Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Lightning Thief Unit Assessments

The module for The Lightning Thief is broken into three different units, each with a mid unit and end unit assessment. Here they are:

Mid Unit 1: Inferring about the Main Character in The Lightning Thief

This assessment centers on standards NYSP12 ELA CCLS RL.6.1 and RL.6.3. Students will read an excerpt from Chapter 4 in

The Lightning Thief. Through a graphic organizer and a series of short responses, students will describe how Percy responds to a challenge he faces in this excerpt, and then what they, as readers, can infer about him based on his response. This is a reading assessment and is not intended to formally assess students’ writing. Most students will write their responses, in which case it may also be appropriate to assess W.6.9. However, if necessary, students may dictate their answers to an adult. 

End of Unit 1 Assessment: Drawing Evidence from Text: Written Analysis of How Percy’s Experiences Align with “The Hero’s Journey”

This assessment centers on standards NYS ELA CCLS RL.6.1, RL.6.3, R.I. 6.1, and W.6.9. How do Percy’s experiences in Chapter 8 align with the hero’s journey? After reading Chapter 8 of The Lightning Thief, students will complete a graphic organizer and write a short analytical response that answers the question and supports their position with evidence from the novel and from the informational text “The Hero’s Journey.” 

Mid Unit 2 Assessment: Analytical Mini-Essay about Elements and Theme of the Myth of Prometheus

This assessment centers on NYSP12 ELA CCLS RL.6.1, RL.6.2, RI.6.1, W.6.2, and W.6.9. For this assessment, students will write an analytical “mini-essay” responding to the following prompts: “What are significant elements of mythology in the story of ‘Prometheus’? Explain how elements of mythology contained in the plot make ‘Prometheus’ a classic myth.” “What is an important theme in the myth of ‘Prometheus? What key details from the myth contribute to this theme?”
Students will have read and discussed the myth “Prometheus” in class as well as an informational text about the “Key Elements of Mythology.” They will use recording forms to collect important details. Their “mini-essay” will contain two body paragraphs (one about the elements of myth that they see in “Prometheus” and one a theme of the myth) plus a one- sentence introduction and a brief conclusion to explain how an element of mythology connects to a theme of the myth. The reading standards assessed center around citing textual evidence from both the literary text “Prometheus” and the informational text “Key Elements of Mythology.” Students also are assessed on their ability to determining of a theme of a literary text. The reading standards could be assessed through the graphic organizer alone, or verbally, if necessary. This is both a reading and writing assessment. 

End of Unit 2 Assessment: Literary Analysis—Connecting Themes in Cronus and The Lightning Thief

This assessment addresses RL.6.1, RL.6.2, W.6.2, W.6.5, W.6.9, and L.6.1a, b, c, d. Students will write a literary analysis

responding to the following prompts: “What is a theme that connects the myth of “Cronus” and The Lightning Thief? After reading the myth of “Cronus” and the novel The Lightning Thief, write a literary analysis in which you do the following: Summarize the myth and present a theme that connects the myth and the novel; Describe how the theme is communicated in the myth; Describe how the theme is communicated in The Lightning Thief; Explain why myths still matter and why the author may have chosen to include this myth in the novel. You will have the opportunity to discuss the reading and your thinking with your partner before writing independently.” This is primarily a writing assessment. It is not intended to assess students’ reading of a myth; discussion is intentionally built in as a scaffold toward writing. In Lesson 18 students launch this assessment, writing their best on-demand draft. This draft is not formally assessed. The actual assessment occurs in Lesson 20, after peer feedback. 

Mid Unit 3 Assessment: Crosswalk between My Hero’s Journey Narrative and “The Hero’s Journey” Informational Text

This assessment centers on NYSP12 ELA CCLS W6.2, W.6.3a, and W.6.9. Students will write a paragraph explaining the ways in which their own “My Hero’s Journey” narrative follows the archetypal hero’s journey. The explanation itself addresses students’ ability to write an expository paragraph; students’ plan for their narrative addresses their ability to organize a sequence of events for a narrative. 

End of Unit 3 Assessment: Final Draft of Hero’s Journey Narrative

This assessment centers on NYSP12 ELA CCLS W.6.3, W.6.4, and W.6.11c. Students engage in a series of writer’s craft lessons for narrative writing: They draft, revise, and submit their best independent draft of their “My Hero’s Journey” narrative. 

Okay, a few comments:

I wonder why there seem to be so few assessments, especially reading assessments. In my units, would be making quick assessments two to three times a week. Sometimes these are informal, but once a week there would be some sort of formal one. These are a little time-consuming but are necessary to keep kids on track. My enthusiastic readers will read every day, but there are somewho will not. Does this unit take this into account?

The Unit 2 assessments focus more on the myths themselves. That is a good thing, but with a fair amount of book being read already, it seems like we're missing out here. I don't know though. Maybe I'm wrong. I'll just have to see. I may still be a little biased because I don't think this is a good way of teaching Greek mythology.

Another bigger issue is the teaching of theme itself. That is a really tough thing to teach to younger kids. I spend an entire eighth grade year dealing with theme, and by the end about 1/2–2/3 of them get it. Fewer of them can read a piece and come up with the theme on their own. This is not a comment on my students but on the complexity of the idea and how developmentally ready kids are to understand it. Since there are major issues dealing with this on an eighth-grade level, I have serious reservations about teaching theme to sixth graders. Many will understand a theme if you present it to them, and will even be able to get details from a text that supports the theme, but this requires major scaffolding. Why teach this topic when there are more basic ones to deal with like reading comprehension?

The final assessment gets back to the independent writing that the students were to do in the Performance Task. I have serious reservations about how valuable this is, which I've already discussed. Independent narratives can have a lot of value, but this one seems to neglect the whole aspect of studying mythology itself in favor of a Joseph Campbellesque hero's journey. Not that I don't love that stuff, but we're talking apples and organizes here, or maybe oranges and grapefruits. I feel strongly that the cultural literacy aspect of mythology is of greater importance than this, especially when most students won't have a strong background of Greek mythology. Since a great deal of American culture rests on the back of these myths and Greek civilization, why is this the focus?

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