Honors Class Types and Teaching Ideas

Students can earn Honors credit Letters & Science courses in four ways: Honors only (H) courses, Accelerated Honors (!) courses, Honors optional (%) courses, and Green Sheets.

Honors Only (H) Courses

These courses are either (a) limited to 25 or fewer students, or (b) contain a discussion section taught by a faculty member (the lecturer, and not a teaching assistant) that is part of a regular lecture. Examples of what makes Honors- only courses particularly motivating and challenging:

  • Students are asked to apply the materials learned to real-world situations.
  • Students are asked to synthesize knowledge and apply techniques / skills to new areas.
  • Readings come from articles and academic books instead of textbooks.
  • Readings are substantive and writing assignments have more depth and/or require secondary research.
  • Assignments include analyzing primary source documents or gathering unique data.
  • Projects are individual, research-oriented and on an original topic.

Accelerated Honors (!) Courses

These courses are not restricted to Honors students. They are taught at an accelerated level; they may offer a capstone experience at the junior or senior level in the major or a particularly rigorous first- or second-year course. Characteristics of such unrestricted Honors courses:

  • Students are asked to do more difficult problem sets or read more theoretical texts.
  • Students are asked to synthesize knowledge and apply techniques / skills to new areas at a faster pace.

Honors Optional (%) Courses

These are regular courses that allow students to enroll at the Honors level, enabling them to earn Honors credit through a particular project. Such Honors projects should spark student interest, engage the student in course material more deeply, invite student-driven learning wherever practical, educate about the value of research, facilitate connection-making between theory and application, and enrich the student’s overall experience without being an undue burden on student or instructor. Increased faculty-student interaction, even for a couple of hours a semester, and direct feedback is encouraged.

Students can add or remove the Honors Option (%) through their Student Center through the end of the twelfth week of class in the fall or spring term without instructor or Dean’s permission. Deadlines are adjusted for modular and summer courses. The Honors Program strongly encourages instructors to list wha they expect of students seeking Honors on their syllabi, including a deadline for aligning their Honors Option (%) enrollment with their plans.

Enrichment opportunities that fall outside of regular class times can be very beneficial to students. We encourage faculty to be flexible with these expectations as students are likely to have commitments outside of their university education.

Untertaking or attempting an Honors project should never put a student at a disadvantage. For information on grading Honors courses or Honors-option projects, please see here. 

The following list of project ideas is not exhaustive but rather meant to generate ideas.  If you develop a unique and rewarding project, please consider sharing it with us so that we might share it with other faculty as they work to develop curriculum – it can be emailed to honors@honors.ls.wisc.edu

  • Provide more options to students for papers or projects; give them a menu of opportunities from which to choose based on their individual interests.
  • Facilitate peer or provide instructor feedback on drafts of student work; consider assigning earlier deadlines for Honors assignments to allow time for more robust feedback.
  • Facilitate Honors field trips to help students make connections between their surroundings and the theories that they are learning in class.
  • Assign group projects so that Honors students can collaborate and learn from one another.
  • Consider assigning something less traditional, such as a creative writing piece, a performance or a media project related to a topic from the course.
  • Help students make connections to the campus research endeavor by assigning shadowing or interviewing faculty about research that relates to a course topic.
  • Ask students to attend campus or community events (departmental colloquia, shows, musical performances, guest speakers, visiting authors on campus, film screenings, documentaries) and assign some follow-up work – a discussion with the instructor, a presentation to class or a written report.
  • Have students blog about course materials/issues or their own research on topics in the course.
  • Assign students to interview professionals in the field or individuals with knowledge related to course topics, then have them share their experiences with the class, other Honors students, or yourself.
  • Add a cross-disciplinary perspective to a course (ex: Political Science Professor led a visit to the Chazen to see how artists portray rule under dictatorships).
  • Have the students engage in service learning opportunities relevant to the course and journal about the experience.

Green Sheets

Green Sheets are independent, student-initiated Honors projects for non-Honors courses. In a nutshell, students develop a project to receive honors credit in a non-Honors course, and must submit a brief proposal (250 words) to the Honors Program for approval before Honors credit can be awarded. Students must be in the Honors Program in order to complete a Green Sheet. Faculty are not obligated to accept a student’s request for a Green Sheet.

Read more about Green Sheets here, including specific examples of student projects in links at the bottom of the Green Sheet page. 

Here are some general types of Green Sheet projects:


  • Students read selections from books and/or journals or an additional text that covers regular course topics in greater depth. Faculty meet with students from time to time to discuss these readings and have them give oral reports or write short responses.
  • Students relate current topics in the news to course material by meeting with faculty to discuss how each week’s headlines or articles relate to course content.


  • Students research a topic and make a presentation in class or prepare a handout to be distributed to class members.
  • Students construct an annotated bibliography or write a research prospectus.
  • Students get involved in a research project or assist in activities and/or community service projects related to course topics.

Participating & Making

  • Students create something (a computer program, film, musical composition, podcast, website, short story or play).
  • Students prepare a model, demonstration or other visual aid for possible use in class.
  • Students learn to analyze data in the field you are studying (e.g., statistical packages or creating charts).
  • Students expand and improve a course project or paper beyond what is already required for the course.

Visiting, Listening & Watching

  • Students attend lectures, films or departmental colloquia on a topic relevant to the course.
  • Students compare a theatrical or film production of a novel or play to the original story, or compare an interpretation of an event or person to reality.
  • Students visit laboratories or clinics to observe ongoing research or treatment activities and attend meetings of those involved in research.
  • Students visit museums or sites and discuss what they learned (e.g., analyze the physics of an exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, study a work of art at the Chazen Museum, or tour Dane County to study glaciated and unglaciated regions)