Today was a big step in students taking power for their own learning. Students started revising my stuff to meet their needs...they took my Smart Board lesson and began customizing it to expand and elaborate on the ideas that needed more explanation. Another group took the rubric that I first gave them and evaluated each part of it to see where they wanted to make changes. And other students took the night's homework and started summarizing everyone's thoughts in our Paper Blogging work.
We started off with my intention that students learn to be excellent communicators which I turned into the science process skills of observing and data collection.
The Play by Play of deepening their communicator skills
After I did the intro to that we did the penny lab where they defined their own observing question and built their experiment. Then they decided on another question and we practiced data collection. My assessment of their learning was to take them outside, give them the whole class period and let them chose which skill to show me they could do with anything they could find out in the field behind the school.
The day after they took the assessment, I gave their work back to them and we walked thru each part of it...allowing them to make revisions and changes as they saw fit. This actually set up a very nice dialog for me to build as I made my evaluation of their work....because most of the time they saw the changes that I would have told them about. Now they defined them....giving them the power to see the need and to meet it.
Building revised rubrics that make sense to students
It is from all this that today's work flows. Given all this learning and processing and learning more and reflecting....they are revising my notes. In some places they felt like they needed more information...so they're mocking up examples and making posters. In other places they thought I labored too long and are cutting my slides. The other team is working on the rubric....most students have really great insights....and they see the connection between the slides that give them the upfront information and what they have to do at the end. The rubric group is preparing a draft of the changed rubric to present to the class...we'll have more discussion and consensus building before we adopt anything.
All this will give them a strong understanding of these two parts of the scientific method. And it builds their belief that this is their classroom and I'm their partner in learning alongside them. I think it turns a rubric that most would use for grading purposes into some much bigger. It also has the powerful to have students perform self-evaluation and work with it as an instructional tool. The learning doesn't stop just because they're taking an assessment.
Using the whiteboard as a blog and using paper instead of computers
As all of this was going on, the last group of students gathered everyone's homework which was to find, research and then make 5 comparisons between Hurricanes Irene and Katrina. The group's usually split up the homework papers and then summarized the best comparisons....and are now working towards creating a blog post from each hour that summarizes what all 30 or 31 of them believe is the best way to compare these two hurricanes. (I love that they are frustrated with all the different estimates of damage....it gave rise to a terrific conversation about why numbers are necessarily precise and the need to verify information in more than one place.)
We're doing all this to create our first paper blogging post. This is how I work them into learning how to write high quality comments....before I turn them loose on the class blog page. So we post the prompt on the whiteboard. Students then summarize and write "posts" back to the prompt on construction paper or sentence strips and we put those up with magnets.
Good group conversation on that, too. They'll be responsible for leading the class discussion next week on what is a high quality comment....and teaching the other classmates. Eventually we'll repeat the rubric development process that we just did with observations & data collection with blog commenting.
Value of all this metacognition and class discussion
I think all this upfront conversation in the small group will help them make good leaders and able to help the other kids think through the things that should be considered.
I also think it was amazing to students when I didn't "grade" their homework. I made sure they had something to contribute to the class blog group....that's all. One student told me they had never handed in their homework to another "kid who actually used what I did". That gave me great insight into how they see the value of their homework. It's something I really need to work on this year.