In a previous post I discussed how I combine skills when assigning work in my classroom. One poster responded, “that though this seems like a lot of work on my part, I do think and hope that it will pay off for me to try with my students.” However, I have actually reduced my workload and gotten more success out of my students.
I should state right away that I like my students to move a bit in the room and to complete short tasks that build, which keep my students attentive and reduce discipline issues.
Let’s use my assignment example from my previous post: explain where an example of situational irony is employed in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar using 2-3 sentences. Include two vocabulary words and a coordinating conjunction (correctly using a comma) in the answer.
I would give my students about 5-10 minutes to write the 2-3 sentences, and then I would have the students share with a partner. This would allow the students to help each other edit their work first in a no-pressure situation. Sometimes I would have the students placed in groups of three, and the first editor would look for a correct example of situational irony while the second editor would check the comma rule use.
Or, if my students seem a bit nervous about the assignment I might have them work as team with a partner. In this way, the students can experience the assignment and work with another student to complete the assignment. We’ll be doing this type of assignment numerous times, so working in tandem the first time is not a problem.
Then, no matter which method was used to create the sentences, I would ask the students for a good example of an answer. I could either project the student’s paper onto the screen with a document camera or have one or two responses written on the white boards. Next, we could look at the example(s) and check to see if all elements are present: 2-3 sentences, an example of situational irony, two vocabulary words, and a coordinating conjunction.
We edit as a class, and the point is to create a good example to keep for later. Sometimes I will post an example on a display wall or just keep a copy for students to use later (like an anchor paper).
At first this entire process might take 20-30 minutes, but after a couple times the time drops dramatically to 10-15 minutes.
At this point everyone has
- reviewed a part of the content (the text),
- used two vocabulary words,
- connected a literary device to a text,
- practiced a comma rule,
- made an attempt at the assignment which synthesizes skills (high on Bloom’s Taxonomy),
- helped edit 1-2 others’ assignments (thus seeing other examples),
- looked at a couple examples as a class,
- and edited one or two examples as a class.
Plus, we now have an anchor or two for comparison later, and I didn’t need any special supplies to gather. And, I still have half of the class period for another activity!
Note: I do not grade this assignment. It is practice only and not grading it allows students to have a risk-free, low-stress activity to improve their skills. I can move around the room and check on the students and help here and there as they work, which allows me to see who is struggling and who is excelling.