Tuesday, March 1

The Academy Awards for Academic Excellence



In honor of this year's Academy Awards...
A return to one of my favorite posts!

This year my classroom theme is “Hollywood” where every student is a star. With the Academy Awards approaching, I was looking for a way to integrate this theme in a meaningful way. Boy, did I find it!

As a way to model and reinforce comprehension strategies, I am reading the novel Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson to my class. This historical fiction book is one of my favorites and provides a wealth of information about Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic that decimated the city in 1793.

As I read the novel, the students complete a variety of collaborative tasks and project based learning activities. Most importantly, this novel inspires even the most reluctant readers to read more.
The main character has big dreams for her future. She yearns for a life that is filled with excitement, travel, and she describes how she will change the world. Of course, this segued to the students composing multi-paragraph essays that described their hopes for their future jobs, families and how they would contribute to society. We spent a great deal of time on their essays with lots of peer editing and revisions. The end results were astonishing: an idea was born.

Since these essays were so amazing, I wanted the students to share them. What better way than to turn them into speeches? I was so proud of their writing that I decided the students would share their work with the other students in our school. We would have the Academy Awards for Academic Excellence. This wasn’t a competition, but a celebration of their hard work and their dreams.

Once I shared the idea with my students, it snowballed! Suddenly, we were decorating and creating our Oscar stage, planning a banquet, making wardrobe decisions and discussing the importance of speaking slowly and making eye contact during a speech. Then, the big day arrived!

The end result far exceeded my expectations. We invited younger grades to come to our special ceremony. Many of the students’ former teachers needed tissues to dab their eyes as they observed the students giving their speeches.

I love when a spontaneous idea develops and the end result is a meaningful experience that the students will remember.

Here's a look at the introduction and our first speaker.


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