3rd Grade Bagels ’n Bios: Building Confidence, Igniting Joy in Learning

Melissa Tassoni
For well over a decade, Susan Reilly and her fellow third grade teachers have inspired their students to find joy in learning and to build confidence as public speakers through their annual Bagels ’n Bios unit. Students choose an influential figure to research, learning fundamental academic skills like reading for information, performing safe online searches, taking notes, and putting information on a timeline. Then, building on the writing work that they do all year, students craft a structured biography that they will present to an audience of family members in their classroom. After weeks of practice and guidance on public speaking techniques, students are well prepared for their final presentation.
An obvious highlight for students is getting to dress up like their chosen historical figure on performance day, but the personal payoffs for their hard work and academic risk-taking go much deeper. “It’s kind of like a debut for students, academically and in other ways,” says Reilly. “They just grow up so much right before your eyes.” The third graders come away from the unit with a strong sense of accomplishment, and some students who may struggle in other areas rise to the top. Spencer Strauss ’15 says it was one of her most memorable academic experiences at Shipley. “The moment I finished my speech I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of pride and joy about successfully rising to the challenge.”

View photos from the 2018 Bagels 'n Bios presentations: 


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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.