If you need an awesome idea with a catchy title...look no further than Mrs. Harris' Tic Tac Toe, Show What You Know!
Everyone likes a simple game of tic tac toe and that’s what my seventh graders did for student-led conferences this spring. Instead of self-reflecting on projects and setting goals like I’ve had them do in the past, students picked three activities from a grid of nine boxes. It was a showcase of what goes on in my communications classroom.
|The Tic Tac Toe paper.|
These 12-year-olds might have enjoyed learning how to write their first-ever research paper with parenthetical documentation, so they choose that one. But that means they’ll do a comma and vocab activity or a creative writing exercise along with capitalization and apostrophe practice because those are the other choices in those rows.
In preparing for this, some students were automatically drawn to the paperless classroom choice. They wanted to make their parents operate their iPad. But then they were locked into certain other choices they might not have initially chosen. But that’s okay. Stretching them to perform or explain something they’re weak in is okay too.
|The enjoyment of teaching a parent about a device!|
Of my 63 students this year, only one drew a crooked line on the paper and said, “I can’t find three in a row. I want to do this instead.” I said that wasn’t allowed, so we looked again at what was in the middle that she was avoiding. When I took her to the part of the room to remind her of the differences between singular possessives and plural possessives, she realized she did know that.
The tic tac toe paper allowed students to show-off how being an effective communicator really is an integrated thing. When students look at a print advertisement and explain the persuasive technique used, they can also find alliteration, or rhyme, or onomatopoeia--and it’s not even a poem—but this is cool because for some, there was no way they were going to pick the poetry performance activity.
|I taught these parents too!|
Years ago our district made a deliberate choice to call this class communications instead of language arts. We expect our students to do just that. Communicate.
We read, write, listen, speak, research, act, produce, design, and create. Of course I teach grammar and capitalization and vocab and punctuation—but all within the context of quality literature. Sometimes it’s fiction. Sometimes it’s nonfiction. It might be a novel. It might be through technical or persuasive text. We write skits and act in them. We film them. We edit them. We get irritated enough at each other that we have to say I’m sorry. Sometimes it’s serious enough to ask for forgiveness. We know who’s good at coming up with ideas and who can’t spell. We know who loves to act with their voice and who never wants to get in front of a camera. We know who should design the props or make the poster.
Less than a month into the school year, I know this about each student.
I usually start telling them how they’ll react to certain projects. I’ll say something like “Joan will love this, but Colby will hate it. Amanda will choose this, but Adam will want to do it like that.” And it surprises them that I know them so soon. But I have to. Because it’s my job to capitalize on their strengths and make them work on their weaknesses.
No state test can measure that. No one assignment can do that either. And in most cases, a student’s weakness isn’t as big of a weakness near the end of the year. Some might be able to make it their strength. I love it when that happens. I love watching them become what they can become.
So that’s why students had a smorgasbord of activities to pick from at student-led conferences.
Oh, smorgasbord. Wonder if they know what that means. I feel a vocab game brewing.