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My class is currently reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I did a little poking around and found that there were quite a few different web-based study aids out there, many in the form of games. I don’t know that I would use these for hours on end in the classroom, but they may provide a great 10-minute brain break that will help students review what they have read in the book.

The List:

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This post has been a good year in the making, and I am not even close to being done with the project in a way that I can be thorough or complete with my thought. However, I do want to share what I have so far.

Last year, I attended some training with the Marzano Institute in relation to using proficiency scales. I can’t even get into that here in one blog post. There is a lot to think about, but the following chart is the result of that training, and I use it almost every day in the classroom.  
This is the grading scale I use for most assignments in my classroom. You will notice that the lowest grade a student can get on the assignment is a 2 out of 4, or a 50%.

Some people may be groaning right now. I get it. I see the reasons why this looks like I am trying to “make it easier” for the students. But this is not the case. Rather, I am making it fair.

Let me explain.

It is not easy to fail on a scale like this unless a student does not turn in work. Then I still give students a zero on the assignment. On the flip side, it is also not easy for students to get a 4 on most assignments in my classroom.

Take writing for example. Today in my class, students rewrote a paragraph for me where they were showing their ability to correct or edit a few different grammar mistakes. On an assignment like this, I do not mark how many they miss. Rather, I look at their work and give them a grade based on where they stand on the scale: advanced, proficient, low proficient, or basic. I rarely have a student in the below basic category on this assignment.

For me and the students in my class, this makes sense. They know where they stand on the assignment. It also works well when for our Standard Based Report Cards that are aligned to the Common Core.  Students really like the scales because the seem fair to them.

This is what I have observed after having used this scale for the last year:

  • I have lots of B- and C students.
  • It is hard to get a solid A in the class. if a students does this, the grade reflects that this is truly a student who is performing at the “advanced” level.
  • I do not have very many students fail the class. If they do, it due to a lack of turning in work.
  • I do give deadlines, but student grades cannot be penalized for being late when they are tied to a standard.
  • Grading like this takes a huge shift in mindset.

I would love to hear the thoughts of you who have used similar scales. What works. What doesn’t. How did students, parents, administrators etc. respond?

I know I said in the last post, Social Media Project, that teachers should just turn the students loose in finding sites to create social media posts. If this doesn’t work for you, and you want a few links to point students in the right direction, this is the page for you.

Facebook:

Twitter:

Instagram:

Snapchat:

SMS (Phone Messages)

The other option here is to turn your kids loose and see what they can come up with. Some of the best projects I have are where students created their own templates using Google Docs or Google Slides. This is especially true for Instagram and Snapchat posts.

For more on how to create a project using these sites, click here for my blog post “Social Media Project.”

 

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about Fakebook projects in the classroom. It is my most popular page. However, there has been a bunch of change since that time in regards to social media. What I found is that most of my incoming Freshmen don’t even have a Facebook account and because of this, they had a hard time working on a project that revolves Facebook.

Que the Social Media Project. This project allows students to choose a social media platform to work with that they are more comfortable with. Basically, I set it up similar to what I did with the Fakebook project, but with a lot less guidance. I let the students choose at least one platform. However, I urge them to combine several, and this also includes text messages. This allows those students who are not really into the whole social media thing also have a chance at being successful with the project (You would be surprised at how many students in a class this includes. Not all of our students are glued to a mobile device like we think.)

This project really does work the best if the instructions are vague. This is what I give the students.

Instructions:  

  1. The goal of this project is to show that you understand the play by presenting it in the form of social media. Students will choose one or several different platforms to work with (Facebook, Snapchat, Text Messages, Instagram, etc…).
  2. Choose a character who will “own” the platforms. This will be the student’s “main character.” Students will observe the story through this character’s eyes. It would be a good idea to create a page where the characters are defined in some manner.
  3. Minimum Requirements
  4. 6 Friends who should be used throughout the project
  5. 6 posts per Act with at least 2 responses/comments for each post

– There should be at least 18 total posts per act!

  1. Grading for this project will be done using the attached proficiency scales. The grades on these scales will be taken into consideration for the final grade. However, hard work and creativity will be taken into account for the final grade, which will be given at the teacher’s discretion.
  2. This project is worth 12 Assessment points.
  3. The project should be created using either Google Docs or Google Slides.

Here is a link for the instructions in Google Doc form: Click Here!

That’s it! The students just seem to run with it. At first, it looks like a ton of work, but once students get rolling, it really doesn’t take them that long. Of course, we are doing this with a Shakespeare play, but just like the Fakebook project, this one can be used for countless classroom applications.

Big Question: How do the students create the pages?

