Collaborative Unit

Our seventh grade students learn proportions in math about the same time they learn about genetics in science.  So how do we bring that together into an interdisciplinary unit?  This unit begins with mathematics where students create a proportional image which will be used in other lessons.  I’m sure creative readers will think of more innovative ways; below is an example.


Example eye collage

Language arts could go so many creative ways to create writing samples.  In the unit are ideas for all core subjects, some are specific to using a Mac OSX but other editing software will work nicely.  A language arts teacher created a lesson the students really enjoyed-it is not included in the unit above.  She took the un-cropped picture of the student, they printed it, then made a line of symmetry vertically through the center of the picture.  Students cut their picture in half, then pasted half over a bi-fold sheet.  The student drew in the other half of their picture.  In the completion of the lesson, students open the bi-fold to write a two poems – How I see myself and How others see me.


Collaborative Stories

Students were having a great deal of difficulty with inferences in reading.  Why not have them create their own stories (with an agenda) so they make inferences?  Next trade stories, read, and infer about the story when you can ask the author about the real meaning.  Middle school age students enjoy this partly because the point is to try to stump the reader by making complex inferences.  The challenge of finding an answer is heightened because it has become a game or test of wills.

In this teacher made example, students from Art created characters in varying poses.  The characters were then used in language arts classes to make short stories with inferred meaning imbedded.  Finally, whole class stories were exchanged with other language arts classes in the same grade.  The stories are examined and critiqued to find the inferences made.

sample story

Samples of student art for collaborative stories.


If students have a digital device, there’s a good chance they have a way to record themselves for a screencast.  Screencasts are valuable because students can present their topic, project, etc. “live” but in an asynchronous environment.  So much class time is used presenting projects.  A screencast posted makes viewing possible anytime- like for homework.  If the post is within a discussion forum they can provide valuable feedback and/or reflection as well.

Personal favorites are Jing and Screencast-o-matic.  There are many other free options to choose from.

What might students screencast?

  • Describe artwork for design principles (Art) or using adjectives (English) or listing symbolism (English)
  • Read aloud from home to practice for vocabulary and fluency
  • Critique qualities of a webpage – content specific or for Net literacy
  • Solve math problems using a paint program to diagram as they talk through the steps to solve the problem
  • Present project
  • Read a poem while showing artwork or symbolic pictures
  • Practice dialog in foreign language
  • Demonstrate understanding of a process – student outlines process by talking with a visual aide
  • For younger students learning about the citation process, allow them to screencast it list of their resources. This can be with our without a scripted explanation



Try a scratch-off

Does the idea of a scratch off bring excitement to mind?  The possibility of winning something or just the intrigue of the unknown is probably whirling through your thoughts.  Let’s add this excitement to a classroom assignment.

Introducing the Secret Message Scratchcard GeneratorScratch to see the thought! (had to move from WordPress, sorry)

Wikispaces is a fantastic source for free educational wikis.  More wiki instructions here.