Writing a letter is a great way to get to know your teacher. And, it’s a great way for your teacher to get to know you. As a teacher, I often start out the year with this activity. Here’s a letter that I wrote to one of my Year Nine classes.
Dear Year Nines,
Great to meet you. This year we’re going to be doing some incredibly exciting work.
I don’t know much about you yet. Some of you are probably fantastic at reading and writing. Others might lack confidence. One thing, however, is certain. By the end of the year, you are all going to be a lot better. The secret to succeeding in English is very simple. Work hard. This means reading every night, even if you don’t want to. It means seeing every piece of writing that your English teacher inflicts on you as an opportunity to extend your skills. It means making sure that your apostrophes are always in the right place. It means discovering new words.
It means being excited about learning.
It’s going to be a fun and challenging year.
I’m particularly excited about the wide reading program. Reading regularly is the best way to improve your literacy skills – including spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and expression. When you find the right book, it’s also a whole lot of fun! As Stephen King once wrote: “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
Over the coming weeks, we’re going to be studying The Hunger Games. It’s a terrific film. If you haven’t read the novel yet, I highly recommend it. One of the main reasons I love The Hunger Games is that it’s a terrific example of science fiction. Science fiction is a fascinating and thought-provoking genre. I recommend finding a decent book and diving right in!
One of my favourite science fiction novels is Ender’s Game. Don’t worry too much about watching the movie, it’s not as engaging as the book. The story is about a young boy who is accepted into an elite government academy training the next generation of leaders to defend earth from an alien menace. Highly intelligent, Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin may be the only person who can protect earth from the next invasion. Once you’ve read Ender’s Game, check out Ender’s Shadow which retells the events of the novel from a completely different perspective.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is also one of my favourite stories of all time. I’m not the only person who thinks that, by the way. Several years ago, there was a national opinion poll about our favourite books. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came in at number eight, narrowly beaten by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which is what everyone seemed to be reading at the time. Lord of the Rings was at the top of the list although, secretly. If people actually bothered to read the novel, instead of just watching the movie, they would have discovered that it’s actually quite boring. The Hobbits spend most of the novel eating and singing. Sure, there’s the occasional sword fight but I find Arthur Dent’s journey across the galaxy much more interesting. I first read the novels when I was in my first year of university…I was always aware that the books were quite good but I’d never got around to reading them. When I finally did, I was blown away. Douglas Adams has a wonderful sense of humour and the books gently poke fun at what it means to be human.
One of the things that I love about science fiction is that it gives writers the scope to explore what might happen to human kind in the future. Over the next week, we’re going to take a look at dystopian fiction, a sub-genre of science fiction which explores particularly bleak visions of the future. The country of Panem in The Hunger Games is a great example of a dystopia. This also give me an excuse to share one of my favourite short stories The Pedestrian by acclaimed science fiction author Ray Bradbury.
Writing a letter of introduction
Your first writing task for the year is going to be a letter of introduction. I want to find out more about you as a student of English. Here are some ideas that you might like to cover in your letter:
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in English?
- What do you like doing in English? Are you a fiend for spelling tests? Do you like reading? Perhaps stories are more your thing!
- Write about your favourite book and explain why you like it. Tell me a bit about the storyline and characters.
- Who is your favourite author? Which books have you read of theirs and which ones are you planning to read? What do you like about their writing or style?
- What is your favourite film? Tell me a bit about the storyline, your favourite characters and why it appeals to you.
- What have your found challenging in English?
- What would you like to learn about?
- Tell me about yourself. Your interests, hobbies, favourite movies, best computer game of all time.
- What are your likes and dislikes?
- Anything else that you can think of would be helpful. Remember, this is a letter of introduction so I can get to know you a little better.
Do the best you can with your spelling. It’s important that we develop a number of strategies for proofreading our own work. Spelling checkers can be useful but they often don’t pick up particular mistakes. It’s a good idea to get a friend, brother, sister or parent to read over your draft before you submit it. They can also give you advice or ideas for other things you might like to include. Remember, when you hand this task in, it’s not a rough draft, it’s the best, most interesting, most fascinating work you can possibly do. I look forward to reading your letters!