Barb: Hi all!! I know everyone is busy. I never responded to the other messages on this topic as I was busy listening to you all and pondering what to do in my own case....... I need some ideas fast as we are ending the school year in the next couple of weeks. Here are my concerns with grading the children on the Mystery project.....

The kids have worked so hard and long on this project. But how do I get a concrete grade when they have all done different pieces? The collaboration/participation part is easy.... but how do I measure growth at different stages in different fields.... such as the Illustrators in art, but not in writing the piece (although they added ideas...). The webdesigners learned a different way to express things, but they didn't do the main writing either... The researchers can be graded on their reports and citing sources, but the other children didn't demonstrate that skill....

I will write up a self evaluation form for them to grade themselves. But I feel I should have more......

  1. to justify using this method of teaching.
  2. to encourage others to partake of the internet waters.
  3. to be sure that my kids are really ALL learning ALL outcomes needed for life.
  4. to reassure parents that their children are learning what they need for life in a future society.
  5. ** to reassure myself that I have prepared them for that life.
  6. ** to let the children know what they have accomplished and how the world/peers/future bosses and teachers will rate their efforts.
  7. to give the children a realistic measuring stick so they can further their own learning.
  8. to justify the amount of time and effort spent on the project....could the same outcomes be accomplished in an easier way? Would they be as thorough?

I feel the starred issues are the most important ones! So I need some ideas to help me measure what they learned without penalizing them for the pieces they did not accomplish... Any one have any ideas?


Lynne: Hi Barb, Here are my two cents...and take em as such ;)

If you were assessing specific task skills and each child had to accomplish all skills, it would indeed be difficult to asses without, say, giving them a mini assessment problem that would incorporate all skills (i.e. take one concept that you've learned in science and write part of a story that depends on that concept to move to the next part...or something like that...)

I would suspect, however, that you were after larger understandings that all could gain, no matter what their specific role was in the project... (i.e. cause and effect relationships involved in environmental issues, elements of a mystery or work of fiction) and those could probably be assessed via teacher observation, student self-assessment, reflective writing, or even standardized multiple choice tests, I suppose..)

Lynne :)

Barb: Lynne, Yes, you have the idea. I have assessed them in the curricular areas via notebooks & quizzes in the Science lessons, Stance questions, and mystery elements in their journals, etc. So I guess I am asking how to assess the skills that went above and beyond the curricular goals.... the collaboration, the extending and refining (!!! Oh my supervisor will love this --- Dimension 4! of Dimensions of Learning!!!). Wow - I'm impressed ---that's what they want us to aim for and I never even realized we were doing that.... Now all I have to do is put it in terms that all (parents, supervisors, students, etc.) will recognize!

The reflective writing is a good idea.....

Your two cents may lead to a gold mine...


More on Dimensions of Learning

Lynne: Barb, Well, glad I could be of help m'am ;) And, interdisciplinary mysteries are dear to my heart...I was really excited to read your underlying lesson/curriculum for this project. When I taught 7th grade English a couple of years ago, I had the kids try to incorporate content from their other subjects into the stories...but our lesson was nowhere near as well thought out as yours :)

Hmmm....if I'm anywhere near some 4th graders next year, we should try an "exchange" mystery story deal...each side write the mystery related to their curriculum and then provide the resources that would assist their partner class in solving the mystery, while teaching them the content (sort of in the manner of our Ahupua'a Adventure ;)

And, just a might be fun to have other 4th graders who study the same curriculum read the story and report back on what knowledge they needed to get through the mystery...sort of evaluation by product, I guess, but it allows for an outside view...and might be a nice assessment for the readers of their own grasp of their curriculum.


Lynne followed with...

Barb and all,

Since assessment informs curriculum, it would be interesting for those of us who are following your process of designing and then assessing your online, collaborative project, to also hear how you might revise/refine the project, based on the assessment you are conducting. Thanks :)


Ellen: Hi all, I spent the last hour looking at your schedule. How exciting!! You are all in for a fantastic week of learning. You have addressed all of the questions, needs...not only addressed but artistically crafted the week.

Am in an intensive "Assessment" workshop that is apparently being conducted throughout the state. Am checking to see if some of the items are online as the binders that we have a full of information regarding the systemic approach to teaching / learning / assessment / communication - Eileen - is also in the group.

Also talked to many of the teachers regarding the issue of multi-culturalism as there are many students who are entering schools and are finding it a challenge in the adjustment - for both teachers and students - and even community. What are some successful practices? How can the telecommunications make the bridges? and what kind of bridges?

Patti...what a site!! Great!

John: Barb, Since I had a hand in creating a more complicated for you, I thought I'd respond without looking first at what others are writing. these rae really excellent questions you have asked. You ARE a wonderful teacher. (But I already knew that. :-)

you said:

should have more......

  1. to justify using this method of teaching.
  2. to encourage others to partake of the internet waters.

At a general level, you should look at the Mystery Writers Project and assess it against curriculum goals for the year. At a classwide level, I think it is easy to justify the Mystery Writers as we look at how the project helped you meet language arts, social science, sceince and math currcilulum guidelines for the entire class. We've certainly bombarded the language arts objectives. (You might want to list some out for the group later.) The project tied in nicely with your recent field trip and I'm assuming Maryland history was a part of the 4th grade guidlines. The kids are learnig a lot about the plant and sea life of the area. They are learning a lot right now about environmental sciences and local ecology. Do These fit into the curriculum? We need to make sure that math components of the project now also mirror fourth grade math objectives.

