Moving toward creation

One of my unofficial goals this year is to move my students away from consumers to creators of content.  Every year I give the typical Adopt an Element Project.  It has morphed several times, but in the end it is simply a research paper in which students regurgitate on paper what they found online.  I have been experimenting with alternative assessments and this seems like the perfect opportunity to try something different.

So this year the project took on a different focus. I put the following up on the projector:

What would the world look like if [Your Element]…

  • was never discovered?
  • was solid/liquid/gas?
  • was flammable?
  • was used as currency?
  • was poisonous to humans?
  • was/wasn’t a precious metal?
  • was non-reactive?
  • was the building blocks of life?
After picking one of the questions above, the students are basically assigned to create an alternate reality in which the question would be true.  For example, if the selected Aluminum, the question they chose might be “What if Aluminum was flammable?”  Now, they can’t just say “Well, we wouldn’t have Aluminum foil or Aluminum cans because they would explode in our houses.”  The whole point of this is to think outside the box and determine what WOULD we have.  Find alternatives, create new worlds.  If we don’t have aluminum foil, what metal would be substituted.
Some elements are hard (Oxygen, Nitrogen, Hydrogen) because they have such an important role in our world.  I am hoping that these students really step up and push their imaginations to make something amazing.
The final product will be presented to the class in about 5 weeks in a 2-3 minute presentation.  They can use Google presentations, Prezi, Animoto, interpretive dance, basically anything but a Microsoft product.  Many of the students stumbled a little today as they began their research but I will check in with them in 2 weeks.
I am really excited for the student who asked permission to make a children’s book!
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4 thoughts on “Moving toward creation

  1. RSchaffer

    Love this learning experience and you giving them autonomy to “show what they know” any way they want. That alone is a learning experience with the decisions they have to make in choosing the best way to demonstrate what they know in a way that comes across clear to all the other learners in the room. When they present do you have the other students give comments and feedback? I have found that when they do it is valuable for everyone. The presenter gets genuine feedback from someone other than me (teacher), the listeners are pulled into the presentation in a very active thinking type of way. It also informs their own reflective practice as they apply that feedback to themselves and their own presentation (should I have done xyz now that I see how it comes across). I get to “see” their thinking especially when I have everyone give feedback via a shared doc during the presentation (one of the ways we have found useful); the doc then becomes a place students can return to again and again during the year, and I have found they actually “make notes” on the feedback! Anyway….love that idea, very “alternate history” like…

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  2. Marc Seigel

    I always have the class grade their peers. Each student is graded by 3 others in class and they don't know who they have in advance because I only put a number of the top which corresponds to the order they present it. I didn't think about reflecting during the presentation through a Gdoc. Wonder how well the juniors and seniors would adjust to it as they are still very new to Google docs.

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  3. Mary

    Marc, I am confused about how they grade each other…does everyone grade everyone else and you only look at the 3 you have designated in advance for each presenter? Or do you only have 3 students grade each presentation? And is it the same 3 or 3 different for each presentation?

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  4. MSeigel

    When the students sit down at their desk there are presentation rubrics waiting for them. On the top of the rubric is a number. The number indicates which presentation they will grade. There are at least 2 students in class that have the same number on the top of their rubrics so that the final grade of the presentation is made up of 3 scores: mine and 2 students. The number of students in class determines how many will grade the presentation. The students don't know what order they will present it so they don't know what number they are. It takes some practice making sure that the students don't get their own number.

    I have done it where everyone in class grades everyone's presentation, but the calculation of the scores takes a lot longer. Usually in that case it is a very simple rubric–I believe it is the one we developed together, Mary, with the smiley faces.

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