Lesson Plan

This I Believe

Reading, Writing, Publishing & Broadcasting the Personal Essay
Lucy H.
Technology coordinator
Beijing, China
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My Grades 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

Students will be able to

1.  Understand, analyze and discuss a variety of personal essays in which authors put forward and develop  insights or beliefs about an important aspect of life.

2,   Plan, draft, and revise a personal essay based on the "This I Believe" model.

3.   Produce and publish an audiorecording of a personal belief essay.

4.   Publish a final draft personal essay to the "This I Believe" website. 

Common Core Standards:  


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Writing: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content

Speaking and Listening:


Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest .


Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9-10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)



English Language Arts
Grades 9 - 11
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Exploring


Brief Youtube Videos introduce students to the history, power, and variety of "This I Believe," essayists 

These  function as a "hook" through their use of emotion-engaging  music, images and the spoken word  which in turn serve to  heighten  interest and commitment to a project larger than the classroom. 

Clip One:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMNw7M-eUdU

From 1951 to l955, Edward R. Murrow hosted This I Believe, a daily radio program thatreached 39 million listeners. On this broadcast, Americans—both well known and unknown—read3-5 minute essays about their personal philosophy of life. They shared insights about individual values that shaped their daily actions. A first volume of This I Believe essays, published in 1952, sold 300,000 copies—more than any other book sold in the U. S. that year except for the Bible.  In 2004, the program was revived as an independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.

Clip Two:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJpZnUjtorI

Global health activist Dr. Paul Farmer presents his belief in health care as a human right against a backdrop of scenes portraying poverty and illness, but also  the power of health care to restore hope .

Clip Three: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zctmNe0t-wU

A short film based on an essay written by Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a 16 year old environmental activist murdered  just two days after her essay was written.. The moving essay is read by Tipper Gore, Sarah Ferguson the Duchess of York, Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Sheryl Crow, Meg Ryan, Emily Proctor and Michelle's Mother Diane Gardner Quinn,

2 Direct Instruction


In groups of 4, students explore "This I Believe" Essays chosen from the project's archives.  which can be searched by theme at http://thisibelieve.org/themes/   Each group reads at least 3 essays and discuss what features these essays share.

Inductive Analysis

Groups use Socrative Open-Response app/website to  identify and share key traits of Personal Belief Essay including: 

Tells Story, Written in First Person, Reflective, Informal, Subjective,  Gentle Persuasion, Drectly states belief.  

Unlike individual group reporting out, Socrative provides an instant mechanism for student groups to simultaneously contribute to class discussion, saving class time and allowing responses to be viewed and saved. 



3 Guided Practice

Activity: Creating

Students review "This I Believe" Essay Requirements (http://thisibelieve.org/guidelines/)

Students use  Scholastic/ReadWriteThink Essay Mapper to draft essays of 300-500 words

http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/essaymap/ to plan and draft their own "This I Believe" essay.


4 Independent Practice

Activity: Assessing

Peer Review

Students post   drafts created in Essay Mapper to class website.

Students read and post revision suggestions based on assignment rubric 


Students revise essays based on peer reviews

5 Wrap-Up

Students use Audacity to create an audio recording of their final essay.  Audacity enables students to capture and evaluate how their essay "sounds."  This is especially effective for English Language Learners for whom the chance to practice in private and correct/perfect reduces anxiety

 Extension Activities:

1.  Upload written essay to "This I Believe" website  

2.  Export Audacity Recording as Mp3 file.  Use Audioboo website or app to broadcast Audio "This I Believe"  Essay to larger audience (i.e. Edmodo class site)

The chance to share one's beliefs with a wider audience serves as motivation for students to take revision and performance seriously. Because students are using only words and voice, they can concentrate on their ideas and their oral presentation skills.  This is particularly important for English Language Learners