Dear Walter: Please Come Back To School

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SWBAT to use evidence from key chapters of Bad Boy to help them determine what purpose, argument, audience, and persona to consider when organizing a letter to Myers as the 16-year-old high school drop-out.

Big Idea

Knowing your audience means getting what you want or need.

Reading Quiz

10 minutes

This lesson begins with a reading quiz on chapters 13-14 of Bad Boy, by Walter Dean Myers.  My students were assigned this reading over the weekend and so they know to expect this quiz.  

Whenever I assign reading of a core text to be completed outside of class, I follow-up with a reading quiz, in order to compel my students to keep up with the reading.  Today's questions include:

  1. What does Walter's English/creative writing teacher ask/tell him to do?
  2. Who goes to school school with Walter one morning?
  3. What advice does his English teacher give him?
  4. Name one detail from his friend Frank's past.
  5. Describe Frank's job.

I ask the questions orally and my students record their answers on half sheets of scratch paper I have given them.

Whole Group Quiz Review

10 minutes

When my students have completed the quiz, we spend a few minutes reviewing the answers.  This provides an opportunity to invite the events and developments of chapters 13 and 14 into the classroom, as my students will be working on an activity that requires knowledge of the chapters.  The review also assists those students who may not have completed their reading, by filling key events and developments so that it is possible for them to contribute to the activity.

Small Group Analysis

30 minutes

When we transition to this portion of the lesson, I explain to my students that they are going to experiment with argument writing today.  Through the reading quiz review, we should have already discussed that Walter Dean Myers was reading and reacting to four different books throughout chapters 13-14, in addition to ditching school everyday for 30 days.  Using what we learn about his state of mind in these chapters, my students will be writing letters to the 16-year-old Myers, convincing him to come back to school.

I give each of my students a graphic organizer and explain that on the front side, they will use it to gather evidence of how Myers felt about each of the four books, based on what he writes in chapters 13-14.  I have additionally created a resource for my students to consult, which provides a synopsis of and sample paragraph from each of the four books, to help them better understand the texts, as I assume that very few of my students, if any, have read any of them.  When they have gathered sufficient evidence for each book (this can be teacher determined--I will most likely require at least two entries for each book), they will turn the graphic organizer over and begin drafting their letters (see next section).

I then arrange my students into strategic groups of three, conscious of spreading around both my struggling and non-struggling students so that no group is lopsided.  They will work together on this assignment, though each student must record the information on his/her own individual graphic organizer.

Small Group Letter Drafting

20 minutes


As student groups complete the graphic organizer, they then transition to the backside, where they begin drafting their letters.

The first task for this portion of the assignment is to consider the elements of the rhetorical square, which is a skill my students have experimented with in previous lessons, and is one that I want them to recognize is integral to becoming not only better readers, but also better writers.  As they determine the purpose, argument(s), audience, and persona of their letters, this should encourage an awareness and discussion of the strategies they will use to write the most effective letter possible.

I do not anticipate that most student groups will progress this far, and even if they do, they will still need to produce a clean, final draft of their letters on separate paper.  Thus, the letter drafting process will most likely continue into the next lesson.