Monday, January 31, 2011

Moving Beyond the Rubric

I know we are all familiar with Alfie Kohn’s stance on rubrics. And, I know that before Karl Fisch left to go to Educon without me, we talked a little about invention and creativity in kids. He asked me my thoughts on how we helped nurture creativity, inspiration, and innovation in our students. I immediately came back to Kohn’s thoughts about rubrics. My growing concern that as we create more and more rubrics to justify grades and help kids complete assignments our way, the more we are steering our children away from them being able to show their learning and understanding the way they envision it to be. Less of me, more of them!

So, this past week, as we were reading Little Brother, I asked the students to get into groups of their own choosing. In any way they wanted, they needed to show as many connections as they could find regarding Ned Kelly, the Chicago 7 and Little Brother’s Marcus Yallow (Thanks to Gary Stager for this assignment from grad school). I am not going to do the work for you readers; if you are anxious to know- do some digging! The only requirement is that they present their findings in a really creative and engaging way or as I like to say, “Knock my socks off!” No rubric was given out, no further instructions were given, just the opportunity for kids to learn and lead.

Here’s what I learned over the course of the presentation days:
1- Kids can write songs when given the chance and love to perform them LIVE! Not just once, but twice!
a. Group 1- original lyrics to song by Brad Paisley

2- Kids can go way beyond PowerPoint to show their learning and understanding:
a. Group 1- Prezi
b. Group 2- Prezi

3- Hula hoops make a great Venn Diagram!

4- Group 3- Food Pyramid
a. Desserts are bad for you similar to the actions of murder, conspiracy and hacking
b. Protein fuels the change in society
c. Fruits/Vegetables keep you healthy in order to change the world
d. Dairy supports the bones similar to the support network each person had challenging the system
e. Grains- the basis for the protesting

5- Make a Venn diagram cake
a. With each section of the cake, have a flag with details, pictures, and connections
b. Pass out the cut cake to the audience having them read back the information and learning to the entire class.

6- Game Show x 2
a. Group 1
b. Group 2

7- Making characters into lemonade-
a. Take one container that represents the world.
b. Add in water to represent Ned Kelly
c. Add lemonade to represent Marcus Yallow
d. Add ice to represent the Chicago 7
e. Notice how everything coexists peacefully UNTIL….
f. Add one stirring spoon that represents the police..
g. What happens when the police “stir things up” you have the “perfect sweet uprising”
h. Pour into cups that are a symbol of the people- feeding people/society with your ideas

As I was watching each group present, I was amazed. Without a rubric, detailed instructions, and the perfect lesson plan, my students showed their connections in a way that was collaborative, communicative, creative, inventive, and personalized. They solved a problem together without me or a rubric getting in their way. No two groups looked the same, yet all achieved a similar goal: they learned!

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