Saturday, September 6, 2014

Learning Showcase #1

We've been back at school for a few weeks now and it's finally time for our first assessment in social studies. Because of the change in the way we do things, we will not have a test with bunches of questions, multiple-choice or otherwise, for the kids to sweat. I'm not interested in "gotcha" test questions; I'm interested in what the kiddos have learned during the last few weeks. There is a big difference.

During the past three weeks, we've talked about archaeology, prehistory, Otzi the Iceman, forensic science and how we gather knowledge and clues to figure out the solution to a problem. One of our activities was an archaeological dig of our own. Students brought in five artifacts to share with the class. The artifacts had to pertain to an aspect of their interests and personalities. Then, students had to fill shoe boxes with five related (the relationship could not be too obvious though) artifacts hidden in layers of dirt. We assigned random show boxes and had the kids carefully dig through to uncover the hidden artifacts. Once the artifacts were uncovered, they had to try to match the boxes with the owners. Most kids were able to match the box with its owner but some were not.

I constantly talked to the kids about the thinking that was going into these decisions. After all, it is the logic, problem-solving, reasoning skills I want these kids to have so when we talked about the assessment in class yesterday, that is what I stressed. I told them, "I'm just going to give you a big question like 'How do we know what we know?' and based on what you've seen and done during the last few weeks, you'll answer it. What skills did you learn what you learned? Isn't that what archaeologists do? If you talk about that and explain your processes, you'll do great. I want to know what you know; this is a chance to showcase your learning." One student commented that this will be hard for her because she is more used to a sheet of questions with definitive answers.

On Monday, the kiddos will have one class period to write all they can about their learning experience and answer the questions "How do we know what we know?" We also talked about options in case a kid's strength was not writing. "You can draw a series of pictures over the weekend and caption them in class on Monday. You can create a presentation and fill in the writing part here in class on Monday. You can take a recording device into the hall for ten minutes on Monday and talk out your answer. You can stay after school and we can discuss the learning together. Whatever it takes for you to demonstrate to me that you have a handle on what we've learned over the past few weeks."

I am eager to see what the kiddos come up with on Monday. I know some will flounder for a few minutes and I may have to support them a bit but I think that once the kids see that we're talking a great deal about their personal learning experience, they will eventually take the lead and flourish in this environment.

Sifting through layers of dirt to find artifacts.

The artifacts found sometimes raised more questions than they answered.

Learning by doing!

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