One way to assess students is through rubrics. Rubrics tell students exactly how they will be graded and therefore, exactly what they need to do. Rubrics can also be used by the teacher to evaluate student growth or achievement on a particular skill. If a teacher wanted to assess their teaching or lesson planning, there are rubrics for that too.
Rubrics are about quality: quality learning and quality teaching.
You can use Rubistar to create rubrics. This is a great starting place and the tool I normally use. Rubistar has over 50 customizable rubrics. The process is quick and easy. Below are a few screen shots with captions the explain the features.
Once you are familiar with the content and layout of a rubric, making one in Word may be just as easy, especially if you are just changing a few things. I have included a few sample rubrics below for you to download and tinker with.
- Consider the weight of each category. (Should neatness be worth the same as content?)
- The rubric should be passed out with the assignment.
- Explain the rubric to your students.
- Read through each category with the students. Give them hypothetical situations (If Jeff includes only 3 examples what score will he receive? How long does the paper have to be in order to earn 4 points?)
- Ideally, students need to hang onto the rubric and turn it in with the final product. Be prepared: have extra copies on hand.
- Have students evaluate their work with the rubric before turning it in.
Loose papers. Lost handouts. Missing homework. Unorganized binders.
All of these things happened daily in my Resource Room until I decided to make packets for each instructional unit.
Some people might think handing out packets encourages dependency and doesn’t teach organizational skills. I will argue this point by saying that packets create structure and improve the flow of class. Students are still expected to have their packets each day, complete their assignments on time, and are able to see the relationship between what we did yesterday and today and tomorrow.
I have already explained that I like to teach in themes, that I usually see “the big picture”, and I process things whole-to-part.
For each grammar unit, novel, and major writing assignment, I make packets of all the handouts, worksheets, graphic organizers, etc. that I plan on using with the students.
The packet is full of a variety of activities, including group work and homework. The only things not in the packet are assessments or other great ideas I stumbled upon during the course of the unit. (But they will be added to the packet next year.)
- Helps disorganized students have necessary materials. Students know to have their packets ready at the start of class. There’s none of that “What do we need today??” business.
- Helps substitute teachers (no locating and passing out of worksheets)
- Helps me with lesson planning (I look at the packet and the SMARTBoard file and blend the two to develop my plans for the day/week/month.)
- Establishes a theme.
- Makes connections.
- Creates cohesiveness.
Let me describe how I create a packet for a novel, like Stargirl.
- To create my packet, I usually start with my SMARTNotebook file for the unit. I do a full-page print of the pages I want students to have individual copies of. I next add other materials that are not from the SMARTBoard.
- I put these pages in chronological order, number the pages, create the table of contents, and then make a calendar for the length of the unit with an overall plan of how much we will cover each day. I include this calendar in the student packet as it helps them see the pacing and our goals for each day. (There is obviously room for flexibility….thank to snow days, assemblies, absences, and days when we spend a little longer than planned.)
- I usually staple bright-colored copy paper on the front and back. Students create a cover for the packet a few days into the novel. We make a list of characters and settings on the inside front cover. The back cover can be used for random, spur of the moment ideas when a clean sheet of paper is needed.
- As we work through a novel, students can easily turn to a page when I ask them to. They can tell me where we left off. Someone usually takes it upon themselves to be the “recorder” of such info and writes both the book page number and the packet page number on the board at the end of class.
- individual and group work
- a variety of written work to prevent boredom (no chapter is the same)
- cloze paragraphs
- extended response
- short answer
- other graphic organizers
The packet is supplemented with the SMART Notebook file I have been building on each year. The file includes:
- lots of visuals and images for discussion and writing prompts
- audio and video clips (see my Novel Playlists post)
- review games and activities
Things to Note:
- My class is not all worksheet based. For a given novel, I may have 25 pages stapled together. I takes me about 7-8 weeks to complete a novel in the resource room.That’s a worksheet almost every other day.
- We use our dry erase boards almost daily in conjunction with the packet. They may have to summarize a chapter, draw a picture, make a prediction on their dry erase boards. This breaks up the paper-pencil activities.
- We don’t always do all the pages in the packet. Sometimes I have overestimated or underestimated where my students are. If it doesn’t feel right, we only do part of it or we skip it all together.
- Because my class is small, (less than a dozen students), I can easily collect the packets if I want to grade an activity. Most grades come from assessments.
- At the end of the unit, I try to hang onto the students’ packets for work samples and documentation. If they really want to keep their packet (few do), I can easily make copies.
Teaching with a packet requires you:
- To have a “vision” for the unit
- To work way ahead.
- To have previous experience with the topic. I don’t think I could pull off a packet on a novel the first time I read it with the class.
Students need and crave structure, but they also need variety. Packets create natural “chunks” for instruction. Students do well with short 10-12 minute activities. By switching between reading out loud, group discussion, completing packet activities independently, working on the SMARTBoard, and using dry erase boards, the pace of class is fast and engaging. My students know they won’t be doing any one thing longer than 15 minutes.
While I focused on the idea of a novel packet, this can be done with any topic. I have created packets on parts of speech, capitalization rules, vocabulary, test-taking strategies, persuasive writing, business letters, and poetry – to name a few.
Are you a whole-to-part or part-to-whole learner/teacher?
How do you handle worksheets and handouts with your class?
Have you created a packet for an entire unit? What worked for you? What didn’t?
Part of my job as an intervention specialist is to provide copies of the class notes for some of my IEP students.
The reasons for this are numerous: poor handwriting, poor processing speed, poor hand-eye coordination, organizational issues, need for review and re-explanation, etc.
My 8th graders are required to take the notes to the best of their ability. In science class, the notes are on the SMARTBoard or taken from the book. For those who have trouble getting notes from the board or book to their paper, a hard copy of the notes is provided. They are allowed to keep these hard copies but they also need to make a valiant effort to copy the notes in the allotted time.
In other words, students get a copy of the exact notes that were provided in class.
However, an additional responsibility is to provide study guides and study materials for my IEP students. It would only make sense that these study guides present the same information, but in a different manner. This is my chance to be creative and do my thing. This is my chance to do what I really love.
I have a variety of formats I use for review sheets and study guides and I tend to mix it up to prevent boredom and to reach students in a variety of ways.
One thing I always try to do: I use the same vocabulary, definitions, and some of the same graphics so they can make connections to what they’ve done in class.
Ways that I modify/tweak/enhance/personalize study tools:
- Explain definitions in simpler words.
- Use bold, color, italics, and underline tools to highlight key info.
- Include diagrams, charts, or additional graphics.
- Bring in examples and situations we discussed in our intervention study hall. (Ms. K’s car is out of gas. If she pushes it herself, it won’t go very far. If Cory, Paul, and Andrew help push it, it will be easier to move out of the intersection. Which law of motion applies?)
- I include graphic organizers where students must take the info they learned in class and plug it into charts, boxes, webs, etc. When they get to the test they can visualize the position of the information and remember answers.
- I load all study tools onto Edmodo so that students who are more digitally inclined can access the tools at home on their computer or on-the-go with their smartphones.
- I summarize the key information in tri-fold pamphlets.
Below I have included samples of the two sides of a pamphlet for an Astronomy unit. I make these pamphlets on Publisher, copy them front-to-back on bright paper, tri-fold them, and pass them out a few days before the test. Students can keep them tucked in the front of their binder, journal, or book and review the notes quickly between classes, at the start of study hall, on the bus (ok, i doubt that.), etc.
Over the next few weeks I will post some more ideas and examples of study tools I use with my 8th graders. If you have any particular content you are interested in, leave a comment. I just might have a study tool that’s right for you!