In the moment

by teachingcognitively

I gave a project for my midterm.  I decided to after contemplating these two questions that I later gave to my classes as their “do now” during the class where I introduced the midterm:

  1. What is the purpose of Midterms?
  2. What do you think are some of Ms. Cotton’s goals for her students are?

I had contemplated these two questions as I tried to write tests and realized all the important things I taught this semester would be hard to assess in a test.  I wanted to know if my students could:

  • Complete work independently outside of school for HW
  • Ask essential questions that are non-googleable, inferential or evaluative
  • Make connections between topics we have learned and the world
  • Explain, analyze, evaluate and create

Most years midterms are stressful since we have to turn them in, get them evaluated, prepare kids and wrap up the 2nd quarter.  There is a pretty clear exam criteria provided by the administration and it was a lot of work to make my exam fit this criteria.  I added Bloom’s Taxonomy terms to my rubric and pulled a variety of interdisciplinary links.  I have been almost giddy the last 3 days as my students worked on their midterms in class. It has been a very reflective 3 days and I feel very filled up with ideas for the next semester.  I have kids who have done very little suddenly engaged. I have realized the power of art (one of the options for interdisciplinary link to the project) as a gateway to critical thinking. Most importantly I have gotten to check in with each of my students individually as they develop essential questions, choose the standards from the 1st semester to plan their project around and brainstorm their projects.  Some students are a bit miffed at not having the option for a test and to those I gave them the option to design and complete their own test.  There have been a lot of moments where I realize how much I am interacting with my students about things I really care about.  One student who is designing a website I got to help:

  • Revisit and refine his essential question
  • Distinguish the tools for research, note-taking and presenting
  • Develop an explanation for the layout of effective web sites


These are the things I want to work on with my students.  I think I have a clear idea where we are at the end of the first semester and where we need to go in the areas I really care about and that is really the purpose of midterms so mission accomplished.

This was the cover sheet of the project packet:

For your midterm you will be creating and completing a project to show your understanding of the objectives we have covered this semester.  You will be assessed on your understanding of the standards using the criteria below and the attached Project Rubric :

Section 1: 20%  Restating the semester 1 standards below.

Section 2: 20% Prioritize, Plan and Manage for Results: You will be given two grades each worth 50%:

  • Grade 1 will be how much of the project planning guide you have completed by January 14th

  • Grade 2 will be given at the completion of your project.  This half of is based on using your planning guide to complete all the parts of the project specified.

Section 3: 20% Explore Ideas Creatively: You will be given a grade for this section using the guidelines described in the Project Rubric.  For this section you will need to show:

  • Presentation of new ideas or ways to explain/show content from the first semester

  • Development of an essential question that is non-googleable and inferential or evaluative

  • The essential question makes connections between content from the first semester and the world.

Section 4: 20% Evaluate Solutions: You will be given a grade for this section using the guidelines described in the Project Rubric.

  • This section assesses the type of project you create to answer your essential question.  The various types are specified in the project rubric along with their associated grades.  Further descriptions of the types of projects are outlined in the Blooms Taxonomy diagrams in Project Inspiration Packet.

Section 5: 20% Solve Complex Problems: You will be given a grade for this section using the guidelines described in the Project Rubric.  This section is assessing if you created a project that:

  • Shows development of a solution to your essential question

  • Meets standards specified

  • Is appropriate to its intended audience

  • Reflects craftsmanship

  • Uses a variety of sources

Below is the project rubric:

Item and Criteria from Guide

Beginning (60-69)

Approaching (70-79)

Meeting (80-89)

Exceeding (90-100)

Prioritize, Plan and Manage for Results

Recognize a plan is necessary for managing a  task to meet a deadline.

Begin using the necessary steps to create plan to meet a deadline.

Create a plan and timeline and prioritize tasks in order to meet an assigned deadline.

Manage multiple tasks and critically review work to meet self-assigned deadlines.

Explore Ideas Creatively

Reproduce or restate familiar content.

Produce work that occasionally goes beyond familiar content.

Use information to produce new ideas and make connections.

Try approaches that result in connections beyond conventional subject boundaries.

Evaluate Solutions

Recognize with support that a given solution may need revision. Explaining content is an example of this level.

Recognize independently that a given solution may need revision. Applying your understanding of content is an example of this level.

Understand whether or not solution are sound and appropriate for a given context and revise as needed. Analyzing pros and cons and evaluating critically are examples of this level.

Understand critical factors that led to the success or failure of a solution. Creating new solutions to problems, new content or new technologies are examples of this.

Solve Complex Problems

Identify the problem and predict an outcome.

Understand a problem and begin to formulate steps to solve it.

Sequence steps to solve problems and create a solution.

Understand, utilize and evaluate different approaches to the problem.