What kinds of engaging and academic activities do you do with your class post-testing? Standardized tests are over, but school is still in session. In fact, most of us have quite a few weeks of school left. For older learners (middle/high school, maybe even sixth grade), consider a research project. I have noticed that many young people do not see the necessity of college, nor do they find it appealing. Often, their exposure to the various colleges and institutions for higher education is rather limited. During these post-testing weeks, engage your students while having them practice their research and presentation skills. As a bonus, you just might entice them to pursue a higher education.
Introducing the Project
To make a project both successful and exciting, here are some ways to introduce it:
- Brainstorm with the class the benefits of attending college. Challenge them to think outside of the box, such as learning things like pottery or marital arts, participating in internships, and embracing a cross-cultural experience.
- Generate a list of colleges they would like to attend or visit
- Bring in local sport celebrities or interesting, successful people to talk about their college experiences
After you introduce the overall concept of the project, it is time to present the requirements of the project. Take some time to think through some of the following questions prior to presenting the requirements:
- Will you provide a list of colleges from which to choose?
- May multiple individuals or groups be permitted to research the same colleges?
- Are groups permissible, or must all projects be created by individuals?
- Research paper and/or presentation: Which will you require?
Here are some things to provide at the beginning of the project:
- List of due dates
- What is to be included in the project (i.e. programs offered, size of the school, famous graduates, mascots, sports, unique opportunities available at particular campuses)
- Rubrics for grading each portion of the project
Researching a College or University
Depending on your class’s background, it may be necessary to do a lesson on what qualifies as a reputable source before they start researching. Most pupils know how to search the Internet by the time they reach middle school, but they may not know how to discern which sites are reputable. Reinforce the above-referenced lesson by asking learners to watch this presentation either at school, or as homework.
Throughout the research portion, each child should have note cards for their information. Have them write one fact per note card. Certain websites will require multiple note cards as they obtain multiple facts from it. Placing one fact per card will allow learners to rearrange their note cards later with much more ease. On the back of the note card, have them include all the details from the website that they will later need for their works cited page. Encourage the students to use the rubric so they know what details they must include. Ensuring this information is located early in the process will allow for smoother processes as they prepare the final paper/presentation.
From Note Cards to Outlines
Whether the middle schoolers are writing a paper and/or creating a presentation, it is beneficial for pupils who have never done a research paper before to be given an outline that they must fill in based on their note cards. Create a generic template that everyone can start with but allow some flexibility for things that do not fit under a given category but are interesting. While the outline may add an extra day or two to your project, it will create more organized papers. Keep in mind that you will have to grade these projects—the more organized their work is, the easier it will be for you to grade them. Or, if you have the means and inclination, use Lesson Planet’s Inspiration Software resources to teach your class a new way to organize and create presentations.
Outlines to Rough Drafts
Once the outlines are completed, it is time to start the rough drafts. Demonstrate to your class how to go from an outline to paragraph form, so that students see how simple it is, as well as the necessity of using complete sentences, correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Even though these will be rough drafts, encourage pupils to take their time so that they will need to edit less as the process continues. This is also a good time to demonstrate how to format their works cited page if you are requiring one.
The editing process can include one or more of these options: peer editing, group editing, teacher editing. A checklist is beneficial for each of these options. This checklist should be based on the rubric, and should include introduction, flow, grammar, spelling, indentation, etc. If peer editing is one of your review methods, consider having multiple editors check over each paper. For group editing, assign a particular thing for each editor, such as content, spelling, or grammar.
Final Written Draft
What you require for your final draft is up to you. It will vary based on your class’s previous project experience. Sometimes it is advisable to set the bar high, as they will often surprise you with what they are capable of doing. Some requirements could include typing the final draft, setting the margins to a particular length, formatting their heading a certain way, including a formatted works cited page, or creating a title page. Younger grades may require a day of class time to teach formatting. Also, remember to allow in-class computer time for those who don’t have home computers.
Oh, the dreaded speech! Public speaking is very frightening for many people. However, it is a necessary skill for many professions. Use this project as an opportunity for each of your students to face their fears, while getting a little more comfortable presenting to an audience. Resist all requests to be excused from the presentation portion of the project. For your most timid learners, simply ask them to read their papers to the class. Some students will welcome the opportunity to create and present a PowerPoint or Inspiration Software presentation. For those creating presentations, it is beneficial to offer these guidelines prior to slide creation:
- Amount of information per slide (not too much, not too little)
- Provide a range as to the number of slides per presentation
- Best type and font size
- Instruct learners to create note cards so that they are not dependent on their slides
A Few More Tips
- Plan out a detailed timeline, including a few extra days, so that you have enough time before the end of the year for all pupils to present
- Contact popular colleges to see if they will send you literature, posters, or T-shirts. These are easy decorations for your classroom and can get the momentum building at the beginning of the project.
- Make clear-cut, frequent deadlines
- Send home a letter to parents to get them involved. In the letter, encourage parents to discuss with their children what they are discovering about their college
Share your post-testing project and activity ideas with the Lesson Planet Community:
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