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Lesson Plan

Exploring Literature through Letter-Writing Groups

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Exploring Literature through Letter-Writing Groups

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

John Paul Walter

John Paul Walter

Washington, Washington DC


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students discuss literature through a series of letter exchanges, in the form of handwritten letters, typed letters, electronic documents, e-mail, online discussion posts, and even Weblog posts. Students begin by exchanging letters that explore an issue or idea from a selected text. They discuss ways of writing open-ended letters that foster discussion, leaving room for responses to their letters, and keeping letters focused on a point. They then continue to exchange letters as they read the text, exchanging a minimum of three letters in a series. Letter series can be used in conjunction with any work of literature and any other assignment. Students can even be asked to carry on a year-long discussion in which they make connections among a number of literary works.

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Letter Generator: This online tool allows students to read about the parts of a letter. They can then write and print their own friendly or business letter.

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Elaine Fredericksen writes that "...having students practice writing by requiring an exchange of correspondence either by e-mail or paper mail echoes a time-honored tradition of letter writing as a teaching tool. This tool has a wide range of applications in the writing classroom and reaches well beyond the simple transfer of e-mail messages." (278) Art Young argues that having students write letters to each other in order to explore literature is a collaborative learning activity that asks them to engage in higher-order critical thinking skills by generating the issues they will discuss and by responding to each other's ideas and questions. This lesson has students exchange a series of letters that allows them to explore a piece of literature they are reading, as well as make connections among several literary works they read during the year.

Further Reading

Young, Art. 1997. "Mentoring, Modeling, Monitoring, Motivating: Response to Student's Writing as Academic Conversation." Writing to Learn: Strategies for Assigning and Responding to Writing Across the Disciplines. Ed. Mary Dean Sorcinelli and Peter Elbow. Jossey-Bass Publishers. 27-39.


Fredericksen, Elaine. "Letter Writing in the College Classroom." Teaching English in the Two-Year College 27.3 (March 2000): 278-284.

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