My blog last week highlighted an example of producing beautiful, quality work for a wider audience. I was recently invited to Mrs. Luann Scott’s AP Language class at Windsor High School to see a student debate. Students presented pro and con arguments for keeping The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as part of our schools’ curriculum. The students were required to frame their presentations as though they were making their arguments to the school board. This could have been done as a position paper, with students proving the case for either side. Instead, Mrs. Scott chose to make the assignment more meaningful—a presentation to the class. Motivation and interest in doing a quality job increases exponentially when students have a wider audience for their assignments. The project is no longer just about getting a grade with feedback only coming from the teacher. It now opens up their work for judgement and critique from others. It would have been a significant step to just have the students present to their classmates. However, Mrs. Scott added another layer of authenticity by expanding the audience. Not only was I invited to listen to the presentations but so was School Board chairman Mrs. Julia Perkins.
Mrs. Scott’s quick overview of the assignment revealed students were not given the option to pick their side of the issue. They were designated by Mrs. Scott as whether they would be on the pro or con side of the argument. This really made some students uncomfortable! Mrs. Scott shared with the students that being able to provide a good defense for their position had nothing to do with what they believed but rather the ability to use effective written and oral communication skills.
Mrs. Perkins and I were extremely impressed by the students. Every student in the class was part of a collaborative team and members had a role in the final product. Each student shared their thoughts as it pertained to the argument for or against keeping Huck Finn in the curriculum. The power point slides and written papers strongly supported their position. It was obvious the students had done extensive research by the details included in their beautiful work. They were poised, confident and convincing as they shared their arguments with their audience.
After the presentations, I had a chance to address the students. I explained to them that learning opportunities such as the one provided by Mrs. Scott would benefit them greatly in their future careers. They demonstrated the 4 C’s: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Skills they will use to be successful inside and outside of the classroom. Future employers will not look to see how students scored on an SOL test in eleventh grade in the hiring process. It will be the ability to work with others, coming up with creative solutions to problems, and being able to communicate effectively. I hope you will watch the video below of the presentation so you can see for yourself the excellent work of the students.
Mrs. Scott's AP Language Students: Debating Huck Finn