That is the beauty of this project. Leave it up to the students. They will find a bunch of different ways to make it work. I don’t worry about too much, and the projects always come out great. Let them be creative!

As far as grading goes, notice that it is mentioned in the instructions that students will be graded using a proficiency scale. On this particular assignment, I use proficiency scales for the following standards:

RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11.12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a  complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

W.11-12.3d Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

If you are not sure how a proficiency scale works, look for a post on that soon. It is something that I have been working with quite a bit over the last year, but it there is just too much there for this post.

Basic Info on Proficiency Scales: Click Here!

 

 

At the moment, my students are working on a project. I want them to be creative, so I give them as little guidance as possible when starting the project. This drives them nuts because they want as much guidance as possible. Really, they want the whole thing spelled out for them.

No Way!

One of the best things I have found to help inspire students is to show them examples of people who are creative, and it really helps if there is some explanation of the “where” and “how” these people come up with their ideas.

OK Go is a great place to turn for examples of creativity. I don’t think the guys have ever put together a project that didn’t totally outdo the last one. Their projects just keep getting bigger and bigger. What I really like about the band is that they not only produce great music videos, but they also often have a follow-up video that shows how they put the videos together. They show the whole process from the initial brainstorming all the way through to the finished product.

This is powerful for students to see. Too many students (or people in general) feel that they have no creative talent. They feel that creative people are just born that way. But this is not the case. Students need to know that anyone can be creative if they put their minds to it.

It just takes a bunch of hard work.

Today, the video that I showed was “The One Moment.” I started by showing the actual music video and followed it with the “making of” video. The music video itself is just over 4 minutes long, and the “making of” video is just over 5 minutes long. So, the whole “creative inspiration” only takes 10 or 12 minutes. I don’t like to talk much about it with the students. I let them process what they need to out of the videos, and then we get right to work on the projects.

Below, you will find both “The One Moment” and the behind the scenes look at the video production.

 

 

General Project Rubric

Grading projects can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number one rule teachers break when grading a project is that they make it too complicated. Actually, this is probably the case for most of the headaches that teachers have.  I can’t say it any plainer:

Make it simple!!!

Here is a simple rubric that can be used for most projects done in the classroom. I also like this one because it can be adapted quickly (if that is really called for) to meet the needs of a particular assignment.

Remember, and I want you to repeat this 3 times, “I don’t have to grade every single thing a student does in my class.”

Life just got a whole lot easier!

Link:  General Project Rubric

My goal for this year is to figure out how to integrate 20% time projects into my classroom. So far, the students have been at it for two weeks, and the momentum seems to be building, which is a good thing when working with students.

Up to this point, most of the work has been in the way of brainstorming topics for projects. Yesterday, the students did a Bad Idea Factory brainstorming session. It was a kick and the students came out of it with a bunch of good ideas. It worked much better than the regular run-of-the-mill brainstorming session that we did last week.

This must be due to the fact that students (and probably people in general) have a hard time thinking when there is pressure to have a good finished product, which is definitely the case when a person “brainstorms.” However, with the Bad Idea Factory, the pressure is gone. There is no wrong answer in trying to come up with bad ideas. They are all just bad.

I was amazed at the ideas that sprang from this activity. One group wrote “getting pregnant.” I told them that was definitely a bad idea! However, some of the ideas were brilliant. One student came up with the idea to go to another school for a few days. It might seem like a bad idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the potential there for an interesting project. Here are a few of the notes pages from the students.

img_1457 img_1458

 

 

This is how I handled the Bad Idea Factory in my class. I talked a little about what I wanted the students to do. Then I showed them a short video of a student explaining how the Bad Idea Factory helped him to find a good project topic (click here for the video). After that, we went into the library where there are good tables to use for group work. I arranged students into groups of 4 or 5 to sit around the tables. On each table was a large piece of butcher paper and enough markers so everyone could write on the paper. Then, I turned them loose.

Like I said before, the results were amazing. I gave the students about 15 minutes to brainstorm, which is a good chunk of time for students to come up with ideas. Usually, after this much time in a normal brainstorming session, a good number of the students would just be sitting there. That was not the case with this. The students were engaged for the entire time, and I eventually had to shut them down. Students then had the opportunity to walk around for a few minutes and read what the other groups came up with. They really enjoyed this.

To end the session, we went back to the classroom and I gave them 5 minutes to write down any ideas for projects that they might have thought of during this exercise. Several of the students seemed to have a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do.

I don’t think the Bad Idea Factory is a tool that can only be used for 20% time projects. It should probably be used in most cases where students are fishing for ideas. However, it is a must when doing a 20% time project. I feel that this is where the best ideas are going to come from for our projects this year.

For an idea of what the Bad Idea Factory looks like, check out the video.

 

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