One technique that we were all impressed with was the Critique Workshop developed by Ron Berger as a means of inspiring students to do excellent work. On his website, Berger says the following about developing a culture of excellence in your classroom;
"The student work in my giant black suitcase is exemplary -- beautiful and accurate, representative of strong content knowledge and critical thinking skills -- but it's not from "exceptional" students. It does not come from gifted and talented classrooms or from high-powered private schools. It's the work of regular students in typical schools around the country. The difference is that these students' teachers have helped them develop the skills and mindsets necessary to produce work of exceptional quality, and have built classroom and school cultures in which exceptional work is the norm."
Click here to watch a video of Berger implementing the critique workshop in a First Grade class.
Last week, I was able to be in Drew Watson's class as he introduced his students to this process. The students were to design a prototype of a puzzle piece that illustrated who they were. Drew defined the word and then led the class in the development of a rubric for their final product. Drew patiently outlined what his puzzle piece contained, which not only set the standard for student work, but gave his new 3rd Graders a brief glimpse of his own history.
Students were given a prototype sheet with 4 blank puzzle pieces on which to develop their ideas. They dove into their work quietly and with intent - actions which were a direct result of the importance that Drew had placed on the quality of the work that they would be doing.