Some assignments can be just as much fun to mark as to complete. In my class, we are wrapping up units of study (or at least the formalized, marked portions of these units) and ensuring that the culminating tasks are all completed.
For the Grade 5-6 health unit on substance use / addictions, I was inspired to create a particular assignment because of my son's happy memories based on a similar project. My son just finished his first year of college, but he can still quote from memory a few of the lines that he had when performing in a group play in elementary school about "the dangers of drugs". I decided to have my students write scripts about situations in which someone could have to make a decision about alcohol or drug use.
This truly became a family act, because I invited my daughter, who just finished her third year of university, to come be a guest lecturer and teach us all about the proper way to write a script. Creative writing is one of her minors, and she took a scriptwriting course this past year. She prepared a short slide deck with all the formatting and layout directions we needed.
For a brief moment, I was a bit concerned that I was expecting too much from my students. My daughter is 21 and my students are 10-12 year olds. Script writing is a noticeably different writing style. Even the font is dictated. (In case you were wondering, it's Courier.)
It turns out to have been a good experiment. The students wrote two scripts - one for language class that was a script adaptation of a short story their team selected, and the original health scripts. The students seemed to like it because:
1) scripts have structure = there is security knowing that there is a set way to complete a task. Having a specific format gives the creators "something to hang their hats on".
2) student scripts look like the real thing = the final products looked authentic, and that was impressive!
3) script writing is a creative endeavor = I had some students work willingly outside of class time to craft these scripts. Some predicted that this script would be the best thing they wrote this entire term. Even the adaptations had wiggle room to present things in different ways.
4) script writing can be collaborative = group writing can be challenging sometimes and invigorating at other times. The language scripts were completed in three heterogenous groups of six students each. There was choice for the health scripts and 12/18 students decided to write in a pair or trio. Students even tracked who gave what idea or how they contributed.
My colleague and I enjoyed marking them because:
a) the student scripts revealed their knowledge and misconceptions clearly = many of my students are somewhat naïve; they still think that a "shady older man in an alleyway" is the person that introduces others to alcohol or drugs. These scripts will actually help my co-teacher and I plan some of our follow-up lessons, so we can talk about how it's more often friends in social situations that involve alcohol or drugs.
b) scripts are a familiar format = we've watched TV shows and movies, so reading a script (although we are definitely not actors or producers or script writers) felt like something that wasn't taxing or boring.
c) some of the scripts were funny = my colleague and I laughed until we cried while marking some of the scripts. We had seen first drafts prior to the final submissions, and we had provided feedback along the way, but reading them together was a completely different experience. Some were intentionally hilarious and some were unintentionally a hoot.
I'm sorry that we didn't actually get to film any of these scripts - that was going to be a goal if we were headed back to in-class learning in June - but the experience was worth it. We've got finger tutting demonstrations and student-in-charge lessons to look forward to, but maybe if there are any holes in the schedule, we can convince a group or two to provide a "live" script reading just for our class.