This is it – The Big Day!
The kids have done their research, diagnosed Howard’s illness, and have prepared and practiced their presentations. Each group walks into the room and shakes hands with the 3 panel members. The panel includes either their classroom teacher or myself, another staff member (Head of Lower School, science teacher, ect.), and a medical person. It was that medical person that made all the difference. This was the person that they wanted to impress with their diagnosis. This is what made it feel real and authentic. We were lucky to have several parents who were doctors and were willing to work their schedules around our presentation times. Our school also allowed us to get a sub for our school nurse when we needed her to be a last minute fill in.
We provided a “talking sheet” for each panel member. This sheet included a short description of the project, a list of Howard’s symptoms, and talking points (see attached). Each panel member had a rubric for each group that was presenting. The panelist could make notes, comments, and suggestions directly on the rubric. This was later shared with the groups.
After one of the presentations, one student told me that she had know idea that the doctor was going to talk to the group about their diagnosis and actually ask questions. She didn’t say this in a panicked manner but in a tone that let me know that this feedback, from a professional, had a great deal of meaning. First that someone thought their work was important enough to take time off from their practice to come listen to them and then that a real expert valued that work enough to discuss it with them. Think about it, how many 4th graders have the opportunity to discuss the role of heart cauterization in diagnosing coronary heart disease? I have no doubts that the assessments made by the medical persons made much more of an impact that the evaluation done by the teacher.
There’s still the messy job of placing a number or a letter in the teacher’s grade book. Some teachers do this by creating a point system for each section of the rubric. In our case, we combined points from two different rubrics, the presentation rubric and the group rubric. We wanted to acknowledge the communication and social skills, as well as the amount of cooperation, that goes into forming a successful group.