3. Writing letters
It is important to learn how to express a point of view clearly, with supporting arguments. This is a useful skill when writing student essays, but also, when older, if debating a community or national issue in a letter, particularly a letter to a newspaper.
A letter to a newspaper can be compared to the first half of a debate. Often another person will respond to a published letter and will present alternative arguments. In Resource 5: Example letter there is a letter to a newspaper in which pupils write about the important issue of including all pupils in schools.
Case Study 3 and the Key Activity offer you guidance for working with pupils to present arguments in the form of a letter.
Case Study 3: Learning to write a letter to the head teacher or a newspaper
A few months after Vivian Mbaya first introduced the idea of inclusion to her pupils, there were two new pupils in her class. One was deaf, and the other had only one arm. She and her pupils were gradually learning to include them in their class, to communicate with them, and to support them without making them feel too ‘different’.
She now suggested the pupils write a letter to the head teacher or a newspaper on the topic of the importance of including all pupils in school. They could send their letter to the head teacher or to the Daily Trust in Abuja or to the local paper. They would have to write in English.
Pupils liked this idea and brainstormed what they could say. They produced an outline for the letter.
Theme: Schools should make efforts to bring in ‘out-of-school’ youngsters.
‘Ways to counter the possible arguments against.
Successes and challenges.
Vivian gave pupils guidance on the kinds of phrases to use, especially for 2 and 3, where they were presenting the argument. They asked a teacher who had access to a computer to type it, and sent copies to the newspapers (see the letter in Resource 5).
Key Activity: A letter to the head teacher or a newspaper to express a point of view
Take a topic your pupils have debated and introduce the idea of presenting their arguments in a letter to the head teacher or, if you have one locally, to a newspaper.
Ask them to brainstorm, in groups, what they wish to write.
Next, write the structure for the letter on the chalkboard using the outline in Case Study 3 (although your theme may be different).
Pupils may need to write this letter in an additional language (e.g. English) so give them some guidance on phrases to use for introducing and presenting arguments (see Resource 6: ‘Argument’ phrases).
Ask the groups to assess their own and each other’s letters, and decide which is the best one to send to the head teacher or newspaper (see Resource 6 for guidance).
You may need to do some editing before sending the letter, but try to keep the pupils’ words.
Think what your pupils have learned from turning debate arguments into a letter.
With younger pupils or those less confident and competent at writing, you could do this as a class exercise where you write down their ideas. Use the activity to develop their vocabulary in the additional language.
When pupils have finished writing, take some time to review the whole process. Think about what your pupils have learned from turning debate arguments into a letter. You may find Key Resource Assessing earning a useful reference point.