Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Workshop 2: Making Writing Meaningful

Gloria Hamilton's Lesson

Gloria Hamilton's eighth-graders write a response to a question in the style of an advice columnist.
Gloria Hamilton's eighth-graders write a response to a question in the style of an advice columnist.

Veteran teacher Gloria Hamilton was inspired by Dear Abby and some of her students' "I've got all the answers" bravado to develop an engaging, month-long activity that gets her eighth-grade students writing every day. It's called "Dear Know-It-All."

There's a box in Gloria's room where students leave anonymous questions for "Dear Know-It-All." Each morning, Gloria pulls a question from the box and writes it on the board, and all day, each class responds to the question in the form of a letter. Gloria gives the class between five and eight minutes to respond to the question, and then two or three students volunteer to share their advice. Gloria records those solutions on the board, and very often the class discussion of the solutions leads into the day's lesson.

Gloria finds the "Dear Know-It-All" activity is effective on many levels—it's engaging because it taps into the social nature of teenagers and involves issues important to them; it challenges her students to think of mature solutions to problems facing their peers and offers them a chance to help a classmate; and it gives them a chance to write, first thing, every day, in a non-threatening, informal style.

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