Writing for Action

Grades: 
9, 10, 11, 12

Students identify causes they care about and related nonprofits or community resources. They use writing as a tool to make a difference, using persuasive writing techniques.

Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintOne Class Period plus time for research and writing
Objectives 

The learner will:

  • research an issue they identify as important to them.
  • use persuasive writing techniques to write a letter advocating for change.
  • revise and edit letters.
Materials 

student copies of the handout: Rubric for Letters 

Home Connection 

Students may involve other adults in this assignment, researching with them at home or having others help revise and edit their letters.

Instructions

Print
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    First find out what the learners care about. Brainstorm a list of things that are great about the community. Then, brainstorm a list of things that can be better. From the list of things that could improve, come to consensus on which thing is most importantto work on. Encourage the learners by saying, "If we care about it, we can do something about it no matter our age or situation. Everyone has something to give."  

    Talk about ways to find out more about the issue - facts and data about causes and effects, what actions to improve are already in place, different views and arguments, who are the experts. This may be obtained through Internet research, interviewing an expert, or visiting a nonprofit.

  2. Tell students that they will take action by writing letters either to the editor of a local newspaper or to lawmakers, advocating change regarding the issue they care about. Talk about the possible impact of writing to these groups. Guide learners to find the addresses of their state, local, or federal elected Representatives or Senators. There may be guidelines for writing provided on government websites. 

  3. Review persuasive writing techniques from lesson three handout, including these tips:

    • Make your point with detail, not vague enthusiasm
    • Support it with names of experts
    • Use facts and data to support
    • Appeal to emotions
    • Show the benefits of your argument and tap into readers emotions 
    • Show you are trustworthy
    • Build urgency to act and be clear on call to action
    • Passion shines through
  4. Give students time to research their issue, making sure they pay attention to opposing view points, and that they get information from a variety of reputable sources. (While a bibliography is not necessary, if they use specific information from a source, they must cite it within the letter.) As they research the issue, students should begin thinking about the most effective person to whom the letter could be sent.

  5. Review business letter style, and have students write their letters, going through all stages of the writing process. This is especially important since the letters are intended for a respected audience.

  6. During peer editing, the reader gives feedback by telling the writer the following:

    • I can tell that the issue and your point of view are ....
    • I am unclear on ...
    • You persuaded me when ...
    • This detail was effective ...
    • I still want to know ...

    The writer takes clues from the peer editing on what to change to make their writing, argument, and call to action more clear and credible. 

Assessment 

Assess letters according to rubric in the handout: Rubric for Letters.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will write well-researched, persuasive letters to their lawmakers, or letters to the editor, concerning issues that need to be changed.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  2. 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. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, 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.