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.
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).
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."
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.
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.