Friday, April 26, 2013

Final Inquiry Projects, Multiple Rubrics? - April 26 Crumble

I'm a linear kind of learner.  I very much need to have things written out for me to make sense and capture the meaning - so I know that I am guilty of creating those slide shows where I could just have easily put it on a timer, pressed play, and took a bathroom break while my audience read my presentantation.  That's how wordy I am (like you haven't noticed).  But as a professional developer, I have to understand that most of my audience is not like me.  Most of them need to be actively engaged and visually stimulated, and I find it interesting that almost one hundred percent of the students who participated in the seventh grade biography project initially chose to create a Power Point presentation where they wanted to write out (or copy) information onto a slide rather than produce something more visual or active.

So the big questions is: Why?  Power Point is still sort-of new to these kids, although most of them have had experience with it before they hit our seventh grade language arts class, and the use of technology with all of the bells and whistles has been taught in their technology class this year.  All students are instructed on how to properly put one together in tech, so we had minimal issue with students not knowing how to use it.  They were all comfortable and enthusiastic about it. 

But what else can they do?  A few of our kiddos realized that they really wanted something a little more spacial.  Once they figured this out and conferenced with the language arts teacher, trifold boards and large poster boards began appearing, and collages started. Some kids really wanted to be wordy, but they wanted to do something different, so they created a newsletter-style report using Microsoft Publisher to inform their readers on the different aspects of the life of the person they had been researching.  I challenged one student to use Haiku Deck to create his presentation, and he was able to capture Michael Jackson visually and with minimal words - requiring transformation of information, which is key in the research process.  We offered to support some of our more musical students in changing the words to a current song and writing one using information from their research, but as of now nobody has taken us up on this.  This is where I'm falling short.  I can't, for the life of me, figure out why - when we have girls and boys who keep notebooks full of song lyrics and poetry - none of them want to use that skill to write something research-based.  Do we need to have them practice this skill more?  Does this fall on the language arts teacher?  How can we get others, perhaps the music teacher, involved in possibly exposing students to something like this - in helping us wake up the inner musician in some of our students?

Speeches, another target of the language arts class, were required of our students once they started finalizing their visuals, and many of our kiddos had taken such pride in their visual, they made very little qualms about connecting their visual with a speech.  I was able to sit down with a few and help them "beef up" Power Points with video clips from youtube and help them dig up more information, pictures, and anecdotes to share with the class. Once some of them got the hang of it, they were really proud of what they had accomplished!  Some of these kids are the most resistent to anything-education, and the pride they took on their reports was pretty amazing.

Digital-anything is not new for our kiddos, but it is engaging and exciting.  Creating movies, podcasts, and blogs are relevant but scary for those of us pushing forty.  I have a nine-year-old at home who can grab pictures from google images, save them into a folder, and then import them into a word document for printing.  Just a few days ago I introduced her to the world of blogging, and her enthusiasm was equivelant to her excitement when she gets a new mod for her Minecraft game!  She was fascinated that what she wrote online would stay there and she could share it and edit if she wanted later on. 

Most of us are scared to allow students to make such grand choices in their products.  This is partly because it is hard for us to give up control and also because we are concerned it will cause additional work to create all of those rubrics.  This has been a common concern this year as I work with more and more of you on CRISS support in project design.  My response is simple: No.  You do not have to create a rubric for each project.  Please don't.  Look at your goal.  Use the backwards design method.  If your goal is for students to be able to explain what effects gravitational forces, then create your rubric around that goal.  Students should be able to create their project to hit that target.  In the language arts classes, one of the goals was for the students to identify theme with examples of how the author expresses this theme.  Somewhere in each project, the students had to produce this information after they were given direct instruction on author's use of theme.  The rubric should then reflect that this was a goal of the project.

Don't feel like you have to grade everything.  This comes from my background in the 6+1 Traits of Writing.  Detailed rubrics are good because our students know what is expected, but remember what your real goal is.  If a student hits the real goal in an assignment but misses out on other smaller things, should that student pass or fail? 

And I shall leave you with that thought to ponder for the weekend.


  1. Collaborating with you on this project has been not only a great experience for my students, but for me, too. I have learned so much about my students and how to use their strengths to create something of which they can be proud.

    Thanks for challenging them...and take the risk.

    1. I have learned a bunch from you as well...and I've learned to love that group of kiddos as well.