School is about to start for many teachers and students around the country. The first question for most teachers is so “what am I going to do in the first few weeks of school to get the kids excited about learning?” Well, here is a great idea to get the kids involved and excited. The National Writing Project is sponsoring an essay writing campaign called Letters to Our Next President in collaboration with Google. The purpose of this—to get kids excited about writing,facilitate peer editing, and help students get involved in the upcoming presidential race.
It is super easy way to get kids to write a persuasive letter and submit it because it is all done on Google Docs. No collecting essays, no going to the post office just at the deadline to mail them in….just have the kids do it on the computer and submit it. The instructions are all on the National Writing Project website. It is also exciting for the kids because they can use the latest in collaborative Web 2.0 technology which makes them feel empowered.
One great feature of this assignment (thanks to the Google Docs platform) is that kids can work both at home and at school on the assignment without worrying about emailing the document to themselves or carrying it on a disk or data stick. That is because it is on Google Docs (a free service) which is available anywhere in the world that the user has an Internet connection. Also, this exciting assignment will get them involved in the upcoming presidential campaign as well as get them trained in 21st century skills.
Another great feature of this assignment is all the support from the National Writing Project, an amazing support group for teachers of writing in all disciplines. It focuses on the core mission of improving the teaching of writing and improving the use of writing across the disciplines by offering high-quality professional development programs for educators in their service areas, at all grade levels, K–16 and across the curriculum
If you don’t know anything about Google Docs, it is an online word processing program that facilitates collaboration. Kids can peer edit and even collaborate online easily. All the students have to do is to go to Docs.Google.com and sign up for a Google Account (which is different than an email address). The Google Account just registers the students as users so that Google knows it isn’t some machine signing up for the account instead of a real person.No need to change your email address. Make sure students use the same password they have for their email address or they will forget it. Once they do that, then they go to Documents and to File and they are in.
For instructions on how to use Docs, the kids and teachers can watch this video which gives the viewer an idea of how to use Docs. If you are going to take students into a computer lab, I suggest that you tell kids to bring headphones so they can listen to the video without disturbing the other kids (they will love doing that!) Or you can play it for the class as a whole. In addition, here are some other support materials that will help you get started on the National Writing Project website. They even provide support for teachers who have questions by writing to email@example.com
Next, teachers need to register their class by providing name, school name and contact information (super easy form) and brief list of the class or classes. Teachers need to sign up their classes by September 8, 2008. One last but important thing: there is a parent/guardian permission form (PDF) that needs to be send home with the kids and returned to the teacher. That’s it.
To publish the essays on a special Google site, the teacher submits the essays on Docs which will then be posted on the public website to showcase the students’ work. The NWP and Google provide teachers an easy way to submit.
To get started, check out this very helpful video for teachers that shows some of the ways Google Docs can save teachers time and can make writing fun for students. The video is short, to the point, and shows practicing teachers and administrators talking about how it helped in the classroom.
This project gives students in English and Social Studies classes an opportunity to write a persuasive essay about a real life topic that matters to them….the upcoming Presidential race.. Google Docs even created a special template for this project which can be found on the site. The National Writing Project has a wonderful list of resources designed to help teachers and students do research.
My freshman English classes and my journalism classes will be introduced to this project on the third day of school (after all the required formalities). They will spend the day in the computer lab getting acquainted with Docs and with the resources. It should be an exciting beginning of the 2008-9 school year both of students and for me as a a teacher.
- The League of Women Voters Provides information about the campaign issues, voter registration support, and a citizen’s guide to the electoral process.
- OneVote 2008 A teen-oriented guide to the election produced by ChannelOne.com, a youth news site.
- Rock the Vote Aims to motivate young voters through its content and visual style, which appeal to teens.
- Googlitics Contains links and lessons to help students participate and learn about American political elections with online tools from Google.
Resources for Teens About Issues in the News
- These websites provide information about current issues, news, and culture, aimed at a teen audience.
- NewsHour Extra A news source for teens that includes Student Voices — essays and editorials written by students
- .Pop+Politics Provides a forum for discussion and debate among young people about current politics and culture.
- WireTap The Webby-winning national news and culture magazine whose targeted audience is young people.Related Resource Topics
- Teaching Writing – General Resources on Teaching Writing
Another valuable way to find help is to go to this special link on Delicious that has some additional resources for the Letter to our Next President project: http://delicious.com/ElyseEA
You can also search on Delicious using these tags:
- finding student models
- rubrics and tools for persuasive writing
- teaching persuasive writing
- tips for better WOF pieces
More Resources for Teachers provided by the National Writing Project
The Writing Classroom as a Laboratory for Democracy
Getting Real: Authenticity in Writing Prom