As with most my units, I work to design an assessment that helps the students better explain the things they have learned. With this diagram, the student will demonstrate the things that comprise different elements of soil. Assessments like this are useful to tie in the variety of things we learned in a fun way. This process could be adjusted to represent other types of nature as well.
The students came into the class after recess. I have them sit down on their carpet squares and ask them to think about the soil we studied. "You all looked like you ran around at recess today. How fun! It's time for us to connect where we ran on the ground every day to the things we learned about..?" "Soil!" Connecting the material to an every day activity helps activate prior knowledge and helps students better communicate the material, particularly important for an assessment.
“There are many different elements that make up soil. Take a minute and share one of these elements of soil with your partner.” I purposely avoid a group sharing of all elements of soil because my goal with this summative assessment is to see how they combine these elements on their own. Next time I teach this lesson, I'll allow for more time to share because I notice that the English Learners may have needed more time to access the new vocabulary. “We re going to create a diagram to show how these parts add up to healthy kinds of soil.” I introduce this idea both to help them access the information that different elements can combine to comprise soil and collaborate with peers to share their knowledge and practice valuable communication skills.
I show them the Assessment paper with a picture of several soil elements from our lessons. Though there are many components of soil, these gave a good sampling of those common in the US. I’ve attached a link to the Google Draw that I used to create the worksheet so you can adjust it to anything that is a part of your environment.
“We get be geologists again and look at the different parts of soil. We’ll use these elements to put them together to create healthy soil.”
• First, look at the different elements of soil.
• Next, decide which ones would combine to make healthy soil.
• Then, select and cut out the soil ingredients, arrange them, and you glue them inside the pot.
• Last, explain to a partner why you made these choices.
Adding these soil elements to the pot would be an easy step, so I added depth (rigor) to the summative assessment by including the verbal explanation as an informal step to encourage oral communication. To be successful with no prompting from me, I expect to see evidence with a combination of selected elements (e.g. soil + banana peels + leaves) would create the best soil to sustain plant life. I would not, for example, expect to see a plastic bottle. When you do see random elements like that in an assessment, it's a clue to reteach a part of the lesson that was not adequately processed.
I have them go back to their tables and pass out the worksheet. “You’ll use this worksheet to demonstrate which elements create a good soil. Use the information you got from our lessons to remember how these elements work together to create a healthy place for living things to grow.” As they make their choices and begin to connect the elements, I mingle around the class and check in with the students about their choices. To encourage prior planning, I don't pass out the glue until I see the soil ingredients cut out, thoughtful choices are made (it saves for less random placement!) and the scrap paper is thrown away. The resulting products and related explanations act as a way to illustrate their processing of the soil composition lessons. The project based rubric attached is my way to looking at this unit from a lens of performance based assessment.