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Celebrations of Learning: Why This Practice Matters

Excerpt from Leaders of Their Own Learning

Celebrations of learning are more than a display of student work and more than a party at the end of the year. The events compel students to reflect on and articulate what they have learned, how they learned, questions they answered, research they conducted, and areas of strength and struggles. They are powerful opportunities to make learning public.

High-Quality Work

At the center of celebrations of learning are high-quality products and performances that reflect the content and skills that students have learned. Typically, products are modeled after real-world formats, guided by professional models, and created for an audience beyond the classroom. For example, during a study of the Civil War, a traditional school assignment might be a report on an aspect of the war—not a bad assignment, but not necessarily motivating for high-quality research or compelling to students and the community. In this case, the audience for the work is really the teacher. By contrast, if students followed their study of the war by researching local sites that were a part of the war and prepared professional brochures or interpretive signs that could teach the community about it, there would be a genuine audience and a reason for the community to take interest in the work.

Students are supported in producing high-quality work in preparation for celebrations of learning and take their work through multiple drafts. With feedback from teachers, professionals, and peers, students are motivated to meet rigorous standards and engage in revision. It is clear to students why the product matters, and they are held to high expectations.

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