Writing a Letter of Inquiry!
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
This lesson is adapted from: Expository Writing by Tara McCarthy. My goal is for students to become efficient writers and to see writing as a necessary, real-world skill.
- Understand the brevity of a business letter.
- Create focused and catchy letters.
- Publish a typed letter that is suitable for mailing.
The worksheets listed below are taken from Expository Writing
by Tara McCarthy. Available in The Teacher Store.
- Worksheet 1: Sample Business Letter (PDF)
- Worksheet 2: Sample Business Letter (PDF)
- Test-Taking Skill Assessment: Thinking Like a Writer (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Set up display.
- Copy a class set of worksheets 1 & 2 for all students.
- Copy a class set of the Test-Taking Skill Assessments.
Step 1: Display Worksheet 1 to the class.
Step 2: Distribute Worksheet 1 and lead students in a discussion of the following:
- The first sentence presents the main idea.
- The other sentences relate to the main idea.
- The letter is brief and to the point.
- The message is clear and catches the recipient's attention.
Step 3: Display Worksheet 2 to the class.
Step 4: Distribute Worksheet 2 and lead students in a discussion of the following:
- Point out the ways the letter "wanders."
- Ask students to find the topic sentence (sentence #3), reword it, and place it at the beginning.
- Have students identify the sentences that don't relate to the main idea (sentences #2 & #6).
- Ask students to compose one or two other sentences that do relate to the main idea.
- When students are finished composing their new sentences, ask for volunteers and write a few edited versions on the chalkboard. This will allow students to compare their revised sentences, as well as allow you to assess students' sentence structure.
Step 1: Help students brainstorm ideas for letters they could write. Put the following examples on the display or chalkboard.
- Ask a local SPCA about summer or weekend jobs at the animal shelter.
- Ask a favorite author to visit your classroom. Tell why you would appreciate such a visit.
- Tell a manufacturer of weed-killers about specific concerns and questions you have about their product.
- Ask a local or national political figure for his or her position on an issue that matters to you.
- Tell a TV executive about the kinds of programs you like and ask why there are not more of these types of programs.
- Write the school principal about the types of food you prefer to eat in the cafeteria. Support your position with nutritional facts!
Step 2: Students begin writing their own expository paragraphs for letters of inquiry.
Step 1: Meet with students in groups and answer any questions they may have regarding their letters. You may want to have each student read his rough-draft aloud.
Step 2: Have students revise their letters with a partner.
Step 3: Students should then type or re-write a final draft of their letters.
Step 1: Display Test-Taking Skill Assessments worksheet to the class.
Step 2: Distribute copies of the Test-Taking Skill Assessments worksheets.
Step 3: Hold a discussion.
Many questions on standardized tests call on students to use their writing and thinking skills to:
- compare and contrast items
- link cause and effect
- define and explain items
- grasp a main idea
All these skills relate to the expository writing concepts that your students have been practicing. Use the worksheets to help students apply these skills to test questions. Then link these skills to business writing to help students develop clarity and brevity in their writing.
Step 4: Have students:
- Explain which writing and thinking skill the test taker will use to answer the question.
- Explain why the correct answer is correct and why the other three options are not.
Have students send their letters and then share the responses with the class.
- Was there enough time?
- Did students benefit from seeing the worksheets displayed?
- Did students benefit from having access to the worksheets on paper?
- Were students engaged while working in groups or independently?
- Were students successful at revising their letters?
- Did students use an accurate business letter format?
- Did the first sentence present the main idea?
- Were students brief and to the point?
- Do students see writing as a real-world skill?