Creating Engaging Projects as Assessments

February 6, 2018 Miss Senorita by Jessica Hall

I used to teach Spanish 1A and 1B – that’s Spanish 1 split up over two years. However did I stretch ONE year’s worth of Spanish over TWO years, you might ask?


I became The Queen Of Projects!

Why Projects Are The Best Ever:

1.  They are an awesome way for students to demonstrate their learning (in place of a boring multiple choice test).

2.  They are easy to grade (when you set yourself up for success with an easy rubric).

3.  They’re fun! Students will enjoy showing you the delicious grammar and vocabulary words they now know.

The Rubric

Start by creating the rubric – what knowledge do you want your students to demonstrate to you?

Write down exactly what vocabulary or grammar points you want students to utilize and how many. Complete sentences with 12 clothing items, 10 regular (correctly conjugated) -AR verbs, 8 adjectives matching their nouns (gender & number), their name, age, where they are from, and 3 activities they like to do. Or whatever.

This is a completely ridiculous project.

Choose numbers that are easy for students to remember and easy for you to QUICKLY identify or count. You don’t want to be grading 150 projects for half the school year because you have to find 47 verbs and 23 adjectives in each student’s project.

You want to spend 1 minute or less grading each project, so think about making the grading process EASY when creating the rubric.

Assign point values to everything and make your project rubric add up to a nice round number. 33 points is an unacceptable number. My OCD prohibits me from making rubrics that end in anything other than 5 or 0.

The Scenario

I like to give my students a scenario for why we are about to do this project. It helps them get into the groove for what they’re going to spend the next couple of days working on. It’s a way of disguising the fact that I actually just want to see if they can write sentences with properly conjugated verbs.

Put your scenario at the very top of the handout you give your students – they should read this first.

It’s the hook.

My students are transformed into fashion design editors and that’s why they’re going to scour the internet for the latest fashions and write short paragraphs in Spanish, describing the colors and clothing items that their “models” are wearing.

Or they are all going to play board games for a week straight – as soon as they make them. And all the games must be entirely in Spanish. You don’t really need a scenario for board games – this project sells itself.

The Checklist

Middle school students will especially benefit from a checklist of all tasks that must be completed, the order they must be completed in, and all tasks broken down by day if this is a multi-day project.

A checklist might not be necessary for high school students, but you know your students best.

The checklist is basically the same as your rubric, but without the point values and with these boxes ⃣ in front of each requirement so students can physically check off each requirement as they complete it.

I know I personally get joy from checking off boxes as I complete tasks.

These gorgeous boxes are available in Microsoft Word by going to Insert -> Symbol and then choose “Symbol” from the Font dropdown menu if it’s not already the default. You’ll see them all staring at you. 

Do you want to hold students responsible for completing everything on the checklist by the end of the period on each day? Require them to get your initials for additional points. Make a big show of going around with a fancy flair pen in your favorite color at the end of the period and initialing the students’ papers who are on track to complete their project on time.

The Rough Draft

Do you want your students to do a rough draft first? If so, make this a requirement (assign points for its proper completion) and give them a structured format in order to complete their rough draft. If they have to write 5 sentences, then give them 5 lines, each of them numbered 1-5. If they have to draw something, then give them a box with a reminder of what they have to draw.

I don’t always have students do a rough draft.  Sometimes the project lends itself well to that, and other times students can just dive right in.

The Preparation

Are you going to need the computer lab?  Make sure it’s available ahead of time for each of your classes!

Are you going to have your students do their project the good old fashioned way on paper and make booklets?  Steal Borrow a ream (or 3) of paper from the copy room in advance. Make those booklets for students in advance if you can (during your lunch period the day before, during homeroom, between classes, etc).  You’d be surprised how long it can take middle school students to count out 5 sheets of paper, fold them in half, and staple them neatly into a booklet. It will take some of them an entire 40 minute period and they’ll still do it wrong.

Don’t let middle school students staple anything. I mean NOTHING. Not only will they attempt to staple their neighbor, but they’ll put 67 staples into their booklet because “it looks cool”. It’s worth being the Stapler Nazi and walking around the room to individually staple everyone’s papers for them. Or assign a trusted student as the Stapler Nazi if you’re comfortable delegating that task to a well-trained, well-behaved student who can handle this ginormous responsibility.

Additional Tips

Don’t spend your precious time creating what the internet has already created for you. My personal favorite website for creating rubrics is Rubistar, but there are many free options out there.

Are students working together? Have students grade each other in their groups at the end of the project and add that grade to each student’s final grade for the project. There’s a rubric for that.

Are students peer editing the rough drafts they wrote? There’s a rubric for that.

Do you have a class full of rowdy chaos-creating gemstones with ants in their pants? There’s a rubric for that.

I love using projects to assess students’ comprehension and see what they can create with the language.  If you have any other tips or tricks, please comment below!

Miss Senorita by Jessica Hall

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