After our mascot designing project, the 7th grade Mandarin Chinese (Wu Ji Xian) class moved on to complete a new project, called “给校长的建议信,” or ”writing persuasive letters about school issues to the head of school.” This project gave students the opportunity to write letters to the most influential person in their immediate community – the principal – about school issues that they believe need to be addressed.
First, however, students needed to understand what makes an effective piece of persuasive writing. The 7th graders were asked to brainstorm reasons why people write letters and focus on the idea of writing letters to influence someone's opinion or effect change in the community. Then we used letters that Chinese students had written to their teachers and principals as examples of sharing one's opinion, attempting to influence others' opinions and encouraging community change.
After reading and listening to opinion pieces, students identified strong examples of persuasion and recorded them in their notes. Then the 7th graders broke into small groups and brainstormed issues in the school that they believe deserve action plans. Each group used their notes to explore the issues. After the group discussions, students figured out which arguments were the most specific and convincing, and started to construct their own letters about school issues. Their letters were then edited for grammar and content by both their peers and teacher. Then students learned how to write a letter on a traditional Chinese letter paper, and how to label an envelope in Chinese. They handwrote their letters, which showed respect and courtesy, and delivered them to our head of school, Dr. Evan Glazer. Now, we are all looking forward to hearing back from Dr. Glazer.
By completing this “校长的建议信” project, students not only developed problem-spotting and persuasive writing skills, they also expanded their knowledge and application of written language conventions by analyzing published writing and engaging in the writing process.