Touchstone Texts Helped

11 out of the 17 students who were present yesterday turned-in their drafts. Nine of them will be getting customized letterhead. Good number, right?

I found that the packet of touchstone texts (letters) I gave the students on the immersion day of our unit really helped to lift the level of their writing. I could tell several students kept them alongside of their papers as they were writing since their final paragraph was well-written and followed the same structure as my former students’ final paragraphs (i.e., they included a call to action, as well as my contact information). Additionally, one student lifted my personal e-mail address off of the touchstone texts last night to inform me he wasn’t finished with his letter yet. Pretty resourceful! (Nota Bene: I never really used my NYCDOE E-mail Address when I taught in NYC. Therefore, all of my former students’ letters used to include my personal e-mail address as a means for a company to contact the student if they had more questions about a student’s letter. Now I use my school address.)

Additionally, I went through every single letter last night so that I could provide a short, typed narrative back to each student with an explanation of what s/he did well as a writer and what s/he needed to work on as a writer. I kept 100 Trait-Specific Comments: A Quick Guide for Giving Constructive Feedback on Student Writing by Ruth Culham by my side so that I could quickly come up with phrases that made sense based-off of the 6+1 Trait Model. While I usually do this without the help of a book, I wanted to try using this text so that I made sure I really hit the nail on-the-head with my comments since this unit of study is so short.

Here are the comments I made to a couple of my students about their letters:

#1) Dear F,
The use of the business letter format and evidence of correct use of the mentor texts I gave you made it easy for me, the reader, to read your letter and understand what you are hoping the recipient will donate. Well done!
Please think about the basics of capitalization: on the first word of the sentence, on proper nouns (like our school’s name). Check back through your draft for use of capitals and mark them so you can remember to change these on your next draft.
Thanks for the hard work you put into this draft. It absolutely shows!!!
Very truly yours,
Ms. S.
P.S. Please let me know what kind of colors you’d like on your letterhead… you earned it!

#2) Dear B,
When I read this letter, I felt as though you were speaking directly to the reader. Your letter has a deep commitment to your topic and really shows the recipient why he should care about making sure that this class gets laptops. Well done!
I noticed you attempted to follow the persuasive letter format and did quite well with it. Please see my notes about line breaks and indenting, which I wrote right on the draft. ASK ME IF YOU ARE UNSURE OF WHAT MY MARKINGS MEAN!
One thing I’d like to see you work on as a writer is the organization of this piece. You began your piece with a strong lead that made me want to keep on going. However, your reasons assume that your reader knows about our classroom. He doesn’t. You must tell him a little bit more about the things we do here so that he can understand the need we have for computers. It’s up to you to explain to him what Writing Workshop and Author Studies are. He’s a business man… You must act as his teacher! Additionally, be sure that you sequence your reasons with phrases like “One example…” or “Another reason…” Is that clear?
Finally, please write another paragraph that includes:
o Information on how the person can contact you. They can call me at ___ or email me at _____.
o Consider modifying your call to action (that means, ask for 5 computers, not 19… I don’t want you to seem greedy).
o A sincere line thanking him for reading your letter.
Thank you for all of the hard work you put into this draft. It shows!!!
Very truly yours,
Ms. S.
P.S. Please let me know what kind of colors you’d like on your letterhead… you earned it!