After a largely discussion and low stakes writing-based unit on Social Justice with three texts (Half the Sky, Hillbilly Elegy, and Ghettoside), I was contemplating a final activity to assess their understanding. I wanted evidence of their thinking. I wanted my students to show me, in any format, they “got” the unit–that they understood what injustices exist in the world, how they’re connected to privilege and access, and what solutions are necessary to equalize the playing field.
But I didn’t want to have another seminar.
I didn’t want to give them time to write.
I didn’t want to read another article.
And, full disclosure, I certainly didn’t want cumbersome grading as we are in the final stretch and up to our necks in their year-long inquiry project.
I wanted something new, something we hadn’t done all year. So, I decided to let my students do something forbidden–I equipped them with Expo markers and let them draw on the furniture.
Disclaimer: I checked before to see that Expo markers washed off my classroom tables with a little elbow grease and Clorox wipes. Please do so before!
I simply gave my students these instructions:
Then, I stepped aside. Students had about 30 minutes to complete their visual and were immediately engaged (likely because they were drawing on school property).
As they were collaborating, students were discussing the issues we had examined throughout the weeks, Students talked about the values of the oppressors compared with those who are oppressed, and how those intersect with community values. Students connected historical roots with the current issues discussed in their books, structures of power and privilege that exist, and what solutions should be invested in. Their purposeful talk around the assessment proved they had read deeply, thought critically, and synthesized multiple issues.
The products were great–original and insightful. Students gained more listening to their peers explain their group’s visual at the end of class because the conversation was extended and connected, again synthesizing ideas between the texts and our world.
While I ushered students out of the classroom, I heard the ultimate combination of compliments:
- I feel like that actually assessed my thinking.
- This unit was great, you should do it next year.
- That was fun!
Maggie Lopez has six years of teaching experience at large public high schools in Louisville, Houston, and now Chicago. A graduate of Miami University, she had the pleasure of learning from the workshop masters and is on a continual quest to challenge, inspire, and learn from her hilariously compassionate juniors and seniors.