What was life like in the Middle Ages?
In this REAL Project, students were asked to work together to research, design and write an historical information book aimed at young people aged 10-13 which was published and sold on blurb.com. Students had to take responsibility for all aspects involved in producing the book including the design, finding historically accurate information and editing their book so it was suitable for publishing.
Each individual student had to write and illustrate a double page spread on a topic of their choice around the medieval period. In order to ensure the book was formatted in a house style, students analysed existing examples of non-fiction history books, conducted market research and then co-developed a criteria that specified non-negotiable features of each page.
The pages went through multiple drafts, with students and teachers critiquing the work until it reached a professional standard.
“Well, she [teacher] didn’t really do anything it was mainly us. We decided on the aspects of the book and we had to do it ourselves. We also peer assessed lots of our drafts.”
“With all the peer critique you were thinking about how to help your classmates. If Miss Alden did too much to change [our drafts] it wouldn’t have come out quite the same because there is a difference between a child’s point of view and an adult’s point of view.”
“My favourite part was getting from our first page to getting to our final page and seeing the difference. This was the most exciting part – seeing what we could actually do.”
“You feel proud of what you’ve achieved.”
“It makes me want to make my work better knowing someone else is going to see it. You might do this drawing that you think is very good and if the whole world sees it and you will probably think it is not good enough as proper artists might see it. It makes me want to work harder.”
“Once we did our first draft it was quite difficult but the difference between our first draft and our final draft was magnificent.”
This project was excellent at ensuring that all students understood their work and involvement mattered; they all felt part of a team and had an equal responsibility for ensuring that the book was completed to a publishable standard. Every student showed immense pride at what they had created and this was largely down to ensuring each page went through multiple drafts so every student produced beautiful work. The real audience of the book also meant that students understood the importance of the work throughout the project which was very motivational.
At the final exhibition, which was a book launch held at the school, parents expressed amazement at the quality of work produced, while students also had the opportunity to talk about their work in front of an audience. Not only did this enable them to feel pride in what they had achieved, but they also were able to improve their oracy and presentation skills, providing them with a strong foundation in skills that will serve them well as they move through the school.