I have done "This I Believe" essays with my 6th graders since 2009. This is a fun, insightful assignment that asks students to tap into their 12 year old beliefs. I have used the educator tools provided by thisibelieve.org. Along with student friendly worksheets, their website has many great examples to listen to.
As I play other student submitted essays, the class works on three worksheets. The first is trying to define a list of Values. After they define the values, they pick their top five. Many students have an idea of what their 500 word essay in going to be after this sheet. Next is an Important Moments sheet, followed by the last sheet My Story.
Off to starting their rough draft. I assign this essay using Google Classroom. That way I can post all of the materials for students to use and refer to as needed. They create a Google Doc for their rough draft to final copy. Google's basic grammar and spelling tools assist their writing process. Some use the voice typing tool for those students who struggle with creating written words, This levels the playing field for all to participate. The editing process includes self edit, read aloud and partner edit.
In the past I used to have students read their essay to the class or to me if not comfortable presenting to a large group. I use Screencastify often, as do students. I thought to myself, why not have them practice reading their essay using this tool, then submit the video copy they consider their final essay. I do the assignment with the class each year and modeled how easy it was to create their video. Below is my "I Believe in the Power of Stories" essay from 2009.
When they finish each student will have a digital copy submited to the Google Classroom Assignment, as well as in their student Drive. Now they have a video of them reading their essay. I think that is pretty cool. In addition, they can add this video to their middle school eFolio site to share with their parents, guardian, grandparents or anyone that is part of their academic journey.