Artifact 1:  (Field) Interview With an Historical Character

Standards:  2,5
Goals: 2

 JP Jones

    Toward the beginning of my second year of teaching, my eighth-grade students and I were studying a unit on the American Revolution. We began one of our classes with a discussion about the many important and interesting individuals involved in the American Revolution—Samuel Adams, John Paul Jones, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, and many more. Several of my students asked if, instead of taking a quiz at the end of the week, they could create and record an “interview” with someone who lived during Revolutionary times in order to further learn how and why these characters were so important before and during our country’s first years. I was excited about this idea, and together my students and I created guidelines for the assignment. I have included one of the finished products of this assignment because I am very proud that my students helped to create it. Based on research of the historical character being interviewed, each student came up with eight questions they would have liked to ask him or her, and then they came up with historically accurate, creative, and believable answers to these interview questions. When students were finished typing their interviews, we dramatized them on a podcast for their parents and classmates to hear.  How much more diversified, open-ended, and creative this activity was, showing student understanding far better than a convergent-thinking quiz! 

     This artifact illustrates that I am deviating from textbook lessons by designing curriculum that engages students, changing the way both I and my students think about instruction, and finding new ways to assess students.  It shows how students can contribute to the learning process, as well as proving their communication skills and their use of technology. This assignment was of interest to them because it was student-originated, involved computers and drawing, and seemed more like play than schoolwork (and co-incidentally accomplished some major objectives of the lesson).  Students were highly engaged in this activity, and it was an assignment that appealed to many different learning styles and abilities.

     This lesson also changed my thinking on how I might assess student learning in the future.  Assessment does not always have to be a test or quiz.  I learned that I can trust myself to listen, observe, and judge how well a student has mastered the lesson objectives, and not strictly rely on test scores.  It was one of my first steps towards encouraging divergent learning instead of convergent.