Do the Write Thing (Grade 11)

9, 10, 11, 12

Students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and then promote the idea of doing for others by writing letters to government officials to take a stand on an issue.

PrintOne to two 45-minute class periods, plus time to read the book

The learner will:

  • define advocacy as active verbal support for a cause or position.
  • define service and social activism.
  • read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  • come to a consensus about an issue of interest to address through a letter-writing campaign.
  • write a letter to a government representative.
  • reflect on the impact of the service on self.
  • copies of the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (see Bibliographical References)
  • student copies of Handout One: Sample Letter
Teacher Preparation 

The students may read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as homework or as part of a larger unit. As an alternative, assign parts of the book in small groups or the teacher may read it aloud. 


service: to provide a community or organization with something that it needs

nonviolence: the principle of refraining from using violence, especially as a means of protest

prejudice: a preformed opinion, usually an unfavorable one, based on insufficient knowledge, irrational feelings, or inaccurate stereotypes

advocacy: active verbal support for a cause or position



Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Bantam, 1993. ISBN-13: 978-0553296983


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Write the following quote on the board: "The pen is mightier than the sword." This quote comes from author Edward Bulwer-Lytton, but it has many variations, including words from Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon. Discuss what the quote means and ask for examples of how words and writing can be and have been more effective than war and fighting for changing government policies. Tell the students that they have the power to take action for the good of others by using their writing talents. Define advocacy as "active verbal support for a cause or position" and tell students that advocacy for an issue is a form of philanthropy (giving time, talent, or treasure or taking action for the common good).

  2. Introduce the theme of the day: Do the Write Thing. Tell the students that after they read an example of powerful writing in the face of war, they will advocate for a cause by writing to governmental officials. Through their efforts, they may impact policy changes.

  3. Have students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Or they may read significant sections from the book. Discuss the themes of prejudice and persecution in the book. Bring this to a discussion of discrimination and bias in today's culture and in what forms prejudice shows up at school.

  4. Discussion:

    • How were the Jews restricted in Amsterdam?
    • Why is Mr. Frank a logical choice as leader for the group in the secret annex?
    • Why did Anne find it difficult to destroy the Star of David?
    • Anne looks at going into hiding as an adventure at first.When does she realize what it really meant?
    • “There are no walls, there are no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.”What does this mean to you?
    • Why has Anne Frank’s diary had such a huge impact in the world? Did her diary have a strong personal impact on you as well?
    • How has Anne Frank's writing become a powerful tool in the issue of persecution and prejudice?
  5. Review Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of service and social activism (from Lesson One) and relate it to the concept of advocacy through writing. Explain that students will participate in a letter-writing campaign advocating an important social issue.

  6. Explain that students will decide together on an issue to address in the community and then advocate for positive change in the community.

  7. To begin the project, have students identify a list of social issues that they feel passionate about and wish to address in their community through a letter-writing campaign. Such examples may include smoking/drinking/drugs, violence, bullying, racism/discrimination/injustice, dropouts, global issues, illiteracy, and animal extinction.

  8. Once the list has been generated, ask students to brainstorm various actions or projects that could be conducted to address these issues. Such examples may include the following:

    • Smoking — Write a letter to policy makers, requesting a ban on smoking in various venues.
    • Violence— Generate a survey to students about violence awareness or hold an anti-violence rally.
    • Racism — Design a forum for the student body that addresses issues of racism.
  9. Ask students to use team problem-solving to select one issue and project that they would like to address together. Once the issue has been selected, invite students to investigate the issue further to learn more about its origins, causes, and impact on the community.

  10. A letter-writing campaign is an easy, effective advocacy tool by which constituents voice their opinions about specific issues. The letters may be directed toward a member of Congress or a particular government agency. Knowing that re-election depends on the votes of their constituents, Senators and Representatives pay close attention to the mail they receive.

  11. Legislators are on Capitol Hill to represent us, the people. The letter serves to educate the target person/audience about an issue and explains why you feel they should take action for/against that issue. Letter-writing campaigns are also a useful way to educate other students about issues that are affecting them, and to get involved in political activism by expressing opinions to legislators.When students write to elected officials, they are not only participating in the democratic process, they are affecting the outcome.

  12. Some websites for helping students find out who their local and state officials are:

  13. Have students use Handout One: Sample Letter as a guideline to write to their government officials.

  14. Reflection is a key component of service-learning that adds meaning to the experience. Ask students how they felt about writing letters and promoting the messages of their campaign. Ask them how they think others will feel about their act of service. Discuss with students why doing this project was important.

  15. Have students complete the following statement. Today I hope______. I am most anxious about___________.

Cross Curriculum 

This lesson involves selecting an issue of concern to the students and then participating in a letter-writing campaign to take action as advocates for change.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe a detailed action for service.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.