This lesson will help build high school students’ writing skills and also give them practice with sharing their feelings. High school students too often keep their feelings bottled up inside. Writing about their feelings is therapeutic for them. While ostensibly the project gives students a way to tell their grandparents how important they are to them, its primary purpose is to give the teacher a way to assess student writing skills.
Get your students invested in the activity by describing it as a very special project that may become a family heirloom. Ask them to bring a writing journal into class to begin the project. Tell your class the lesson will involve creating a Grandparents’ Journal to fill with letters from the student to the grandparent and from the grandparent to the teenager. Give the students time to brainstorm a list of at least five ideas for topics they will discuss in a letter to their grandparents.
Inform them if they have more than one set of grandparents they should start the journal in class for one set and create another journal at home for the other set of grandparents.
Students who do not have living grandparents can create a journal with their parents or any other elder relative of their choice. You can even contact a local nursing home to see if there is an elderly person who would like to correspond with a student.
Let students sit in groups for this project. Tell the students that they will participate in peer-editing during this lesson. It will also be helpful for them to brainstorm ideas together. Sometimes students are shy about expressing their feelings, but if they see other students doing it the task becomes easier.
Give writing ideas to the students such as:
- Write about why the grandparents are important in your life.
- Describe what a special event spent with the grandparents meant to you.
- Describe the fun of visiting the grandparents.
- Tell how the grandparents have inspired you in career or personal dreams for your life.
- Tell the grandparents how much you love them and why.
- Ask the grandparents to write about what their lives were like when they were your age.
- Ask the grandparents to write about how they met their spouse and fell in love.
- Ask the grandparents to write about how the world has changed since when they were small.
Circulate the room while students are writing. Go over their letters with them and give advice about how to state specifically the feelings they have for the grandparent. Students should also describe particular events they have shared that are special memories. Remind students that strong writing is always to the point and includes facts.
Ask students to use literary devices such as imagery and alliteration in their writing. Discuss several examples of each writing technique with the class. These writing tools make writing stronger and more memorable.
When a student has a draft of the first letter to his grandparent ask him to have a friend “peer-edit" it. The peer edit process should involve checking for proper sentence structure, word usage, and overall impact of the letter. Each student should get feedback on the letter draft from a friend and from the teacher.
Discuss with the class how time passes rapidly and grandparents are a precious part of life. Encourage teenagers to have grandparents document their lives via journal writing, making videos, and sending letters to grandchildren.
When grading this project assess writing skills, teamwork skills, peer-editing effort, and the overall participation in the project of creating a journal to give to grandparents.
Assign projects throughout the year that help students document their family history, such as interviewing an aunt or uncle when the family gathers for a holiday. Grandparents and other relatives have much valuable information about past events in the family. This writing lesson has the added bonus of helping students work to preserve family stories for posterity.