Thursday, September 29, 2011

At-Home Native American Poster Project

Gee, I wish you could see the projects a little better in this photo... and that the students had all completed their projects vertically so they didn't hang in front of each other, but you know what they say about the best laid plans... Anyway, here is another "at-home" Alabama history project. I do let students research at school in the computer lab, but the rest of this project is completed at home! Those of you who are familiar with my projects are probably already familiar with “team points,” but for those of you who are not, here is an explanation of the Requirements Letter and Rubric w/Grade and Team Points:

When I copy the letter, I make the letter the front and the rubric the back so that everyone is sure to have the requirements. Before I give them out, I fill in equal numbers of each tribe in the "assigned" blank at the top of the letter, and then I give out the letters at random. As with everything else, I go over every single part of the letter and rubric with my students.

Since students tend to have limited research skills in 4th grade, I did include some wonderful websites for each of the four major Alabama Native American tribes in the requirements letter. Each of the websites in that letter is more or less a database of sorts in which students can definitely find the information needed to satisfy each of the rubric requirements, and I make sure students know that I know this fact.

I am always torn as a teacher when making requirements for projects. Truth be told, if all students were able to do what I most wanted in a reasonable time-frame, projects would be covered in relevant pictures, photos, and interesting information. The reality is, though, that most students are just starting to learn how to research and assemble a project. There are a lot of students who can give me the awesome projects I want, though, and actually want that challenge. How do I meet the needs of all of my students (and my selfish want for super-incredible-beyond-4th-grade-awesome-work)? My answer is team points.

If you look at the rubric, there is a column for grade points, and there is one for team points. As described in the letter,  grade points are the points that add up to a student's grade in the gradebook for this project. Team points, though, are earned by doing what is required, and extra team points are earned by doing what I would personally like for them to do. Extra team points are earned for extra pictures, interesting facts, creativity, etc.

I group students based on their ability levels (yep, levels - how well they do in history, how well they work in general, how well they research, etc.) to make equitable groups using this Native American Project Groups Sheet (MS Word Version). For this particular project, I do not tell the students who is on whose team. I just keep the group divisions to myself, and after I grade everyone's projects, I fill in each student's team points on the sheet. Then, I add up the points for each group, and the team with the highest score wins a prize which is usually an activity that benefits the entire class.

For this particular project, the prize for the winning team last year was making Cherokee Cornmeal Cookies from scratch for the class which was a huge hit! I promise to post that activity soon.

You will be surprised which students have the most team points and which students have the least. I am always amazed by which students are incredibly motivated to go above and beyond for team points.


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