Today's offering: speech-writing in grade 5.
I know, right? You're thinking, could Matthew have picked a better topic? Not only do my 5th graders embrace writing speeches as the artistic craft of the articulate, but many have also found their true voices while smithing out original speeches! Oh! Coincidences abound!
But seriously, I know that 5th graders (any-graders?!) detest writing speeches. It's difficult to make the process relevant to an audience who has no appreciation for or experience with the craft of orally communicating information over a sustained period of time.
Which is why I opted to forgo creating sample inaugural addresses, persuasive dictations on whether or not we should enjoy turkey at Thanksgiving meals, and reflections on the best part of the school year. Instead, I took the simplest concept I could think of, provided a context relevant to the directions and motivating to the kids, and set about to write some entertaining informational speeches with my students.
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Unit Name: Greetings, Snibsarians!
Length of Unit: Approximately three 35-minute classes
Context: Our 5th graders work on writing informational and persuasive speeches in the 3rd and 4th quarters, most often focusing on preparation for the Simulated Congressional Hearing in which many schools participate. This unit focuses on collecting information, then considering how best to present said information to an audience, taking the audience into consideration at all times.
Summary of Unit (by day/class):
Day 1: The following scenario is presented to the students:
Teacher: I have been keeping a secret from all of you for some time now. Having taught you for six years, I now feel comfortable enough to share this protected detail with all of you. I. Am actually. An alien. I was sent from my home planet of Snibzar to collect information about Earthling animals. In hopes of going undetected, I disguised myself as a school librarian and have been working as such ever since, attempting to gather information on Earthling animals but having no luck at all. Could you please help me gather information about animals from your planet so that I can share findings with my fellow Snibzarians. As an upright, law-abiding citizen, I will credit you as the source of the information. Wait! I have an even better idea! Why don't you create a speech about an Earthling animal and I will record you and transmit the video back to my mother planet! PERFECT! Let's get to work!
Students select any animal (wild or domesticated) and research five facts using World Book Online they find are essential for understanding the nature as well as the physical attributes of said animal. I remind them that their audience has never seen or heard of this animal before, so it's important they select the very most essential pieces of information. We use World Book Online so that we have a credible source for the facts included in the speech. Students who are convinced they already know enough facts are asked to fact-check using World Book in order to confirm the accuracy of their information.
Day 2: Students spend the bulk of class drafting a speech from the facts collected on Day 1. I share a speech of my own prepared on an animal native to Snibzar, modeling using the same fact sheet and how I organized my thoughts into the form of an information speech. Students are supported throughout the writing process and I offer up strong ways to start the speeches, we share speeches-in-progress from classmates, and, ultimately, work toward creating a speech that meets the objectives of the assignment.
Day 3: Students are given 5-10 minutes to practice reading their speeches aloud with expression and without rushing. Students then break into broadcast groups in order to record one another's speeches. Each group is given a FlipCam and the expectation of recording the delivered speeches from each of the group members before the end of class. FlipCams are then collected and I alert the students that after downloading the videos onto my computer I will promptly transmit the video feeds to my home planet.
Here are some shots of the worksheets (first my examples, then one from a student) to help paint the picture more clearly:
|Sheet used to collect animal facts. Completed to show teacher example.|
|Student sample of animal facts.|
|Student sample of animal speech.|
The best part of the whole project is that these 10 or 11 year-olds are with me every step of the way, allowing ourselves to be a little silly while working to effectively communicate information most of us take for granted. I play the videos on a loop from my computer and ask students to see if they would be able to identify what animal is being described where it not for the name being mentioned by the speaker. Most often this gets a lot of laughs because of how challenging the task actually is. And having a chance to be a little off-kilter with typical 5th grade assignments definitely helps make this experience memorable.