The first slide of a student's presenation

“If this was my project…” : Using Pooled Resources for peer feedback and evalution

The first slide of a student's presenation

A slide from a student’s presentation

This post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.

This is part 2 of a mini-series on Pooled Resources / Individual Collaboration. For part one, click here.

Let’s say that you come up with a cool project for class.

Say: Design and build (using computer drafting programs or 3d craft and found materials) a monument to be placed in the Mall in Washington DC for something that has affected American society during your lifetime.

1331Let’s say you teach all the concepts of brainstorming and bouncing ideas around – planning, building, revising – getting feedback. The whole shebang.

Now what? You grade it with a rubric?

Sure. You can do that.

I have a better idea:

boothHave students link to their projects on a shared class document – either to a photo, a screenshot, or to whatever online link brings a visitor to the students’ work – along with a document providing a “tour” of their project, an explanation.

Next, assign an essay that requires students to explore a topic, where a component of the analysis requires them to review their classmates projects and, choosing 2-3 from below:

A. Compare / contrast / critique various projects’ details, approach, and / or themes, statements

B. Riff off ideas begun by various projects

C. Suggest changes the artist could (hypothetically?) make to make a more effective piece – using the phrase: “If this was my project,” I would ______.

Additional Notes:

1. Students may analyze their own buildings; include a slightly adjusted set of prompts for this.

2. This allows even students who bomb the project to recover and learn from the unit.

3. Knowing that others students will see their work is an incentive to create a polished piece of work!


Collaboration With Accountability: Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments

poolThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.

Here’s the conundrum:

You’ve composed a prompt for an assessment. It has many possible answers – and many ways to succeed.

That’s good!

But some students, sitting at home, alone, will have trouble formulating a quality response.

Take this quick quiz to see if you should use Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments: 

1. Do you encourage team-work?

2. Do you feel that the best ideas are piggybacked on other good ideas?

3. Can you use a computer?


If you answered YES to all three, then you should use Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments. Here’s how:

1. Present the prompt in class.

Be sure the prompt is complex, has many possible solutions, and is relevant to the Essential Questions / Enduring Understandings of the unit.

2. Have students individually write 3-4 answers / solutions to the prompt.

3. Students partner up and together, they choose from their (now) 6-8 responses their agreed-upon top-three.

4. Students write these 3 solutions / responses in a grid in a Google Doc, accessible to the class.

5.  At home, students will be able to review a dozen or more solutions. Rather than create ex-nihilo, they can modify and build a complete response based on the best of the best.

In other words, they have pooled the resources of thoughtful solutions, but it will be up to each individual to identify and analyze the best responses.


1. Students must quote the ideas’ authors by name (and are permitted a note card if the assessment involves an in-class essay).

2. Students may quote the idea verbatim, but must put it in quotes.

3. Students will still have to 1) explain the idea in his/her own words, 2) justify the idea with proof texts and additional support.

4. You could even require students to pull at least one idea from his/her own partner session, and decide whether to support or critique a classmates.

Ultimately, Pooled Resources / Individual Assessments sends the message that while each student is responsible for his/her own work, progress and learning takes place as a result of the collaborative efforts of many people.

Hmmm. Sounds like real life…

For part 2 on Pooled Resources / Individual Accountability, click here.

Defusing Unnecessary Conflict / Avoiding Power Struggles With Your Students

assembleThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.

Sometimes, students will resist instructions because something is immoral or unethical. This is good. As a first year teacher, a student called me out for mocking a regional accent. I was defensive at first, but she was absolutely right.

But sometimes, students resist because that’s what they do.

In some cases (like class policies), as long as the policies are thoughtful, your best bet is to listen and then use some sort of formula like, “Well, unfortunately, in our school, a hall pass is not a choice. Please use it.”

In other cases, however, student resistance can undermine a learning goal: suddenly, you’re locked in a battle with a single student about a concept that is not even the point of a lesson. And everyone is getting annoyed.

Here are three classic case-studies of how to defuse student resistance. All three draw from a simple fable: a tree and a reed argue about their relative strength – but when the storm winds come, the stubborn, brittle tree is uprooted. The reed bends with the wind.

treePre-warning, affirming, joining – and redirecting:

The scenario: you are studying a story where a character exhibits behaviors, traits, or values the students will find objectionable, but it’s beyond the scope of that class to get distracted by those objections.

The solution: warn the students before they read that they will not like some of the things they see. Tell them that their objections are founded and justified. Join with them in agreeing that the behaviors are problematic.

Then, say, “However, we’re going to put those objections in the parking lot. We may get around to them. But we may not. Our goal is not going to be taking Character X to task for how he acts, which is pretty bad, we have to admit. But our goal in this particular class is to look at the circumstances that led him to those behaviors.”

If a student, mid-discussion objects to Character X’s behavior, reaffirm:

“Exactly, and that’s what I meant when I said that there were problematic things about that Character. I wish we had a whole class to dig into that, but I’m afraid it’s beyond the scope of this lesson. So, back we go to the historical circumstances.”

Set up the resistance as a straw-man and then “pretend” the best:

The scenario: a new policy in the school has raised student ire. You feel that students have complained enough about the unfairness of the new policy. You want them to reflect on the potential benefit of the new policy and not turn your allotted five minutes into more griping.

orpheusThe solution: in your question or prompt, suggest exactly what the students are likely to have concluded, and then redirect:

“The new policy is either total hoo-hah, designed to put you into a prison for your minds, or perhaps it speaks to a conflict of two real values that we can probably agree are both important.  For the moment, let’s just pretend that the rule is not designed simply to take away your rights and make you miserable. What might have been the intent of the principle when she composed the new policy?”

Affirm frustration, relieve the student of needing to argue further, and offer a new option:

The scenario: a student has missed a deadline and has a lousy grade as a result. She has come to argue with you about the grade. You want her to stop fixating on the grade and think constructively about the future.

The solution: meet the student where she is, and paint the picture about what’s coming down the road.

You: “Look, tell me if I’m not getting you. You felt like you put in a ton of work on this step of the project and the deadline ruined your grade, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “And it’s a bummer because why should the deadline affect the grade for the product, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “So look, on the one hand, I don’t expect you to love the late-policy of this class. That’s not your job as a student. You being upset about it makes total sense. If I were you, I’d probably be upset, too. But my job is to have policies that are fair and consistent. That’s what I’m expected to do as a teacher, and the policy can’t change. And we may not see eye to eye on that, but we’re going to need to be okay with that. But more importantly, my job is to help you move past this setback and plan for how the next phase of the project is going to go, and make sure it’s a huge success.