it is for a project like this one.”
Focus on something small to tell a larger story. As we told students: “A piece about, say, making brownies with your stepbrother at 3 a.m. can speak volumes about the experience of living in a blended family during quarantine. You don’t always have to reach for a ‘deep meaning’ — often that meaning is inherent in the details of the story itself, or in the way you tell it.”
Find a unique way to approach your topic by playing with genre, voice, tone, the use of detail and other craft tools. We explained: “Amid a pandemic that is affecting the entire world, it’s hard to come up with a topic that’s original. The good news is that you don’t have to — you just need to put your own special spin on it.”
As your students look through the collection to find inspiration, they might use these three tips as a lens. Ask them:
Which of the pieces in the Coming of Age collection seem to best follow each of these tips? Why?
How might following these tips help your own work? Which one do you think will be hardest for you? Why?
Good luck, and if you teach with this project, we’d love to hear how. Please post a comment here, or write to us at LNFeedback@nytimes.com.
Thank You to Our Judges
The team that helped choose the 245 finalists included educators, Learning Network staff and Times journalists, as well as teenagers who have won previous Learning Network contests. In alphabetical order they were:
Tanya Abrams, Anushka Agarwal, Adee Braun, Amanda Brown, Alison Bruzek, William Chesney, Nicole Daniels, Shannon Doyne, Madeline Dulchin, Jeremy Engle, Nora Fellas, Ross Flatt, Madeline Fox, Annissa Hambouz, Henry Hsiao, Mara Gay, Nico Gendron, Michael Gonchar, Karen Hanley, Callie Holtermann, Isabel Hui, Isabel Hwang, Abel John, Lauren Kelley, Caroline Kravitz, Matt Kwong, Alexander Lee, Phoebe Lett, Simon Levien, Tiffany Liu, Rachel Manley, Sue Mermelstein, Wadza Mhute, Corinne Myller, John Otis, Alice Park, Elizabeth Phelps, Natalie Proulx, Liv Ryan, Adam Sanders, Katherine Schulten, Jessie Schwartz, Ana Sosa, Noah Spencer, Nicholas St. Fleur, Ananya Udaygiri, Emma Weber, Clare Zhang and Celina Zhao.