Rigor, relevance, and relationships has been the mantra at my district for quite a few years, so I use the student survey as a part of the process of of building relationships and as a way for students to generate and organize ideas for an introductory letter. A cover letter, if you will.
I gave students copies of the student survey and told them to write their names on it. Then we did something crazy and read the directions.
In the past, I've just had students do the survey and called it good. This year, though, I'm using the survey part as part of the writing process. This is the generating ideas part, so I only gave students about ten minutes to answer the questions on the survey. I used this activity as my bellwork for today.
After students finish the survey, we take the information and turn it into a letter. I gave students copies of the business letter reference sheet. and walked them through writing the letter. I use the block business letter, rather than the friendly letter, because the business letter is more necessary for college and career. If someone gets a friendly letter format wrong, no big deal. If someone get the business letter format wrong, they miss out on a scholarship or job or opportunity.
The first section, the sender's address, is the writer's address and the date. The sender's address is only three lines.
That's it. No, don't include your name. That's in the closing. Just those three lines.
The second section, the inside address, is the name and address of the person receiving the letter. This section has three or four lines, depending on needs.
The third section is the salutation, or greeting. I told students not to get creative with this. It is simply Dear Title Last Name Colon. That's it, move on.
Then the real work of the letter begins. The letter needs an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion can be very short, sometimes just three to four sentences. The body is longer and may even be made up of more than one paragraph. So what goes into these paragraphs?
The introduction is where you introduce yourself and explain why you're writing. For the introductory letter, this would be where students would include what they want to be called, their birthday, their favorite band, what they want to be when they grow up, and other such information.
The body is the meat of the letter. This is where students would include the information about their family (who they live with, what languages they speak), technology they have access to, what school they went to, who their close friends are, who they have troubles with, health issues, etc.
The conclusion summarizes their main ideas. It can paraphrase the most important thing they want to say, provide contact information, and leave me with any last thoughts.
Then the last thing to do is close the letter. Like the salutation, I told students not to get fancy. There's no need to say anything besides Sincerely in the closing. After the sincerely, sign and then print your name.
I provided my own letter to serve as an example. You can see my sample letter here. Students had the rest of the class to work on their letter and the due date was the next day.
Teachers must create a consistent procedure for managing students' papers. If you don't have a system, papers will be turned in everywhere and anywhere and will disappear without a trace.
I clearly told students that they were never, never to turn in assignments on my desk. There is a monster that lives under the desk and it loves to eat papers. However, it is very picky about what papers it eats. It doesn't care about papers that have been graded and never touches those papers. It only likes ungraded papers, especially ungraded papers without a name. Those papers? It will gobble up immediately.
So how do we keep this monster from eating ungraded papers? We turn in papers to the baskets. I have a basket for each class (color coded!) and that's where they turn in papers. I also have fabric baskets where graded papers live until I pass them back.
After the student survey was completed, I asked students to practice this procedure. Simply telling them about the procedure isn't enough; they must practice. I asked one student to gather all the papers and then deliver them to the basket. After delivering the papers to the basket, they are to immediately return to their desk. If you've numbered individual desks, you can ask for a specific number to collect the papers. I gave punches to the two students who sat down first and lavished praise upon the rest of the students as they successfully completed the task.
If there's one thing that absolutely needs to be taught, it's what students need to do at the end of class. If you don't explicitly teach the end of class procedure, students start packing up five, six, seven minutes before the bell, line up at the door, and sneak out of the room. Not on my watch.
I told students that now that they were in middle school, there was no need for them to line up at the door. Yes, elementary teachers had them line up to go anywhere, but that's just not necessary in seventh grade. Their faces lit up with joy because they thought that meant that they would just be able to leave. Oh, no. They just stay in or by their seats. That's it. I don't require them to actually be seated before dismissing them, because that's just being picky about something that doesn't matter. They just need to be in or by their seats before I dismiss them.
I believe that consequences should be logical, immediate, and not punitive. If students do line up at the door? They get to be last out of the room. Simple and immediate.