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A Grateful Teenager? Bring Out Their Soft Side With a Letter Writing Project

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/20/2012

Teens too often have a lot of conflict in their relationships with parents. Thus, this writing project will give students a chance to reflect back on everything their parents have done for them and thank them.

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    Why a Letter?

    Teenagers don’t often enough take the time to say “thank you” or “I love you” to their parents or guardians. This letter writing project will give teens catharsis about the conflict they have experienced and will help them focus on the positive aspects of their relationship with their parents; it will also help students hone their persuasive writing skills.

    This is a fun project before a major holiday. A thank you letter from their child is always a delightful gift for a parent. Order some colored paper and envelopes for students to use in this project. Also let students know they may bring their own writing paper or computer paper in if they wish to use it for the project.

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    Discuss Tone, Message of the Letter

    Tell students that they may pick the overall tone of the letter. Some students feel most comfortable writing a serious letter and other students want a lot of humor in their letter. The overall message of the letter is to say “thank you”; students may choose their own method for writing a persuasive letter to inform their parents of their gratitude.

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    Brainstorm Ideas

    Have students sit in groups and brainstorm ideas to create a list of ten to fifteen things they would like to thank their parents for. When students say that is too many things, remind them that they have been alive for at least 13-18 years; they should be able to think of one thing they’d like to thank parents for from each year of their lives. Tell students they may or may not end up using all of the items in the letter, but it is good to create a list to get focused before writing.

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    Narrow Down Ideas

    After students have created a list of ideas ask them to think about which items they are most thankful for. They may wish to focus on those items, or even just one item in the letter, or they may wish to include all of the items in the letter.

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    Guidelines for the Letter

    Tell students the letter must be at least five paragraphs long. They must use specific examples (or just one, if very detailed) of what they are thankful for from their parents or guardians. Give students a copy of the writing rubric for persuasive writing and discuss it with the class.

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    Start a First Draft

    Before students start writing a draft of the letter, remind them to stick with the “tone” they chose for the letter. Tell them to be specific about what they are thanking the parents for. Did the parents show them a lot of love, did they give them a great childhood, did the parent work hard to provide a safe home? Circulate the room and offer advice while students write.

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    Get Peer Review if Desired

    Some students will want another student to give them advice about their letter; other students will feel their letter is too private to share. So give students a choice to either accept or decline the idea of peer editing.

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    Circulate the Room

    Offer advice to each student if they wish you to read their letter. Some students do not want to share their ideas until the letter is in final draft form. They may feel vulnerable about sharing their personal thoughts while just creating a draft. So offer to look at the letter, but do not require students to show you their draft if they do not wish to.

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    Finish Draft for Homework

    Ask students to finish the final draft of the letter for homework. Give them at least three days before the due date. Many students find this project makes them very emotional; thus give them enough time to work through their emotions and get down to writing a solid thank you letter

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    Assess Student Progress

    Use the writing rubric to assess student progress. Also ensure that they followed the guidelines presented for the project. Grade the letters based on the strength of the writing and the ability of the letter to persuade the reader of the gratitude the students has to the parent or guardian.