The new Common Core has a much-greater focus on non-fiction, informational texts in the English/Language Arts classroom. It’s time to start adding more real-world articles and materials to our literary canon. In this easy-to-deliver non-fiction activity, students will view the commencement speech given by David McCullough to the graduates of Wellesley High School (links to the video and printable transcripts of the speech are included in the materials) and complete a series of deep-thinking questions. Afterward, students will definitely have strong opinions to share about this “Let’s Get Real” classroom activity.
When your principal asks what you’ve done to align your classroom with the Common Core, just point to this non-fiction, expository-based work as an example. This 45-minute lesson will give students a high-quality text to analyze as they make connections between the work and their own lives.
In this lesson, McCullough calls into question the selfishness that’s bred when children are raised to believe they are special and unique. The text-based questions will engage your students and get them thinking about not only the way they and their classmates were raised, but also the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of McCullough’s rhetoric.
Begin with a viewing and/or reading of the speech (I like to have students view the actual speech while we follow along on printed transcripts), have individuals write their answers to the multi-layered depth-of-knowledge questions (either in teams of two or solo), and then launch a class discussion.
The package includes an option for 9th and 10th graders and separate questions for 11th and 12th graders. The article is the same for both groups, but the reflection questions are different, so that various levels of students will find the activity stimulating and challenging. Advanced middle school students should be able to successfully work with the “Level 1” questions, too.
Both sets of questions come with detailed answer keys, of course. You might also want to use the two separate question sheets for differentiated questions within one class.
It usually takes my students 45 minutes to work through the text and give thorough answers to the questions. If you need to extend the lesson, you also could launch a discussion of the issues raised in the article. Your students will have plenty of reactions to McCullough’s speech that they’ll want to share.
These full-class, stand-alone materials also work great as emergency plans for substitute teachers. The material is easy to deliver and the kids will need to work hard for the whole period to finish on time.
Click the “Preview” button at the top of the page to take a closer look.
Want more like this? Click here to view my full catalog of non-fiction materials for the secondary classroom.
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