According to our school’s Grade 7 Literature curriculum map, students are expected to read The Giver, by Lois Lowry, as we begin the third quarter. This task, however, proves to be a challenging one for students and teachers alike at TCIS. In a community where 100% of the population speaks English as an additional language, lexile scores are more often than not below grade level, which explains the challenge. A WebQuest can become an interesting way to wrap up the unit, by providing, alongside with various frontloading and comprehension strategies, yet one more differentiated assessment type.
That is the main reason why the WebQuest named The Giver: Create a Perfect Community, by Ms. Shana Cole, was selected for an evaluation. The project, as stated in the very first page, was designed for upper Middle School, grades 6-8. In this same page, it is possible to read the following description:
In the book, the main character Jonas lives in a perfect world. Imagine that you woke up one morning and your entire world has changed. You live in a perfect world. There is no war, fear, or pain. There is no poverty and every person in your community has a purpose. Throughout this WebQuest you will create this “perfect society”.
Lack of Educational Goals and Standards
Its intended educational goals or standards addressed are not listed, but an essential question was included under the following section, denominated “Introduction”:
If you lived in a community similar to the main character of the book what would it be like? What would the rules be? How would it function?
The task is both a design and a creative product one, which suggests that students create their own perfect society, also demonstrated by the essential question. There are authentic constraints laid out throughout the process to increase its tangibility. Unfortunately, though, the desired product fails in its authenticity for it requires the creation of a product that is not genuinely palpable in a student’s world.
Strategies used by the WebQuest creator are mainly inductive. Students are offered a number of websites to research from, and they will later be asked to answer questions that will, on their own, deductively set a layout of their dreamed society. There are not enough scaffolding techniques to assist in the construction of these answers. Although graphic organizers are provided to assist with the historical and practical accuracy of their society — in terms of economy and government, for instance –, there are no samples provided, which, in the case of our EAL population, would make the assignment almost impossible to be accomplished under high expectations.
Regarding technology, a beginner’s knowledge is required. Basically, students are asked to research using preset webpages — though not restrained by them — and to create a PowerPoint presentation. Before starting their presentation, they will use a Word document to type in their answers and a short paragraph about utopian societies. One of the steps requires them to make a map on construction paper. The material lists working links, though no images. Its layout is quite text-heavy and bland. The author does credit someone else’s work, which she used to base her project on.
Suggestions for Improvement
In my experience with EAL students, I’d say this WebQuest is rather challenging. It lacks visuals and scaffolding techniques which could potentially increase students’ grasp of the content displayed. Personally, I would include a sample of each required activity so that students could also visualize and understand my expectations. I would suggest the use of other tools to make its technology presence more meaningful. One tool that would certainly be a hit among students is the game Minecraft. There, they would build their own worlds in a meaningful way. This video shows how it works in schools, and this article tells the example of a Swedish school that now has a mandatory Minecraft class, proving that the game is gaining force across the curriculum.