Letter to the Future
Your last writing assignment for this class is to write a letter to the students
who will be in my class next year. Having survived the last nine months in the
Den of the Ogre (or the Classroom of the Clown...some of you know what that
means....), you are in the unique position of being able to tell others how
to make the most of their year here. Your letter does not have to be a five-paragraph
argumentative essay, but there are certain topics you must cover. And, of course,
specific details and examples from your own experience will make your suggestions
more meaningful and believable. So, even though it is not an argumentative essay,
you are going to make some claims about the class and support them with specific
stories from your time here. It's like a combination of an argument and a first-person
narrative, get it? It's your story about the time in this class. In other words,
it should very long because it has to meet lots of different requirements!
[Anyone who asks "How long does it have to be?" will be required
to write at least 2,000 words to get credit! If you have to ask, that's the
answer!] Your letter will be evaluated using a standard six-trait
rubric and, yes, it will be delivered to a random student (or multiple
random students if it is popular with the first one who sees it) on the first
day of school in August. You have a real audience, a noble purpose, and all
the resources you could possibly need right here on this web site. Review
the year and get started! (The links to each term are in the navigation
column on the left edge of the homepage. You might need to scroll down a bit.)
Here is how to format a letter.
Here is what you should include in your letter:
- Heading: Your Name, Your Address (make up a silly one),
- Salutation: You know, all letters have them. You might
start with something polite like "Dear Fortunate Soul," or "Hello,
Incoming Ninth Grader!" On the other hand, I am sure you remember some
of the less savory greetings that you encountered when you read these letters
on the first day. However you greet your audience, remember that you will
be signing your name to this work, so if you wouldn't say it to your Grandma,
don't say it in this letter.
- General Introduction: Tell the new student a little about
yourself and how you did in this class. It will help him/her to know a little
about you so s/he can decide if you are a good person to take advice from.
- Introduction to the Class: In this section, include hints
that will help future students avoid the mistakes you made. Let them know
which instructions they really need to listen to and which they can safely
ignore. Again, focus on your own experiences to support your advice and suggestions.
Tell them some stories about things you did (or wish you had done) to succeed
in the class. [This English class is __________________. For example,
- Reading: Reflect on the reading you did this year. Discuss
the role of reading in this class. Include book reviews/tests and the way
we read novels and stories in class as a group. You can name the books we
read this year and talk about why you liked (or didn't like) them, but realize
that I may not use the same ones next year. Tell them how to make the most
of the reading assignments, whatever they may be. [This reading in this
class was __________________. To illustrate this, let me telly you about the
- Writing: Reflect on the writing you did this year. Explain
the major writing assignments. Give some hints on how to get the highest possible
scores from me as well as from Utah Compose. Don't forget about Writing Notebooks!
Any hints about how to do well on those would be useful as well. [Writing
in this class was ___________________, and the way to get the best scores
is to ______________________. For example, ____________....]
- Great Expectations: Think back to your first day in the
class. What did you expect this class to include? Did it turn out the way
you thought it would? What do you wish we had done more/less of? Was the class
what you expected it to be? Give the new student some suggestions as to how
s/he should set his/her expectations for the class. [When I started this
class, I thought ________________________, and/but what actually happened
- The Class Website (and/or Facebook Page): For the sake
of humanity, please tell them how important this resource is. I know lots
of other teachers have a website, and most of them are useless. I run my classroom
and all the assignments from this site! I update it every freakin' day! There
are no excuses. If you have a access to a computer or a modern cell phone,
you have access to everything we do in here. Tell them that!
- Stuff We Did: Besides the "educational" stuff,
we did quite a bit of informal conversation, storytelling, arguing, etc. Think
of some of those memorable moments from class and share them.
- The Teacher: Okay, this is where you can get even. Tell
the new kids what they need to know about me. Tell them how
to stay on my "good side" and/or how to get on my "bad side."
Tell them what makes me grumpy (and warn them not to do it). Share one of
those memorable (or scary) moments in class when my Teacher Mask fell off
and the Real Me burst out for a few moments (sometimes it's rage; sometimes
it's tears -- no apologies here!) Share all the stuff you wish you had known
to start with that would have made your transition to this class easier.
- Conclusion: Sum it all up. Send those new students into
the year with smiles on their faces and a lust for learning in their hearts!
(Okay, if you can't do all that, at least include a few lines of encouragement.)
- Complimentary Closing: "Yours truly," "Sincerely,"
"With condolences," or something along these lines will work.
- Signature: Sign your name. (Include enough space between
the complimentary closing and where you type your name to sign your actual
signature when the letter is printed. You sign above where you type
Lest you haven't figured it out by now, this letter not only will introduce
new students to my class, but it is also an opportunity for you to reflect on
the time you have spent here. Please give it some thought and make it a true
reflection of what you have learned and how you feel about that learning.
You will have at least 60 minutes in the lab to complete this assignment, but
for those of you who looked it up ahead of time, you are free to complete it
before then. It should represent your absolute best writing, and it will count
for a significant percentage of your final term grade. The students next year
will thank you for your suggestions and advice, and I will enjoy hearing what
you thought of our time together.