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School Renaming Unit

A few years ago, my county went through the process of choosing a new name for our school. I don't want to share the name but letting kids debate the topic and then write letters to the naming committee seemed liked the perfect "authentic" writing opportunity for my AP Lang & Comp students. I used the unit at the beginning of the year after my "Introduction to Rhetoric" (paid product) lesson to continue introducing kids to the concepts of AP Lang & Comp. The general unit steps are outlined below. We are on a block schedule so classes are around 84 minutes long.

Day 1

On the first day of the unit, I cleared off the large white board on the side of my room and asked students their opinions about renaming the school. What were the pros? What were the cons? I wrote everything down on the whiteboard. (20 minutes) Once the conversation is over, write down the main points on a Google Doc. I will explain this step in a bit.

Next, I gave the students a series of articles to read about the topic in the form of a Google Doc. I asked them to lightly annotate in order to gather ideas. Sometimes I printed the packet and sometimes I had kids do digital annotations. I always lean towards paper but if there' a time crunch then I go digital (20-40 minutes).

Day 2

On Day 2, I opened up the Google Doc of topics that I had created the day before and asked kids to sign up for a particular aspect of the argument so that I could organize presentation groups. I know that your arguments will be different depending on what your school name is, but I attached the sign up sheet so that you can see the ideas the kids wanted to discuss and how I had them sign up.

My directions went as follows:

"Put your name on this chart in two times in the following manner: Chris (1), Chris (2). These are your first, second, and third choices. There is also a section for people whom will allow me to assign them an argument. I will take these into consideration and then make the groups, but there are no guarantees. I want there to be a balance of opinion and so I may have you arguing the complete opposite of what you believe. "

After they signed up, I took a few minutes to rearrange and adjust the groups and let the kids know who they were working with. I then gave them the formal assignment.

Once kids knew their topics, I gave them 10 minutes to do research on their own and then I had them get with their groups and start putting together a 2-3 minute persuasive presentation about their topic. (30 minutes to work).

If kids were ready after 30 minutes, we started presentations. I asked that each audience member, at some point in the course of all the presentations, offer a comment or rebuttal. This was my spiel:

  • "Each student is required and limited to 1 comment/rebuttal throughout the presentations. Use it wisely. Any calling out or speaking over limit will result in a loss of points on your own grade."

Day 3

Once we finished presentations, I had each kid write up an opinion piece with their own thoughts on the topic of renaming. I gave them 30-45 minutes in class to work on it.

Once they had a rough draft, I asked them to share with two peers to get feedback. Reader 1 had to comment on the focus and organization, and Reader 2 had to focus on use of ethos, pathos, logos and grammar.

Whatever time was left in class was theirs to use for the essay.

Once everyone finished and submitted, I read through the essays over the next week to check quality and content. When I felt we were ready, I had to kids email the letters to the members of the school renaming committee.

Day 4-Optional

Depending on where you are in the year and the level of the kids' writing skills, the 2013 AP Lang & Comp synthesis essay is a good way for students to apply some of their thoughts about renaming to memorials.

Once I finished this unit, I moved into my 3-week writing/education unit, which I sell here on TpT:

Good luck with this unit. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions below.