Slice of Life: The Ending

“Only one more day of real school,” S said.

I heard it but didn’t process it.

“Real school”  a.k.a., instruction.

He’s right. Tomorrow is my last day of teaching this group of kids. After tomorrow, it’s done.

I knew this. Had planned for it. But still, that’s it?

So today we learn.

Eight students were prepared to read their memoirs to the entire class.

Before presenting, we talked about the qualities of good speaking. The rubric for speaking, PVLEGS, developed by Erik Palmer was easy for fifth graders to grasp. I asked each person to choose one lens to look through while they watched the video. We’d watched this before looking for the structure of a memoir. Today, we were watching for his craft in presenting. Both the message and his presentation are powerful.

The big take away in terms of speaking was his use of gestures. With that tip in mind, the eight students who were sharing went off with groups of students they had selected to coach and critique their work.

Each group was focused on the one brave speaker and their work, looking for the characteristics of good speaking and suggesting ways to revise content.

You’ve said model too many times can you think of another word?

You need to start a little before this happened, like three months ago…

Maybe you could use your hands like this…

After three rounds of practice, students were ready. The speakers sat in their seats while the rest of the class waited on the carpet.  As each speaker came to the front, their group became their cheerleaders. Those who coached and critiqued had ownership in the memoir and the speaker. Students rooted their writer on, providing much-needed confidence for these soon to be six graders.

Each memoir was touching and structured with story and reflection. The most hesitant student presented a memoir about her reluctance as a writer that mirrored her reluctance to work at anything difficult. Another spoke of her realization that she’s a perfectionist; that’s an impossible bar she needs to put aside to grow. Another spoke of illness he’d faced, and the support of his classmates that has helped him recover.

Each piece was clearly them. They spoke to what mattered, and they did it publically.

Listening to this work, I was proud of their writing skills, the meaning of their work, and their bravery in standing up and exposing themselves when it was easier to sit down. Mostly, what I’m proud of is the place they created that allowed students to share their work with support and understanding.

One student ended his memoir with this, “It seems like the end but, I thnk we’re really at the beginning.”

I have to agree. They’re ready to end so they can begin again.

Thanks to Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara Two Writing Teachers blog for Slice of Life  Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

11 thoughts on “Slice of Life: The Ending

  1. What a great slice! I just finished a persuasive speech unit with my third graders so I was really interested in what you wrote about the speaking/presenting rubric and the youtube clip, which I had never seen before. I love how you are truly teaching to the very end. Endings always give way to beginnings but as teachers, we hope that our students carry what they learned with them as they begin again. Surely yours will! Happy end of school (We have several more weeks here on Long Island…)

  2. I think something is missing from this line, “Mostly, what I’m proud of is the place they created that allowed students to share their work with support and understanding.” They have created it because of YOU. Your leadership inspired them and you have created a safe place for them to take risks. 🙂 What a beautiful way to spend the final day of school, Julieanne!! I agree with your student who said, “It seems like the end but, I thnk we’re really at the beginning.” YES they are!!!

  3. Wow. Reading this made me want to be a student in your class. Thanks for sharing a day on your room. What powerful partner work. What powerful sharing that could only occur because days of writing came before. You and your students are powerful models! Thank you.

  4. What a beautifully crafted lesson, Julieanne. I love that each speaker had a ‘team’ behind them, to offer advice & also courage. “Those who coached and critiqued had ownership in the memoir and the speaker.” This sounds like a lovely end to ‘real school’. Have a wonderful day today!

  5. Now that’s the way to end a year! They are learning to the end of fifth grade and ready to face sixth with skills and an “I can do it” attitude.

  6. What lucky kids to have you, Julieanne. I love this process of watching a video and then forming little critique groups. Sounds like all that work paid off in the end. I’d love to hear more about their memoirs, too! Now it’s time to start unwinding and embracing your summer!

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