Finals follow-up…student reaction

The other day, I talked about the Final and what I was going to do.

I briefly explained what the final was going to be and even included a link to the website I used.

Now…let’s talk about the reaction of the students.

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, I did have a student ask me in the middle of the “final” why I couldn’t have just given a traditional final.

Yesterday was a different story.  

*Students that had struggled during the first day of exploration with this new concept weren’t struggling as much as did before.  They were even letting loose a little and seemed to enjoy it.

*Students that usually were labelled “not the best students” or “students that didn’t put enough effort into their work” or any other typical complaint of some teachers, were doing better than the traditionally “superb” students. Immediately I thought it was because this was out of the box thinking process that doesn’t always follow students that used to formulaic teaching and learning.

One student, who has struggled in every class she takes, was flying high because she was getting the answers despite her partner being one of those “good” student.  The joy I saw on her face when her thought process or answers were proven right was worth everything!

*Students that were burnt out on school?…HAD FUN!

*Students that usually stayed in the background because they didn’t always feel connected to their peers and/or had interests that didn’t always match their peers, found ways to contribute.  My favorite part of the final for these students usually came when their group was faced with the Minesweeper challenge.  If they were familiar with the game, they aced it right away and helped their group moved forward.  Even if they weren’t familiar, they usually figured out what to do first, which earned them the same result.

So…what happened today? 

Today was an interesting day:)

Today, we arrived at school to find our power out and not knowing if we would be able to get the planned activities done, whether we would hold school the entire day or send them home.  Eventually, it was decided to keep going with school even without power.

The interesting part about holding school when there is no power is what to do with the students that showed up.  See…today was the day the 9th graders went to our local amusement park about an hour after school started leaving the 7th and 8th graders to have shortened class periods so they could have a field day in the later portion of the day.  We already had much fewer students but now we had the added scenario of no power.

This meant, whatever technological idea a teacher might have had, was out the door.  I felt as though I couldn’t just have the kids sit around but I also didn’t want to just put them to work cleaning my classroom.  In the end?  A little of both.  Each class was given a small task to help with end of year preparations.  Once we got to fourth period, I had a few more students and they wanted to do more.  So, together, we got to work on a task I had recently found out about and wasn’t really looking forward to.

What’s the point of this train of thought?

Well, I found it interesting that the students I worked side by side with over the next few hours (many stayed to help rather than go onto their other classes) asked questions and made comments about the final.

I had one student remark over and over again how she really liked our final. This is a good student.  She always puts in the effort she needs to succeed and she seems to do well in all of her classes but I wouldn’t say she was at the top of her class, not that that is really all that important, but she said that the final gave her a chance to use her music skills in a different way.

I know I’ve already said this but “this was everything”.  It was everything I had hoped for.  It was everything I had planned to happen but was unsure if it would.

I even had a student that had been absent for the final, show up just after the power came on so we put her to work on it.  I got her started but since the power was on, I needed to get our auditorium set up for a slide show so I asked one student to supervise her and come get me if there were questions.

This was a student who, again was a good student but not one that some teachers would call great.  The student I asked to assist her was one I knew wouldn’t just give her the answers but would actually help if there was a problem.  Despite not having the opportunity to work with her peers in the days previous, she BREEZED RIGHT THROUGH IT!  She didn’t fly through it but she did it well and rather quickly.  I was asked a couple of times to answer some questions but she took my assistance well and figured it out.

It was pretty cool to peek in and see her progress.

And…she loved the tasks!

Success happened here.  I didn’t get a chance to get student feedback on what they would do differently but I am planning on doing that next year.  It will be fun to see how the Breakouts can be used for different purposes and which purpose fits best for my students.


Finals…are they really necessary?


Why do we have finals? 

Traditionally, a final is given to students as a way to “Show what they know”. Basically, you give a huge test that is usually multiple choice as a way to get students to show their understanding.

When I think of multiple choice tests, especially those used for finals, I think of the concept of memorization and as I put it…regurgitation.  None of which actually shows knowledge of the concepts supposedly learned but rather how well a student can memorize and recall the information.  I personally despise this kind of testing but I realize that since it is one of the easiest forms of testing to create, it is used more often than others.  I would prefer a test that is applicable to the content taught and adheres to the abilities of the students.

This is especially true in the arts.  In choir, we have already had our real final…aka…the concert.  This was truly the final and it was almost two weeks ago.  The process used in getting the students to that final is what is tested. But the students show what they learned in a live performance that is authentic and I think, should count as their final.

So, what do you do when your school mandates a final as a way to encourage attendance during the last week of school?

I did it this way…

Being that I am currently working on my Technology Endorsement, I wanted to incorporate something that would fit both worlds..the world of technology and the world of music.  I am really lucky that one of my student’s mother is in the technology class with me and was willing to help me out.

She showed me this really cool website that allows you to create your own or modify someone else’s Digital Breakout.   Currently the site is only working in Beta form but is extremely easy to use and the should you have an issue as I did today, you get a quick response time.

What is a Breakout?  What about a Digital Breakout?

Check out the links I provided under Breakout and Digital Breakout for more details but basically,

A Breakout is:

The Breakout EDU kit allows for the facilitation of games where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open the locked box. Games are available for all ages and content areas.

and a Digital Breakout is:

Welcome to Breakout EDU Digital. The same game principles from the main Games page apply to these games, but there is no physical component other than an Internet connected device (preferably a laptop/Chromebook/desktop computer.)

The website I used for mine is  Again, this site is in Beta form but I chose it because I felt it was easier for me for this particular final.  The Digital Breakout from above it perfectly wonderful and I even got a chance to use it during one of our technology classes.  I do have to say that my team got finished first:)

For my class Breakout, I didn’t want just another process of memorization being use.  So, I was really grateful that for my first effort, I found a template that I could use as is.  It fit my purposes, in that my students would have to work together (skills used daily in choir), they would do cross-curricular activities (tasks that are often found in choir, sometimes unbeknownst to the students though), and they would be watching/listening/reading music (Wow! another skill taught in choir).

Most of the students have liked the final so far. (our classes are not very long so it will take two days to give them processing time and time to deal with typical technological challenges we face on a regular basis) Although a few have stressed themselves out a bit because it is something new and out of the ordinary.

What blew me away? I even had two or three ask why we weren’t just having a traditional final!  I stared at them in a look that probably resembled the scream mask.  I asked them if they really believed they would prefer a huge number of questions over something they could do together.

Their response?

It’s what they knew.

Oh…the horror!  The shame.

It proved to me once again that often in education all we are doing is asking kids to memorize and regurgitate.  How does that help them prepare for their future?

Sure, the breakout was new.

Sure, it was stressful because the answers weren’t easily found.

You had to look for the clues imbedded in the structure of the site.  You had to work together.

I think at the end of tomorrow, the students will have suggestions for how to make it better.  They may even want to create one for next year’s groups or at least have a say in the musical subject matter.  I have no idea.  We will see.

All I can say is that sure we’ve had problems but overall I think it’s a success.

I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow. . .