Today we're continuing on our mini-research project based on the essays of the Transcendentalists. Students will arrive with complete argumentative outlines and partially-complete Powerpoint presentations that we worked on last time.
The first few minutes of class, students will have the opportunity to ask me questions about the presentation or outline that they have encountered since the last class period. I like to build in time to gather student feedback in order to plan and account for common student issues, but I also feel that it is important that students know they have an opportunity in a group forum to ask questions and help one another as where they can to solve their problems. This environment feels more like a workshop than class, and students seem to thrive in this environment, especially on writing projects.
After any outstanding questions are answered, students will open their presentations and outlines and give their "pod" a 30-second "tour" of their project so far. My classroom is set up so that desks are grouped in three's, which I usually refer to as a "pod," so that when I need group work done quickly, I can use these pre-formatted groups. They still occasionally get to choose their own groups, but they generally work with their "pod" groups the most. The groups are changed each quarter, using learning preference information (gathered from the Canfield Inventory and Multiple Intelligence Survey given at the beginning of the year) to group students with similar or complimentary learning preferences. While students are giving their tours, I will be able to quickly ascertain students who have not done much on their projects and who may need extra attention to remediate skills today. It also reinforces the idea of regular "progress checks" in class to keep students accountable for completing their work outside of class and gives students the opportunity to gather informal feedback and encouragement from peers.
When students have completed their tours, I will open up the class discussion for students to offer one thing they learned or enjoyed about a group member's presentation or topic. All students will be required to say at least one thing positive about a peer's work.
Next, we will complete our discussion of the Elements of Argument Terms & Resources notes. Over the course of the last two class periods, we have discussed the first fifteen terms. Today we'll take a closer look at the final six terms, from "primary source" through "syntax." Students will review the definitions for primary and secondary sources, then come up with a list of three primary sources and three secondary sources that they might use for a research project about the Civil War. A sample of what I would expect to see from this discussion would look like:
Primary Sources: journals from soldiers, pictures from battle, speech from Lincoln
Secondary Sources: history textbook, program on History Channel, reproduction of uniform
Next, we will discuss plagiarism, focusing on ways to avoid plagiarism and common misconceptions. I am building out a larger plagiarism lesson for early next semester, so I am really trying to do two things with this discussion: 1) prevent outright plagiarism, and 2) gather weaknesses and questions here that I can address in my later module.
To discuss infographics, which many students interact with but few know the term, we will view and evaluate an infographic, "Is Your Bachelor's Degree Worth It?" Before viewing for content, students will be instructed to determine the credibility of the infographic (which is credible, but often they forget that just because something looks fancy doesn't mean it's credible!) using the sources at the bottom of the page. During this section of lesson, I will ask students the following questions:
Finally, we will address transitions and syntax. For transitions, I will distribute the Transitional Words and Phrases handout for students to begin incorporating transitions into their presentations. To address syntax today, we will return our focus to the 6x6 requirement for the PowerPoint presentation, which requires students to play with the syntax of phrases to adhere to the length requirement while following conventions like parallelism. This limitation makes our syntax discussion even more relevant, and we will practice using student work "translating" longer phrases into shorter ones.
In the remainder of the class period, students will work to complete their argumentative presentations. Before turning them loose to work on these projects, I will distribute the Argumentative Presentation Project Rubric and review each of the six categories for scoring, allowing students to ask questions after each category to clarify their understanding of the evaluation tool.
Just like yesterday, I will circulate around the room to help students while they work. Most students will have a good chunk of the presentation completed, but they will be moving on to the "Notes" section of the presentation today. This section is very important to making the next step of recording the presentation a smooth one. As noted in the presentation template, students will be using the "Notes" section of the PowerPoint to transcribe exactly what they will say during the 3-5 minute presentation. Students will use myBrainshark to narrate and record the slideshow, and this platform will simultaneously display the slides that the viewer will see with the "Notes" section of the presentation that is only visible to the creator while recording. As a result, students will have a complete script to read with their presentation while recording slide movements as if they were presenting it in person! It might take students a few attempts to understand this concept, but I will emphasize that the presentation they are making will be like the visual aid for their speech, which will be written in the "Notes" section and recorded with myBrainshark. Eventually, I am confident the "lightbulbs" will go on! To help speed this process along and connect this task to a real-world application, I will play the tutorial from myBrainshark entitled "Writing a Compelling Script." After we watch the video, students will get to work on crafting this section of their presentation.
While writing the "Notes" section for each slide, students will be reminded to include relevant transitions to walk their listeners through their arguments and to avoid reading slides directly to the listener.
I have found that giving students a rubric to work from after they begin a project, but significantly before they finish the project, helps them to maintain creativity and increase focus on requirements while working on projects. In the past, I have handed out rubrics with the project introduction, but my students tend to become more fixated on finding the "easiest" paths to a good grade rather than developing a genuine interest into the required project. Not handing out a rubric at all also typically spells disaster for my students, as they sometimes decide to skip parts of the project they don't feel like doing without considering the impact this would have on their grade. I clearly remember a Journalism class I once taught that, even though students had rubric to self-grade their final projects, unanimously graded themselves as failing. They were horrified when I revealed that they had all failed themselves (as I did not include a "total" at the bottom for them to fill out), and we opted to revise and redo the projects to allow students to turn in a higher-quality project. Since those days, I have learned that really frequent checks on student progress and understanding of requirements is absolutely crucial to student success. I do believe rubrics help this when properly introduced and discussed, which is why I take class time to do so here. Giving out a rubric helps to emphasize which parts of the project you find most important and allows them to give those areas special attention.
The openness of this format also helps students, parents, and teachers to be on the same page from the beginning of the project, rather than having to try to explain yourself after a student earns a lower-than-expected grade. I'm not sure how many times having a rubric distributed in advance has saved me a headache, but it has to be approaching a hundred by now!
In the final minutes of class today, we will connect as a group to answer any last-minute questions and outline expectations for students before the next class period. Students have had plenty of time to work on this project in class, so by next class period they must have a complete presentation within Google Presentation. This presentation should be something students are proud of and would be willing to turn in for a grade, but we will not be turning these in next class period. At the start of next hour, students will share their projects with a partner and complete a peer evaluation of their partner's work using the rubric with which I will also be grading them. We will then prepare for our final step, recording the project within myBrainshark, and revise and edit our work.
I will emphasize to students that peer review is most helpful when it is completed on work that is finished, so they should absolutely push to get these done to a point that they would be comfortable handing it in. Ultimately, students who arrive with incomplete work will be hurting themselves since they will lose the opportunity to have a peer review their work.
Before students arrive to class next hour, I will scroll through their shared folders to ensure that they have completed all or most of their project. Students that are markedly behind will be emailed to inquire if they need more assistance with the project during my "Extra Help" hours after school to get them back on track for this major assignment. They have been allowed plenty of time to work on this in class and outside of class, so there is really no excuse to have incomplete projects.