What to use for a Culminating Activity and Assessment

Now we are nearing the end of our look into Lit circles we need to talk about everybody’s favourite topic…Assessment. Before we get to that we are going to look at some culminating activities to conclude a lit circles unit. The majority of this information is from Faye Brownlie’s book Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A unique Approach to Literature Circles. Again I recommend this book to anyone that wants to do a lit circles unit in their classroom.

Culminating Activities

A culminating activity can be one of many assignments. The point of having this assignment is to have students think about what they have learned in this process. Brownlie suggests doing the culminating activity in a two part approach. She suggests that students do a poster on their favourite book, character comparison across books, a class vote/debate, inviting another class to come in and listen to the students talk about their books in pairs and the talk show (described in detail in my last post). I find the talk show as the most intriguing option here because it could also be linked in as a debate. I think the whole class could get behind the role play and take lots out of it. All suggested are great ways for the students to share their learning. The second component is to write the students a letter about the unit. Students are to reflect on their lit circle experience and write about where they are now compared to where they started. I do like this activity because if some students do struggle they can write about the experience.



Journals- Brownlie suggested students select one entry a week to be marked. This is nice because there is lots of practice with responding as well as students can be comfortable connecting to the book when they are at a part that jumps out at them. Students do not need to worry if they cannot connect to every part of the story, this is unrealistic. The back and fourth is nice because students can use the formative feedback and shape their future journal entries.

Discussions- Make sure to have clear criteria before discussions start happening. Criteria can include: behavior, ready to share, respectful to others, elaborate on other peoples sharing and try to make deeper connections. Brownlie also mentions having a group mark each time a group meets. I love this because it holds the students accountable for each other and engaged even when it is not their turn to speak. Students can also write a self-evaluation (or even a quick rating out of 5) on their behavior, preparedness, etc.

Comprehension Activities- Depending on how many weeks the unit is, you can choose to collect all of the assignments or have the student pick their 2-3 best ones. The assignments would be marked based on separate criteria that was established with the students. I would suggest creating multiple rubrics for the different activities (check back to the last post to see them all) and marking accordingly.

Number of books- This is an interesting concept which depends on the length of books, easiness of read and time. Brownlie suggests that to get a certain grade a student must read so many books. Example: A= 3 books, B= 2 books, and C= 1 book. Obviously this isn’t the only criteria as the students journals and assignments are where they earn their grades. I like the idea of this because it can motivate students to try and get a better grade.

Culminating Project- Similar to the comprehension activities this mark will depend on separate criteria that is clearly established. If I were to mark the student letters about their learning, I would focus on the takeaways the student connected with and how they were able to articulate them. I am not sure on how much emphasis to put on the assessment of the final assignment but I do think it should carry about 20-25% of the total mark for the lit circle unit.

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Formative Assessment Strategies

Formative assessment strategies are ways to evaluate student’s learning while the learning is happening, to determine what information students understand, and what information may need to be re-taught.

These five Formative Assessment Strategies are some that I found most beneficial and that may be second nature to some of us already.

1. Analysis of Student Work

Teachers can learn a lot about a student through the work they produce such as homework, quizzes and tests, especially if students are asked to explain their ideas and thoughts. When a teacher analyzes a students work, they can learn about that students current knowledge, skills and thoughts about a subject, their strengths, weaknesses and learning styles and whether or not the student needs further or special assistance in this area.

Analysis of student work allows for teachers to make changes to their instructions so they can be more effective in the future.

2. Strategic Questioning Strategies

Questioning strategies can be done individually, in a group or with the whole class. In order for these question periods to be effective, the questions being asked need to be high order or well thought out questions that require students to think deeply about the answers they give and allow the teacher to discover the extent of the students understanding.

Also, a strategy that has been found effective when using questioning strategies is allowing a wait time to respond. Studies have shown that students are more engaged in classroom discussions when thought provoking questions are followed by a wait time.

3. Think-Pair-Share

This strategy is one that many of us as teachers are very familiar with and are already using within our classrooms. This strategy is done by the teacher asking a question, the students each individually writing down their ideas, then dividing into partners and discussing their ideas. During this strategy, teachers have a chance to circulate around the classroom and listen in on conversations to gain insight into which students are or are not understanding the concept being discussed. Once each partner has discussed their ideas, the whole class can then have a discussion.

Research has shown that when students feel responsible for their own learning, their performance is enhanced. This is a major benefit of formative assessments, especially this one in particular.

4.  Exit/Admit Tickets (Ticket out the Door)

Another simple but effective formative assessment strategy is an Exit ticket or what we at VIU like to call it a “ticket-out-the-door”.  Exit tickets or tickets-out-the-door can be as simple as giving each student a piece of paper and having them write what the lesson was about and one thing they learned about that topic. Another ticket-out-the-door strategy I have used in my classroom is having the whole class stand up and asking a question about the topic learned to each student which they have to answer correctly before leaving the classroom. This strategy helps teachers see which students are still struggling to understand the concepts learned and how they can modify their instructions to make their teaching more effective in the future.

5. One- Minute Papers

One minute papers are a quick assessment done at the end of a lesson that help the teacher gain an understanding of what each student learned through the lesson and what needs to be targeted further in future lessons.

One minute papers consist of asking students a question and giving them about one minute to write down everything they remember learning about that question before handing it in. The teacher will then read over each of the students responses and figure out which students are understanding or not understanding the concept being today and use this to modify their instructions for future lessons.

I found these Formative Assessment Strategies at :5 Great Formative Assessment Strategies


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