To open class today, I will share through a video a favorite letter of mine. My students know that Abraham Lincoln is my favorite historical figure and that I admire him beyond expression, so it is fitting that we begin our last assignment with his words.
Let me insert here that there is some controversy about whether or not this particular letter was actually written by Abraham Lincoln, but while my love for him is what drew me to this in the first place, the message is what makes it worth sharing.
After viewing the video, I will tell students that there is argument out there about the true author of these words, but that who wrote them isn't as important as the content of the message. I'll ask them to consider that teachers have a huge job. We are expected to teach, as the letter describes, so many things above and beyond the enormous load of content we are trying to help them master. With this in mind we'll move on to today's assignment.
To my student's surprise, I will hand back the letter they wrote to me at the beginning of the school year. Then, I'll ask for silence as they read their letter.
Every year, I get quiet laughs, rolled eyes, and lots of "I'm so embarrassed. I can't believe I wrote this!" They are usually appalled by their letter in terms of handwriting, sentence structure, spelling and the actual answers or lack of that they gave.
After the initial wave of shock ends, I will ask students to take their final assignment from the caddy. This is a final letter from me and outlines what I want them to do. I will read it aloud, clarify any questions and allow students to begin writing with the time remaining.
*Since this is the end of the year and things are a bit crazy, I always so this with a few days to spare. Today, I will be sure to tell students who will not be gone on a field trip, etc. tomorrow that they will have class time to finish tomorrow. I like giving them plenty of time to think about their response, and allowing for ample time to submit for those who have obligations.
To wrap up class today, I'll allow students to ask questions, etc.
To make sure they are remembering the lessons from the year, I'll ask them to reread what they have so far and raise their hand if they see evidence from their first letter that supports what they are saying in the new one. (…gotta get those last opportunities in there.)