I use folders to store all the student’s in progress work. Red or blue are good colors because you can easily see if they are put in desks or left somewhere in the classroom. I have my students turn them in at the end of their research time in a file sorter. With the file sorter you can quickly see that Student #3 didn’t turn in their folder in the picture above. I don’t let them go home or get stuffed in a desk. I have the person who is assigned the teachers assistant check at the end of the period if all of the folders are filed.
I learned this quickly. I thought students would be responsible for my first few years of teaching and all of the following occurred:
“I can’t find my folder!”- This causes more frustration the next day when they can’t find it, and you have to tear apart a desk while the rest of the class needs you.
“I took it home by accident.” and it never returns. – This ends up being your time punishment because that is 20 more minutes you end up printing and making custom copies for one student.
“I took it home and couldn’t stop.”- Now this student is done with everything and then have nothing to do but ask for free time on the computer.
“I took it home and my parents helped me.”- We want the students to learn how to research and finish a big project. I had a student that her parents did her board and it looked so superior to the others that this caused tensions among the parents on State Day.
To prevent any of the above situations it is much easier to collect and store the work on any large project.
Coming Up Next: State Reports Part 4 Assigning States
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At my school we have a tradition of State Day. All 5th grade students are assigned a state and they research their state, create a poster, and on State Day they run their “state booth”. The students even wear costumes that represent their state. I have had students dress up as fisherman from Alaska, a Minnie Mouse costume for Florida, and cowboys from Oklahoma. The students bring display items and food for tasting. We tape their poster on the front of the cafeteria benches and invite parents and other grades to come visit in the morning for about 2 hours. It is a great way to show off all of the hard work the students have completed.
Everyone looks forward to this event, but let’s backtrack to the month before the event when the work has to be done! Over the years, I have thought of all of the challenges that this project brings and how to make next years even better.
Challenges of the State Report
For most students this is their first exposure to research and handing them a sheet of paper to fill out through “research” can be daunting.
Answering the same question repeatedly
Even though you explained it in whole group, and everyone seemed to be listening, you end up answering the same question 25 times. I think I answered the question, “What is a natural resource?” 400 times in my career. Maddening I tell you!
Now it’s all done and how do I grade this gigantic project that’s worth a huge portion of this quarter’s grade. If the kid bombed they can never recover.
Weekends are filled with the task of grading this huge project. No teacher likes to go home and grade. We need weekends off!
Redesigning the State Report Template
As much as I loved State Day; I just dreaded this project. I set off to create a State Report that addressed the 3 challenges that I had identified. Each page of the research tells the students what is expected of them and has point allocations at the top of the page. This part can be cut off for display.
For those maddening questions, I answered repeatedly, I put an explanation under the question. I give an example of what is a natural resource, natural disaster, census etc..
The last part was to streamline the grading process. As the students complete each research page they sign up on the board to meet with me for grading of that page. I meet with students and check off the points. I keep a running score with the rubric form for each student. This helps if the project is taking a long time I can enter points for each page in the gradebook. This can also help me to be the time manager and ensure a student isn’t falling behind on the project. Parents expect a completed project and poster on State Day, and having a poster partially completed can be awkward. Yes, this has happened!