Grade: 9
Subject: English
The Art of Letter Writing: Personal Letters
informal letter, personal letter, creative writing, American history, voice.

Expected Outcome Of This Lesson Plan-
1. Students will write with an identifiable purpose and for a specific audience. (Standard 2: Concept 1: PO 2).

2. Students will provide sufficient, relevant and carefully selected details to support their statements. (Standard 2: Concept 1: PO 3).

3. Students will structure their writing according to a specific purpose. (Standard 2: Concept 2: PO 1).

4. Students will show awareness of the audience, through word choice, style, and an appropriate connection with, or distance from, the audience. (Standard 2: Concept 3: PO 1).

5. Students will convey a sense of identity through originality, sincerity, liveliness, or humor appropriate to topic and type of writing. (Standard 2: Concept 3: PO 2).

6. Students will choose appropriate voice for the application. (Standard 2: Concept 3: PO 3).

6. Students will use language appropriate to purpose, topic, and audience.(Standard 2: Concept 3: PO 5).

Teacher Objectives-
1.Students will read five of Harry Truman's letters to his wife Bess and his daughter Margaret, which reveal the personal side of Harry Truman.

3.Students will analyze and draw conclusions about Truman's character, attitudes, lifestyle, ethics, and relationships, based upon his personal letters.

3.Students will compare and contrast the language and style in Truman's letters with contemporary personal letters.

4. Students will compose one letter from each of the following categories:

- A letter to a living person whom you admire.

- A letter to a teacher.

- A letter to a friend or relative.

- A letter to an individual or company to "right a wrong."

- An anonymous response to a letter sent to an advice columnist from your local newspaper, offering advice.

5. Students will analyze their own personal letters as well as their peers' anonymous letters, to determine what conclusions could be drawn about a writer from a personal letter.

6. Students will
5 samples of Harry Truman's personal letters, selected by the teacher, from: Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-1959, Edited by Robert H. Ferrell, W.W. Norton & Company, 1983.

Letters (of a non-controversial in nature) to an advice columnist from the local newspaper.

Samples of the teacher's personal letters (non-controversial in nature).
Notebook paper and pencils(or access to a computer with a word processing program and printing capabilities for each student).

Teaching Methods-

1. Lesson Introduction-

1.Ask the students what they know about Harry Truman-the man, his presidency, and the time period in which he lived.
Either place responses on the board, or field a discussion. If the students have little knowledge of Truman, provide a brief overview.

2. Ask students about their own letter writing: frequency, saving memorable letters, notes in class, slang, and inside jokes. Elicit responses to these questions:

What makes a good personal letter? How is a personal letter different from a business or formal letter?
Do you think that personal letters reveal more about the writer than a business letter would? How might the voice you use in personal letters change, according to the intended recipient of the letter?

2. Lesson Progression-

On day 1 and 2 of the assignment:

1.Have students go to their computers and access the Truman letters online through Alternatively, if the class lacks sufficient computer access, the teacher may print and distribute copies of five letters from the website.

2.Remind students of Truman's prolific letter writing (the five letters are only a sample). Tell them that you have acted as editor in choosing certain letters for inclusion in the sample, since we do not have enough class time to read and analyze all of his letters.

3. Read the five selected examples of Truman's personal letters in class, and discuss what the letters can tell us about Truman. You may need two days to complete this part of the lesson.

On day 2 or 3:

4.After reading and analyzing Truman's five letters, explain the following letter writing project to the class:

You will compose five letters to five different people.

- A letter to a living person whom you admire.

- A letter to a teacher.

- A letter to a friend or relative.

- A letter to an individual or company to "right a wrong."

- An anonymous response to a letter sent to an advice columnist from your local newspaper, offering advice.

Each letter should be approximately one page.
If you will be typing your letters, please use Times New Roman Font and a Font Size of 12.

You should make an effort to address the recipient in language that fits your relationship. or example, a letter to a friend will certainly be more casual than a letter to a former or current teacher. You will not be required to send out your letters, but
you should write each letter as if you would send it to that person, so you want to discuss a topic that pertains to your relationship with that person.

You are not required to address your letters to real people, but please remember that we want these letters to be as realistic as possible. Find your authentic voice. Think of Harry Truman's letters.

5.Share some samples of your own personal letters and solicit students' reactions and conclusions at this time.

Students can begin work on their letters in the remaining class time.

