Lesson: "If I Could Meet" Essay/Poster

Author: Marc Sheehan

Subjects: Writing, Visual Arts, Presentation skills

Instructional Level: Sixth-Seventh Grade

Skills: Descriptive Writing, Art

Time: Two weeks -- 1 day for introduction, 2-3 days for drafting, 1 day for peer editing, 1 day for poster production, 1 for voluntary presentations

Materials: Journals, writing implements, poster board, printer paper, access to computers, access to printer, markers, crayons, colored pencils, glue, tape, scissors, rulers/straight edges

Objectives: The student will be able to describe a meeting with a person of their choice in grade-level paragraphs. The student will be able to compose a written piece using grade-level grammar/spelling conventions and style expectations. The student will be able to produce a visual display piece featuring their writing piece and their subject.

Introduction: This was a project I worked on with the Sixth and Seventh Grade classes at St. Philomena Catholic School (Des Moines, WA) during a long-term substitute assignment in 2016. I gave my students a preview of the lesson by having them compose a journal entry on someone they would like to meet if they had the opportunity. When the actual lesson was introduced, the students were given the following guidelines:
They would choose one person or a group of people they would like to spend a day with if given the chance. The person/s could be living or deceased.
The student had to say why they wanted to meet that person/s and say what their subject does or did that is impressive or important to the student.
The meeting had to be a positive, platonic encounter
The student would describe what they and their subject/s would do in a day together, what they might talk about, and how the meeting would affect them.
The students had to write at least two grade-level paragraphs, or no more than a page, about meeting their subject. (This could be increased to three or more, depending on what you want to do)
The 7th Grade students needed to produce a poster that would include their writing piece as the central focus of their work. The 6th Graders were not required to do this, but many attached an image of their subject to their piece. (I would suggest having your class create a poster or some sort of display -- the vast majority will like it)

Procedure: The students were given time in class to either build upon their earlier journal entries about who they wished to meet, or to make a new selection and begin their rough drafts. They had to adhere to the requirements listed above. In the first paragraph, they had to identify someone, living or deceased, they would like to meet. They needed describe why they wanted to meet them and say what their subject did or had done that was important or impressive in their eyes. The second paragraph (and third, if needed) told about what the student and their person/s of choice would do in a day together. They would write about where they would go, what they would talk about, how the day would end, and what feelings they would experience during the visit. The Sixth Graders did this asisgnment first, so we worked on a type of "scaffold" of what an example piece would look like, including introductory sentences, transitions, and a conclusion. When the Seventh Graders started their projects, I used some of the Sixth Grade essays to show them examples of what the pieces could look like. The students were given class periods to compose their rough drafts and to allow their peers to edit their work. Students also submitted drafts to me so I could offer advice and make sure they were on task. As the due date neared, time was also alloted for poster completion. The students were instructed to use time outside of class to finish the project. The timeline from introduction to completion stretched over two weeks.

Closure/Modifications: Volunteers were given the opportunity to share their final products in class. Each student had their piece displayed in the classroom or in the hallway. Modifications for this assignment could include altering the length requirements, allowing for teacher or peer editing throughout the entire process, allowing the use of a dictation program or scribe, and dividing the assignment into manageable parts.

Assessment: The essays were graded for adherence to the lesson requirements (length and content) and to grade-level writing conventions of grammar, spelling and style. I did not grade the students on their posters or presentations, but those could certainly be assessed for neatness, legibility and appropriateness for a school setting for the poster, and poise and voice for the oral portion of the presentation. A rubric might be useful as part of this assessment process.

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