10 Performance-Based Projects for ELA Class

10 Performance-Based Projects for the Language Arts Classroom: Grades 3-5
By Todd Stanley
(Prufrock Press, 2016 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Jennifer Wirtz

The greatest skill we can foster in our classrooms is the ability to problem solve. This lost art has been replaced by smartphones, Google, and any number of other electronic devices hooked into the world’s vast network of answers. When was the last time we drove anywhere without relying on GPS?

While we have made great technological advancements to the betterment of society, I feel our students rely so heavily upon being given the answer that they are failing to learn how to get to the solution on their own. Project-based learning allows students to experience alternate avenues to gain information literacy skills.

Flexible Units of Study

In Todd Stanley’s book, 10 Performance-Based Projects for the Language Arts Classroom, he creates units of study that educators can implement in their classrooms to address the need of students to not only be able to problem solve, and but to then be able to present their ideas/findings to an audience. This text lays out several performance based tasks that can be used again and again within the course of an academic year.

10 Performance-Based Projects for the Language Arts Classroom has been created to identify and explain ready made performance projects that can promote higher level thinking and develop students’ 21st century skills. Each of the projects listed is aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Oral Presentation in my classroom

When deciding on one of the projects to try in my classroom, I needed something that was easy to incorporate and didn’t require me to change the timeline I had decided upon at the start of the year.

I settled on the “Oral Presentation” project partly because it is the first project listed in the book and I did not know if order mattered (it doesn’t), and partly because my students are taking part in a 40-Book Reading Challenge, so reading and discussing books is already an important component in my classroom. This lesson plan easily fit into my existent timeline. I explained the concept to the students and we were off and running.

Each of the 10 performance based projects focuses on one type of performance assessment, i.e. oral presentation, portfolio, research paper, etc. Each project also has an outline, a timeline, a lesson layout, and a product rubric, which makes it extremely efficient to implement.

The lesson was general enough that you can use it over and over without redundancy, but specific enough to give you guidance and tasks to complete throughout the process. The plan itself can be changed, rearranged, or modified as needed. The handouts included are relevant, easy to use, and easy to change/modify to meet the needs of a particular demographic. (This was essential for me – my students are a bit older than the grade 3-5 target of this text, although it is aimed at G&T students in need of enrichment.)

Students were given great questions (Handout 1.1) to think about as they completed their presentations, and the final products were done well. The presentation handout (1.2) was a great reference list for students to consider as they were finalizing their presentations. The Peer Review form (Handout 1.3) guided students in analyzing how others completed the task, which they were able to then connect to the objectives of the project.

They had fun and I was pleased

Students had fun presenting their book projects, and overall were able to really examine and demonstrate a deeper understanding of the text.

I was pleased with the project choices, the fluidity of the tasks in each selection that made the material relevant to most any grade/topic, and the easy-to-follow format that allowed me to incorporate the performance based tasks immediately. I will definitely be utilizing Todd Stanley’s text again in my classroom.

NOTE: Similar texts are available from Prufrock for Math and Science.

Jennifer Wirtz has been a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Gemini Junior High School in Niles, Illinois for over a decade. She received a B.A. and a B.S. from Loyola University Chicago and a Masters in Education from DePaul University. She is married to a math teacher and has two young children. She reviews regularly for MiddleWeb.

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