Reflection: Lesson Planning Float-a-Boat: Student Choice Assessments and Cooperative Grading - Section 3: Explore, Explain and Extend


For a project like this, it is important to strike a balance between providing students with enough guidance while allowing choice and creative freedom. This is a challenging student need that can be mitigated with a little planning. Any one, a combination or all of the following strategies can be used depending on the scope of the project. Each strategy builds in levels of accountability that help students hit the mark rather than miss the target.

1) Review the project instructions and rubric in advance. Students can even help develop the rubric using exemplars. Being clear about the expectations, objectives and outcomes in critical to students developing interesting and complete projects.

2) Use exemplars or non-exemplars to show "what to do" and "what not to do". By using prior year student work or self-made examples, students can analyze the projects in a low-risk environment and generate ideas for their own.

3) Offer or require consultations and an approval process. Scheduling time to conference with each student not only builds better projects, but it builds better relationships. If students know they will need to defend their work prior to beginning, they are more apt to spend concentrated time on planning.

4) Build in a first draft submission due date. By requiring a first draft, it is possible to see the level of progress and adherence to the project requirements. This can provide a nice formative assessment opportunity for early feedback.

5) Provide a simple checklist. Middle school students respond well to checklists that outline the final requirements of a project. While a checklist won't guarantee depth of thought, it will help with completion.

6) Require peer review. Using a checklist or rubric, require peers to review each others' projects before final submission. This way, another set of eyes (or ears) is able to provide feedback before submitting for grading.

7) Offer a menu of choices that fit the project. Depending on the project, offering infinite choices may not be the best idea. A menu of choices provides the illusion of "you can do whatever you want" while providing the structure of "showing what you have learned". Too much of a good thing (choices) can lead to inefficient use of time trying to figure out how to get started.

  Striking Balance Between Guidance and Student Choice
  Lesson Planning: Striking Balance Between Guidance and Student Choice
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Float-a-Boat: Student Choice Assessments and Cooperative Grading

Unit 5: Forces and Motion
Lesson 5 of 18

Objective: Students will be able to communicate the results of an investigation and work with a peer to assess their learning to determine a final grade.

Big Idea: As scientists, we rely on criticism from our peers as a way to improve our practice. Self-reflection is also important as it allows us to practice thinking about our thinking, which leads to creative breakthroughs and meaningful work.

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