Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Project

I have, finally, finished grading all my kids' PowerPoint project on cells.

In some respects they were awesome. Great graphics, wonderful transitions, you name it. These kids, even Chopper Boy (whose mom never did come sit in and observe) did great.


The content stunk.

Now, truth be told, I sort of expected this. Seventh graders do not have a lot of experience doing any sort of research or writing. They also have completely different goals for an assigment than I do. I want them to learn something. They want to get it done as fast as possible so they can get a grade (and move on to something more exciting, like video games). I give them a rubric that spells everything out in detail, but they tend not to bother to look at it (which just blows my can you do something right if you don't know what you're doing, but then again...they're seventh graders). As a result, many of them don't do a good job on what should be an easy assignment.

I did have some kids who did it right. They answered the two questions (what type of cell is the organelle found in and what does the organelle do?) and they answered in their own words. They spelled everything correctly, and they wrote solid sentences.

Then I have the kids who copied directly from the book, never realizing that after having this book for four years and reading the same material, say, 20-25 times, it just might sound familiar to me. They also copied from websites, most of which I'm also very familiar, to the point that I could tell which ones they used.

My favorite, however, were the kids who copied directly from the glossary which is an absolute no-no in my world. I don't particularly like the glossary in our book and I tell the kids they need to get the definitions from the reading which is not hard as the vocabulary words are in bold purple print. If you just copy from the glossary you don't get the context. How did I know they copied from the glossary? Because, for some reason, our glossary gives the definition for the nucleus of an atom, not the nucleus of a cell. And they all wrote the definition, word for word, out of the book. The scary thing is that we've been discussing cells now for a month and it didn't occur to them that perhaps they weren't typing in the correct definition - we finished atoms two months ago.

This also tells me that they aren't bothering to study and learn their vocabulary. Heck, they aren't bothering to open a book or do much of anything academic-related once they walk out of my room.

And I'm not alone. Mrs. Eagle reports the same results. The kids also tanked on their unit and vocabulary tests on Monday despite having the sixteen vocabulary words for a month and the study guide for two weeks. We decided that the seventh grade science classes are going to make some changes.

And they aren't going to like them. In fact, they looked downright crestfallen when I told them to start expecting - gasp! - daily quizzes over content and vocabulary. At least this way we'll be able to see what, if anything, they're actually bothering to learn.

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