In my English classes I’m always looking for assessments that aren’t essays. Here’s why:
- Our district is really big on alternative assessments and allowing students more choice in how they display knowledge
- I like finding new ways for students to display their understanding.
- I don’t need another stack of essay to grade (okay, this is the real reason.)
I was inspired by the idea of having students create an infographic as a way to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. Pinterest is full of them because they are visually interesting but informative at the same time. Plus, they would force students to think outside the box in ways that an essay doesn’t really encourage.
At this point the class had read the first ten chapters of Pride and Prejudice. I gave them a few topics to re-explore in this section: the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy, the importance of dance, what it means to be “an accomplished woman,” and Mrs. Bennet’s schemes to get her daughters married. They had to reread and annotate to draw some conclusions and I selected a few articles for them to read for background on the culture. They had to display their knowledge as an infographic.
There are plenty of infographics out there to get ideas. If you do an image search, you’ll find a ton. I told students they could draw one if they chose, they could use a program like Word or Prezi, or they could use an online infographic creator like Piktochart. (The last option may require you to create an account. I told them to use the email their school provides for them, which they don’t really use for anything.)
Below are some examples of student work. The first three were created using the templates on Piktochart. The fourth was done on Photoshop and the last was done by hand. I was really pleased how they came out. They were very easy to grade and forced the students to think about how to organize their information creatively and effectively.
Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun comic resources like those below.
I teach seniors. At the end of the year it can be difficult to engage them in anything academically, especially writing papers, even in AP Lit. Therefore, I like projects that fool them into demonstrating their understanding of what we’ve read.
My son did an art class in the winter and the final project was to construct a hat out of posterboard inspired by something they liked. His class went wild with it. Some students created the tallest hat they possibly could, and many of them included moving parts – curly spirals, or doors that opened. When I saw them I thought “This is perfect for a final project for our Flanery O’Connor unit.”
So at the end of our study of Flannery O’Connor my students chose their groups and made hats that were inspired by one of her stories. The requirements were:
1. The hat must look cool.
2. They could only use three pieces of posterboard for the structure of the hat which they had to provide (however, they could decorate it with other stuff.)
3. The hat had to include two tangible items from the story, two intangible items (themes, main ideas) and the moment of clarity that happens in each O’Connor story.
4. The hat had to have a moving part. It could be something that moved when you walked, or something on the hat you could manipulate.
5. The hat had to be wearable.
Here are some more hats:
The construction of the hats took about four days of class time – one day of planning and three days of putting it together. Since I teach AP Lit four classes out of the day, I was able to move the desks out of the way and use my room as a studio and move my freshman class to another room for four days.
At the end we had a fashion show. Someone from the group had to model the hat by walking down an imaginary runway in the classroom (one of my students made a CD of appropriate runway music.) Another member of the group had to sell the hat by describing what was on it like this:
I would encourage others to do this project for other stories or novels. The kids were definitely engaged and had to use serious problem solving skills.
The author of this article is David Rickert, who leads parallel lives as a cartoonist and teacher. When not creating comics out of thin air, David teaches high school English Language Arts in Columbus, Ohio. His witty and engaging cartoons turn abstract and complicated concepts into concrete and concise images to embed content into our long term memories. Let’s face it: he makes boring topics entertaining. Check out his Grammar Comics and more resources to bring life to your ELA instruction at his store.
To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph
Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.
Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.
I have never seen a girl wearing a hijab in any educational clip art. The results of a search for “Muslim children clip art” and “Muslim children reading” were entirely religious in nature. Since I have so many Muslim students, I felt like they needed to be represented doing regular school activities. So here it is.
In preparation for the drawing I asked one of my Muslim students where you could buy hijabs online so that I could get some ideas. She told me her mom always bought them at the grocery store. The other students said the same thing. I decided to just use the one she was wearing. The outfit is pretty similar to what she had on too. I loved the Keds.
In the future I’d like to do some more work with patterns. I have seen some beautiful hijabs that I’d love to work into a design.
If anyone uses this, let me know if the size works. And please tell people where you got it.
For more fun cartoons for educational purposes, visit my store.