83: Learning Fairs





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Learning Fairs:
  • Students present work to community in poster session like environment (think science fair)
  • Uses:
    • Students study topics in depth
    • Students present to wide audience
    • Student learn field research techniques
    • Opportunity to integrate subjects – ELA, Science, Math, etc
  • Play by play:
    • Topic Search
      • Identity primary sources
        • Students brainstorm people they can interview
        • Students brainstorm scientific questions they can investigate
      • Communicate expectations – product formats & criteria
    • Identify the audience
      • Recruit varied panel consisting of teachers of different courses, students, family members, other community members
    • Gathering information
      • Provide thinking sheets to guide research
        • Help students design interviews
        • Help students design investigations
      • Provide in-class research time so that parents don’t help too much
      • Expose students to models and discuss common features and identify strategies
      • Allow time for multiple investigations or interviews – can learn from first iteration and apply lessons to later iterations
    • Drafting, revising, & editing:
    • Sharing the writing:
      • Create speeches and visual aides based on papers
      • Allow rehearsal time prior to Learning Fair
    • Possible Grading Criteria:
      • Engaging beginning
      • Clear controlling theme
      • Thorough, clear supporting evidence
      • Good organization of anecdotes and arguments
      • Free of grammar and spelling errors
      • Creative, school appropriate
    • Troubleshooting
      • Students make early errors that affect end products
        • Give feedback throughout the duration of project – don’t wait till the end
    • Grading tips:
      • Recruit external panel – alumni, teachers from other courses, community members, experts
      • Design easy-to-use assessment tools for panels – rubrics or checklists or criteria with room to assign Likert scale scores


Learning fairs provide opportunities for the school and local communities to gather and celebrate student work.  Grade level teams can coordinate to create complementary learning fair products.  Real broad audiences can inspire students to product their best work.  To prevent student learning fairs from become parent fairs, provide a lot of in class feedback and work time.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide if you want to coordinate with grade-level teachers (or cross grade-level teams) and meet regularly to plan logistics (common themes, fair dates, variety of complimentary products, etc)
  • Recruit panelists
  • Set a learning fair date, secure space and publicize fair date, location, and theme to the community
  • Decide on target content and target genres and prepare scaffolding and assessment – see above for ideas
  • Design a project calendar that includes:
    • ample time for writing phases above
    • ample time for in class work time and feedback from various sources and revision time
    • rehearsal time
    • milestone deadlines for different stages of products
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project plan – see activities planned in preparation phase.
  • Use formative feedback to fine tune scaffolding and assessment as needed.
  • Use formative feedback to teach students how to revise work during in class work time
  • Facilitate lessons during all writing stages
  • Facilitate time for rehearsals and final round of feedback
  • Organize panel and panel resources (evaluation materials, assignments to teams, etc)
  • Facilitate Learning Fair and Enjoy (takes lots of pictures)
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Could tie Learning Fair to real contests – if so, be sure to scaffold and assess content criteria
  • Make Learning Fairs a regular event (2x per year per grade level?) at school in order to build community moral and relationships



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