A Great Beginning
In this two-part lesson, students create autobiographical brochures, then discuss strategies for achieving success in high school.
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students create tri-fold brochures about themselves and present them to the class. Students review and share tips and strategies for success in high school.
- Brainstorm ideas about the column topics of the brochure: their past, present, future, and the type of person they will always be.
- Use the computer lab to create brochures enhanced with clip art or photos.
- Share their brochures with the class as a getting-to-know-you activity.
- Choose cooperative work groups to review a selected school success strategy.
- Make an overhead transparency of their advice for success.
- Share the tips for success with the class.
- Computers with clip art availability or digital photo import ability
- Computer paper
- Overhead projector, transparencies, overhead pens
- Nonfiction Reading Comprehension (PDF)
- Resource books (see my unit booklist) that students consult for tips to share with classmates or printed materials from your files on such topics as:
- Homework completion
- Study tips
- Test taking
Set Up and Prepare
- Create your sample brochure following the directions below.
- Post directions on the overhead or board:
- In Microsoft Word, go to Page Setup
- Set to Landscape, and set all margins at .75
- Under Format, select Columns - 3 (Students will use 2 pages)
- Schedule computer lab if necessary in your school.
- Have resource books or materials available for student groups to peruse.
- Print the Nonfiction Reading Comprehension (PDF) sheet, and make an overhead if desired, for a short list of tips to use as the modeling of what you would like the student groups to share.
PART 1: Getting to Know You (3–5 Days)
Step 1: Share your sample brochure with students, and have them brainstorm ideas under each column topic. In addition to a cover, the column topics are:
- Your Past
- Your Future
- What kind of person will you always be?
Step 2: In the computer lab students type their brochures, then enhance with clip art or imported digital photos.
Step 3: Print the first page, and then reinsert paper for second page printout. Or have students cut the panels from the separately printed second page and tape together.
Step 4: Decorate as students wish, using markers or any creative materials you have on hand.
Step 5: All students will share their brochures with the class. Be sure to set the stage for a safe sharing environment.
PART 2: Success in School (1–2 Days)
Step 1: Remind students that each new school year is a fresh start. Success in high school can lead to greater successes later in life. I refer to my bulletin board of graduates – students from my classes over the years who earned their diploma. Sometimes my senior students will post their senior pictures beside this board, signaling their determination to graduate.
Step 2: Introduce the assignment. (In groups, students will create a list of tips to help their fellow students be successful in high school). Show the students the overhead copy of the worksheet Nonfiction Reading Comprehension (PDF). Read through the list together and notice the ways the author writes the tips (starting with verbs, summing up the main idea with a phrase and then explaining it).
Step 3: Form student-choice working groups of three or four students in each group. Have each group select a topic to review and share for success in high school. Some suggested topics are:
- Note taking
- Homework completion
- Study tips
- Test-taking strategies
Include topics for social success as desired, such as making new friends, cafeteria norms, hallway and locker advice, etc.
Step 4: Allow each group time to brainstorm and consult resources. Once they’ve discussed their ideas, they will create an overhead transparency of advice on their topic.
Step 5: Have each group share its transparency with the class. Invite class discussion and challenge students to choose a few of these tips as goals for themselves for the year.
Supporting All Learners
Students are very knowledgeable about using these features of the computer, but they can help each other if anyone gets stuck. Because the amount of writing and the content are up to each student, all learners will be successful in sharing something about themselves. I also circulate in the lab to answer any questions and troubleshoot.
I always allow my second language learners to write in their most proficient language during the brainstorming and preliminary drafting stages of the writing process. They can also consult with the ESL teacher in our building if help is needed in translation. Once my READ 180 class gets going, the instruction is totally targeted to each student's reading level and sensitive to his or her first language.
I keep the brochures and share at conference time. Parents are thrilled to receive this. I collect the group transparencies and type them up, along with a tip or two of my own to send home in a newsletter. In high school, many students do not take notes home, so I have a clip and return section along the bottom. Students who bring back the signed section receive a small treat.
- Students create a tri-fold brochure introducing themselves to the class.
- In groups, students create a list of advice on ways to achieve school success.
You will consider the first part successful if you quickly get to know your students and are able to connect to each in a more personal way! For Part 2, the major area of assessment is to determine if students took it seriously and gave good advice to their classmates. If you decide that this has not been the case, please examine how you convey your expectations to students. Teachers sometimes appear too casual when explaining an assignment. I know I have done this, trying to make the assignment seem do-able, then learning I made it seem not important enough for their full effort. Be sure to convey that this assignment is an important step in getting off to a good start.
For these beginning-of-the-year activities, simply give credit if the student has addressed each area of the assignment. Even students that are shy to present should be given full credit for sharing. You will learn much from this sharing time, and it is an excellent time to reinforce accepting behavior in the classroom. I never mark or write corrections on the brochures. Instead I offer positive feedback and perhaps one idea for future improvement on a sticky note. Students really appreciate not having this personal project marked up with teacher's ink. Remember, this is still very early in the school year. I feel strongly that it is most important to set up a trusting, safe environment in my classroom. Grades will take care of themselves very soon.
Keep the brochures with other beginning-of-the-year writing as baseline artifacts. I go over the brochures and make notes for myself about common needs for mini-lessons or often-found mistakes that I can point out to the whole class as something many need to work on. Remember, you cannot tackle everything at once. Choose major common errors in the writing that interfere with communication and save the minutia for later lessons.