Lesson for the 1st days of school:
Follow these easy 7 steps for a language arts lesson students will never forget.
Who should do this lesson: any teacher, of any subject, of any grade
Materials: Enough paper, pencils, and envelopes for you and each student
- Write a friendly letter
- Address an envelope
- Present information orally
- Listening using “active listening“
- Have fun while getting to know your students, getting to know their current writing abilities, and focusing your own goals for the school year
Step 1. Let students play with ReadWriteThink’s Letter Generator as individuals or in groups. Talk with the students as they play around, and try to figure out the FAQ’s of writing a letter
Step 2. Read your letter to your future self that you wrote earlier. In this letter you should explain all that you hope to accomplish, read, visit, experiment with and/or study in the upcoming school year.
If you think the students can handle seeing you as a fallible human (a recommendation for middle school teachers) include a few of your concerns and doubts. Think, “I’m worried that I won’t give my students enough time for extension projects.” and NOT, “I am really convinced my students are horrible, little monsters, and I will have my revenge when it comes to grading.” In other words, use tact when expressing your doubts.
Step 3. Address those FAQ’s from Step 1 in a BRIEF lecture (7 minutes tops) about how to write a letter and how to address an envelope.
Step 4. Mostly using participation from your students, write a brief letter of the same sort with your students. Address and stuff the envelope with your letter. Remember that even 13-year-olds are barely coordinated enough to fold a paper in three equal sections, so go slowly there.
DO NOT SEAL THE ENVELOPE!
Step 5. Let the students write their own letters to themselves. Be honest about the fact that you plan to read them, but that they should feel free to write anything they want. (see the footnote). Encourage students to let their peers read their letters, but only if they feel comfortable. Also, give any student that wants to the chance to read their letter aloud to the class. The other students practice active listening skills.
DO NOT LET THEM SEAL THE ENVELOPE.
Step 6. Tell the students that you will mail each of their letters, and collect the envelopes and read them at home. You now have a written copy of the inner monologues of your students. Plus, their ability to express those monologues.
HERE IS THE BEST PART!!!
Step 7. During the final week of class, give these envelopes back to the students. I guarantee you that they will literally gasp in amazement in how well their writing has improved. They will laugh when they read what they thought was important 10 months ago. They might even feel proud that they overcame the fears and concerns they mentioned.
Footnote: It is the policy of my school to not censure student writings in any way UNLESS they express a danger to themselves or others.
© 2010 David Mach