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WritingFix: A Family Writing Project...Weekly School/Home Letters

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This writing lesson was created by Nevada teacher Kim Polson, who was inspired by fellow NNWP TC Todd Herman's online assignment, Poems of Apology. Kim believes this family writing project would be appropriate with students in grades 1-12.

Three-Sentence Overview:

Based on the poetry collection, This is Just to Say..., written by Joyce Sidman, the student will write a poem of apology to his/her parent. As showcased in Sidman's collection, the student poems may be sincere or their sincerity might be in question, as it certainly is in the original William Carlos Williams poem, "This is Just to Say." The parent, in turn, will write a response poem back to the student.


6-Trait Skills Focus:

Word Choice: Students must choose words that convey their feelings and the true essence of their apology.

Voice: This assignment will encourage strong discussions about sincere voices versus insincere voices in writing.

Materials List:

Teacher Instructions:

  • Teachers, you will begin this writing session by telling a personal story about when you did something that you had to apologize for. Make sure you are specific with details, feelings, words used and the reaction of those you hurt or wronged. For example, I might tell my students the story of a time when I was little and I lied to my parents.

  • Next, give the students “think time” (5-7 minutes) to write down a list of five times when they did something they should apologize for. (This may be a time they have already apologized for) This is a personal list, not a group list.

  • Using the ideas from their lists, do a group brainstorming of these times. Write ideas on the board, which will spark memories throughout the class. (Know that some students will not want to share these personal experiences.)

  • Have students pick ONE idea that they will write an apology poem about.

  • Share the book, This is Just to Say, Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman. In the book there are apology poems and responses to those poems. Share both. You may want to be choosy about which poems you share. Sharing the whole book would be too much. As you are reading, have the students remember the specific words and phrases that stood out to them. Talk about how the poems made them feel. Look at the different formats for the poem, as they will have free choice in poem style (or not, if you want it to be more structured).

  • Once the students have chosen the topic for their apology poems, have them write an actual recount of the situation. From beginning, to end, they will write a rough draft of the situation, feelings, words used, and outcomes.

  • The teacher should read these rough drafts to make sure they have captured the essence of the story. Once the rough draft is complete, the student will choose the major words and ideas that exemplify the incident. These words will be used to write their poetry.  

    *****Remember, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. It can be a mix of words, phrases and ideas that make the reader understand the writer’s situation and feelings.

  • Please see student samples.

  • Have students write a final draft and send it home to parents with parent letter (below).

  • Parents will write a response poem, student will bring BOTH poems back to school.

  • Give time for students to share, if they would like to share (and they will!)

Parent/Student Instruction Sheet:

Dear Parents,

Your child has been writing letters to you all year. The responses, to these letters, are so valuable. This week your child wrote a poem of apology to you. Please read their poem of apology, discuss the situation they have apologized for, and write a response poem. YES, I AM ASKING YOU TO WRITE POETRY! Your child has written you a few tips for writing poetry, and has also agreed to help you write your poem, if needed. Have fun and thank you so much!


Mrs. Polson

Positive Impacts on Parents/Students/Families:

I have my students write letters to their parents, every week, starting the first week of school. On Thursday nights, the students write the letter to their parent, and the parents write a letter back. On Friday mornings, the students bring BOTH letters back and I keep them in a portfolio until the end of the year. THESE LETTERS ARE AN INVALUABLE FORM A COMMUNICATION BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD. (Please see lesson A Family Writing Project: Weekly School/Home Letters) These poems and responses will be kept in the portfolio also.


Links to Similar Lessons at WritingFix:




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