A letter of introduction can serve as a personal statement. It paints a picture of who someone is as a unique individual based on experiences at home, in school, within their culture, and learned within their community. In this lesson, students will compose a formal letter of introduction that allows others to understand elements of themselves that may otherwise take a while to learn. In addition, it allow students the chance to share what they would like to be known about themselves. This lesson would fit well at the beginning of the year as a getting-to-know-you activity and formative writing assessment between teacher and new students.
Which experiences have shaped who you are?
Students listen to a song about how self-introductions can be uncomfortable.
Students examine the lyrics to the song "An Awkward Self Introduction" and use the Why-Lighting strategy to annotate similarities and differences between their and the singer's experiences.
Students draft the body of their letter of introduction, using a list of topics to consider for inspiration.
Students edit their writing to fit with the format of a formal letter.
Students edit and revise their writing for changes in grammar, format, style, and content.
Access to YouTube for music video
Lesson Slides (attached)
An Awkward Self Introduction Lyric Sheet (attached; one per student)
Writing a Letter of Introduction (attached; one per student)
Start with the essential question on slide 3 of the attached Lesson Slides: "Which experiences have shaped who you are?"
Display slide 4 and ask students the following question: Have you ever been asked by a teacher to introduce yourself through an ice breaker at the beginning of the year?
Wait for student responses (they'll likely respond "Yes!"), then continue with subsequent questions like "What was the experience like?" "What kinds of things did you share in your brief introduction?" "Why would a teacher ask the members of a class to introduce themselves to each other?"
For students who have offered that it can be uncomfortable to introduce themselves to a crowd, tell them that they are not alone in their feelings. Ask, "Why is it uncomfortable sometimes to introduce ourselves?" "What can be gained from introductions?" This last question may seem obvious, but allow students to work through and share their answers.
On slide 5, introduce the video below, "An Awkward Introduction". In the video, a young woman named Janelle sings a self-composed song about introducing herself. Tell students that they are not watching the video to critique the singer's talent (in fact, context clues from the title should reveal that she is explicitly trying to seem "awkward") but rather, listen to her words to absorb someone else's personal experience of introducing herself.
Pass out copies of An Awkward Self Introduction Lyrics after students have listened. Move to slide 6 and tell students that they will now annotate the lyrics using the Why-Lighting strategy.
Tell students to look for similarities and differences between the singer and their own feelings or experiences. As they scan the lyrics, they should highlight experiences the singer has had that stand out based on being the same or different to the students' experiences.
For example, when the singer says "I can be a little weird," some students may be able to relate. Students that relate should highlight that line, and to the side jot down how they see themselves as quirky or "weird".
Allow about five minutes for students to scan and annotate the lyrics for personal similarities and differences.
Display slide 7 and let students know that they will be composing an introduction to their teacher (or other applicable audience). Have them go over the lyrics one last time, this time highlighting in a different color or underline certain points that they would not have initially considered including in an introduction, but would like to include.
Now that students understand the goals of introductions and have sourced information for what to include, it's time to enter the drafting phase of this writing process.
Introduce and pass out the attached handout "Writing A Letter of Introduction." Read the introduction together. This provides an overview of the assignment and goals of writing a letter of introduction.
Specify to students that they will be writing a letter of introduction explaining specific characteristics of who they are. The letter should be composed in a formal style in order to practice this genre of writing. Remind students that in a formal style, they should write out contractions, use transitions between paragraphs, spell out numbers and follow other formal writing rules you may choose to include. For this letter of introduction, students should use the first person voice.
Detail the writing mechanics goals on the handout, adjusting as needed for specific classroom objectives. Additionally, font style and size are suggested, but may be modified.
For this stage of the lesson, the writing mechanics, style, and format are secondary to the content - students introducing themselves. In this stage of the lesson, students should start drafting the body of their letter of introduction, brainstorming responses to compose four paragraphs (first three about themselves, the last paragraph about their relationship to school).
Students have already delved into the exercise of finding what they would and would not consider sharing about themselves through examining the lyrics of "An Awkward Self Introduction". Now, using the "Topics to Consider" portion of the handout, have students read the questions and prompts to begin drafting their letter.
This particular letter requests four paragraphs:
Paragraph 1 - You
Paragraph 2 - You
Paragraph 3 - You
Paragraph 4 - School (TBD)
Give students time now to begin drafting their letters. This drafting needs one full class period, but you may choose to provide more depending on your students.
Once enough time has been provided for student drafting, shift the focus to writing mechanics, style, and format of the introductory letter.
Proceed to slide 8.
As an extension of the letter-drafting process, turn students' attention back to the handout. In particular, go over the format. The letter should begin with a salutation (Dear…) with the date on the same line. A line should then be skipped between the salutation and the beginning of the body of the letter. Each paragraph should begin with an appropriate transition (First, Next, Additionally, etc.). At the end of the body of the letter, another line should be skipped and a closing salutation (Thank you, Sincerely, etc.) should precede a printed name and signature.
The first draft of letters may not have been written in this format. This is the chance, in a new class period, to rewrite a second or final draft that puts the letter in the appropriate format.
Although the focus of this lesson is for students to write about themselves, and not to introduce grammar, word choice, and the writing process, the evaluation is a chance for students to participate in the revision stage of the writing process.
Display slide 9 and have students look over their letters and check it for:
Grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure (look for fragments and run-ons!)
Interesting and varied word choice and descriptions
Clear, organized letter structure
Distinct paragraphs that accomplish their specific tasks
Transitions between paragraphs
For a fresh perspective, have students work with a partner and peer-edit each other's letters. Since these letters are a personal introduction, allowing students the chance to choose their own partner may make sharing their content more comfortable.