Project work: Letters to Father Christmas (2)

Dear Santa,
I'm writing to tell you what I want for Christmas.
I want an iPhone6 (484 GBP on I need one. My Mum says that I don't need one and that I have to wait (several YEARS!!!) but lots of other people in my class have got a smartphone and I feel left out.
An Apple Watch (the 42mm Stainless Steel Case with Milanese Loop, 610 GBP on Amazon) would be cool, too.
I've worked really hard this year! It's true that I've failed a few subjects at school (OK, a lot if you count things like sports and music and social sciences) so I'll be happy with just the phone. And some chocolate.
I'm SO EXCITED about this!!!!!!
Desmond (8)
PS Please DON'T get me an iPhone5 !!!!

Assuming that your class enjoyed Part 1 of the project suggested last week, and that you ended up with a nice collection of random objects, here's Part 2, as a follow-up.

This works best if you make no reference to Part 1, so you perhaps want to let a couple of weeks pass by so that Part 1 has been forgotten before starting Part 2.

Part 2 is quite straight-forward. Your learners have to (1) invent a character who is going to (2) write a letter to Father Christmas to say what s/he'd like for Christmas; the letters should then be (3) shared with everyone else in some way (see below).

You probably want to provide an example of such a letter, as shown above.

Writing the letters
You could have your learners work individually or you could have them work in pairs or threes (and because pair- and groupwork leads to more interaction and more speaking, I like to do virtually everything in class in that fashion).

Having you learners start individually but then pool their ideas and pick the best to work on one letter between each pair/group also works well.

Sharing the letters with the rest of the class
If you're strictly low-tech (though, nowadays, are your learners?), you could have printed versions of the letters displayed on a classroom wall.

But it's surely way more interesting to share the letters digitally in some way, so that everyone gets to read everyone else's, and comment on them. If you've had your learners collaborate on writing them, with one letter from each pair or three, we're not necessarily talking about a lot of letters.

Among the alternatives:

  • A class blog on which all your learners are authors (and can therefore create new posts), in which case you can keep things tidy (important!) by ensuring everyone uses the same "label" (e.g. "Letters to Father Christmas"). My recommendation would be Blogger, rather than WordPress or other similar tools
  • An Edmodo group, with the letters being published there directly as new "notes" (or posts, as they'd be called on Facebook). If they're collaborating on writing the letters, they might find it easiest to use shared Google Drive documents and then copy and paste from there to Edmodo — which in turn then makes it easier for others to comment on the letters
  • With adults, I'd recommend a private G+ Community, rather than Edmodo

Fun with adults
Friends and colleagues have been doing this project for the last couple of years in schools but I think you'll find it works with adults, too, no matter how long it is since they last wrote a letter to Santa!

Note in the example letter, above, how "Desmond" has been given an age. Part of the secret of getting such creative writing ideas to work is to help your learners be creative, to help them see some of the possibilities that are there. You are there to help with the language but help them generate the ideas, too. That's just as important!

For Part 3, and to see what this has to do with the random pictures we took in Part 1, come back next week!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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  1. John Joe Greaves

    whats the best sharing site to use with my kids if I want them to comment on the photos?

  2. With kids (though what age are yours, John?), I'd suggest Blogger or Edmodo — especially if you want comments on the photos (and I think you do want as many comments as possible, because of the extra language that generates).

    With Blogger, you'd have to ensure you make it private and with kids you might also want to obtain permission from your school and parents before starting to use it. With Edmodo, you get privacy whether you want it or not 😉 !

    Instagram is an interesting alternative (but are parents, the school and the learners themselves ok with sharing stuff there…?) and you can comment there.

    Google Drive is also a terrific place to share things — but you wouldn't be able to comment on photos there (assuming you mean written comments, that is; you could still comment orally on what's shared there).

  3. I've got a group of tees that I want to try this project with, T3 (12/13/14 year olds).

    I had a look at this, this afternoon and I've set up a google+ community in which it seems you can add comments to individual pictures, so I think that might work.

    Instagram would probably be the best as you can add comments to individual photos without them getting lost in a feed. But I don't think its that easy to set up a second account on there.

    Do you know if you can add people to the google+ groups even if they dont have a google account?

  4. Instagram might be my choice if I thought virtually everyone in the class was already a user, and liked using it (I've seen mixed reactions to it from teens, some love it, some seem to hate it).

    Sharing and commenting the pictures via WhatsApp might be another possibility, assuming you're good with them having your phone number, and that the parents and school are going to be ok with you having those of the kids.

    With kids of those ages I would want to make sure no one was going to take issue with my using such tools with them. You want privacy and permission, I think.

    As far as I know you can only join a G+ "Community" with a Gmail account.

  5. That last is the case, according to this Slideshare, which might be useful to you.

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