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Persuading an Audience: Writing Effective Letters to the Editor
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions|
Students write for an authentic audience on a topic of interest when they compose letters to the editor. They read letters to the editor in local, regional, or national newspapers, note common characteristics of the genre, and later categorize those characteristics. They search newspapers to find news articles on topics that interest them. They discuss the topics and articles they found in small groups, select one article on which to focus, and summarize the article. Next, students use an online tool to begin planning their own letter to the editor, based on the news article they selected and summarized. Students draft their letters, then peer review and revise them. Finally, they publish their letters using an online tool, and mail a copy to the newspaper, if desired.
Newspaper Article Summary Questions: Students can use this handout to help them summarize a newspaper article they have read.
Persuasion Map: Students can use this online tool to map out an argument for persuasive writing or debate.
Letter Generator: This online tool helps students learn the parts of a letter while publishing their own.
In "Putting Writing to Work," Marjorie G. Keil quotes Vygotsky as she explains, "‘teaching should be organized in such a way that reading and writing are necessary . . . [and that] writing should be incorporated into a task . . . necessary and relevant for life' (118)"; then, she goes on to assert that when reading and writing are "performed solely as an academic exercise, the composing process becomes an endurance test of any writer's self-discipline, time-management, and motivation" (168). By writing letters on issues that they care about to an authentic audiences of readers, students completing this activity have the opportunity to go beyond an "academic exercise" to writing that matters-to them and to their readers.
Keil, Marjorie G. "Putting Writing to Work." Teaching English in the Two-Year College 26.2 (December 1998): 168-173.