Students have been working on a speech/talk as the final assignment in this class. These are the directions for the final speech/talk. Today students will be preparing to share their working ideas with a peer, which is the third step of this process.
By the beginning of the period today, students have an outline of their speech/talk. This is always a slow process because the outline basically asks for students to organize their ideas and many are still developing their ideas. An outline is only helpful if it does contain organized ideas and if those ideas are strong. This is especially difficult for my students because developing ideas is a skill they are still working on. The direction for the outline was to have three central points. They have some points written on their outlines but of varied quality.
I open class by telling them that I am giving them time to work on making these three points and their outline stronger. Improving their outline is meant to increase the chances of a more successful final draft. Strengthening writing at varied points in the writing process is an important Common Core expectation. For this, I need to give them some guidelines, which I write on the board for them. It is a list of things we have discussed at different points this year:
*use precise, powerful language
With the given guidelines, I give students time to revisit their outlines and edit their 3 central points. I walk around and look over their shoulders as they work. However, I mostly let them work on their own. This is because I have provided a lot of one-on-one support throughout the year and now I want to give them time to struggle with it. It is an attempt at gradual release.
I instruct students to start drafting as soon as they are happy with their 3 points. I continue to look over their shoulder and scan their progress. I interrupt them repeatedly to address common issues. One issue I see is that several students are finding out they are not as interested in the topic they selected as they originally thought. I restate what I told them when I gave them the instructions for this final assignment. I say the following, “I am giving you the freedom to write about whatever you want. Don’t go after 'school' topics. For instance, one student is considering a speech on school lunches. Boring!” They know I am joking and I explain that based on the weak points this student is making, I can tell that he is not particularly interested in presenting a speech on this topic. I also state that nutrition in schools is a topic that has been written about extensively so unless this student has a personal experience with it, he will struggle to provide the fresh, mature perspective necessary for a powerful speech/talk. I also share a couple of topics that seem to be working well because they were well chosen. One student is writing about animal abuse and I ask that student to share why she chose this topic. She states that she loves animals and that she has owned several throughout her life and that she would have 20 animals in her house if she could. Another student is writing about sports. We all know he is in the school football team so it is clear why he would want to write about sports.
I let them know they will be sharing their ideas with a peer tomorrow in a peer evaluation session.
One more important aspect to consider is a counterclaim. I tell students that they have to consider their audience by thinking of what they may agree/disagree with and why so that they can address it in their speech. I remind them that when they do this, they are addressing counterclaims, an important part of the Common Core writing standards. I know they need a more detailed reminder of how to address counterclaims in writing and this is on the lesson plan for tomorrow. Today I let them know we will be discussing this point further tomorrow, but to keep it in mind today. I do let them know that tomorrow they may be reading some pretty strong statements that they will likely disagree with. I say this because I have been reading over their shoulders and I have identified some statements in their drafts that I hope will be challenged in tomorrow's peer editing session. I tell them that as they continue working on their draft, they need to make an effort to think of possible counterarguments because tomorrow I will be asking their peers to explicitly challenge the claims they are establishing and developing today.
To present their speech/talk, I have asked students to make sure they memorize it in its entirety and to deliver it from memory. Presenting an argument is an important Common Core listening and speaking standard. It is also one my students really want to avoid. They openly express they do not see the point of memorizing their speech. I ask them to think of all the times they have presented in class or have seen their classmates present in class. I paint a common picture of a super quiet student hiding behind the paper he/she is holding and reading in a low voice none can hear. I ask them to compare this picture to the TED talks we saw earlier in this unit where the speakers delivered their talk from memory and fully captured their attention. I affirm that it is important to develop strong speaking skills and that allowing them to read off a paper without looking at the audience is not my idea of an opportunity to develop this skill. Still, students express much concern over exactly how they can memorize their entire speech. In previous lessons, I have addressed this by stating that I have done this with other students in the past and that they were also initially concerned, but managed to memorize and deliver their work. This upsets them because they prefer to hear that I have decided to let them read off their paper. To lighten the mood, I remind them that those students were not much different than them and that nobody got brain damage from this process. I assure them their brain is perfectly capable of memorizing a 2-3 minute piece. To illustrate, I project this essay, titled stereotyping, which we worked with last semester and tell them that we are going to memorize as much as we can in the next couple of minutes. I read the first two sentences aloud and ask students to repeat them in their mind and try to memorize them. I then cover the paper and ask them to recite as much as they can when I count to three. This is what this looks like. Some are able to memorize the first 2-3 sentences in just a couple of minutes. I hope this illustrates that it is possible to do what I am asking them.