Well the snow melted, and school resumed, and finals were bumped back a week, so we ended up having several days in the computer lab to work on the final project - creating an outline of a persuasive paper. The reason I had the kids write an outline is that I feel if the kids can identify and write the various parts of a paper separately, it will be easier for them to later construct a WELL-written paper, instead of a hodge-podge of partial thoughts and illogical sentences. And I am sooooo tired of reading mashed up research papers that make absolutely no sense...they make me frustrated and angry.
Parts of this project went better than expected and parts of it went worse. First of all, the kids really struggled with making an outline. They have a tendency to put a lot of extra words around the main thought and have to really fight to get it down to a stripped-to-the-bone main idea. In addition, only about 10% of the kids understood how to make an outline. The other 90% tried to write it in paragraph form.
On the flip side, as I am grading them I am noticing that once I convinced them to get those extra words out of the way, most of the kids so far seem to be doing pretty well. I think part of that is that I stood over them for a lot of this project. We were in the computer lab for 3 days straight. On the first day I went around to each kid individually and checked their thesis statements, redirecting when necessary. On the second day I went to each kid individually and checked the explanation portion of their outline (where they explained how the supporting detail supported their thesis). I think this really helped the kids work out some of the kinks and kept them moving in the right direction, and allowed me to get more one-on-one time with them.
In addition, I had the kids send me their papers electronically instead of printing something out. This is something that every other educational institution in the free world has been doing for years, but my district blocks EVERYTHING, including all non-district email access, and they don't provide email addresses to the kids, so up to this year, there wasn't really a good way of getting electronic files from a to b. But last summer we were given teacher websites hosted by the district, and it came with a direct email button, so all the kids simply emailed me their projects on Thursday. Of course, this resulted in my inbox jumping from 100 emails to 220 emails, all with the same subject line, but it was really nice not to have to deal with paper and printing.
And another bonus...I am finding that I am grading these outlines faster, since I can use the Microsoft editing function to edit both word and powerpoint documents, allowing me to leave better, more detailed, and more legible feedback. Yea for technology...better late than never, I guess.