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Literacy Letters

Bethany Niznak Red Cedar Writing Project Contentions:     Students should use experience from daily life (homework assignment asking students to record their experience with literacy) to make classroom experiences more authentic. Students should reflect on common themes in literature in a meaningful way (students understand that without the ability to read and write they will be just as powerless as the animals in Animal Farm). Letter writing (and email writing) is an important genre for students to learn in order to be a successful, functioning member of society. Providing an authentic audience for student writing improves writing quality—an meaning—for students.

The Demonstration: *Review placement of lesson in the context of the unit. 1. Opening Activity: Students share their homework with partners. Students star the most important experiences on their list and circle the most surprising experiences on their list. 2. Probing Questions and Discussion: I review with students the importance of literacy. How do they define literacy? How does literacy impact their lives? 3. Reading: After being introduced to Jim Burke’s book, I Hear America Reading, students choose three copies of letters to read. 4. Writing: While students read carefully, they are asked to fill out the corresponding worksheet to show their understanding of each letter and noting the importance of literacy in the author’s life. *Teachers discuss their favorite letters with students 5. Sharing: Students briefly share their favorite letter with a partner. 6. Discussion: Students share what they notice the similarities between the letters—both formatting and content. 7. Genre Introduction: Students learn the technical formatting of letters. *Teachers discuss the difficulties of teaching letters as a genre

*Teachers brainstorm what they believe their students would say about literacy and share in groups. 8. Writing: Students create their own letters discussing the impact of literacy and literacy skills in their lives. *Teachers write their own letters to future students discussing the importance of literacy in life, not just in school.
* Signifies the adaptations I made from the original lesson for the demonstration.

Possible Extensions:    As a class, we could create an anthology of polished letters. This lesson could become part of a mini unit in which students interview others about their views of literacy. Students could use other genres to relate their views on literacy (narrative about experience involving literacy, poem about favorite memory involving literacy, informational text relating background of their favorite type of text, etc.).

Additional Resources: I will be completely honest, I attempted to find research discussing the importance of reflection on literacy in the classroom and there were 1,000,000,000 resources and no resources at the same time. Many people discussed the importance of reading and writing in and out of the classroom, while others discussed the importance of student reflection on the writing process. However, I could not find information from studies discussing student reflection of their literacy skills.