I’ve been remiss in not following up on our end of the semester learning activities and experiences from our extended inquiry project with Language Arts teacher Sarah Rust. If you haven’t had a chance to read my series of posts about our collaborative efforts or would like a refresher, you can catch up with all of the posts here. In my last series post, I discussed different types of formative assessment we were using to evaluate student progress, processes, and products, including their research design proposals. I’d like to share with you briefly some of the structures, resources, and activities we used over the subsequent three weeks (excluding our Thanksgiving break) to help our students compose their multigenre projects.
As students submitted their research design proposals, both Sarah and I provided them written and verbal feedback through 1:1 conferences as well as the individualized feedback we crafted using mail merge and Word docs. These processes took approximately five days of class; students that were not meeting with us were either moving forward with additional research or starting to craft elements of their projects. One of the tools we gave students to help them manage and organize all the pieces of their projects was this project planner/checklist. I have found over the years that checklists, while seemingly simple, are powerful tools to help students stay organized and on track.
We also gave students concrete examples of finished project (both virtual and Word docs) templates to look at as well as hard/print copies my past students had created; students could browse the physical copies that we kept in folders in the library workspace. In addition, we had virtual and hard copy examples of specific multigenre products created by my previous students as well as examples we found through the web. We also built in days to do small group work on skills and project elements; some of these included:
- Guided instruction for students who wanted to publish their work as a WordPress site. We showed students how to register for a free account, how to set up pages for each project element, how to establish a static homepage, and how to craft a customized menu so that the navigation reflected the order of the project pages we had established in the guidelines. We also provided reinforcement for students with video tutorials that we made and published on the project LibGuide. This instruction was probably one of the more intensive days since establishing the project website structure was essential early on for the students and helping them feel comfortable with multiple new skills at once. To their credit, both classes did a fantastic job following our step by step guided instruction and getting their project sites set up. Subsequently, they caught on to skills like editing pages and adding multimedia content very quickly—I was impressed by how they took initiative to self-help and to then show their peers a skill they had taught themselves.
- 1:1 help for students who chose to publish their work as a Word document (most students published virtually with WordPress, and we had one student who published his project as a Google Doc). Again, we provided reinforcement with customized video tutorials we published to the project guide.
- 1:1 and small group conferencing with students who wanted feedback on project elements as they drafted.
- Whole group instruction and discussion about how to craft the notes pages (please scroll toward the bottom of the page) since these elements are the ones I’ve found students have struggled with most in the past and to help our students have a clearer idea for our expectations in terms of content and parenthetical integration of sources.
- Most students had mastered citation of sources using our EasyBib tools (including the awesome direct export of citations), but I was on standby to provide clarification or help students cite non-database sources.
We essentially had about 10-12 days of working class time for the projects; we were able to meet students at the point of need as Sarah and I served as “on-demand” help and shared our different areas of expertise in terms of content oriented questions and technical-related inquiries. As we neared the finish line, we showed students how to submit their project information via a Google form; students who published via Word emailed their projects to me, and I uploaded their projects as PDFs to SlideShare. As students submitted their work via the Google form and email, I then added their content to our multigenre project blog (hosted at WordPress) and organized projects by period.
In my next post, I’ll share how I used Google Sheets and a nifty mail merge app to record student project notes quickly and seamlessly assessment notes with Sarah Rust. New posts are also coming soon featuring student interviews about their projects as well as some final reflections from Sarah and me on our inquiry adventures with our students! Finally, Jennifer Lund and I will be doing planning period professional development next week for our faculty and hopefully finding new partners in different subject areas to pilot different interpretations of multigenre projects.