It’s always fun to find alternative ways for students to show what they know about characters they read about, while practicing other language arts skills. Here’s one writing assignment called, “DAY IN THE LIFE OF..”. that I’m adapting from an assignment found on the TeachIt website. Click on the link to that original assignment for writing a magazine article or human interest story, and other free resources.
Here’s a twist on that assignment. After students have completed the study of a major work that has complex characters, assign them to write a magazine article similar to the “A Day in the Life of…”, that also includes substantiation for their choice of contents based direct references, quotations with citations, from the literary they’ve just finished.
Rather than making this a time consuming assignment for grading, read it for accuracy of information and correctness of structure and formatting of citations. Consider creating a rubric based on the Six-Traits rubric in which you add to the IDEAS and CONTENT section the following requirements: (See Modified SixTraits Rubric from another assignment. Note red.)
|Dreams and goals||Likes and dislikes|
Because every piece of literature will not have direct characterizations where students will be able to find this kind of information on a single page or in a single sentence, writing this magazine article or human interest column based on a literary work will require higher order thinking. (See Bloom’sTaxonomy.) Students will be required to make inferences, do analysis and synthesis in order to create a thorough and well-written response to this assignment.
You can add elements that call for creativity and use of technology by having the students post their articles on your class website and include music, and photos or original drawings to supplement their writing. See GENERAL GRADING GUIDELINES to help shape your assignment, rubric and self-check list.
This also could be a collaborative project à la professional work, where there is a small group with roles that include a researcher, illustrator/photographer, writer, editor and tech person. The first meeting of the publication team could be to decide roles; the second could be a “status of the group” where each one comes with what s/he is doing so far. For example, the writer could be checking out correct ways to structure a magazine article; the editor could check correct format for citing references. The tech person could provide a layout for the webpage; the illustrator/photographer could bring in sample of images/graphics s/he suggests for their article.
You could allot fifteen or twenty minutes for in-class time group meetings during a week when you’re teaching grammar or citations to the whole group. It’s practical to have a specific assignment on which students are expected to use newly acquired knowledge or skills.
While each individual student would not be evaluated for each of these skills, the project could be a way to practice and to demonstrate several COMMON CORE STANDARDS for reading, writing, media, technology, collaboration, reflection, citation, grammar, etc. The fact that students are working together for a common grade would give each of them an opportunity to become familiar with each of these language arts skills before being tested on them.
I am easily bored when I have to read and grade too many essays on the same topic, so I try to figure out a way to measure the same knowledge and skills based on as many difference as are fair to the students. If this is an issue for you, I’d recommend making a list of key characters, number the names, and have students write a number for 1-?. The character whose name matches their number is the character they write about. To give them a since of choice, once the character is known, I’d give them 30 seconds to exchange with someone else.
If you opt for groups, after they’re formed, invite one member to pull names from a bowl, bag, or box.
Explain the assignment, allow for questions of clarification, then assign the characters. That way those students who have a different character in mind may be able to switch with someone who is in a similar dilemma.
You can make it easy on yourself to grade by asking students to do a self-refection before submitting/posting their article for evaluation. As you design your rubric, also create a check-list that must be completed and signed by each member in the group to indicate that they believe their article is complete, correct, and creative.
Remember, the goals of the assignment are to measure student understanding of the literary work, to have students practice using skills you’ve been teaching about writing, collaboration, and use of technology, and for you to receive a set of papers/final projects that are a pleasure to read and grade.