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Student Assessment and Journey North

As you begin the Journey North season, you're probably considering how you will assess your students' understanding over the next 4 months. We hope this posting will initiate thought and discussion about this important issue. It was contributed by 5th grade teacher Cathie Plaehn, a member of our Advisory Board.

Strategies for Assessment
Contributed by Cathie Plaehn
Boyceville, Wisconsin

There are many opportunities for assessment embedded in the Journey North project. Here are a few of the ideas I've used:

Use of Challenge Questions
Challenge Questions are a great vehicle for observing student progress:

  • Have students keep a journal of all Challenge Questions.
  • Have them record their first hypothesis in writing.
  • Next, encourage further thought and research. Ask them to list all the resources used.
  • As a written exercise, have them explain their answers and defend their reasoning.
  • Watch for Journey North to post the discussion of each Challenge Question, and have students re-evaluate their initial thoughts.

Use of Journey North News Updates
On a regular basis, have students write a specific summary of the information they gathered from Journey North postings, and the questions generated. Compare the sophistication of the student's rationale for making and changing predictions at regular intervals over the 4 months. For example, have students record their own KWL charts at various points. See:

Ideally, individual students will keep a Journey North science journal all season. Periodically, have individual students record their thoughts in this journal so you can observe their progress through the project.

Year-End Presentations
At the conclusion of the season, have students (or student groups) give presentations to the class about the migration they are following. I prepare my students for this at the beginning by giving them each a display area to maintain. They must plan how they'll use their space & coordinate the group to maintain it. (In the samples below, students made their own maps to track the migration, displayed the many facts they learned during the migration, etc.) I use my school district's Presentation Rubric to evaluate these projects.

Online Teacher Discussion on Assessment
How do you plan to assess your students this year? Please contribute your ideas to the Journey North Teacher Discussion Area. Describe the challenges you're facing, and share your questions about assessment.

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