Of course it's getting closer to that magical time when we get to "punch out" for the summer and I'm sure that your ideas for engaging students is starting to run a little dry. The wishing well is getting empty, folks. You can admit it, I know it's true. That's why I wanted to share a fun lab that I like to do towards the end of the school year as a bit of a over-arch to the other labs that we're doing. In 1979, the Social Identity Theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner. This theory essentially explains that when humans naturally group ourselves like we would objects (blue objects, green objects, red objects, etc), we can begin to divide ourselves based on our own identity and others' lack thereof. Thus we create an us v. them situation. Left uncontrolled, this can spiral into racism and genocide. But, in a controlled environment, it's a neat demonstration of human psychology and how humans - while an incredible social species - subdivides ourselves. (You can read more about the Social Identity Theory here which is the article I use to explain what happened at the end of the several weeks.) Being the geek and nerd that I am, I like to use the Hogwarts houses in order to create an artificial subdivision of students. I'll use a day to explain the concepts that we'll be exploring while not fully explaining the theory behind it. Students will take the Hogwarts houses quiz (I use the one from pottermore, because, why not?) in order to determine which house they belong to. From then until the end of the year, this will be their lab groups/work groups. When they have projects, they work with the members of their house. The labs that they'll be performing are challenging and unlike before, they will receive very little information from me. Forcing them to work with members of their house in order to complete their lab work. (You may need to tweak this a little to incorporate the group work or what have you.) You establish a points system similar to how it works in the books/movies: you can gain points for doing well academically and other things, you can loose points for doing poorly or poor behavior, etc. Ultimately you decide who gains or looses points. Have some sort of reward ready at the end of the experiment time period for the house who gains the most points during the experiment. During the experiment, you're going to want to track as much real data as you possibly can. You'll need this information later when you explain what just happened. Some examples are: what results in points gained/lost and for what reasons, common mistakes in the group work that the houses are making, common trends on how the students interact with one another, etc. I try to run it for roughly 6-8 weeks towards the end of the school year so that you get a lot of data you can show. Here's the rules: 1) Students MUST work with their team mates. Explain that they must complete each assignment with their team mates. (Hint: the wording here is critical in that they have to use their team mates, but that doesn't mean that they can't use other team mates...) 2) You should track data, you can even have the students keep track and they will definitely be surprised by some of the patterns that come out! (You might even be surprised too!) 3) Points are awarded or subtracted based on traceable events. (I.e leave a paper trail. If a house is talking too much after being asked to quiet down, this is traceable. Taking points because you don't like a particular house is not.) 4) Try to be fair about points. Be consistent and try not to show favoritism. If you can do it fairly, it works significantly better. And finally 5) Students' grades for the group activities are based on the entire group. So everyone in the house should receive a grade based on the success (or failure) of the entire group. And finally, here's the teacher's version of the explanation (you may need to tweak to fit your needs). During the course of the experiment run time, as long as you follow the rules and track the data accurately, you're going to see a LOT of patterns emerge from what happens over the course of the experiment. You are essentially grouping like-minded people into groups and forcing them to work together in order to achieve the best results for the entire group. We do a similar thing when we talk about peoples' personality types with the birds - eagle, parrot, owl. Regardless of if you think it's crazy or not, you WILL see patterns of behavior that correlate directly with the houses that students have been assigned. You're going to notice that each house behaves and conducts themselves in a completely different matter than the other three. (You can reference this if you're unfamiliar with the houses and their traits.) That's why I'm really stressing tracking every piece of data that you can, you'll be amazed at the patterns you'll see! The Social Identity Theory explains that we naturally tend to group ourselves into these formations, just as we group objects. This is how the human mind works. The human mind can only juggle roughly 3-4 chunks of information at one time. Even our every day tasks are grouped in this way so that they mind can juggle more information at once. It's the mind's way of cheating the system. For example, do you remember how you first learned how to get dressed in the morning? Think about the individual tasks that are involved with getting dressed: putting on your shirt, pants, buttoning them up, running the belt through the loops, putting your shoes on, lacing them, etc. Nowadays, it's probably so automated that you can day dream and wonder about other things and then all of a sudden you're dressed and ready to go. That's because your mind has grouped those tasks so that you can focus on other things. The beauty of this is that based on a fictional grouping (the houses) which are essential to your grade as an individual (you get the grade the group gets), the students will satisfy one of the conditions of the Social Identity Theory in that the group needs to be something that is near and dear to their hearts. Not only that, it breaks up some of your cliques. Just because they're friends does not mean that they will be assigned to the same house. Now mathematically speaking, if you have a class of 32, that should divide into 4 groups of 8. Don't set your heart on having these nice even numbers, it probably won't happen. Every time I've done this experiment, I tend to have 10ish Gryffindors, 10ish Ravenclaws, and then the rest fairly evenly divided between Hufflepuff and Slytherins. It tends to go that your Ravenclaws and Gryffindors are more populous. Don't be alarmed by this and don't alter it. You'll be surprised how it plays out. And that's pretty much it! Track the data, only tell the bare minimum information to start (i.e you're being sorted by house these are your new groups), and then, well, sit back and be amazed. At the end of it, take time to explain everything that just happened to your students and why. And if you're creative, you can take it one step further, but I'll let you figure out that part. Let me know what happens! PS: Spoiler alert: your Slytherins will have the most legitimately earned points and they'll give you the most interesting answers to the puzzles that you present (at least they have every time I've run this).