Yesterday I blogged about the Roman Museum Student Exhibition unit. Today I want to follow up a bit on lessons learned and what I might change if I did a similar unit again.
Lesson #1: Creating the rubric with your team is key. We sat in a room with the rubric up on the SmartBoard and worked through every element of our rubric. We started with our overall goal and worked from there. Each of us had input on what we needed to assess within our content area, but we were all able to see the big picture. I don’t think we would have had as much success if we had simply sent our indicators to one another and one of us had built the rubric. Our students were working to complete exhibits in 8th periods with only one of us. Sure, there were plenty of times when we had to send a student with a question to another content area teacher about an indicator that was being assessed. But, more often than not, we were able to answer student questions about other content area indicators because we had all built the rubric together. Students also got mini-grades along the way which helped them to navigate the learning process as they moved forward toward Exhibition Night.
Lesson #2: Timelines and student checkpoints are a must. This is the first time I did a true timeline with checkpoints. It worked really well. No surprises. Adjustments could be made as the student worked. We were able to see trends too. Exhibitions are a lot of work and it helped the student break up the work over the course of the unit so they weren’t bombarded at the end.
Lesson #3: Chaos is ok and group work is awesome! I already knew this before this exhibition. But, after this unit I was even more convinced. Eighth periods were hairy. Lots of movement, lots of art supplies, paint brushes, small groups working in every nook and cranny. Lots of noise. But, it was all productive. I especially loved watching the groups work and solve problems together when working on their group exhibit components. Because students were also grouped by theme they were able to draw on one another for their individual projects, even those were mostly being done at home.
Lesson #4: Working with a team on common goals is the best way to work. This is a lesson that applies in any area of education. With the Ancient Rome unit we all learned so much about one another’s content and saw new applications for our own subject areas too. I saw connections I had never seen before with possible math and science integrations for social studies.
Lesson #5: Ask for help. We made a list of supplies our students might need and used Volunteer Spot for parents to sign up to send in materials. We weren’t in an affluent school, but our parents sent in everything we needed and we spent very little from our school budgets for the group exhibit components.
For next time:
Grading– I don’t know if there could have been an easier process for grading. Student exhibits were housed in 5 different classrooms. Each teacher moved from room to room grading. It took a long time. I am sure I missed some things in grading. We were trying to keep the projects up for only a short time since they took over our classrooms. So while it took a long time, there was also a rush to complete it. Next time maybe exhibiting outside of the classrooms would allow us to keep our classrooms intact and give us a little more time to grade. I also really wish we could have walked around and graded each project as a team. Unfortunately, this was logistically impossible with our setup and timeline.
Tri-Fold Boards– I hate them. They scream of science project. I am always trying to replicate a museum in exhibition projects. You would never see rows of tri-fold boards in a museum. Next time I might allow the kids to be creative in their display methods while keeping in mind the space constraints.
Student Reflection and Peer Assessment – I have had so much success with this on other student exhibitions over the years, but we simply did not have time to do this during the unit. Next time time adjustments could be made to facilitate this process.
Integrate the Arts – Not all of our students were taking art or music at the time of this unit so we couldn’t do a full integration of the arts into the unit. I did my part in social studies class. Next time if I had the same issue I might ask the art teacher could come in to my social studies class for a few lessons. It would have been great exposure and extended the learning.
More in Class Work – Time is always a challenge. I am not usually a fan of sending exhibitions home. In this instance it couldn’t be helped. I had tried a group exhibition project earlier in the year on Ancient Rome and it worked well, but these exhibitions were being used as a final grade and I didn’t feel comfortable doing group projects. Next time I might incorporate some more individual work to complete over the course of the unit that could also be used for the exhibit. For instance, label writing in English class with opportunities for revisions and peer editing.
Community Connections – I wish I had time to coordinate with a museum partner to display some student work in one of our local museums. The students had an authentic audience, but an audience outside of school would have deepened the engagement.
I think everyone should try an exhibition project at least once. Interdisciplinary or not. There is truly something for every type of learner in an exhibition project.