Lesson Plan Guide: Diary Of A Senior - Big Discovery

By Matt Andrews

CONTENT AREAS: English, Advisory, Life Skills, Careers


  • Students document an important discovery they made about themselves in the recent past.


  • Students read a diary article by an author within their age group and regional proximity.
  • Students complete a series of critical questions to determine the author's point of view and make logical inferences from the diary article.
  • Students examine important, recent discoveries they’ve made about themselves and their circumstances


  • PS:A1.2 Identify values, attitudes, and beliefs
  • PS:A1.4 Understand change is a part of growth
  • PS:A1.11 Identify and discuss changing personal and social roles


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2b Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.


No specialized prior knowledge is necessary to complete this lesson.

Instructors may find it helpful to be prepared with a few examples of big discoveries they have made in their own lives.


  • Student Paths, Diary of a Senior article(s)
  • Notebook paper and pencils to write a short story


The lesson comprises three stages:

  1. Read article about big discoveries
  2. Ask critical questions of the article
  3. Write critical ideas to make big discoveries


This lesson includes a self-evaluation in which students write about their biggest discoveries and what is important in their lives.

Each student will be asked to share this information with another person outside of class. It is to the student’s benefit to write what is important to him or her in life. Instructors are discouraged from checking or reading this assignment. Encourage students to write about the things that matter to them.

In a follow-up lesson, instructors may verify that students had a conversation with someone outside of class about making a big discovery in life.

As educators, it is difficult to assess both the quality of big discoveries in life and the mentorship network needed to bolster these big discoveries. Students need constant encouragement to continue to seek answers to big questions in life that are not often addressed in school, and also to build a network to support their own big discoveries. Instructors, revisit the concept of big discoveries with students a few weeks after this lesson.



Introduction Questions to Pique Curiosity about Big Discoveries in Life (5 minutes)

Preface the distribution of Student Paths with a short discussion of how, over the course of one’s life, people experience many things that shape the attitudes they eventually come to have about life in the world. The activity to follow deals explicitly with big personal discoveries made by other teenagers, and provides an opportunity for students to consider big discoveries they might have made.

Here are three questions to pique student curiosity about big discoveries in life:

1. What are examples of a “big discovery” someone could have in life?

Encourage students to share many, diverse ideas and examples; honor each one with respect for the learning involved. Illustrate slight differences between concepts such as a discovery:

  • In science about the nature of life
  • In society of a new way to use a service in the school or community
  • In life about your own qualities as a person living in the world
  • One discovery is not better than the other; rather, each kind of discovery requires slightly different skills and awareness.

2. What experiences have the greatest impact on us in life?

This may be difficult to discuss, but birth and death, marriage and divorce, moving, changing jobs, and graduation are major transitions that impact people’s lives. Some experiences can be “planned” while others “happen.” It is difficult to determine the exact experiences that will change a person’s life. Students may become aware of more opportunities to make a big discovery in life.


3. In 10 years, do you think you will change your mind on anything you believe strongly about?

Some adolescents may not have thought deeply in the abstract about many of their own beliefs. Instructors may prime intellectual curiosity with the following questions:

Who is going to win the next [specific sporting event at school]? How important is the mayor, county sheriff, governor, and president in my life at this school? Where does the most learning happen in life? How do we live the good life? Does God exist? What are the noble purposes that inspire me to do great things? How does one become successful? Why am I in school right now? What should I learn in life?

Quick Read (2 minutes)

Distribute Student Paths and direct attention toward the “Diary of a Senior” article. Instruct students to do a quick read for the main points. They will reread the article for details in a few minutes.

Critical Read (8 minutes)

Inform students that they will write on the article to better comprehend the reading and understand the logic and argument in the author’s story. React, underline, circle, summarize, and write on the article to better understand the key points. Give students 2 minutes to complete each of the following tasks for critical thinking:

  1. Comment with a quick reaction from your gut about what you feel. Write 10 words/phrases on the article of your reaction to specific sentences. Talk to the text.
  2. The author struggled with difficult situations and questions, but said they’d learned something valuable by the end. Write a one sentence summary in the top margin that describes the biggest discovery made by this author.
  3. Circle the sentences/phrases that best state what the author learned about life. This should be the primary reference for your summary question 2.
  4. Underline 2-5 sentences/phrases that explain how the author reached this new understanding.
  5. Remind the class that this article was written by a high school senior, and ask: In your opinion, what kind of impact do you think this big discovery will have on the author’s life in the future? Draw a quick cartoon sketch in the bottom margin to demonstrate this potential impact on the author.

Critical Writing (10 minutes)

The above tasks are to reinforce critical reading and understanding. Now it’s time for students to write a brief critical reflection on a recent discovery they had about life. The students will write for 3-minute increments. Remind students that this writing will not be turned in for a grade, but will be helpful in their quest for finding their own path through life.

Instruct students to take out notebook paper and a pencil.

Provide 3 minutes for students to respond in writing to each of the following:

  1. Make a list of simple things that you have discovered that make your life a little better.
  2. What sorts of things contributed to your biggest discovery thus far? Were you having a tough time or struggling with something? How did you know things needed to change?
  3. What would you say are your most solid values—ones that will endure no matter what happens in life? List examples of why you believe strongly in these things. What do you do that demonstrates you value these things?

Ask students for any questions about the article or big discoveries in general, and transition to the paper-folding activity to conclude.

Conclusion paper-folding-focus on important things in life (5 minutes)

Instruct students to fold their paper(s) into a small, pocket-sized piece with blank space to write a few things on it. Students use this blank space to write an important phrase from their own writing today. This phrase will develop awareness of lifelong learning and focus attention on making bigger discoveries, everyday. Some students may wish to refold their paper and highlight an important point they already wrote about today.

Remind students that, as a class, we may read a common article about big discoveries in life, but that these discoveries require each individual to struggle with his or her own answers. Encourage students to talk about these things further with a parent, family member, mentor, teacher, friend, or someone they trust. Big discoveries may happen in an instant; but more importantly, diligent students plan and engage in daily activities where discoveries frequently happen.


Nervous about living up to potential

This year: hard work for school, good causes

Employing a more responsible, positive and persistent approach to life

Goals, activities make for challenging year ahead

Finding the grand balance of life duties

Rising junior has anxieties, but high hopes, too

Don’t be afraid: Just do your best

Don’t let peers make your decisions for you

Consider advice and make strong connections

Uncomfortable changes foster growth

Your future belongs to you

Good preparation cuts hassle and anxiety

Making plans for military, college options

College: Weighing academic rigor, cost and job placement

Weighing majors, volleyball and happiness

Location, atmosphere and fit figure in choice

“I’m almost Grown” - and Excited about it

Hoping for Personal and Physical Growth

Long To-Do List Leaves no Room for Senioritis

Looking Forward to Great Grades and Good Times


About the Author

Matt Andrews