I decided to let students make the decision whether they wanted to work alone or with a partner chosen at random. Most students wanted to work alone (we do so much collaboratively, I was perfectly happy letting them choose to work independently on this summative assessment). Even when we work alone on projects, students still collaborate informally, but they happily take more ownership of their project and are more invested in the final product.
My students started their planning process with a printout of the above creately.com graphic organizer. I used an 11x17 paper copy, because I felt it would make the brainstorming process smoother (trying to figure out the technology might have taken away from my students' creativity). It seemed easy for them to brainstorm possible energy transfers for their projects. Tomorrow, students will take their graphic organizers and draw out the actual Rube Goldberg project. A window might allow sunlight to come in after sunrise, which melts some ice, which drips onto a pan balance, which shifts the weight of the pan balance, which pushes a switch, which...
As they draw what that looks like, they will number each step of the process and label it based on the type of energy used at each stage. My focus will be on whether or not students have a solid understanding of each of the types of energy. I know that during some formative assessment classroom discussions, some students were still thinking that batteries were electrical energy (they are actually chemical energy), so I will pay particular attention to that in this summative assessment.
Even though I chose to print out the graphic organizer for this lesson, I still plan to have them work with it online as well. The reason I want to do that is because I want students to have a chance to work with the website while completing a low-stress activity. Since their first-drafts have already been completed, I will really just be asking the kids to copy their information over! There won't be a lot gained from that activity in the present, but as we use it more and more often in the future, I will see the benefits of getting all of our confusions out early on. (One of the major perks of creately.com is the ability to have multiple children working on the same graphic organizer at the same time, so we will be trying that out tomorrow.) Next time they need to actually brainstorm on the electronic graphic organizer, it will be easier for them to navigate and will therefore allow them to focus most of their attention on the creativity of the design instead of the logistics of the website.
Click here to download a PDF of our organizer to look at.
Below is the actual organizer I created: