To begin today's lesson, I ask students to think back to the informational text we read yesterday: Lincoln & Grace by Steven Metzger. I ask the kids to remind me what inference we were able to make after reading this text. They do: children are able to make a difference, even when it comes to presidents! I tell the kids that today, we’re going to take a look at a few other letters children have written to presidents, too!
To let the students experience writing from other children to presidents, I pull up a website called: “The American Presidency-Children Write to the Presidents”. I take the students through the website and we look at the letter from Grace to Abraham Lincoln, as well as four other letters that children have written to other presidents. After each letter, there is a “Think about it!” section that stirred up some good conversation with my students as we examined each letter, too!
Anytime I can incorporate technology (whether through the use of devices for my students or something as simple as incorporating at website, as I am today), my students are automatically more engaged! It's often that my students will come to me later and ask, "Mrs. Hesemann, can I get the web address for the site that we went to today so that I can go there later?" Bringing in technology adds excitement to our learning, engages our students, and is plain old fun!
After we finish looking at the samples of the letters, I say to my students, “Wow! Look at all the letters these kids have written to presidents!” Then I ask my students, “If you could write to our president, President Obama, what would you want to say?” Kids have tons of ideas, but mostly they want to know if we can write letters to the president, and I say, “Of course-that’s what we’re going to do!” You should hear the excitement from the group of kids in my class! This excitement to write is priceless in this teacher’s eyes!
I ask students to pull out a piece of paper to start our planning for our own president letters. On the SmartBoard, I model what I’d like the kids to sketch out on their papers:
-in the center, a cloud that says “President Barack Obama”
-a tangent from the center cloud connected to a new cloud that says “Introduce”
-a tangent from the center cloud connected to a new cloud that says “Reason for Writing”
-a tangent from the center cloud connected to a new cloud that says “An Action You’d Like”
-a tangent from the center cloud connected to a new cloud that says “Nice Note”
After we have our papers are set up, the students and I start with the first cloud: “Introduce”. We discuss what we could tell Barack Obama about ourselves to introduce ourselves to him. Students say it would be important to tell him their name, how old they are, or where they’re from. Students take a moment to make their notes on how they’ll introduce themselves and I make my notes on the SmartBoard as a model as well.
Then we move on to the next cloud: “Reason for Writing”. Before writing ideas, I ask students why they would write to Mr. Obama. Is there a question they want to ask him? Is there something they want to tell him? What will their reason for writing be? Students offer a couple of their ideas, like asking if he enjoys having the job of president, if it’s hard having two jobs: president and dad, or what it’s like to live in the white house. Then students take a few minutes to write down the one reason they’re going to write to our president while I again also model on the SmartBoard.
Next, we move on to the third cloud: “An Action You’d Like”. Based on the reason for writing, I ask the students what they’d like the president to do. Do they want him to send them something? Do they want him to change a law or add a law? Do they want him to visit somewhere to do something? What action are they hoping he’ll be able to do? Again, students write, while I also model.
Lastly, we address the last cloud: “Nice Note”. Here students get to end their letter by complimenting our president or ending with some nice comment. We discuss how nice it is to get compliments from our classmates, family, etc., especially when we have a big job to do or have worked hard on something. The kids brainstorm ideas of some nice notes they can use at the end of their letters, and then we all write-students on their papers and myself on the SmartBoard.
After putting all our notes in place, I tell the students that tomorrow, we’ll start with our rough drafts! We tuck our plans into our blue writing folders to save them for tomorrow!