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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

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This past week, I spent quite a bit of time preparing for presentations that I was giving at a conference. In both presentations, I was talking about different technology projects that enhance the learning experience for students, but before I got down to the meat of the sessions, I wanted to talk about they “why” behind using technology in the classroom.

I decided that I should talk about “academic rigor.” It is definitely a buzz word in education right now and is brought up almost anytime teachers start talking about teaching student properly. This seemed like a natural place to start talking about why these projects are so good for classroom instruction. After all, I always thought that the rigor meant good, hard work that challenged a students at just the right level to help them learn.

That’s what I thought…and then I looked up the word. Here are a few of the definitions for the word coming straight from the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

  • harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment
  •  an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
  • a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable

I read these definitions and sat staring at the screen in horror. I starting thinking about the way my classes ran on a daily basis. Is this what my classes looked like? Was I teaching with rigor? Did student leave my room at the end of a period with the words strict, severe, and cruel running through their minds. I hope not!

There was no way I could, in good conscience, start my presentation with the words “academic rigor” to describe the activities I use in the classroom. I hope to never use the word again to describe an educational activity. My point in using projects like Fakebook and stop motion animation is for students to have fun while learning in school, not make it feel like a prison camp.

While I was looking up definitions, I looked up the word “engagement” to see if that would work. The phrase “student engagement” is also thrown around in professional development meetings like a beach ball at a concert. Again I turned to Mirriam and was pleasantly surprised with what I found:

  • to occupy the attention or effort of
  • to attract and hold fast
  • to attract or please

These definitions seem to give the word promising uses in education. At least they are not negative. I thought these definitions would work, but then I stumbled on to the definition for the word “engaging” as in, “Are your lessons engaging students in learning content?”

Here’s the simple definitions from Dictionary.com:

  • winning, attractive, pleasing

I am going to be honest here; reading that made me smile. That is exactly what I want my classroom instruction to look like. When I plan a project for student to do, I don’t want them to think that it is a painful experience that causes mental anguish. Rather, I want students to do the work because they are naturally attracted to learning and want to expand their minds. Sure, the lessons might be hard, but when students are engaged, they don’t feel the pain.

So, the question I am going to ask myself when preparing lessons is this: “Are my lessons full of academic rigor or are they designed to engage students in learning?”

 

 

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