If collaborative learning is important to the 4th grade curriculum, how has this project fostered those skills for each child? What we didn't think of doing was creating some type of baseline evaluation of these skills and what each child needed to improve before we began, but I think you still can do an assessment of how each child has grown in this area. Have social skills improved because of the project?

I'll now look at what others are writing and then chime in there.


...and more from John

John replies:

I like Patti and Lynne's comments. It will be neat to hear what the kids say, Barb. We should almost tape it as a radio show. they'll have fun and we'll have a record to analyze later as we look back and listen to them teach us a bit again.

Another thought (thanks Lynne:)

We have many texts from our daily meetings, which we have not posted. Your crushed but my time is freeing up. This weekend I'll set up ALL of the sessions chronologically for everyone to read and try to start annotating them. I suspect that if we go back and look at the evolution of the story, we will begin remembering the objectives behind our daily planning and the text will show us how we began to achieve or miss the mark each day.

I think then we can also do what Lynne is suggesting, which is to look back at what we've done and think about how we will modify the curriculum in the fall. For old timers like Lynne and patti, my thought is to do a text analysis of a session like I did with early IRC chats showing what the kids and I were doing on a given day and then explaining my teaching objectives that I was trying to accomplish while working with the kids online. What Barb has done is much richer. I only had limited language arts ojectives -- teaching writing -- when I was online in the early days. Here, we have worried about cross disciplinary curriculum and using the writing as a medium. We NEED to explain this to everyone so that the richness of the form and its impact on curriculum isn't lost.

Perhaps if everyone in the group has time (evil grin) you can all look at the text and tell us what currciulum lessons you learned from our daily encounters.

Today is Katie's birthday -- 13 -- and this is her birthday weekend BUT I will find time to at least post all of the sessions in their raw form with little editing so anyone who wants to peek and comment can.


Patti: Barb and all, Carla and I were talking this morning about ways to assess the mystery story project. It is so good to have a partner in my own school now who is excited about online collaboration! Look out.. we are dangerous together. Heheheee....

Seriously... Many ideas came to mind and I'm sure Carla will send her ideas when she comes back from the beach on Sunday. Enjoy the sun, Carla!

  1. Give 2 grades for the project:
    • One is an overall grade for each team within the group. If the group performed successfully according to their rubric they get the grade they earned.
    • Individuals within the teams earn a grade according to their participation within the group.
  2. Alternate the tasks with each project throughout the year so that researchers might be illustrators next time, etc. Make sure that each task has a writing component to it.
  3. Evaluate the cooperative process with the kids during the project and not just at the end.
  4. Have a sharing session during which the kids can present their part of the project so that all gain knowledge from each of the pieces that make up the whole.

Carla suggested that a rubric be written (maybe by the kids?) for each team. Post this in a good place so that everyone knows what each group is expected to do.

I spoke with our Vice Principal about this today (she's a great instructional leader) and she shared an idea she used when she taught 4th grade. Kids need to be taught cooperative skills when working in groups. They don't happen auto"magic"ically. ;-) She used "post-its" to reinforce the cooperative spirit. She made a T chart with the kids and they brainstormed:

 Supporting your team members

 sounds like...        |  looks like....

 "Gee, wish I had      | smile
  thought of that."    |
 "Cool idea!"          | pat on the shoulder
 "You're really        |
  clever."             | nodding the head

As the teacher (now my VP) heard and saw the kids affirming each other she quietly placed a post-it with an affirming statement on the back of the student who was "caught" being supportive. She said the kids tested it and sometimes faked the statements but then settled in and were sincere. If one of your objectives in this project is to build a cooperative team spirit (certainly needed in the real world of business!) the post-its are a measurable sign.

Just a few Friday night thoughts. ;-)


Carla: This would be very easy to do via ancedotal records. Although I think it is important for children to use their strengths in their learning (Multiple Intelligences) since everyone learns differently, I also think that everyone needs to participate in all of the areas. For example, take the illustrators. In that group, maybe only one is truly strong at illustrating, the others might be strong at writing, researching or what have you. They still work together to accomplish the goals of illustrating set up by the class. They each are still scored based on the rubric. Then for a different part of the story, that group becomes the researchers. That way everyone is involved in all aspects of the story and everyone can be assessed on their overall contributions!

Quoting Patti: Have a sharing session during which the kids can present their part of the project so that all gain knowledge from each of the pieces that make up the whole.

Super thoughts!!!

I think that rubrics should be used whenever possible. I think it is also important for them to be student centered with their input but guided by the teacher!!!! For example, when share illustrations from several children's books and have the students brainstorm what makes the illustration effective! That would be the basis for the rubric! The rubric would then be developed and posted so that the students know the criteria for assessment.

The use of t-charts Patti was talking about to teach children to affirm each other, are also great to use to set up a positive classroom climate. I found them to be very effective for using when teaching children to take turns, use active listening, encourage each other and my list could go on!

Overall, though, I really think assessment, in general, has to be planned for in the beginning, before instruction takes place.

Well it looks like my *two cents* has turned into *ten cents* ;-).

Have a beautiful weekend everyone!!!
The Global Garden
Take the link to Budding Authors, "Authors Mentoring Authors Online" a writing workshop scheduled for June 1998

More on Multiple Intelligences...

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Patricia A. Weeg

June 11, 1998