Creating Powerful Product Assignments Part 5 of 7

This is the fifth in a series of posts (1: What They’ll Know   2: Product Choice & Grading, 3: Content Expectations & Grading, 4: Process & Grading)about creating powerful product assignments at the end of a unit of study. Now it is time to scaffold for success.

What kind of scaffolds do you need to gather for your students to be successful? For me, rubrics are always the first on this list. I think having the grading guidelines listed clearly from the beginning in very clear and specific language really helps guide students to be successful. Additional ideas could be a variety of brainstorming graphic organizers, timelines, goal sheets, progress monitoring calendars, revising and editing schedules, etc. These will vary based on what your final product is and what your class has used. You don’t always have to build these from scratch, there are lots of free options online. Find what works for you and your students and run with it.

Creating Powerful Product Assignments Part 4 of 7

This is the fourth in a series of posts (1: What They’ll Know   2: Product Choice & Grading 3: Content Expectations & Grading)about creating powerful product assignments at the end of a unit of study. Now it is time to establish your expectations for the process.

First off, will students be graded on the process to create the product in addition to the product itself or only the finished product?

For group projects, I always include a process grade as it is where I cover teamwork. However, I would argue that the process grade is important even for individual projects as it rewards those who create and stick to a plan over those who procrastinate. The goal is to help the students build good work habits.

If you are going to grade the process some things to consider including teamwork, planning, research, editing, communication, ability to stay on the projected timeline, etc.

Creating Powerful Product Assignments Part 3 of 7

This is the third in a series of posts (1: What They’ll Know   2: Product Choice & Grading )about creating powerful product assignments at the end of a unit of study. Now you are going to figure out the content expectations.

First up, the students are showing what they know from the unit of study. So what are the requirements that they must meet for content and how will the inclusion of that content be scored?

I personally like using a rubric to grade as it keeps the grading streamlined and transparent. For example, in a biography project, second-grade students must include a date of birth & death, full name, two details about their personal life and three details about why they are famous. That is all 8 required components for a score of 4 out of 4. A score of 3 out of 4 would be granted for 6-7 required components. A score of 2 out of 4 would be granted for 4-5 required components. A score of 1 out of 4 would be granted for 2-3 required components.  A score of 0 out of 4 would be granted for 0-1 required components.


Creating Powerful Product Assignments Part 2 of 7

This is the second in a series of posts about creating powerful product assignments at the end of a unit of study. In part 1 you figured out what the students must understand, know and/or be able to do after the unit of study. Next up you get to decide how the students are going to present their knowledge or the type of product, the guidelines for that product and how you plan to grade it.

  1. Are you going to set a required product style such as a travel brochure, Haiku or wiki?
  2. Are you going to provide students with a short list of options and let them select their product style from the list using an academic choice board?
  3. Are you going to let students embrace their talents and passions, selecting their product style on their own and then seeking approval from you on their choice?

If you are going with #1 or #2, what are the requirements for the product? How big should it be if it is a physical product? What level of craftsmanship? How many parts will it have? How long should it be (pages, time, number of slides, etc.) if a digital product?

For example, for a fifth-grade slide presentation using the slide medium of their choice students are required to have a minimum of 12 slides in their presentation and every slide should have some sort of visual (graph, chart, image, video, etc.) to earn full credit on this rubric item, 4 points. Students earn 3 out of 4 points for at least 9 slides. Students earn 2 out of 4 points for at least 6 slides. Students earn 1 out of 4 points for at least 3 slides. Students earn 0 out of 4 points for at less than 3 slides.



Creating Powerful Product Assignments Part 1 of 7

This is the first in a series of posts about creating powerful product assignments at the end of a unit of study. Before you can really dive into the product itself you need to figure out what the foundation of the product is by looking to the core of the unit of study. Here are three questions to guide you:

UNDERSTAND: What concepts do you expect your students to know at the end of the unit?

KNOW: What facts do you expect your students to know at the end of the unit?

DO: What skills do you expect your students to be able to demonstrate at the end of the unit?

Differentiation in Action

One way I have differentiated content was using the website NewsELA to generate multiple different levels of an article for the class to read. Students met with their reading leveled groups to read the article together. Then we shared out as a class to create a graphic organizer about the topic that everyone copied into their journal. We started the discussion having the lowest reading level share out since their article was the most generalized. I moved up in order to the highest reading level group. As each group shared out more information was added to our graphic organizer. What is really great about using these articles is that all the students can participate at a level that is comfortable for them. The students got much more involved than when we read a single article, whole class. I think that the smaller groups bolster more voices to share out and that translated into more voices during the whole group. I would use this method again if I was working in a classroom that had such a wide range of reading levels. I felt that the students were able to access the thematic content presented in the articles and were more confident reading articles at their own challenging, but not overwhelming,  level than articles below (lost interest) or above (confused) their reading levels.  I loved how the higher readers were able to dig deeper and share that new knowledge with their lower reading level peers using peer to peer communication.

However, my favorite moment was probably when a whole group of my middle readers was super confused about this gene-editing article we read and two students from the lower reading group understood not only what they were confused about but also were able to explain it using the simplified terms from their article. It turned into this whole peer to peer teaching moment, it was kinda like watching a bunch of Christmas lights turn on all at once.

Professional Dispositions

Teacher’s Professional Dispositions have a big effect on student learning. When teacher’s model flexibility in situations it teaches students to embrace flexibility. When we are cooperative with other teachers and staff we are showing the students the value of teamwork. When we collect data through assessments our instruction can be tailored to our student’s needs. Each and every aspect professional dispositions is something that affects our students, it is both a best practice and an opportunity to teach them skills that they will use throughout their academic journey and life beyond. Highly effective teachers at my school demonstrate flexibility, consistency and are cooperative. They listen to others and are responsive to feedback. They are proactive, not reactive.

Decision Made

I took a real hard look at the syllabus and decided that student teaching is already going to be fairly demanding without another course in the mix. So I dropped MAT 674, the Masters level class on Differentiation. I feel confident that I am making the right decision.

Additionally, I am pretty sure that I will not be able to keep up daily posting during student teaching. My goal is to get a post up a week during my first placement and see how it goes. I may re-evaluate during my second placement.

Professional Development Spotlight: Torsch

Torsch (Today’s One Room School House) is a paid site (~$7-17 per month) aimed at professional development. The idea is that you record yourself during a lesson, upload it from your computer or a number of online cloud services and send it to a mentor, coach, admin, etc. There is automatic transcription service of the videos, places to upload supporting documents like lesson plans or sample work, etc. The individual who receives is able to view all the materials and collaborate with you (without being in the same room) to provide assessment, feedback, coaching logs, live video conference or chat, create video libraries, tag video timeline with keywords linking to rubrics, frameworks, etc. While this may not be for everyone, it is a really fabulous tool for those working with coaches who are farther away.  

Technology Spotlight: School Tube

School Tube was created in 2006 with the idea that students and teachers needed a safe space to share videos. Videos are moderated by approved local educators to ensure a safe experience. It reaches 5 million US teachers, 55 million US students (1.4 billion worldwide students) with over 500,000 videos from around the world. So relax, take a deep breath and feel a little more at ease with this video sharing site.