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Status of the Heart, Mind, and Pen: Formative Assessments for Lengthy Research Projects

By Mary Buckelew

Looking for ways to support and sustain the momentum and commitment needed to complete lengthy research projects in my secondary and college classes, I adapted Nancie Atwell’s “Status of the Class” method, which she describes in her book In the Middle (3rd Edition 2015). Atwell uses Status of the Class as a way to keep track of independent reading and writing. At the start of an independent reading or writing session, Atwell rapidly asks each student to state her or his plan for the session. She records student intentions in her own shorthand so that she can assist students in achieving their goals. She also wants “kids to hear what other students are writing about. Status-of-the-class responses are important sources of inspiration for new topics and genres” (Atwell, 2015, p.46).

I adapted Atwell’s strategy so that everyone in the classroom becomes involved in the Status of the Class. I use Status of the Class three times during the research process. The dialogic nature of Status of the Class that I’ve incorporated reinforces that we are a collaborative, creative, and supportive Think Tank.

I’ve implemented the following three (3) status of the class assessments throughout major research projects: Status of the Heart, Mind, and Pen.

Each “Status of the Class” occurs at different points in the research process, moving students along and giving me an idea of who may need more assistance – all the while reinforcing that we are a community of researchers.

Prior to each “Status of the Class,” we form a circle and I have my clipboard ready ala Atwell to record each student’s status.

General Protocol
I remind students of the protocol for sharing during Status of the Class:
1. Each student has one minute or less to share.
2. Other students may offer suggestions/answer questions in one minute or less.
3. Students may follow-up with each other after the initial “Status of the Class” is finished. Read more