Responsive Written Exchanges

Rationale:  

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.

Procedure:  

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.