Looking Back, Looking Forward...
Lesson 1 of 4
Objective: SWBAT develop clear writing, appropriate to task, by writing a letter of introduction.
When my students walk into class today, they are going to see a timeline that stretches the entire length of my front wall. I use paper, but you could fill a long whiteboard, too. The timeline is broken into four sections, labeled for each quarter.
In addition to the sections, students will see topics and texts we have covered in class like:
- The Elements of Fiction
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Historical Fiction
- Socratic Seminar
- Contemporary Fiction
- Figurative Language
- Ideas, Events, Individuals
- Frederick Douglass
- Jackie Robinson
- Greek & Latin Roots
- Oral Literature
- Greek Mythology
- Science Fiction
I write these big and I spread them out to be approximately in the quarter that we covered the particular topic or text.
I ask the students to take a look at everything we've covered this year. Before we go any further, I congratulate them on a successful year in 7th-Grade ELA class. Then, I hand each student three sticky notes. I challenge them to look at the timeline and think about what they learned, what they remember, and what they enjoyed this year.
I then ask them to write one memory about something they enjoyed learning about or something they are particularly proud of as it relates to one of these texts or topics on each sticky note. I ask them to place their sticky note on the timeline next to the topic they have written about. I challenge them to think as far back as they can; otherwise, all of the stickies end up surrounding the most recent topics!
As students make their way to the front of the room, you will all begin to see your evidence of learning beginning to take shape. Take the time to congratulate yourself on a full and meaningful year as well!
After our walk down memory lane, it's time to look forward!
Getting Down to Business
It is at this point in the lesson, I let the students know that they are now going to write a letter to introduce themselves to next year's ELA teachers.
After the groans have subsided (and the outcries of, "Mr. So-And-So doesn't make us work the last week of school), I smile brightly and hand out blank paper and a letter format resource sheet.
We talk about the purpose of a letter of introduction. I want them to think about making a good first impression and sharing information that will set them apart from others in their new teacher's mind. I always ask for a show of hand from the students who have a hard time remembering seven teachers' names for the first few weeks of school. After the guilty parties confess, I remind them that they only have six names to remember; I have over a hundred! This letter will help their new teachers get to know them more quickly.
I break the letter down into three paragraphs for them.
- Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself. State your purpose for writing. Tell your reader something interesting about you. What are your hobbies? What do you do outside of school?
- Paragraph 2: What did you do especially well this year in ELA class? Was there a unit that you enjoyed more than others?
- Paragraph 3: What are you looking forward to in 8th-grade ELA class? Has a friend or sibling told you about a book or project that sounds interesting? Are you looking forward to more writing or Socratic Seminars?
This is a perfect opportunity to review friendly letter formatting one last time before the end of the year, and it's also a really nice way to wrap up a year of learning with your students. I always get a little misty-eyed this last week of school!