Encouraging Students to Have Pride in their Work Part 2

Being a teacher is like being a poker player.  There are highs and lows and sometimes you win big and sometimes you go all-in and bust.  Recently in my 7th grade social studies class I think I won big.  One of my standards is about international organizations, so I made a TIME Magazine template in the Mac program Pages, and student chose international organizations from a list by the acronym only.

Students researched their organization and tried to answer the basic questions: what does the acronym stand for, and what does their organization do.  The research phase only took about 1 day.  We spent another 1/2 day looking at TIME Magazine covers and looking for similarities and themes.  I gave my kids a few requirements:

1.  Design a TIME Magazine cover with 3 areas of text.  The text must describe the international organization.

2.  Use 1 main image on the cover to draw attention to your magazine help explain your international organization

3.  Use smaller images to give more details about your international organization.

4.  Use the logo of your international organization.

As students began to create their magazine I started to use the phrase, "would you pick up your magazine?".  Basically, was the cover gripping?  Did it make you want to read what was inside?  This became more important to most of my kids than anything else.

I think we took 2 days to create the cover, and at one point I had students do a gallery walk to take a look at everyone's work.  When students saw some of the covers like the ones I have on this blog they sprung into action and completely started over.  I told several students, "you don't need to start over--you've met the requirements, you are going to get full credit".   They didn't seem to care--they didn't even hesitate as they deleted their old work.  This was art, and the grade didn't matter.  They were on a mission.  To be fair, it wasn't all of the students, but somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of my students started over.

I graded this the same way we always grade--one on one conversations, what I have also heard called "oral defense" and presentations.  The day before we presented, I sat down with students who finished early and asked them content questions about their international organization. We then reviewed the requirements and negotiated a grade that seemed fair to both of us.

Now for the best part.  After I graded many of the students asked if they could make changes before they presented the following day.  I told every student it wouldn't change their grade, and yet every student made changes to their work before they presented the following day. About 1/4 of the students graded out early and made changes to their work without ANY encouragement from me.

 I was so proud of the the pride they had in their work that I honored each student who made grade-less changes during presentation day.  Each time, the class gave an unprompted round of applause to the student.

This was a big win, for all of us, but why?  What made these kids have so much pride in their work?  Why this assignment?  Maybe this assignment was not too hard and the tools to make it top notch were well within their control.

This is the goal--I want my students to have pride in their work.  They are engaged, interested, excited, and most importantly they are learning.  I couldn't believe how well students knew their international organization, and it seems to be sticking because we are doing a project about world conflicts right now and students have to come up with a solution to the conflict.  Many of them are relying on their knowledge of international organizations.
I try to emphasize learning--I don't mean this as a cliche'.  I say the words and reinforce the goal everyday in my class--LEARNING.  With every activity or project I encourage students to make something amazing--"blow everyone away", I tell them, "impress me"!  When students adopt this mentality, even for a few class periods, the learning naturally happens in an authentic and real way.  Imagine if an entire school took this approach!

I don't want to use fear of a bad grade to get students to learn or threaten that, "this will be on the tests" to force information into their short-term memory.  Learning is like love, you can't force it, and if you do, it doesn't last.  


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