Lesson Plan

Using Twitter and Storify to Support a Claim

Students watch David McCullough's commencement speech ("You're Not Special"), read articles written in response to McCullough's speech, analyze the arguments of the texts, and create a Storify answering a prompt.
Victoria C.
Online Independent Study Teacher
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, CA
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My Grades 9, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts, Social Studies
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

Identify content and purpose

identify which source complements or contradicts an original source

develop a position and support it with evidence



English Language Arts
Grades 9 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Other — brainstorming

Give students this prompt and have them quick write for a few minutes:  It's June 2015--your graduation day!!!!  What are you feeling?  What emotions are you experiencing?  Is it a special day?  Are you special for graduating from high school?  Explain.

You may choose to have students share their ideas about graduating.


2 Direct Instruction

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Show David McCullough's commencement speech.  A quick Youtube search of "You're Not Special" will lead you to the video.  Stop after 4:35 of the video and have students respond/react to the video. You may want to ask questions such as these:

What are your initial reactions to McCullough’s message so far?  Does it anger you?  Why or why not?  Do you agree with him?  Why or why not?  Why do you think he says these things to a graduating class?  If you were sitting there at your graduation, what would you be thinking as you listened to him?  Explain.

If each student is watching individually, have them use videonot.es to record their ideas.  If you are watching as a class, have students record their thoughts in a Google Doc. You could also use a backchannel such as Today's Meet to have students recrod their intiital reactions as they watch.

You may want to have students share their thoughts at this point.

Have them complete the video and then respond/react again using the same tools as before, but answering these questions:

What do you think of McCullough’s message now? Did your opinion change?  If you were sitting at your graduation listening to him, what would you be thinking now?   What is his purpose in giving this speech?  Do students need to hear this information? Explain.

You could wait and do the second set of questions until after you have discussed the speech as a class.

3 Guided Practice

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The following activities require students to critically analyze text. The purpose is so that they have a thorough, deep understanding of the content before they get to the summative activity at the end of the unit.

Give students a transcript of the speech (digital or paper) and have them work in groups to identify the content and purpose of each paragraph. For content, they summarize the paragraph.  For pupose, they should consider the rhetorical purpose, focusing on ethos, logos, pathos, loaded language, etc. This activity is sometimes difficult for students, so a guided practice might be necessary until they get the hang of it.

Students create a Google Doc that looks like this:

Content Purpose      


4 Guided Practice

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Students analyze the ethos, logos, and pathos in the speech by answering questions such as these in a Google Doc.  Place students in groups and have each group focus on ethos, logos, or pathos.  As they discuss in their group, circulate the room and guide them to in-depth answers that are supported with evidence.


1.  Does the author/speaker have the appropriate background to speak with authority on this subject?  How do you know?

2.  Is the author knowledgeable?  How do you know?

3.  What does the author’s style and language tell you about him ? Explain.

4.  Does the author seem trustworthy? Why or why not?


1.  What is the author’s major claim?  Do you agree with him?

2.  Can you think of some counterarguments that the author does not address?

3.  Do you think the author has left anything out on purpose?  Do  you think people who disagree with him would think he left anything out?


1.  Does this piece affect you emotionally?  Which parts? Explain.

2.  Is the author trying to manipulate the reader’s emotions?  In what ways?  At which part?

3.  Do your emotions conflict with your logical interpretations of his arguments?  Explain.


5 Independent Practice

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Students read a variety of articles related to McCullough's speech and answer ethos, logos, pathos questions about them (Use the same questions from the above activity). This can be done individually or in groups. 

Open letter

Dear Graduates

Much Ado About Nothing

Speech Does Grads a Favor

Also, as students are reading these articles, they should tweet their response, thoughts, connections, or questions using a hashtag the teacher creates for the class.  These tweets will be needed for the summative activity. It's important for students to follow each other on Twitter, or you could show them how to set up a Tweetdeck so that it is easy to find their classmates' tweets. 

Students could also blog using Weebly and tweet out the link to their blog post.

Give students some guiding questions such as these to help them focus their tweets and blogs:

-What do we mean by 'special'?

-What makes a person 'special'?

-How does each author define 'special'?

-Why do students need to hear the message that McCullough shared in his speech?

6 Putting It Altogether

Students create a Storify where they pull in Tweets from their classmates, as well as images, videos, etc. from the Storify library.  They also write a paragraph for each of the five tweets they pull in; these relate to the essential questions and should incorporate evidence from the speech and the articles.  Students should link their Storify to their Weebly blog or share the link with the teacher.  Or students could do a presentation in class where they show their Storify and explain it.