After the excitement of choosing texts and developing questions, students sometimes hit a rough spot with activity design. In some ways, it’s an act of synthesis: create and complete an assignment that tries to answer a question, practice a standard, and analyze a text. Like Cathy mentioned in a previous post, a key step to activity design is understanding what the standard is requiring the student to do and create. The first time we have students tackle design creation, we usually do it as a class, though it’s not always a success. Based on the diagnostics, my Brit Lit course chose to complete the Reading: Lit Standard 11-12.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain. After rewriting the standard, they brainstormed potential activities as we read The Canterbury Tales. Here’s their first attempt:
- Visualizing with media
- Get quotes from the text and draw what it means
- Hollywood Squares- people are contestants and the authors are the people who get asked questions
- Draw with friends!
- Telephone game
- Skits based off of text
- Board Game
- Check your understanding squares
- What happened
- What does it mean
- Establish a deeper connection
- Create a conclusion
Obviously, these don’t really fulfill that standard (seriously, cooking?). Luckily, this helped us discuss aspects of activity creation. Yes, technically, you can do whatever you want for an activity but it must fulfill the standard. So, when we went back to this list, we ultimately decided to do the last one, a type of graphic organizer for students to “cite…evidence to support analysis” and make “inferences…including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.”
Pointing students towards graphic organizers like this can be helpful, especially as they work through the ILP for the first time and struggle with understanding this new language of the standard. I often do mini-lessons using tools like SOAPSTone or TPCASTT which students can then adapt for whatever standard they’re doing. Cathy has also had students keep a database of sorts: a Google doc where students can look up types of activities that would fulfill their chosen standard. When students find success in activity, they’re usually pretty excited to share it.
One of the reasons we do two or three rounds of activities is so that students can attempt these standards multiple times. Especially when it comes to writing, I ask that my students first establish what it means to even complete the skill. If they’re working on improving transitions, they might study how a professional transitions in an essay (which may or may not be one of their texts); this year, I asked my seniors to use the writing resources from the colleges they hoped to attend. Then, they write up some sample transitions. After receiving feedback, their next attempt could be writing a lengthier piece with more sophisticated transitions and finally, they’d write a full length processed piece showing mastery of that skill.
While there is a lot of focus on the standards, we don’t want you to think that they are the be-all, end-all. As we become more focused on skills though, the standards have to play an equal role with the texts and questions. Texts can be used as models for writing or as subjects to be studied, and the focus of what the students analyze should relate back to the questions.
As we continue to publish here, we’ll start sharing some student examples of activities. What experience have you had with students demonstrating their learning process? What would you hope to see from a student creating their own learning activities?