The students and I have been learning about the Revolutionary War through our district textbook, Liberty Kids Videos, and other online resources. In the past the students have written a research paper and then added their paper and other content onto a Google Site. This year my reading students are doing this Google Site project but I wanted and needed an assessment for my homeroom students so I could assess their knowledge of the Revolutionary War. I don't remember how I came up with the idea of the students picking a battle or event and then writing a letter about that event to a family member or another soldier. I thought that this type of assessment would be more engaging and authentic than your average multiple choice or short answer test. While watching an episode one day of Liberty Kids we realized that one of the main characters writes letters to her mother updating her on the progress of the Revolutionary War. The students did some quick research on the events and battles of the Revolutionary War and picked one that they were interested in learning more about. They filled in a Google Form that stated who they would be, what they would write about and who they were writing to. I then used autocrat to merge their responses to a document that described the assignment and included a rubric. Here is an example of what a student's document looks like.
- Explain a historical event from multiple perspectives.
- Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
- Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
- Write narratives and other creative texts to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
I tried for authentic assessment but I couldn't figure out a way for the kids to connect the Revolutionary War to the real world in a new and unique way. The assessments we have done in the past had students creating a webpage on a class website which took too long and students ended up losing steam through the project. This assessment gave students the opportunity to expand their voice in writing in a creative way. The letter seems a way of the past, but we were writing about the past so it seemed relevant. I think the power of the assessment will come later when students read each others' letters and give feedback and reflect on how their letters are alike and different. The reflection on the assessment will be valuable and my students are pretty good at describing what was positive and what needs improvement because we reflect quite often after activities, lessons and assessments.
My students and I haven't finished this assignment/assessment yet but already I have learned many things about assessment, my students and myself. I have learned that even an assessment can be engaging, creative and academic. My students are very excited to get started on their letters. One student asked if he was going to have to write with a feather. Before I was done explaining the assessment the students were asking about paper, writing vs. typing, fonts etc. Now I have to wait to see the students' work to see if their engagement correlated to quality work.
A few things I learned along the way were mostly with the tools; google forms, google template and autocrat. I used a drop down menu for the battles/events in the Google Form but because I didn't want to have a huge long list I guessed which events/battles would be popular and then I added an "other" option. When I merged the documents though some student's document would say "other" instead of their actual event. I am going to have them change this themselves this time but have learned that the students will need to type in their event the next time. I would also change some wording on the document template to say: You are __________, You are writing about __________, and You are writing about __________. Instead of just having their response all by itself. I was working with another teacher to see if you could then use Doctopus or Goobric to add a rubric afterwards to their letters. We never quite figured that out so the rubric is included with the students' assignment, I will highlight or use a different color to show what they received on the rubric or erase everything else and leave their numbers for each section.