I had my Grade 3s demonstrate their understanding, at the end of our Urban and Rural Communities unit in Social Studies, by using Smart Ideas to create a mind map. We even co-constructed criteria together, so that they could refer to these while working on their mind maps. I was excited about using this alternate form of assessment to get a mark for report cards, which are ever-looming...
And, if you assess the lovely, visually appealing mind map above according to our criteria below, the student receives a solid level 3; they've got nearly all the criteria from the list on their map. It looks great, it's easy to read, they've considered spacing, colour/shape to organize their categories, and the connectors lines all point in what we previously agreed to be the "right" direction.
And, it shows pretty much ZERO understanding of an urban community, in terms of what differentiates it from a rural community!!! Oops!
But that's not enough!!!
If you are going to do something right, every step has to be intentional. Had we taken more time to look at some sample mind maps together, we could have moved beyond the superficial "what does it look like" and into the actual content of the map. We could have harvested a set of criteria together based on what a truly effective mind map includes.
As examples of media work, the student mind map above and the samples below show a growing understanding of this "text form". The students are really starting to get it. But as an assessment piece for social studies, most of them they are sadly lacking, and that's largely my fault, for not taking enough time to examine the purpose of a mind map in enough depth: It's not just supposed to be a pretty picture, it's supposed to actually demonstrate understanding of a concept or topic! This resulted in me rushing through the co-construction of the criteria, too, and then we were sort of "bound" to them, if I'm going to honour the student input that went into creating the list!
If you are a teacher without your own classroom this year, take this opportunity to do a little self-PD: Use the (lousy) criteria above to evaluate each map -- does it meet few, most or all of the criteria? What descriptive feedback would you give each student?
Even better, assess each mind map here for demonstrated understanding of urban and rural communities. Which maps show more understanding, and how do they do this? Develop your own set of criteria, and then use that as a base for developing criteria together with your students, if you were to do an assignment like this in class. (And for goodness sake, send me a copy so I can use it, too!!!)
The moral of the story: TAKE YOUR TIME -- DON'T RUIN A GOOD LESSON OR ASSESSMENT OPPORTUNITY BY RUSHING!