Week 6 - Authentic Assessments
A seventh grade class featured in the video here has had an opportunity to participate in some pretty authentic learning. Their project highlighted the difference that some local citizens had made during the Civil Rights Movement. Their final project was a showcase where they publicly celebrated these citizens. You can certainly understand why the nature of this project would inspire, engage, and motivate the seventh-graders to do their very best work.
Recently, our team of fourth-grade teachers planned a Charlotte's Web project. We wanted to keep the project rather simple but still give students agency and choice. In the end, our students own inquiry inspired the project. Just as Wilbur is being lured back into his pen with a bucket full of slops, my students wondered, "How should farm animals be treated?" Some had heard of free-range chickens and Wilbur's escape into the pasture, where he was free to roam and explore, caused them to wonder about his life in captivity.
When working to make the work in our classrooms authentic we always pause to consider how adults in the "real world" respond when we have questions. I know that I do some research and I ask experts when I want to learn about something. When some injustice tugs on my heart strings, I try to collect the facts before speaking out. We wanted to give our students the opportunity to collect the facts and then use them to inform their opinions. Their final product was to be an opinion piece. Students will write an opinion piece, backed up by reasons and facts, in response to the question, "How should farm animals be treated?" Each student will focus on a specific farm animal of their own choosing. and they'll have opportunities to interview experts with conflicting opinions.
In the end, our student opinion pieces will be bound in a book. These books will be copied and shared with our town library, our school library, our high school's library and our area experts. We'll share their pieces in SeeSaw so that their parents can read them and we'll share writing pieces on the classroom website.
We work hard to ensure that the work our fourth-grade students are doing mirrors the work that adults do every day. We know that the initial question, that came from the students themselves, is engaging. Many already have strong opinions on the topic. We're eager to see how their research and interviews inform these opinions. Making the learning authentic isn't always easy given the district-adopted curriculums we use but when we rethink what we do, we often find that the result is truly worth the effort. I'm eager to see where this inquiry takes our students. I'm sure to share more as the inquiry unfolds.