There’s still something special about receiving a letter; I mean a real letter too, not bills or junk mail as we get plenty of those. I think it’s a wonderful tradition that still has real value in this world of technological marvels and instant communication. It’s because of this I like to run my ‘Letters for Leaders’ project from time to time. Students write a letter to influential public figure about an issue that matters to them and we wait for responses, simple.
I’ll admit there is a little more to the process but the benefits are worth the effort. Once the students have crafted their letters they develop their editing skills, working through multiple drafts and really focus on the method of letter writing. Let’s be honest writing to a real world leader has a bit more gravitas when asking for multiple re-drafts than pretending to write to someone. It makes it real, it makes it matter.
1) Get them angry/passionate. Use a powerful stimulus to get them involved, I like to use Amnesty International (@AmnestyOnline) as they campaign heavily for human rights issues which are both important and relevant to my subject area. Scientists could be getting students excited about cloning or genetic engineering, IT teachers about internet safety or privacy, PE teachers about drugs issues or technology in sport.
2) Decide who would be good to write to about the issue. There are a lot of opportunities to interact with influential figures for the price of a stamp. Your local MP is obliged to write back, there are the leaders of the other parties, The Queen, The Pope, Sports Managers, basically anyone with a lot of influence who might write back to your students.
3) Draft a letter. Students write their first attempt at a persuasive letter.
4) Edit. Talking through with the students give them advice on developing their letter.
6) Repeat 4 & 5 until both the students and you agree it is an excellent piece of writing.
7) Post to the leader. Wait. (Remember to have it posted back C/O your school.)
As I mentioned your local MP is obliged to respond and generally will with a high quality letter. We’ve also had success with a number of others including the Prime Minister and the head of another political party. Sadly we’ve had no luck with President Obama as yet. The students are always hugely excited upon receiving their replies and it’s a special experience for them. Make sure you get a copy of the letter, and then give the originals to the students; it’s their letter after all.
1) You can use this as a literacy learning experience by analysing the letter.
2) Sticking copies up on a wall display next to pictures of those who write back makes for an excellent celebration of the project for students.
3) Use it as a stretch activity to challenge your hardest working students.
4) You could even use it as a #unhomework or #takeawayhomework task.