Friday, March 1, 2013

Finished, But Not Forgotten

Book Project Presentation - Click for photo gallery
As their final assessment for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, students were asked to stretch their thinking and create an instructional tool that would help demonstrate their understanding of the importance of land, family, respect, and self-respect.  Once finished, they had to use their creation as well as textual evidence to teach their classmates about one of the aforementioned topics.  Finally, students were required to provide written reflections regarding their learning process.  I was impressed with the originality of their projects.  From a remake of OneRepublic's Secrets to mixed media artwork, the kids attacked the assignment with thoughtful enthusiasm.

After they finished presenting their projects this week, I asked students for feedback.  This is an important part of the instructional process, because it informs my teaching practice.  I encouraged them to reflect on what I did well as a teacher and what I could have done better.  It seemed only fair after providing them with my unsolicited, albeit priceless, advice!  In their constructive feedback, students suggested I offer more work days, make memorization of speeches and poems mandatory, adjust the sign-up process, and provide more direct instruction - all great ideas that I can use to refine the assessment for next time.  Positive responses included the ability to make their own choices and exercise their creativity.  Most importantly, the kids told me that what they learned from the project would stick with them.  They indicated that traditional tests generated higher levels of stress and what was memorized was often forgotten shortly thereafter.  It's my hope that they never forget the Logan's!

In composition, students practiced the skill of showing rather than telling.  While an important technique in any genre, creating a visual picture in a reader's mind is particularly valuable when writing descriptively.  In groups and individually, the kids practiced creating similes and metaphors that incorporated sensory language - words that appeal to any of the five senses.  Additionally, small groups took telling sentences and recreated them as descriptive scenes.  Not only did they enjoy putting their creative juices to the test, but they composed writing that a reader could see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

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