When my son was tiny, I tried to convince the boarding school where we were working to install a children’s playground for all the little kids in the area. I researched all kinds of amazing playscapes, but as I combed through photos and articles, one name stood out in particular.
Sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled.
Monstrum is an incredible Danish design company that creates playgrounds based on stories. For example, they created “The Crooked Houses,” to reflect the history of the neighborhood Brumleby in Copenhagen.
They made the “Playground Cosmos” to represent the experience of being in the Russian Space program. How much do you suddenly wish you were a kid so you could go play there? I, for one, really want to climb up that long silver slide into the top of the rocket.
You might be asking yourself, so what? How can this possibly relate to my English classroom?
Well, here’s the thing. Most playgrounds in the United States today look pretty similar. I have taken my tiny tots to playgrounds from California to Pennsylvania, and the colors, structures, and feel of the playgrounds are generally the same. They are brightly colored, relatively safe, and story-free. In a word, unoriginal.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s post and podcast, Creative Assessment.
What are we really looking for in our assessments these days, to be relatively safe and blend in, or to build on the stories of our own communities? To extend the comparison, are we going to make our classrooms safe and story-free, or embrace the ideals of Monstrum?
I vote Monstrum all the way. We need classroom activities that students can dive deeply into, assessments that engage students’ imaginations and inspire their dreams, not just prove that they read from page one to page seven. A reading quiz doesn’t have to be ten multiple choice questions that don’t require any critical thinking or creativity. A final project doesn’t to be a standard literary analysis paper.
There are lots of other ways to find out if students are reading, thinking deeply, and learning to communicate what they know.
Today’s Podcast (number ten!) is about finding ways to let students show what they have learned that matter to them. That engage them in creative, fresh ways that relate to their own lives.
Listen here or on iTunes for dozens of ideas on how to keep your activities, quizzes, and final projects creative and relevant in a world that values creativity and innovation far above the ability to memorize and color inside the lines.
When it comes to creative assessment, it’s easy to get
intimidated. You may feel like your colleagues will look at you funny if you
deviate from the norm, that you are too tied to certain standards and types of
writing to try something new, or that you can’t afford the technology or
materials to be creative in the way you want. Well, this episode is for you.
I’ll be sharing ideas for creative quizzes, daily activities, and final
projects that you can be proud of. There’s no reason students can’t show the
same skills in rigorous creative work as they do in whatever assessments you
are feeling pressure to conform to. In
my first two years of teaching I had students enmeshed in creative projects
every month and I won my school’s new faculty award at the end of my second
five of whatever text you are reading. Do you…
raised throughout the discussion in an effort to discover who has actually
questions after checking to be sure those answers aren’t readily available in
which students write a blog post recommending or not recommending the book,
based on those chapters, to other students around the world?
want to know that our students are keeping up with the material. I remember
being so mad in college when I listened to a classmate fake his way through
class discussions, knowing the whole time he had not read our novel. Day after day. The professor appeared to have
no idea. Of course none of us want to be that professor.
reading facts don’t give our students much of a reason to engage. This type of
quiz feels a bit confrontational, and definitely lacks creativity.
here are five creative alternatives. Each of these alternatives builds more
analysis and creative thinking into the way students process the material to
show that they have read it.
2. The Coffee Shop Script: Have students get creative as they write the script of a conversation between three or four characters from the reading. They can discuss anything, so long as they sprinkle in plenty of details from the reading.
3. Reading Blog: Have students write a blog post either recommending or not recommending the book to other students around the world, based on the reading.
4. E-mail from one character to another: in a world stuffed with e-mail, writing a good one is an important skill! Let students write from one character to another, including a few key details from the recent action in the novel.
5. 5 Headlines for a News Website: Let students imagine they are editing a news website covering the action in the novel. They need to hit the highlights for their readers.
in your instructions that your students explain their ideas with DETAILS from
the reading. They need to show you they have read as they work through these
Classroom Activities can also easily fall into a rut. You
want to assess student work in class, but how can you do it creatively, in a
way that will matter to them? One great way is to talk to them about their
interests in your discipline, and work toward those interests in your daily
assessments. For example, here are three student interest threads and three
activities for each.
in-class assessment in which they…
for the novel you are reading, and they need to create a live video for each
major character responding to the events of the reading.
for high school students that were struggling with reading, in which they share
the most important moments in the text in any way they choose
discussing what they do and do not like about the text and how it relates to
their own lives
create an in-class assessment in which they…
hosted by a character from the novel
the novel to interview in a news-style show. Record the interview.
read, explaining in an accompanying paragraph how the music represents critical
themes in the text.
an in-class assessment in which they…
perspective of a character in the novel, to help solve his or her struggle in
problem confronted by a character or characters in the novel.
rigorous. Creative assessment doesn’t mean a loss of rigor. For me, it means
giving students a chance to show their skills in unique ways that expand their
thinking and push their limits.
see that there are a million directions you could go with these. Here are three
ideas to get you started.
flush out a storyboard for the App, explain the character’s choices and
business plan, and explore why the character would create this particular App,
students can use their tech skills, tap into interest in entrepreneurship,
demonstrate their ability to write analytically, and get creative in their
thinking. It just so happens that I have created a packet for this particular
final assessment, and I would love to share it with you. Subscribe with the form below and I’ll send it along immediately!
create something relating to the text and then use that creation to launch into
a writing project. Maybe they create a photo essay based on the novel and then
use those photos as inspiration for a brand new story. Maybe they create a
painting of a character that really reflects his or her inner nature, and then
they write an essay on characterization. Opening up the doors of the maker
movement in your ELA classroom will lead you down creative and unexpected
paths. I’ve written a blog post about this I think you will love, featuring the inspiring book Make Writing that first got me thinking about all this.