Performance Task For Storytelling – Collecting Stories

May 9, 2007 at 9:40 am | Posted in best practices, elementary, investigation, Open Court, performance task, strategies, writing | 5 Comments

I would like your help, opinions, and critique of this performance task that I designed. This is my first time creating something of this magnitude and with such careful planning. I want to know if this is a task that is worth doing.

As an Open Court teacher, I have always struggled with the Investigation part of every unit. I have never understood it. Oh, I understand it, and I understand the rationale. I just never understood how to implement it cohesively in the classroom. The investigation always fall apart about three weeks into the unit.

This performance task is something that I can get my mind around. I understand, truly understand this task because I designed it with my students and standards in mind. The performance task will require a lot of learning and higher level thinking from my students. It will require that my students take an active hand in their learning. It is also highly motivating as it is a series of real-world task.

Can it be a substitute for the Investigation portion of the Open Court unit? More to the point, can it BE the Investigation portion of the unit?

My students will be investigating what is needed to make a good story and oral history in their community. They will be asking questions and revising questions, coming up with conjectures and revising their conjectures as they interview members of their community. Finally, they will be producing a quality product that will show their learning.

Open Court teachers, what are your opinions?

Visit for the performance task design pdf that I wrote up for this storytelling task.

Collecting Stories Student Task Prompt

You are an author collecting family and community stories for an oral history anthology. You must interview family members to collect stories and decide which stories are most important to share in order to write a chapter for the anthology and then present the anthology to other classes to convince them to purchase the book to add to their libraries.



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  1. Hey CT, I don’t understand what Open Court is but the assessment task makes complete sense to me and seems a very valuable sequence of learning. I understand the struggle with investigative approaches all too well and totally appreciate how frustrating they can be when dealing with a diverse range of students (my school is not unlike yours – just the kids are older). I have read your performance task design sheet and like it, but may I suggest that at each investigation stage there is a tangible element – a way of recording or, even better, enabling the learning. For example, very basic chart with “family member” and “story about…” as two headings or perhaps a “ratings” column as well. I’m sorry this may be a bit vague but I think that having something tangible to work on during an investigation (but not something that is onerous) can be one way of keeping students focussed and providing structure to quite an ‘open’ task.

  2. I see what you mean Andrew. A way to document at every step. I’ll go back and think on that, because I agree with you, there should be documentation, or how else would I know how the task is going? On a happy note, I ran the task by my Open Court (the mandated language arts program) coach and she approved the performance task as an investigation. Yeah!

  3. Like andrew, I don’t understand what open court means or what the requirements for that is. What you have done, we call a RAFT exercise. I love the typ of exercise, however, do you have some sort of grading rubric for the final product. Kids like to know exactly what you are looking for even though you are giving them a lot of liberty with the task. I teach Social studies, so I don’t know how this applies to creative assignments in English classes. Good luck. I might modify the idea to talk about oral histories at the beginning of the year next year–thanks for the idea

  4. I’m planning on developing rubrics and criteria with the students. I want the students to be the one to determine what makes a good story and so forth. I definitely have an idea of what I want the rubric to look like of course 🙂 I don’t know if this will be a successful exercise (having the students develop rubric) as I’ve never done it before. Usually, I make all the executive decisions. We shall see!

  5. Whoops! Let me explain Open Court in a nutshell. Open Court is a language arts/reading program published by SRA. The link is . (or click on the link above, just added). It is controversial in many districts because, though based on sound research, it was originally implemented in a rigid manner by the district. Teachers complained that they had to read scripts that had no relevance to their classroom. In fact, the publisher deny that the program was meant to be a script.

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