Responsive Written Exchanges


In this activity, advocated by Toby Fulwiler, a Writing across the Curriculum scholar, students reflect in writing on issues identified through sentence stems or prompts. It involves letter exchanges between students.


1. The teacher prepares an activity sheet with the prompts (sentence stems) for reflection. These can be presented as individual handouts for out-of-class assignments or projected on an overhead for in-class writing. Because these exchanges can be composed fairly rapidly, they are often effective as an active learning/reflective in-class activity lasting about thirty minutes. All assignment sheets begin with a salutation (Dear X) and end with a P. S. "One personal thing about me you may not know is:"  Typical prompts might be: "I think the strongest candidate in the first Presidential debate was . . . because . . . "His strongest point was . . ."; "The 'Just War' tradition has relevance today because: . . ."

2. Decide how you will pair students. 

3. Paired students, working simultaneously in class or outside of class, write a personal letter to their partner based on the sentence stems. They exchange letters, read them, and write a response focused primarily on the issues, but they may also address in their own P. S. a response to the personal comment made by their partner. 

4. The partners again exchange letters so that they can read each others' responses (No one likes to write a letter without getting a reply!). The letters can be kept by the students without teacher review, but more often they are taken up, read informally, and returned where they can become part of an on-going class journal.