One of the strategies I enjoy employing in my class is the use of creative culminating assessment projects. Dr. Douglas Reeves, in his 2010 video Moving From Standards to Learning Experiences, discussed the value of such projects explaining that sometimes our curriculum standards can be complex and full of ideas and concepts to deliver. Reeves suggested “unpacking” the standards – breaking them into individual components. Then, assemble the components into a single context/scenario through which students will explore. This single scenario, Reeves explains, should be rich and engaging – encouraging students to learn and use all the individual component parts, but in a more organic and meaningful way. The alternative would be to teach all the parts separately and then bring them together afterwards.
An example of such a project for me was my recent medieval entertainment project for my seventh grade social studies class. My students and I were exploring life and social organization in the middle ages of Europe. I provided my students with a founding understanding of life in Europe and then introduced an entertainment project to deepen understanding and engage my students. Students had to choose a form of entertainment from this time period – a sport, a game, a type of performance art, etc. Then, students explored this entertainment style in detail as they had to demonstrate it for the rest of us. To fully understand the style they chose, students were expected to look at the activity’s history, who was allowed to participate, the rules, and even any hidden meaning behind the activity. For instance, women were forbidden to participate in theater performances, and court jesters were sometimes used to deliver bad news to monarchs, and an early form of bowling was a sly poke at European social order. All of this provided us with a richer illustration of life in medieval Europe.
If you are interested in this type of assignment, here is a link to the outline I used.
Here are some photos of my students showcasing what they learned:
Talk about learning by doing!