Education Opinion

Workshop of the Gods

By Emmet Rosenfeld — December 22, 2007 3 min read
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Oops, I did it again. This time, instead of Huns learning to meditate, my class room was chockablock with toga-clad gods workshopping a science paper.

Looking for some pre-winter break levity that didn’t involve sugar and opportunistically weaving together the two main strands of our curriculum right now—reading the Odyssey and developing original experiments on water quality-- I asked students to come to class dressed as a favorite figure from classical mythology on the day we were workshopping a section of our wiki-built science papers.

You’ll recall that I am currently reporting on two online group writing assignments as they unfold in my classes. This one involves sixty five freshmen divided into 17 groups to conduct year long experiments that are the centerpiece of “IBET”, our high tech high’s signature 9th grade program integrating biology, English and technology. Together, teachers in 3 subjects guide kids through all phases of scientific research from designing an experiment to collecting and analyzing data, and ultimately, presenting it to the world.

We’re now at the point, after a quarter’s worth of learning about databases and dissolved oxygen tests, where kids are ready to begin their own experiments on local creeks. We teachers recently met as a panel to approve their proposals. Now every group has an idea and is writing up a survey of scientific articles about its topic to create the “literature reviews” that will establish their credibility as experts.

The wikis have proved to be excellent tools to facilitate group work, particularly given the ongoing and complex nature of the project. I maintain a “class wiki” as a template and ask each group to format theirs like mine. Every time we arrive at a new stage of the IBET project, more pages go up on the wiki.

For example, at the conclusion of this workshop I asked each group to set up a page linked to their home page titled “Comments for revision of ‘Findings’ section of literature review.” Each student will post three comments from their workshop group based on categories provided in a revision guide. The group as a whole benefits from the collective feedback of a dozen peer readers.

In the unlikely event that you want to conduct your own Workshop of the Gods, below please find: Revision guide for Findings section of literature review; Preparation for Workshop of the Gods; Procedure for Workshop of the Gods; Categories for “WOG” Bingo.

Revision guide for Findings section of literature review

Clarity of analysis
Appropriateness of sources
Strikes a balance between range and depth
Presented in a logical order with signposting to guide the reader

10 or more sources are cited
In-text citations are effective to identify the source and establish its credibility
Parenthetical citations in the right format and the right spots

Continuity and flow of ideas; connections clearly drawn in transition between sources
Stylistic unity: doesn’t feel choppy, has a uniform voice
MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar and spelling)

Preparation for Workshop of the Gods
1. Research your selected god/goddess/character. Go deeper than Disney!
2. Use 3 or more sources. Take notes in your writers notebook. Information should include key attributes and interesting stories, with particular emphasis on any connection to the Odyssey.
3. Come to class Thursday in costume and prepared to workshop like a god. Costumes can be interpretive, but must have three or more distinct elements which relate to your research.
4. There may be IBET fashion show with various Olympian games and prizes.

Procedure for Workshop of the Gods
1. WOG fashion show: introduce your costume and share opinions about The Odyssey but DON’T reveal your identity.
2. Conduct workshops in groups of 3 (no one from the same experiment group should workshop together).
3. Workshop members can make comments on any aspect, but particular attention should be given to the categories from the revision guide.
4. Each student make notes on this sheet, and for homework post 3 comment to a new wiki page called “Comments for revision of Findings.”
5. WOG Bingo.

Categories for “WOG” Bingo
Student name
Dressed up as
Deeper than Disney “didjaknow”…
Connection to or point of view on the Odyssey…
Costume elements and what they mean
Other god-like behaviors in the workshop

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