This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >
You read that correctly: Zombie-Based Learning. When I started learning about it, my inner geek squealed with joy. I’ve always loved zombies. I’ve watched all the movies and even read the original Walking Dead Comics before it became a hit series in the classroom.
One Teacher’s Curriculum
Geography has always been a learning target for social studies teachers, and David Hunter, who teaches at Bellevue, Washington’s Big Picture School, decided to create a curriculum using Kickstarter as its funding source. He sought to make geography relevant through engaging scenarios and stories with a zombie theme tying it all together. The whole curriculum is standards-based and includes over 70 lessons where students must “consider how to duck the undead invasion, secure their supplies and, eventually, rebuild society” through a variety of activities, worksheets and discussions.
Mr. Hunter’s story was featured on an NPR affiliate if you would like to read more. In addition, he has made available one of the comics he created which serve as the textbook for the curriculum. Mr. Hunter created this work in order to engage students, and I believe we can use the topic of zombies to explore further curriculum areas.
English and Language Arts
While much of the world of zombies is portrayed in comics and films, ELA teachers can use these various texts to engage students in learning important reading standards. Even the Common Core calls for reading a variety of texts and comparing and contrasting those texts (such as a film and a comic). These stories feature compelling, complex characters under extreme situations that many of us can identify with. Students could analyze the various features of the comic/graphic novel genre, or engage in character analysis. Consider using these zombie-based materials as scaffolding for more complex texts.
Many in the zombie community (did I just write that?) believe that people become zombies due to a virus, and many of the films and literature echo this as a possible method of transmission. This being the case, students could investigate the subject of viruses and bacteria using zombies as the disease being passed. They might come up with scientific methods for eradicating the disease or simply mitigating its effect. They might even hypothesize the biology behind zombies. Again, the topic of zombies is an entry point to engage students in learning significant content.
Related to the science component of zombies, many diseases increase at an exponential rate. Students could analyze different population centers and predict its spread using exponential functions. They could determine when everyone is infected and map the spread using the math data they calculate, or even explore rate of decay. Students could also investigate what happens when a certain number of people are vaccinated to help prevent the spread.
These are some ideas I have either implemented as part of a PBL project or believe might be a good entry point for zombie-based learning across the curriculum. What are your ideas for zombie-based learning to teach content and 21st century skills? (And if anyone could instructionally integrate Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, that would be awesome!)
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Apr 8, 2013 in ASCD, Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original
When I work with educators on their professional development needs, rubrics frequently come up as something that teachers want to understand better and be able to find quickly and easily from a variety of sources for immediate use in the classroom. Often, however, rubrics found on the Internet are not of good quality—they may not be grounded in learning targets or the language may be too vague and confusing for students. The good news is that there are many great resources and tips out there to build your own rubrics. Here are some ideas to start.
Use Common Rubrics. For some students, school is one of the few stable routines in their young lives. Let’s support this safe and supportive culture by using common rubrics across subject areas or grade levels. This will help to ensure that each teacher is looking at student work objectively and lets students know that the expectations are the same regardless of the classroom. These common rubrics might be based in content or even 21st century skills. Students will appreciate these common expectations and common language around learning.
Decide Between Checklists or Rubrics. I used to fall into the trap of having too many numbers in my rubrics. I listed different numbers of sources, sentences, and so on, under each level, from approaching to exceeding a standard. Numbers don’t indicate quality. Focus on quality indicators when creating rubrics. However, if students need to have a specific number of something as a nonnegotiable, then create a checklist for them. Ask yourself, is this better on a checklist or a rubric?
Use Them! Rubrics are useless unless you use them. Why do students often throw them away or lose them? Because they don’t see the value in them as a learning tool! It is critical to have students use a rubric for an entire curriculum unit, project, or even over the course of a year. Use rubrics to set goals, provide peer- and self-assessment, and reflect on learning. Through intentional and meaningful use, rubrics can become a tool that students see as invaluable.
Focus on Learning Targets. Unless you are truly assessing creativity, it may not be appropriate to list creativity on the rubric. Similarly, neatness may not be appropriate if it isn’t directly related to the content or core discipline you intend to assess. Make sure you focus on learning targets, which could be standards or specific criteria, when you create the rubric. Articulate what the learning will look like in terms of approaching, meeting, and exceeding standards.
My biggest recommendation is to collaborate with others to create rubrics that are specific to your school, district, and learning targets. Whether they are state, Common Core, or 21st century standards, some of the best rubrics can be developed in-house. Use these tips as well as books from ASCD to support your work in building the best rubrics.
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Mar 11, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on Success At The Core blog, an organization that focuses on strengthening leadership teams’ ability to define quality instruction and advocate for it in their schools, as well as offering teachers practical methods to implement a shared vision of quality instruction in their classrooms. View Original >
As you unpack the Common Core Standards, one trend you will notice is that of Presentation. A valuable 21st century skill, we want our students to leave our classrooms with effective presentation skills. In addition, the Common Core literacy strategies are to be used across content areas. It is every teacher’s job to support students in learning valuable presentation skills, and assessing their work.
However, not every teacher has truly taught assessed presentations before. Many teachers use presentations as assessment tools, but often the focus is on the content and not the skills of presenting, or the assessment is muddled where both the skills and content are “lumped” into a category. As all teachers engage in teaching and assessing presentations, they must adhere to some best practices.
Effective Rubrics – As mentioned in this video, rubrics must be used throughout the process of teaching and assessing presentations. Students must use rubrics to internalize the language, and to self- and peer-assess their progress. These rubrics must be designed so that students understand what is expected of them and thus must be student-friendly in terms of language. Learning targets should be dis-aggregated so that science content, for example, is not confused with presentation skills.
Quality Summative Assessment – One of my favorite types of summative presentations is the Ignite presentation. In it, students have 10-15 slides that automatically transition after one minute or so. The slides have very few words, and are usually a series of images. Because of this, students must be well prepared to speak and appropriately pace their ideas, as they cannot rely on the PowerPoint slides as a “crutch.” This can lead to a quality presentation that avoids the monotone a traditional PowerPoint presentation can become.
Ongoing Formative Assessment – One shot is not enough: students must be given multiple opportunities to revise and reflect on their presentation skills. If students are to be successful at the Ignite presentation above, they must receive targeted feedback on many pieces of their presentations. Choice of images, speaking tone, pacing, volume; all of these must be formatively assessed multiple times before it is time for the summative presentation. This will ensure that the work students do is manageable and purposeful. Students learn to rely on the process of learning and avoid the fear of failing.
Obviously, there are further best practices teachers must adhere to when it comes to teaching 21st century skills, such as scaffolding and modeling. These best practices can also be transferred to other learning targets. Presentation skills must be taught and assessed to ensure career and college readiness for our students.