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STUDENT TASK

Truth to Power: Writing Letters for Change

Do Something
Grade Level

What?
Students write informed letters to corporate or elected officials, outlining their views on a social issue and calling for specific action

 

Estimated time

One to two weeks
 

Why?

Formal letter writing is an effective advocacy tool with the potential to create change while building student confidence. Writing for social change encourages writers to use their own voices and promotes literacy skills.


How?

Get Ready

  1. Research constituent letters and letter writing campaigns such as those found at change.org, or write your own letter for change. Provide examples to students as mentor texts.

Get Set

  1. Provide students with information about work schedule and due dates. Use the rubric to define expectations and project components and to clarify how you will assess student work.
  2. Introduce students to the Do Something Student Planning Guide. Instruct them to use the Guide to sketch an outline for their Letter for Change. As appropriate, integrate other pre-writing and writing processes. 
  3. Instruct students to collect information from a variety of sources. These questions can help guide their research:
    • Who does this issue affect?
    • What parties are involved?
    • What is currently being done?
    • What is your proposed course of action to bring change?
    • Who would oppose your action plan? Who would support your action plan? Why?

Go!

  1. Students should evaluate their research to determine the best recipient for their letter. Who is in the position to make change? Who has the greatest impact on the issue?
  2. Provide students with ample time to research, draft, revise, peer edit and publish their letter. Integrate the writing processes used in your classroom.
  3. Ask students to read their letters out loud in class. Provide time for students to respond to each other's work and provide peer feedback.


Reflection

Use journal writing or Talking Circles to facilitate student reflection. Some suggested reflection questions include:
  • What did you learn from this experience? What moments of the process stand out for you?
  • How did your letter relate back to our reading of the central text?
  • What did you expect to happen when you wrote the letter? Did the result match your expectation?
  • Did you receive a response? What will you do if you do not receive a response?
  • Discuss the effectiveness of writing for social change.


English language learners

English language learners can benefit from seeing a variety of sample letters that model the items assessed on the rubric. When presenting sample letters, explicitly teach the vocabulary unique to the task, such as the word “sincerely.” Provide opportunities to discuss work with peers. When providing feedback, make your comments specific and clear.


Connection to anti-bias education

Literacy development through writing encourages students to combine identity and action. Letters allow students to communicate directly with someone who can effect change. Developing formal writing skills is in itself a liberating act—the more confident students feel as writers, the more natural it will be for them to use writing to address injustice.