Today I passed out my Civil War in a Can project direction sheet. This is my big end of the year project. I saw another teacher using this with her English class, and I modified it for the Civil War. I really got tired of hearing boring reports read by the students, so with this project, there are no reports required. What the student has to do is research a person, event, or feature of the Civil War (Abraham Lincoln, Battle of Gettysburg, Women in the Civil War). Then they use an ordinary tin can, about the size of a paint can to demonstrate their expertise in their topic. I have a list of about 21 topics. I place the topics in a can, and the students randomly choose what they will research. I make it random, because I don’t want 20 projects on Abrahm Lincoln. The students are required to decorate their can to reflect their topic. Then they are to find at least 5 objects to place into their can. On presentation day, they will pull out each object one at a time to help them talk about their topic. For example, a student can pull out a rock, and say, “This is a rock that was found at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg took place….” The object are just something that they can use to open up their presentation. To do this project, they will have to become experts on their topic. They will not be handing in a report of any kind. I grade them as they present. I have my own list of information that they should know if they did basic research. If they don’t mention what I have on my list, I ask them about it, and most of the time, they will say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” and they’ll tell me what they remember. Some kids go all out and really give great presentations. Others don’t, and they know it. It makes my end of the year easier, because I don’t have a mountain of reports to grade, and the kids leave my class being experts on at least one aspect of the Civil War. There is a lot more to this project, and I’ll be posting it on the website soon.
Today’s Advice for New Teachers: Don’t make your tests so serious. On every test, I always include a “freebie.” This is a question that has nothing to do with the subject matter. If the student gets it right, it’s an extra point. If they get it wrong, it doesn’t hurt their grade. Mostly, I use brain teaser questions, like: Johnny’s mother had four children. One was named April; the other was named May, and another was named, June. What was the name of the fourth child? Most kids will figure it out and answer, Johnny, but some won’t, and they’ll feel worse about missing the freebie that they do about missing the real questions. You can find these questions on the web. Just Google, brain teasers. Anything you can do to take away some of the “stress” from the test, will help your students do better.