History of Earth Project Workshop (Day 1)

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Students will be able to use exemplars to improve their timeline projects.

Big Idea

Teachers' Lounge

Purpose of Lesson:

The purpose of this lesson is to set up a project and help students with the first steps of completion.

Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Use of Exemplars- Exemplars help students make concrete connections to the success criteria of a project.

2) Group pull out time- The group time allows the teacher to check in with each student in a manageable quick way, pointing out good things they've accomplished and prompting them to their next steps.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal: Apply our learning from the movie and research to our project.

Opening Question:  What is the purpose of the timelines we are making?

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung. I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets.   

The goal of this warm-up is to move the students from thinking self centeredly about their products and move them into thinking about their audience. I ask students to share their answers out. After listening to several answers, I ask the students who the audience is and how they could make their projects better for their audience.

Project Explanation

7 minutes

The purpose of this section is to bring clarity to the assignment and engage and motivate students to want to put energy and effort into the project.

I always know when I haven't been clear enough about the assignment. Students will be afraid to take risks, there will be a lot of questions about basic requirements, and nobody will get started very quickly. To head this off I try to bring a lot of clarity to the first day of the assignment.

The first step is to assign a Geological Time Period to every student. Generally, more than one student will get the same time period. This is beneficial to the overall project because even if students don't complete the overall assignment, the museum exhibit turns out well. The time periods I assign are Pre-Cambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary.

Once the kids have the assignment I go through the scenario with the students and try to engage and interest them in the learning.  This is a RAFT assignment.

Role = Time traveller for the National Parks

Audience = Visitors to the museum

Format = A museum exhibit including a timeline, a narrative, pictures, and facts.  

Below is a screencast of the scenario.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.  

In this assignment students will be completing four pieces of work for the museum exhibit.

- A timeline ( they started this in the last unit)

- A descriptive narrative

- A collection of interesting facts.

-A collection of drawings of living organisms from the time. 

Below is a screen cast of the assignment and ways that I would differentiate this assignment for Sped and ELL students.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.


Over the years, I've had many conversations with teachers about whether to use checklists or rubrics.  I've come to believe that using both is the best practice.  The checklist gives the students a very concrete path they can follow to be successful on the project.  The rubric allows the students judge and evaluate their progress and make adjustments later on.

Below is a screencast of how I would use this with students. 

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Focus- Mini Lesson- Timeline production

10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to let students see several exemplars of work so that they can think about changes they might want to make to their timelines. 

I use the doc camera to let the students see four different timelines that other students had made. I was lucky because I started the project later than my teaching partner and could use some of her exemplars. If I hadn't had any other exemplars I would have made my own to show to the students.

During the focus lesson I point out things I notice about each exemplar. I ask the students to also point out things they notice. When we've see all four of the exemplars I ask the students to talk to their partners about what they like and don't like about the exemplars.

At the end of our focus lesson, I ask the students a series of questions to make sure they are on the right track and ready to work. These questions cover different types of questions from the Interactive Lecture Model. We answer the questions in different ways.  

Mastery -  Using the rubric, what standard do you need to reach to earn a 3 on the timeline. How about a 4?  (Shared out loud so the whole class can hear and agree with the answer.)

Understanding - What does a "good" event look like on the timeline? (Shared out loud so others can add on and contribute different ideas.)

Self Expression - What timeline did you think showed the information the best? Why? (Shared with partner.) 

Interpersonal - What do you want to make sure do on the timeline?  (Shared with partner.)

Work Time/Group pull out

25 minutes

The purpose of this section is to set up a system of check-ins with the students that is effective and efficient.  Teachers do not have the time to check in with each child independently every day.  Instead, the I call up a group of students to talk to all at once.  I ask all the students to bring the assignment paper and their work so far.

On this day, the students should already have a good amount of progress.  I check the timelines of each student point out things they are doing well and next steps on their checklists.  Then I have the students read the rubric for the timeline section and assess themselves at this moment in time.  I go around the table and listen to the students' reasonings and their plans for their next steps.  Then the students return to their seats and continue working.  By doing this type of check in I am able to touch base with every student and reinforce the positive accountability of our classroom. 



3 minutes

Closing Statement: Today we looked at exemplars and talked in small groups about your projects.

Closing Question:  What did you change about your timelines today after seeing the exemplars?

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.