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03/08/2009, 04:49 PM
DS is in Gr 4 - he is 9. For most of this year the teacher has been quite clear that she is "preparing the students for high school" (it's a mixed 4/5 class) and much of her classroom and teaching methods seem to reflect this. Personally I'd prefer she focus on getting them through primary school first - so I'm not sure my reaction to this latest assignment is because I don't WANT my son being prepped for high school yet, or if it really does seem a but OTT for a class of 9 and 10 year olds!
Part of the the homework for the next 4 weeks is a project on Natural Disasters. They have to choose a natural disaster and cover a description, explanation, diagram, consequences and an investigation into famous occurrences of this natural disaster. They can present in a variety of forms - poster, mindmap, booklet, photostory, powerpoint (which I am now hurriedly learning to use in case DS picks this one!) etc
The "Assessment Rubric" he has brought home concerns me. Should DS demonstrate a simple understanding of the characteristics of the ND he chooses, provide a short, satisfactory description and understanding of what it is and how it occurs, do a simple diagram, show a basic understanding of positive and negative consequences, provide a map showing one famous occurence of the ND and submit a simple presentation - he will score 7/35.
Now I KNOW my son will give this his best shot. He's already manic about getting on the computer to learn about tsunamis and has told me we need Microsoft Office 2007 to create a powerpoint display. He will pore over this and will truly work hard, on his "good days" to complete this assignment.
But I also know he will not have the "excellent handwriting" and "highly detailed drawings", nor will he manage to "interpret... [the] positive and negative aspects clearly documented and expressed" to achieve the maximum marks offered.
According to the "rubric" such work demonstrates a high level of effort, whereas anything less demonstrates "some effort" or "limited effort". There is no provision for "maximum effort" tied with poor handwriting and somewhat scattered ideas within an original and quirky display - which is much more likely!
And I don't know how to prepare my son for this. Do I let him put his maximum effort in and console him when he comes home disappointed and hating himself because it turns out his project was average or less ans scored low marks? Do i speak to the teacher (who thus far has not been especially accomodating and expects DS to just get on with it and accept the consequences if he does not) and request a revision of this "rubric" - and perhaps tell her my Uni assignments do not even come with such strict and clear criteria for makr allocation? Or do I practically do the damn thing for him and boost his self esteem (or lower it if I suck at excellent handwriting as well!!) by handing in an assignment that meets all the marking criteria? (tongue in cheek for that last suggestion, don't panic people!)
Does this assignment seem fairly demanding of a class of 4/5s? Or is that about normal now and I need to accept it?
03/08/2009, 05:01 PM
Lordy no way would my Year 4 girl (NSW) get that kind of assignment. Most serious one they've had was a toss-up between Australian Convicts & Family Tree.
In that situation I would simply involve myself in it and help him through it. Be buggered if I'd let him work his nuts off and then get shot down in flames when he hands it in, that'd break his little heart. You'll know if your going OTT with helping him.... just shadow him and prompt him here at there, will help him no end.
I think composite classes do tend to be a little more advanced and expect more of the younger students, most definitely.
03/08/2009, 05:05 PM
My DS is in a year 5/6 class (he is year 6, but was also in a 5/6 class last year as a year 5) and this is how most of his bigger projects are assessed.
The teacher does take into consideration each child's particular needs/strengths and weaknesses, she could see which children had put in their absolute best effort and which had only made a token effort to do the work.
DS also has fairly poor handwriting for his age (always has) and she suggested that he could type his project (Word or Powerpoint) so that handwriting wasn't an issue. She still expected him to be creative, which he was able to be using the Powerpoint tools and to put a fair bit of effort into research. Even if your DS wants to do a poster he could type the information into boxes and then print those out to stick on his poster, it doesn't have to be all hand done. Same with diagrams, he might be able to handdraw a basic diagram and then print a more intricate one from the internet or find one in a book on the subject.
03/08/2009, 05:46 PM
I'd lean towards a powerpoint or typed presentation. It is not uncommon now to have most chn fully type their assignment or type it out and then glue it onto another format.
Are they working through it in class or is it all at home?
03/08/2009, 05:54 PM
I don't think the outline of the project seems demanding of a 9 year old at all based on what DS did at that age.
Our school does not give marks for work so that takes away that stress but the level of work his teacher is asking for seems standard.
At 9 DS would have done part written and part powerpoint with a stand up presentation in front of the class.
My DS has very average handwritting and it has never been an issue. His writting is improving over time but the content of his projects is far more important than the writting.
Why are you thinking of getting so involved with the project, has the teacher requested parents do it with their children?
