The final semester for seniors (and for teachers, too) is always a challenging one to keep everyone motivated and on task. When I think of some of the activities I have created in order to keep the kids focused on their learning and not on holding down a beach chair, I wonder how effective and meaningful these projects were. This year I decided to start the semester off a little differently and a little more challenging. Rather than focusing on a question that dealt specifically with a thematic topic connecting all the pieces of literature, I challenged my students to answer the question “What’s the Point?” Under that mind blowing question, student needed to consider why we are reading the assigned texts, what relevance do they have towards their own lives, and what messages are the authors trying to send to us all? What’s the point of their final semester of the senior year of high school?
At the beginning of the semester, Lauren Lee (formerly Gaffney), told me of an assignment she was thinking of asking her students to complete. The task was to have our students write his/her own last lectures mimicked after Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. During Pausch’s speech he reminisces about important and seemingly unimportant aspects of his life growing up and how each of these elements influenced the person he became. He ends the entire motivational speech with humor, tears, and lessons we should all take away. He didn’t write this last lecture for us, but for his kids.
Lauren and I talked about how their speech should be structured and what elements we wanted to have it contain. At first we thought the speech should be around ten minutes, but realizing how much time that would take to complete each students’ speech, we decided to narrow down the time. We decided on three parts to their speech: reflections on the past, lasting legacy to Arapahoe High School, and looking forward (what do you want in the next year, five years, ten years). Having the central question “What’s the Point?” helped focus the students on what they wanted their speech to say to the audience.
The first two segments of their speech were to be turned in at the end of each six week grading period. I commented on the written papers, and then the students met with me or my student teacher individually for one on one conferences. On a side note, one to one conferences are far more meaningful than any written feedback. After the second part of their speech was written, we discussed during their writing conference how they would bring together all three parts of their speech. What was going to be their focus or central theme? What is the lasting message they wanted the audience to have from them? We brainstormed during this session mapping out some possibilities of bringing all the parts of their written speech together into one cohesive, inspirational 5-7 minute speech- knock your socks off quality. Also, I wrote my own last lecture delivering the segments to my students for their review and feedback. Here are the first and second segments. This was really challenging to put my thoughts, ideas and writing out there for my students to not only to read, but to comment upon as well. As Karl reminds me, it is important that whatever we ask our students to do, that we are willing to do the same assignment ourselves.
Before finals, students are not only going to be giving their last lecture to our class, but we are going to tape and U Stream out their speeches for their families, friends, and the world of course, to see what these wonderful talented and charismatic kids have to say. I am anxiously waiting to see how it all comes together. The students agreed to this rubric to assess their speech. Hopefully, as they have done before, the kids will rise to the challenge realizing what an incredible opportunity this is to leave a lasting impression on their peers, teachers, and world to let everyone know what is important, meaningful, and relevant to each and everyone of these kids.
If you are interested in watching the last lectures, keep an eye on The Fischbowl for times and the Ustream link. Also, there will be blog posts on our class blog to comment on each individual speech. We are asking commenters to leave feedback about the presentation and to be every careful about how they comment regarding topics the presenter discusses.
The following students have signed up for presentation dates and times: (all presentations will occur during fourth hour which meets from 10:35- 11:34 am MST).
May 15: (Juniors only)