Keeping student historians engaged during research should be simple. Students choose their topic, get to work with people of their choosing, too (even if they’re in a different class!), and have plenty of class time to do this research. But these are still 7th graders doing hard work -distractions and failure tempt us throughout the winter.
These are two methods we use in the classroom to hold students accountable and keep them on track.
The first is our “sticker chart.” I don’t really have a name for it yet, but it’s a variation of the “Top Dogs” chart we had during the Constitution Unit last year. As students progress through the project, we check it off here to acknowledge the accomplishment. A missing sticker isn’t a failure – it’s a reminder for me to check in with the student and for that student to know I haven’t seen something yet. It’s also a great way to celebrate the students who have set up interviews, visited a library, or done something special as a part of the process.
I’m actually surprised how motivated kids are to get a sticker up here. This comes from simplicity, an easy and transparent way for us all to stay on track. But students love it and have been motivated to add to the board.
Our second way is the on-going reflections kids do through Google Classroom. Students have begun to check in twice a week with updates of their progress. These might include celebrations, frustrations, or questions for me. Regardless, it’s a great way to check in with students about their research journey.
All of this feeds into our philosophy of celebrating the process as much as the product. History Fair can misdirect energy towards a final product and overlook the process. Reflection is a critical piece of that. It helps all of us understand what we’re doing and how to find help. It’s feedback for me to know how to tweak instruction. For example, I’ll take time tomorrow to work with Primary and Secondary sources, as students are confused between the two. Knowing where students are at is easier to know with these reflections.