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Great Thinkers

Great Thinkers

Unit Summary

This unit exposes students to great minds who have made a significant impact on the world. Students take on the role of a Great Thinker and through research they answer Content Questions, such as, How did these “Great Thinkers” change the world? What obstacles did they overcome to change the world? and Who did their work impact? After synthesizing their research information, students create “I AM” poems as well as diary entries from the perspective of their Great Thinker. As a culminating activity, students become their Great Thinker, presenting the life and accomplishments of a Great Thinker to the class. In a final reflection, students answer the Essential and Unit Questions, What does it take to change our world? and Which people have positively impacted our world?

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Questions
    Which people have positively impacted our world?
  • Content Questions
    How did these “Great Thinkers” change the world?
    Who did their work impact?
    What obstacles did they overcome to change the world?

Assessment Plan

Assessment Timeline
This timeline shows in chronological order the different types of formal and informal assessments that occur during the unit. The table below explains how each assessment is used and who uses it for what purpose.

Assessment Timeline

Before project
work begins
Students work on projects
and complete tasks
After project work
is complete

  • K-W-L Chart
  • List
  • K-W-L
  • Chart
  • Research Quiz
  • Journal
  • Questioning
  • K-W-L Chart
  • Anecdotal Notes
  • Peer Feedback
  • Diary Scoring Guide
  • Oral Content Scoring Guide
  • Oral Presentation
  • K-W-L Chart
  • Questioning
  • Oral Content Scoring Guide
  • Oral Presentation Scoring Guide
  • Reflection

 

Assessment Process and Purpose of Assessment
K-W-L Chart Students develop classroom and individual Know-Wonder-Learn Charts about Great Thinkers. Students use these to access prior understanding, brainstorm ideas, think about questions to research, and reflect on their learning. The teacher uses the K-W-L initially to gauge readiness and interest in the topic and then during the unit to promote metacognitive skills as students revisit the charts and reflect on their learning.
List
Students generate a list of famous people and choose five that they think have made a positive impact on the world. This helps students tap prior knowledge and start to organize their thinking. The teacher uses the information to assess what types of people students think have made positive impacts on the world. This can then lead to a discussion highlighting the important characteristics in Great Thinkers
Journal Students use journals to write down research notes and to answer reflective questions. The teacher reviews journals during conferences to provide feedback, clarify misunderstandings, and provide additional lessons if necessary. The teacher reviews journals at the end of the unit to assess analysis and synthesis skills.
Questioning
Teachers use questioning strategies to monitor student progress, probe for understanding, and engage students in higher-order thinking. Teachers question students when circulating during group and individual work time as well as during conferences. Teachers also return to Curriculum-Framing Questions throughout the project to analyze student understanding.
Research Quiz
Students are given a short answer research quiz to check on their progress. This quiz provides the teacher with a snapshot of the research up to this point. Most importantly, this quiz serves as a guide to students about what they still need to find regarding the life and work of their Great Thinker.
Anecdotal Notes In this informal assessment, notes from observations and interactions with individuals and groups and from the conferences provide documentation for final assessment.
Poem Scoring Guide
Students use the poem scoring guide to monitor the quality of their work and to provide peer feedback during the writing, editing, and revising of the “I AM” poems. The teacher uses it to assess the final poems.
Peer Feedback Students use the poem scoring guide to give feedback to their peers about their poems. They do not score each other, but rather highlight the descriptions in the scoring guide that correspond to the poem, citing evidence from the poem. The focus on peer feedback is on improvement, not judgment.
Diary Scoring Guide
Students use the diary scoring guide to monitor the quality of their work during diary writing. Teachers use the scoring guide to assess final entries.
Oral Presentation Content Scoring Guide
Students write and deliver a speech as their Great Thinker, using the Speech Content Scoring Guide  to help prepare for the content of the speech as well as to clarify questions during the practice sessions. This is the first of two scoring guides for the students’ speeches. The content scoring guide assesses the substance of the speech, while the oral presentation scoring guide assesses the enactment of the speech. The teacher uses this scoring guide to assess the content of the oral presentation.
Oral Presentation Scoring Guide
Students write and deliver a speech as their Great Thinker, using the Oral Presentation Scoring Guide to help prepare for the presentation or production portion of the speech as well as to clarify questions during the practice sessions. The teacher uses it to assess the oral presentation.
Reflection Students reflect upon what they have learned in the unit, returning to the Essential and Unit Questions, “What does it take to change our world?”, and “Which people have positively impacted our world?” Students cite evidence from their research and their peers’ presentations. The teacher uses these reflections to assess students’ growth throughout the unit.

Credits

Joel Lang participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for an assessment plan. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

Great Thinkers

At a Glance

Grade Level: 6-8

Subject(s): Social Studies, Language Arts

Topics: Reading, Writing, and Communication

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Analysis, Synthesis

Key Learnings: Researching, Expository Writing, Public Speaking

Time Needed: 5 weeks daily, 50-75 minutes each day