What Do You Want to Be Known For? . . . An End of the Year Activity

Towards the last two months of the school year many teachers ask their students to reflect on what they learned, students begin to go through their work deciding what is their best work, what needs to be revised, and what can be recycled. Portfolios are presented and final essays are turned in. Teachers ask students to fill out questionnaires and write reflections across contents and grade levels. What if there was another way to present reflections and go beyond what was learned in the past school year?

Back in 2007 Oprah Winfrey had Dr. Randy Pausch on her show to present a lecture he gave to students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon. Dr. Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and only a few months to live. In keeping with tradition of college professors retiring, he gave his last lecture. This incredibly moving presentation was passed around the internet and later turned into a book.

If you had one last lecture to give, what would it be?

Rather than have students write a one page reflection or complete a questionnaire, what if you asked them to present their last lecture to the class sharing the most important lessons they have learned in their lifetime?

First, I show my students Dr. Pausch’s last lecture (the short version in class and if you are flipping your classroom, give them the longer version to watch at home. Have students take notes on the lecture to help them jot down key ideas and insightful comments they can share with their classmates.

Then, students reflect on the lecture. This can be completed in written or discussion format.  Guiding questions include:

· What words of wisdom will you take from Randy Pausch as you embark on a future path and life?

· Which of his “life lessons” impact you the most right now? Explain your response.

· What are your dominant personality components based on the Array Interactive Inventory* and what is your reaction to your score on the survey? How does this influence your own aspirations?

*Dr. Pausch mentions during his lecture about personality traits and asks whether a person is a Tigger, Eeyore, or Winnie the Pooh. These personality characteristics are consistent with the Array Interactive Inventory. Tigger is Connection, Winnie the Pooh is Harmony, Rabbit is Production, and Eeyore is Status Quo. The inventory is a great tool for personal reflection or even as a tool for differentiation and group work.

After students view, reflect, and discuss Dr. Pausch’s lecture as a model, they begin to craft their own.

Below are some of the Common Core Standards students are using while completing this assignment.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.A – Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 – Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
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