Weekly Discussions

Weekly Discussions

You’ve Got Mail: Using Letters in the Classroom

Thursday Discussions were so interesting this week. We had Latifa Galal who gave an interesting Presentation “You’ve Got Mail: Using Letters in the Classroom”. She used letter writing to improve students’ writing skills. The ideas she presented can be adapted to different ages and levels.

She said she thought of this idea as she noticed how much students hated and suffered from writing. She believed this idea strengthens the relationships among students in class and get them to know each other better.

First, she gave sticky papers to the teachers and asked them to write how they feel about letter writing and what they expected from her Presentation. Then she said distributed white sheets of paper and said she was looking for an assistant to help her and asked them to write her a letter why they can be good assistants. Then she exchanged the letters among the teachers and asked their colleagues to comment on what they wrote. In her classes, she presented an extract from Jill Hadfield writings about ‘The Perfect Students’. She used it after introducing adjectives] about what makes a good language learner. After the students write their answers, the teacher can put the letters on the wall around the class and the students can read what their colleagues said about what they wrote. At this point, Latifa showed the teachers samples of her students’ writings.

Introducing another idea, she asked the teachers to write a very short paragraph about one thing each teacher needs to improve about him/herself. This technique can be used to motivate students to develop their skills or get advice from a higher student. She showed a number of samples written by different students and the comment of higher level students on them.

Another idea to encourage students to express themselves in writing, she showed a picture of an old man sitting lonely in a place full of people like a theatre. She gave the teachers the drawing in figure (1) and asked them to describe the appearance of the old man, then his personality and then guess how he feels and why. Then students can exchange papers and she can discuss it with them.

                        Figure (1)

Another interesting activity followed, she distributed the sheet in figure (2), asked the teachers to draw a friend in the box provided, use the arrows on the left of the box to describe his appearance, and the ones at the bottom to describe his character. Then she asked them to write a letter describing that friend. Another idea is to give the first sentence of a story, ask each group to write another sentence, then pass it to another group and so on until they complete a short story. Finally, each group is to get their original story and see how it was ended.

                         Figure (2)

The best thing about these activities is that they can make your classes highly interactive and tend to like writing. Letter writing is a simple form of writing that can be used later on to encourage students to write long essays and articles step by step. Hope you can use Latifa’s ideas and tell us about the results.

You can write to her if you are interested in her PPP, latifa.mousa@britishcouncil.org.eg   

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