Smashbooks! That was something I introduced into my classroom this school year. It's like a scrapbook...but a whole lot messier! If you go on a vacation, you might create a scrapbook to help you capture special moments from your trip. Well, I decided to take that idea and apply it to my science class.
At the first of the year, I introduced my students to smashbooking. I showed them a video on it and several examples. The overall goal of the project was to allow the students to show me what they've learned IN THEIR OWN WAYS. I learned five major things with this project.
#1: Middle school students are super creative! Students surprised me on this one. They worked so hard on this project. Even the male students showed up with some amazing ideas. I loved how some of the boys clearly had their moms help them. I'm often told by parents that their middle school aged boy doesn't tell them about their day. As a mom to a boy myself, I imagine the moms loving this moment.
#2: Students are proud of their hard work! Students would hurry into class on turn in days so they could show their classmates their smashbooks before they had to turn them in.
#3: Detail equals comprehension! I had heard this before at an inservice. Whenever you assign students something where they have to draw a picture, look for details. The more details the student puts into their picture, the more they really understand the content. I found this so true. Just by flipping through the different projects, I could easily see which students truly understood the different topics.
#4: Students interpret things very differently! Allowing students to show me what they've learned in their own, individual ways, provided me with very effective feedback. The topics I thought were covered thoroughly and came across easy were often skipped completely in the students' projects or the information the students provided was incorrect. It gave my students who often scored very low on assessments (like 30-question tests) a chance to "prove" to me that they knew the material and were just "not so good" test takers. The smashbooks gave those students confidence because they had something to be proud of.
#5: Eliminate the busy work! This project saved me a few times. If a lesson ended short, students were given the chance to work on their smashbooks. I no longer needed an extra worksheet or activity to occupy the time.
Any grade level and any subject area could use this project idea. Read a novel and then create a scrapbook for it. Learn a Social Studies unit and then create a scrapbook for it. The possibilities are endless. When I set up my project, students were given the different topics to include on certain pages and the due dates. We would learn a little and then students had to turn in completed pages. We had three major turn in dates but I had smashbook checks more often. Click on the picture below to get your copy of this project.