Saturday, November 5, 2016

Middle School Students Write Letters to the Next President - a Collaborative Lesson



A few months ago I found a website where students could post a letter expressing their opinions about how the next president should deal with issues plaguing American society. I shared the link with our English and Social Studies departments. I regularly send out links and websites of interest to my teachers, and sometimes I get a response sometimes not. In this case one of our middle school teachers of English language arts new to our school said that she wanted me to work with her on a lesson around the Letters to the President 2.0. We batted around some ideas back and forth through email--face to face collaboration is nice but not always possible. She talked with her classes about the issues and the election on many occasions as preparation and asked her students to watch the debates and comment on them for extra credit.



Planning and executing the lesson:
We finally decided that students would weigh in on three different issues that we would select for them including immigration, student college debt, and racial inequality. I would put together resources that the students would read to find concrete details to use in their letters. In the meantime, I had to book a formal observation for my principal and decided to use this lesson for that. I needed to make this perfect. I wanted to start with a video. Sometimes I have spent way too many hours trying to find just the right video, but I found something that I loved in less than ten minutes. CNN had done a number of pieces with teens and the issues of the election. I thought the #tooyoungtovote video would be highly engaging for our students. Then I selected some magazine articles and newspaper articles that I found on the Gale databases as well as a couple of websites for each topic. During the presentation of the lesson, I asked many questions allowing students to use higher order thinking in their replies. Each student was required to add a comment in the padlet that I created for the lesson. That was my assessment piece that I needed. While the students were reading, taking notes, and writing, I asked if any of them wanted me to film them speaking out on #tooyoungtovote like the teens in the CNN video. Not many choose to do it, but the result was wonderful. 

Below is the presentation that I used for the lesson:
(includes link to CNN video, resources for the students to use for each of the three topics, links to the Padlets where the students posted their thoughts, and a rubric for the letter.)


Below is the video that I created using Animoto.com for the students speaking out on the issues: #tooyoungtovote

When my principal walked out after the lesson, I asked her what she thought. She said it was one of the best lessons that she has seen me do. She loved the whole thing but really liked the idea of capturing the students opinions on video. 

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