Life is a Journey...
As the days get shorter and the leaves fall from the trees here in the Northeast, students have begun to settle down. I have done my best at getting to know each of them, and I look forward to evaluating their work and seeing what they can accomplish.
In addition to the regular curriculum, my colleagues and I assign a long-term project called an exhibition, where a variety of skills are evaluated through products and presentations. You mike like to use this idea, either as a class or as an independent project for an individual student. There are two forms that the students complete before working on the assignments.
Our exhibition, entitled "Who am I now and how did I get to be who I am now?" begins by asking students to reflect upon certain aspects of their life. They complete a chart that is intended to initiate reflective thoughts on their lives, and will utilize it later on when the official assignment is given. Click here for the complete chart of questions.
The students are then given a second form that asks them to think of their lives in terms of a simile. Once they have three examples they must give at least three reasons for each explaining why they chose the imagery. For example, a student who compares his/her life to a pizza would almost certainly have a reason akin to a variety of "topping" characteristics. Click here for the "My Life is Like..." form. We found that the more time students have to complete this work, the better the quality. Once students have completed the simile assignment, they can be presented with the full exhibition.
The following is a short rundown of the parts of the exhibition assignment. Click here for the full assignment and associated rubrics.
Part one of the exhibition asks the students to choose one of their similes and use it as a basis for creating an 2D or 3D illustration/map where they will share information about their life. The design of this illustration/map should be based on the simile chosen. Among the markers in the rubric are qualities of thought and overall creative workmanship. Students are asked to include a typed, one-paragraph explanation of the work.
Part two asks the students to share at least 3 samples/specimens/artifacts that could be collected along this imaginary journey. The samples should be labeled, stored in an appropriate collecting tool (bag, box, etc.) and marked on the map where they were collected. As an aside, students completed field note entries as a scientist would, complete with sketches and descriptions.
The final part of this exhibition asks the students to prepare and deliver an oral presentation that makes use of the Journey Map and Sample Collection.
Throughout the assignments, students have the opportunity to reflect upon their lives in a way that is comfortable, interest-driven, and to be honest, fun. This type of introspective thinking lends itself to a more open and accepting classroom environment as the students learn about each other's backgrounds and experiences. It has certainly made a difference in my classroom. For fun one year I even completed all the forms and created my own journey map, complete with samples, and presented it to the class. Try an exhibition if you have time. Your students and their parents will thank you for it.