Near the end of the school year, my freshmen embark on a multi-week advocacy unit. During this time, they must plan, research, write, revise, and polish a final project.
The first few times I assigned the project, students struggled out of the gates. They waited too long to commit to a topic, perform preliminary research, and find a focus for their writing. As a result, they had to scramble to finish, affecting the quality of their work.
The mini deadlines I set up along the way were not enough. I needed something to jolt planning and research into motion so students had enough time to do their best work.
The solution: project elevator pitches.
What is an elevator pitch?
You likely know the concept of an elevator pitch: You find yourself in an elevator with an important person and have just a few moments to make a strong impression. What will you say? How will you sell yourself and your ideas?
In a project elevator pitch, students give a brief persuasive speech to introduce a project idea and justify why it is worth pursuing.
A project elevator pitch early in the process forces students to ask and answer crucial questions:
- What is my topic, and why is this topic worth pursuing?
- Who is my audience, and why should they care about my topic?
- What is my purpose? What will my project accomplish?
- What steps do I need to take to accomplish my project goals?
When students confidently answer these questions, they can carry out their plan efficiently and effectively.
How do project elevator pitches work?
Early in a unit, students prepare 1–2 minute speeches about their project to give in front of the class. Afterward, they answer questions and receive feedback from their peers and teacher.
How can I introduce project pitches?
Before students develop their own elevator pitches, have them study examples.
One fun source is the popular show Shark Tank. Depending on your school’s access, you can show clips of Shark Tank contestants pitching ideas to investors. (I especially like the swim goggles and BBQ examples.) You could also search for examples from students, such as this pitch from a Dayton student or this pitch from a Delaware student.
While reviewing the examples, have students listen carefully and discuss common elements and persuasive strategies.
What makes a strong pitch?
Strong pitches start by creatively introducing a problem or unmet need. Then they offer a solution—the project, product, service, or idea—and show why it is well thought out and feasible.
To create a strong pitch, your students can follow the instructions in the activity below. Feel free to adapt the activity to meet the needs of your class.