Try Passage Presentations.
The end of every school year is tough. Teachers and administrators struggle to keep students in line, finish assessments, plan field trips, and tie up loose ends. But what’s really important? To provide closure, celebrate accomplishments, and allow students to reflect on how they’ve grown and developed. And including family in those celebrations is vital.
I had the pleasure of witnessing a particularly strong example of how well this can be implemented.
What’s a Passage Presentation?
At Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS) this June, all eighth graders on Team Leo participated in a Passage Presentation. The concept is to give every student the opportunity to present parts of their personal learning plan, or PLP, to a personally invested audience and reflect upon what has been meaningful during their years at BAMS.
The entire team of teachers flexibly used substitutes, so that all could attend these presentations during the course of two school days. The result — powerful and memorable experiences that brought together parents, teachers, and students.
What does a Passage Presentation look like?
Emma is a wildly talented and creative eighth grader. She enters the space, gets her Chromebook connected to the digital projector and waits for the room to be ready for her. Just as she starts, she plunks a floppy pink and purple stuffed pegasus on the projector.
It’s show time.
Lessons Learned from Passage Presentations
Invite important adults
What was so special was the authentic audiences available at these presentations.
Every student invited parents and other special adults. Past and present teachers, coaches, and other mentors were able to come. One BAMS teacher said,
“I was a little misty-eyed seeing families waiting for their student’s presentation! One student had five family members there. What an affirmation for that child of the importance of their education.”
Indeed, parents attending these presentations were touched and impressed.
Both of Emma’s parents took part in the presentation. They sat at attention and admired her work. In addition, at least 3 teachers and an administrator were there to support Emma.
Give students the spotlight
Students on Team Leo were given months to build up to this event. Teachers were clear about the expectations and provided the necessary scaffolding, models and supports. Every student used their PLP to house important work and reflection, and some chose to create separate slideshows. Each student was scheduled a 15-minute block of time during one of two school days. When it came time for the presentation, students were in the spotlight for those fifteen minutes of fame.
Emma could handle this spotlight. She may have even enjoyed it. Memorably, she talked about her Stuffies operation at home. Many months ago, she got the idea to create her own stuffed animals. She designs them, sews, and decorates the brood. Hence, her good luck charm – Pegasus – on top of the projector. Emma dreams of selling them someday.
Leo teacher Nancy Goodhue said of her experience watching her students,
“It was inspiring to hear students explain their growth and learning. I loved hearing kids read poetry to parents for the first time. I cried while sharing my observations of an advisee’s growth and potential. I laughed at the clever perspective some brought to their presentation.”
Point to Pride
Passage Presentations were meant to focus on at least three moments during their two years at the middle school that made them proud.
The diversity of proud moments selected was as varied as the individuals.
Some reflected upon good writing; for others, it was creative science work; many students were happy with sporting moments, and others were proud of their innovation in a crafting project. All students found something that made them proud.
Emma reflected on many proud moments. Of course, among them is her ongoing Stuffies design operation. She also spoke about a literature assignment; she drew an illustration of a character in dangling chains like a marionette, inspired by the book Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. Fortunately, her English teacher Mrs. Eagan was there to remark about the insightful ideas in Emma’s work. She’s recruiting Emma for Future English Majors of America.
At the frenzied end of a year, this Passage Presentation is a moment that matters. I can still see this eighth grade girl giving her parents a high-five in the corridor. “Nice job, sweetie. We love you!” they chimed. “Love you too. Thanks for coming!” she yelled as she spun around down the hallway.
These are the days we’ll remember in school.