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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 Journaling Questions for Assessment
Journaling Questions are a great vehicle for observing student progress:
  • Have students keep a journal for all "Journaling Questions."
  • Have them record their first hypothesis in writing.
  • Next, encourage further thought and research. Ask them to list all of the resources they used.
  • As a written exercise, have them explain their answers and defend their reasoning. (Watch not so much that they answer correctly, but that they can demonstrate the reasons behind their thinking.)
  • Watch for Journey North to post the discussion of each Journal Question. (These discussions are usually provided in the subsequent update.) Have students go back and re-evaluate their initial thoughts.

Other Journaling
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.

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:

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.

Students Make Their Own Maps to Track Migrations

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