3. Guided Practice-

On day 3 or 4:

1.Guide students through the writing of the first two assigned letters: the letter to a living person they admire and the letter to a teacher. Give them the class period to work on their letters, circulating throughout the room to offer ideas, assistance, and feedback.When students complete the first two letters, under your supervision, they may move ahead to the others, working independently.

Once everyone has finished their first two letters, hold a brief discussion at the end of the class period. Elicit student responses to these questions: how might your letter voices differ, depending upon the person you are writing to?

3. Assign the letter to a friend or relative and the letter to "right a wrong"
as homework, if students did not complete them during the class period. Ask students to choose one letter they would be willing to share with the class, and to write a check mark on it in blue or black pen.

4. Student Practice-

On day 4 or 5 of the assignment:

1.Students will have completed the letter to a friend and the letter to "right a wrong" letters on their own, as a homework assignment. Read and discuss the designated letters to be shared in class. Have students respectfully discuss and analyze the shared letters. Have them attempt to guess who wrote each letter, before revealing the answer.

2.Proceed to the final letter, an anonymous response to a letter in an advice column.

Have students read and choose one letter from a preselected sample of letters to an advice column, such as "Dear Abby."

3.Direct students to work independently on the assignment, writing a letter in response to a person seeking advice. They will place themselves in the role of "Dear Abby" and offer advice. Tell students that the final letter must be anonymous, so they should not include their names on the letter. (This assignment works best when all letters are typed, rather than handwritten.)

If a student forgets and includes his or her name on the letter, they must redo it.

Upon completing their anonymous advice letters, students will submit their letters to you. Place the letters in a pile, and shuffle them.

Distribute one letter to each student randomly and let the students read the letters. Call on students for their reactions and conclusions about the writer, but remind them to be respectful, kind, and constructive. Make sure that they cite specific examples from the letter to support their conclusions.


5. Learner Accommodations-

1.Copies of the five selected Truman letters can be displayed on a SMART Board, or as transparencies, to provide a visual aide to students. Other visual aides could include copies of the teacher's personal letter samples, and a template of the proper format for a personal letter.

2. Printed hard copies, or access to Truman's letters on the Internet, would allow students to read and see the structure of his letters for themselves, while hearing teacher read the letters aloud.

3. To appeal to tactile learners, the teacher could have students write or type and print their own copies of the format for a personal letter, prior to the first letter assignment. This would then serve as an outline for students to refer to as they write.

6. Assessment-

On day 5 or 6 of the assignment:

1.Have students continue discussing the shared letters and the anonymous letters. Ask them to compare and contrast the different types of personal letters, and the different voice styles they may have utilized in their letters. You might solicit student answers to the following questions:

How is writing to a person you admire different from writing to a friend? How is writing to a teacher different from writing to someone who wants your advice?

Give your opinion on possible reasons for these differences. Why do you think these differences occur? Why might such differences be necessary?

7. Lesson Closure-

1.Have students compare their thoughts and analysis regarding their letters to their analyses of Truman's letters.

2. Ask students to reflect upon the conclusions they have drawn from their own personal letters, their peers' letters, and Truman's letters. Elicit their opinions on the following questions:

What do you think personal letters reveal about people? Do you think that all personal letters equally revealing? Why or why not? If not, how can we explain this difference?

Do your personal letters provide an accurate picture of you? Why or why not? How do you think your letters may look to others in 10 to 25 years?

Remind students to support their answers with specific examples from their letters.

Finally, have them compare their thoughts, ideas, and conclusions about the class letters to their earlier analyses of Truman's letters.

Ask students what they think about the work they produced for this lesson. Ask them what they feel they have learned.
Measuring Student Progress-
I would use the following rubric for evaluation. If I were able to hold classes in a computer lab, or in a context in which every student had a computer with Internet access, I would ask them to submit their anonymous letters to me electronically, with their names. In this way, I could grade the advice letters, while keeping them anonymous in class.

This rubric assumes that students have typed their letters and are working on computers with Internet access.

Letter Writing Rubric



Total Points: 100

Each letter is worth 20 points.

Terms defined:

Content: Is there any substance to this letter? It should make several significant points, not just rambling to take up space

Clarity: Is it easy for the reader to understand?

Appropriate language: Is the style of language appropriate to the recipient?

Format: Is it typed in proper letter format?




Appropriate language format




Appropriate language format




Appropriate language format




Appropriate language format




Appropriate language format

Teacher Reflection :


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