Posts tagged middle scool

Biography Project: First Few Days


After the great kick off to our biography unit that Mary Dodson Wade gave us, we looked at several of her biographies along with a handful of others. The students were asked to read and fill in a graphic organizer, also taking note of how the information was presented (one was in verse) and point of view. We then discussed what we wanted to include in our biographies.

It was time for the students to start choosing the person they wanted to research. All of our middle school students are completing this project. The Grades 5 & 6 students were required to choose a person of note from the Revolutionary War. The 7 & 8 students were allowed to choose someone from any time period. I will be focusing on my Grades 5 & 6 students as I discuss this project.

I started out by putting up a list of 20 or so notable people from the revolutionary War. I gave the students a 30 second or less summation of who the person was and what they did. From my brief discussion they were to have a few people in mind they may be interested in.

Next the students scoured their textbooks for information; I wanted them to practice using the index, a skill they all need to improve. Once they read the information in the textbook, they were allowed to explore the Internet. Finally, they were to make a list of the top three people they were interested in researching. I was lucky and most of the students got their first choice. The two who didn’t easily worked out a compromise. I love my class.

The students then went back to their textbooks to fill in the K-W Chart from their Big6™ Research Notebooks. The information in the textbook is sparse for even the most notable characters. The plan was for them then generate questions based on the information provided, hopefully getting at who, what, why, when, where and how. The “What do I want to find out?” part was given as a homework assignment.  It did not go so well. We spent a much larger part of the next day’s lesson going over how to generate questions that will yield relevant answers. I wish I had some before and after examples, but let’s just say they were less than thoughtful. Granted these poor children were in the middle of lunch and afterschool play practices, so I should have thought better of giving them this assignment as homework. Here is an example of “after” questions. This student did a nice job working through many of the five W’s.

Revised Questions

Following the Big6™ research model, we discussed the types of resources they needed to use and where to find them. I wanted them to use a print resource, mostly to practice finding books on the library shelves, as well as websites found through our Follett Webpath Express subscription. The students spent the next two days reading and taking notes from their sources.

Sample Note Sheet

UbD: Making a Chicken Mummy


The design for this Middle School unit came about because writing blog posts was on my mind due to starting this class. The science teacher and I were planning on having the students mummify a chicken to demonstrate the process to the students in a way that would hopefully get them excited, if not intriguingly disgusted. Since I was in the midst of learning how to blog, I got to thinking I could get the students to do it too. They could share what they were learning about mummification with a larger audience, thus hopefully inspiring them to put out their best effort with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be the only one reading their work.

We have a unique situation at my school in that we are to be “unsearchable;” no information about the existence of our school can be shared online. I needed to find out from our Tech teacher how I could go about this. She reminded me that way back at the beginning of this year she helped me set up an edublog. I had completely forgotten! At this time the students cannot have a blog of their own, since issues surrounding security have not been resolved. Therefore to get around this, the students have editing privileges on my blog, and they post their individual work as categories.

Right now we are at the point where they have written a blog post detailing how they are making canopic jars and sarcophagi for the chicken mummy they have named Chickapatra and also blog posts on the actual mummification process. They worked in Word for a week transferring the notes from their Science journals into blog posts detailing what they have done so far.

Next we worked together to design a rubric for the evaluation of the blog entries. At this point in the year, the students already know my general expectations for work, so I like for them to have a draft in hand when we go over a new rubric. It allows me to directly reference their work when giving examples of what I am looking for, and they have their work in mind when reviewing the rubric. The students then reviewed their work comparing it to the rubric. Revisions were made and they uploaded these first posts to edublog along with photos.

Unfortunately this is as far as we have gotten. This work had to be set aside so the students could work on preparing scripts for a visiting film-making group, and now we have moved into preparations for student led conferences. I find this really disappointing because the students are left with unfinished work (though the mummification work has continued in science), and I have not been able to review the final work they have done. I hope to pick this up again at the end of next week with scores for their initial posts and time for catching up on new posts that are needed.

Using this method for unit design was a challenge. I have never used the UbD format before and I felt a little lost. I really struggled with the Six Facets of Understanding. The differences seemed very subtle, at this point in my experience, and I was trying hard not to be repetitive. In addition I was trying to be conscious of repetition between the GRASPS Task and the Six Facets of Understanding, but I don’t know if that has left a discontinuity between the two or if that is what I should be doing.

UbD: Chicken Mummy


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