As preparation for today's activity, I start by asking students to reflect on skills in which they have improved during this unit. I list all the standards we studied on the board as a reference point but also explain that non-standard-related growth, such as study skills or reading speed, would also be okay to mention. These skills may not directly relate to standards, but they help students meet standards and thus are important.
Several students identify growth in work habits, which I have definitely seen as the year progressed. Students who did not always complete work at the start of the year have realized that they need to practice to succeed.
Others identify growth in general reading comprehension thanks to our reading strategy studies (yahoo!).
Still others feel they have made significant progress in the clarity of their writing and in their ability to write a full essay. A quick glimpse at even the length of their early to more recent work confirms this.
With students thinking about growth, it is now time to introduce why I asked them to reflect. We read through their final exam (yes, after our first unit), which is a portfolio presentation of their growth. Students will choose 10 skills (standards) in which they have made significant growth to present to me as their final exam.
They react as expected--"This is overwhelming!"
No fear, there is scaffolding to help students succeed. From the start of the year, I've asked students to keep all notes and assignments in a 3-ring binder portfolio, organized by standard type (Reading Literature, Reading for Information, etc.). This gives students a place to look for growth (in addition to the gradebook).
A second fear is alleviated when students realize that a single assignment could represent multiple artifacts. For example, 1 essay might have 6 standards (skills), each of which could be analyzed separately for the exam. Again, a breath of relief sounds across the room. We're ready to start.
Today is our second step in scaffolding: the artifact commentary. In order to best present growth, preparation is needed. Enter the commentary. This assignment asks students to choose a single artifact of their growth (ideally a piece of summative work) and analyze that artifact for proof of growth. The commentary assignment sheet walks students through the different steps of analysis, from identification of the artifact to what it shows to how the skill might be used again in the future. It's a thorough tool for planning and will help students present their growth in clear, convincing manner, providing ample details for their claims.
With concrete questions in front of them, students feel less overwhelmed and ready to work. I give them time to choose and analyze their first artifact, asking to come back together with 5 minutes remaining to share.
With 5 minutes remaining, we come back together to share our work. I want students to hear what others are writing about; this could provide inspiration for future commentaries.
Because these are very personal pieces, I ask for volunteers to walk us through their commentaries. We hear from just a few students before the hour draws to a close, and I collect the commentaries for individual feedback.