The English Language Arts world seems to be afire with talk of one-pagers. This unique assignment allows students to have a creative outlet in an otherwise text-heavy course. Don’t be fooled, however, this assignment is extremely rigorous when it comes to analysis and deeper-level thinking. Not only is this assignment a breath-of-fresh-air for students, it is also MUCH easier for English teachers to grade compared to an essay.
English teachers would all agree, any assignment that cuts down on grading time, is an assignment worth giving. However, I’d like to share with you some of the mistakes that I fell in to when I first assigned this to my 7th grade class, in the hopes that you can avoid repeating them.
Mistake #1: Being Dazzled By My Students’ Artistic Skills…Not Their Analytical Skills
I had a group of 7th grade students who were my pride and joy. These students had shown maturity from the start, and the majority of them were so passionate about their learning. I had never had a group quite this precocious, so I chose to try my very first one-pager with them.
I placed emphasis on the creative side of the project, and walked them through all of the required elements. I stressed that the project must show effort and thoughtfulness, as well as be creative and colorful. Looking back, I had emphasized the artistic elements far too much (as I was assuming that the students would need encouragement in that area) and not placed enough emphasis on the analysis and writing elements (as I was assuming they knew I wanted them to focus on them… this was English class after all).
We spent two weeks brainstorming, planning, illustrating and creating our one-pagers. The day came to collect these brilliant projects, and I was feeling pretty great about it all. That night, I sat down to grade their hard-work, and within 15 minutes I was wanting to invent a time machine that could launch me back two weeks.
These students had done STUNNING jobs on the illustrations, but their explanations were basic and quite frankly, did not showcase the intelligence they are capable of. They had put all of their energy and effort into being creative (as I had stressed) and writing neatly (as I had stressed), which had left little time for actual analysis and explanations of their work!
Do This Instead
Walk through each element of the one-pager together. Explain the rubric in chunks, and place the most emphasis on the analysis and explanation of their ideas. While the creative side is important, and many students will revel in this new-found freedom in English class, the artistic side truly isn’t the goal of this assignment. Showing effort, putting in the time, and making sure that connections are made in each is essential. Perfection of drawing is not.
Mistake #2: Not Providing Enough Structure For All Students
When I first assigned this project, I had spent hours scouring websites to figure out the best way to assign this, created my One-Pager Final Project assignment, and had spoken with other English teachers about the project to the point where I knew everything there was to know about it.
When giving it to my students, I provided the requirements of the assignment, the rubric, and gave students a large piece of paper to finish their project on. I set them free after giving instructions.
To their credit, these students worked diligently and figured out each section on their own. However, many students were overwhelmed by the options, and tried doing “a little here and a little there”. This was not the best approach for some, who forgot to go back to certain parts to finish them and had to rush before the due date.
Do This Instead
Explain the project in chunks, over the course of a few days. Have them focus on ONE element a day, and really dig in deep. Middle school students get so overwhelmed when they have multiple requirements for a project, that they tend to panic instead of breaking it into manageable bits.
If you choose to use my One-Pager Final Project assignment, I give out page one the first day, and spend class viewing other outstanding one-pager assignments. I focus on sharing thorough explanations, thoughtfully placed images, and how color can play a part in presentation.
On the second day, I give students their Brainstorm sheets, and ask them all to focus on finding the quotes. Give students one solid example of a significant quote from the novel, then set them free to locate their own. I find that students try to ask me, “Will this quote work?” and I just ask, “Well, why is it significant to the novel?” They sometimes give a basic answer, so I prompt them again, “Okay, is that the MOST significant quote you can find?” Often, if you do this with a few students, the others will hear and start to truly dig. Just, be prepared to ward off a few students who want to get off easy.
The next day I have students brainstorm their Essential Questions. These are huge, and the main reason that they have read the novel – to connect to the bigger picture of life! I give the example of, “What makes a hero?” as an Essential Question. It’s not a yes or no answer, nor can it be explicitly found in the text itself. The students have fun with this one, but know that your lower-level students will struggle with this. Identify those students and spend class time prompting them with questions such as, “What does this novel make you wonder about?” or “When you were reading this novel, how did you connect it to your own life?”.
The following day, I have students choose their character that they will be finding character traits for. Have students write down the name of their character on their Brainstorm sheet. You can have them independently find their own character traits and quotes if they are an advanced group.If they struggle with this skill, break the students into groups according to the character they chose. Have them work together to identify character traits that relate to Head, Heart, Hands, and Feet. Then, they can return to their seats and locate evidence for the traits they all found.
The final day students come in and I ask them to locate their poem that relates to the novel. There are wonderful poetry websites out there, so have them Google search for poetry that matches a theme of the novel. One great website that I suggest is Poetry Foundation, as it is professional and has a wide variety of poems.
Once the brainstorming process has been done, I then ask students to take out a single sheet of paper. They are to sketch an outline of their one-pager, by indicating sections of the page that will be filled with the different elements. This step is CRUCIAL to students creating a beautiful one-pager. Trust me.
Final step – give students their large sheet of paper and emphasize that everything must be done NEATLY!
Mistake #3: I Did Not Review the Rubric
I know, some of you veteran teacher are cringing right now. I created a rubric that was really, quite wonderful for grading. However, I assumed that students would just understand what was exceptional work from my explanation of the requirements. Doh.
I have already explained that my students turned in beautiful illustrations with very little analysis so…I’m sure you understand how NOT reviewing the rubric went. *Sigh*
Do This Instead
Review the rubric! I know that this can be boring to most students, but honestly, they need the reminder! If I had spent even 10-15 minutes reviewing what receives an “Above Grade-Level” and what would constitute a “Needs Improvement”, I’m absolutely certain that my students would have produced better work.
Worried they’re going to be too bored? I download the rubric page as a PDF and crop out out section of the rubric. Then, on the day we work on Essential Questions, I review only that section of the rubric first! It’s bite-sized, their eyes don’t glaze over, and they understand what they need to focus on!
I hope this helps other educators who have been considering doing this assignment! For those of you who do one-pager assignments, what elements do you require? Share your favorite one-pager student work with us!