03/08/2009, 06:13 PM
Bec that is pretty standard expectations for year 4 I think. DH does Powerpoint because it keeps the kids engaged and they actually can produce some nice work on it. The teacher will take into account the student's natural abilities too, so as long as he is neat and tries he should get a good mark.
03/08/2009, 06:16 PM
It sounds very similar to the two projects that 8yo DD in year 3 had produce within the first 4 weeks of last term.
I would be using the computer as much as possible to get past the ‘excellent handwriting’ portion and maybe try to create detailed drawings and explanations on there too.
I would give him some help on the finer points of presentation, spend some time explaining things to him and getting him to dictate to you what he understands of it and then make up the final copy of the project for presenting. At this age, it really is still a joint project between parent and child as there are a lot of ideas that will require explanation etc so that the set requirements are met.
Make sure that it is pretty obviously presented in his language and it should score pretty well. If you let him know that you are going to be more excited to see his finished product that what the teacher thinks of it, then hopefully, he will be a happy with the resulting marks.
I would also have a chat to the teacher and ask whether those that are in the year four portion of the class are expected to perform as well as those who are a year older and have had an extra year of schooling.
03/08/2009, 06:52 PM
It sounds like the kind of project DS1 was expected to do in year 4 last year, and broken down over 4 weeks should be manageable. However, I completely agree with you that linking excellent handwriting to effort is wrong.
03/08/2009, 07:14 PM
My year 4 DD did an assignment like this last term.
I completely agree with you that linking excellent handwriting to effort is wrong
Agree but presentation is a criteria that is assessed so if handwritting isn't a strength typing it up instead should be acceptable.
03/08/2009, 07:21 PM
Pretty similar to what my daughter is doing in Year 4. She is a whiz with powerpoint (much better than me). They have to present two research projects each term, one done in a group and one individually. Not sure about the handwriting component, though.
I am a primary teacher and this year have a 5/6 composite class. We studied Natural Disasters last term and yes students did get a similar assessment with similar expectations and a rubric. We use rubrics at our school, espeically in stage 3, so that students, parents and teachers have a clear understanding of what is expected. We also use it for consistency in marking across the stage. We have 7 composite 5/6 classes and I know that we all mark essentially the same way which means our reporting is also more consistent.
However, having said that I am concerned that your son's individual needs are not being met through this project AND that Natural Disasters in actually a Stage 3 (yr5&6) topic. I would be interested to know if the teacher has adapted the stage 3 outcomes from the science syllabus for those Stage 2 (yr3/4) students in the class. I am not sure if I am correct but does your son have learning difficulties? The reason I ask is that if so I would also expect that your son would then have an Individual Education Program (IEP) and thus should realistically have a differentiated rubric to meet his learning goals.
Regarding handwriting, if you choose an option which involves typing the rubric should have something where presentation (not specifically writing) is assessed?!?!? Whatever you choose, please suppot your son to complete the assignment. Do not do it for him, I say this as teachers generally know and I would hate for him to be singled out for this reason IYKWIM.
Sorry if this is all not making sense, I feel very strongly about teachers meeting the needs of our students. If you are concerned, speak to the year supervisor, Deputy or even the Prinicpal. If you want any more info feel free to PM me!
Best of luck, you sound like a wonderfully supportive parent.
03/08/2009, 07:49 PM
My daughter(age 9 - 4/5 class) did a largish assignment last term (not same topic) when helping her do the assignment i tried to focus on her learning the topic so she could discuss it and understand it and then was really proud of her writing it in her own words and presenting it as she wanted to. Our teachers are really focused on kids being able to write it in their own words and not just copying massive amounts of data off the internet. She did well on her assignment especially because she was sent to the principal to show it and was able to explain what she had learnt. If you focus on the knowledge and not he mark with him you can encourage him to be proud of what he learnt and pay less attention to the end result.
ps at the beginning of the year my daughter was really results driven and it was stressing her out, so we have made a big effort for her to focus on learning rather than the number and it seems to be working.
03/08/2009, 08:27 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. Homeschooling is looking more and more inviting I think - I want my kids to learn and be motivated and grow and stretch appropriate to their needs and development, not achieve perfect handwriting en masse because that's where the marks are!
Igs you are correct, my son has been recently diagnosed with ASD and a mental illness, plus possible learning disorders depending on who you speak to and which assessment is referred to! I like the idea of a IEP, with an assessment rubric to suit HIS pevel and not that of his peers. I'm pretty sure the effort required for him to concentrate and complete this assignment is probably at a higher level than your typical Grade 4 student. I'd like his assessment criteria to reflect that.
Actually I'd rather they throw the entire assessing of a Grade 4 assignment out the window and look at maybe stengths and weaknesses and leave it at that.
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