Brief Description: Skip Downing provides a series of lesson plans that help end the semester with a student celebration of writing, speaking, and eating. This article, originally published in the Academic.Writing Teaching Exchange, is reproduced here in its entirety. The original article can be found at http://wac.colostate.edu/aw/teaching/downing2000.htm.
Contributed by Skip Downing, Professor of English and Coordinator of Learning Communities, Baltimore City Community College
I like to end my courses with reflections on lessons learned and a celebration of student achievement.
One of my favorite courses to teach is our College Success Seminar, a writing-intensive, three-credit orientation course which exposes students to the wise choices of successful students, including behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Throughout the course, students reflect on their discoveries by keeping an extensive guided journal and by completing a final writing project in which they personalize what they have learned in the course. The most popular option for this final project is "Write a letter to someone you love and tell that person three or more strategies for success that you have learned in this course; explain how you have used each strategy to enhance your own success." Students have written these letters to every imaginable relative and friend, and most letters are a testimony to both what the students have learned and how much they want to share their new knowledge with those who matter in their lives. For a particularly wonderful example, Edwina Dorsey shares her reflection, a letter written to her husband, Ronald.
As the course nears an end, reflection and celebration intertwine. During the last week of the semester, a number of activities have become traditions. The following activities are spread over the 3 hours that the course meets that final week:
I believe these culminating activities of reflection and celebration collectively create the following impact for my students: They create a lasting memory of the course information, classmates, and the personal lessons learned. The activities also intertwine in their memories the valuable social aspect of a learning community. Finally, these activities encourage students to remember their power as an individual to impact others' lives, as well as their own, by the quality of the choices they make on a daily basis. I want them to leave believing that who they are, what they know, and what they choose to do matters.