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Archive for Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letter generators: Lawrence students write in about topical issues

January 20, 2009

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What do Lawrence seventh-graders care about?

Their concerns mostly match that of other young people: recycling, homelessness, alternative energy and the need for cell phones.

But the universal grumble of youths from every generation remains: There’s nothing for teens to do.

“Many teenagers feel lonely, even if they are the most popular student in school. I think one reason is that the city has neglected to recognize teenagers,” writes Mack Mumford, a seventh-grader at Southwest Junior High School. “There are adult, child and family activities, but nothing for teenagers. Will you help the teens of Lawrence?”

Mumford and about 100 of his Southwest classmates wrote letters to the editor at the Lawrence Journal-World as part of Sally Landoll’s young adult reading class.

The assignment was to practice persuasive writing. That’s not new, but this time Landoll thought that if there was a larger audience for the students’ work, well, they might work just a little harder.

Landoll invited me to talk with her students about writing for a newspaper audience. The students were also challenged to do some original reporting and submit their final work in 250 words or less, the same restriction placed on those who write letters to the editor.

“Several of the letters showed a level of maturity that I don’t always get during class time,” Landoll says. “The students really liked this project.”

Writing is becoming a lost art, says Landoll, who has been teaching for 14 years.

“There used to be so much more emphasis on writing, but not anymore because we’ve become so involved with testing, testing, testing,” she said. “We’ve become too worried as a society about national test scores, and not about the basics. Writing is one way to effectively relay your thoughts and feelings.”

A letter from Sally Landoll.

The letters from the students.

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