Epic Holocaust Writing Project #6 #engchat

This is the sixth of several posts that will talk about an epic Holocaust writing project that we are embarking on.  Too much for just one post, so enjoy.  Click here to read the previous post.

To Recap…

The students worked hard to spread the word.  I even did my part to help by joining Jeff Bradbury of TeacherCast.net on his TeacherCast.tv network and discuss the One Penny, One Soul Project.
And to use a crab fishing term, we needed to “let the pots soak.”  The collection jugs collected.  The website and PayPal account collected.  And the students collected from businesses.  Now it was time for the grand total.

The Pay Off

It was our goal to raise $2,500 in a town of 1,500 people.  We knew the goal was lofty, but the students felt we needed to go big – and I wasn’t about to stop them.  But after we totaled it all up, it looked like this…
Obviously it’s short of our goal, but the students and myself were happy with the response the community gave us during the project.  Together we helped to honor over 110,000 souls lost during the Holocaust.  


I will admit, this is the part that I struggled with the most, but I received some great feedback from my grad school cohort.
Because I still wanted to make this academically related (in order to justify eating up 3-4 weeks of school that I did not originally have planned in my curriculum), I still felt I needed to assess their overall work.  But their writing wasn’t for me – it was for the public.  How could I assess their work without hindering their creativity to market effectively?
I decided a writing portfolio would be best.  Here was the process we followed during the course of our project…
  1. Students draft publications, emails, documents, or whatever writing was necessary.
  2. Students print it first and brings it to me, the Marketing Director.
  3. I only CIRCLE where corrections need to be made.  I may make other design suggestions, but the focus was primarily the writing.
  4. If there are circles, the student must use what resources and notes they have to figure out what needs to be corrected.  
  5. They make the necessary corrections and submit again.
  6. Steps 2-5 repeat as necessary.
  7. Once polished, they use the publication for whatever purpose they intended.  They print a second copy to go in their writing portfolio.
I gave a score out of 100 overall on their writing portfolio.  This score is based on the grammatical and mechanical correctness of ALL publications in that folder (this includes any printed emails they may have sent out in order to seek outside help).
But I know what you’re thinking…You corrected everything as you went through the process! YES!  The PROCESS was the most important thing in this project…at least to me it was.  But everyone had to include one more piece of writing that was not viewed by me until the final submission: a reflection.

Reflection is Key

Students had to reflect on this whole process and answer four essential questions found in this Writing Portfolio Criteria document.

  1. Why did you decide to do these specific publications? I’m asking the student to reflect on traits that he or she processes that led him or her to choose those specific publications.
  2. What was the process you went through to complete this publication? I wanted the student to reflect on the overall process they have just gone through…from beginning to end.  I wanted them to realize the hard work they have put in (or lack thereof).
  3. What was the hardest part?  I told the students, “If you hit a road bump, ask Google.  If you hit a road block, ask me.”  I wanted them to struggle through this process a little and feel empowered when they found a work around.
  4. What skills do you feel you will remember and carry with you past 8th grade?  I wanted them to realize that they did learn real adult skills that they will utilize in the future.  
This reflection was only peer reviewed before submitting it with the Writing Portfolio.

Final Thoughts

I feel very blessed that Mrs. Bezdek and her West Middle School 8th graders allowed us to help in their endeavor.  It gave me the ideal teaching scenario for my students and me.  And honestly, I’m a little sad to see it end.  I hope this unit has been one that my students will remember and see the value of it through their adult years.  
EveryONE has some good in them.” ~Anne Frank
Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P.S. Our website will be available for an entire year.  That means anyone can still donate through PayPal.  

P.S.S. Are you interested in helping Mrs. Bezdek and her 8th graders and would like to start your own initiative to help them out?  Email me, and I can put in touch (jbormann@central.k12.ia.us).


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