Carole Cheatwood
Tennessee
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Subjects:
  Interpersonal relationships, Writing skills

Learner Level:
  All levels.

Time Frame:
  30 minutes to 1 hour

Learner Grouping:
  Whole class

Setting:
  The learners were Families First students who attend class 20 hours a week. Families First is the Tennessee program to provide training for those welfare recipients who lack basic education skills. While learners do work toward a GED, emphasis in these classes is shifting toward the knowledge, skills, and attitudes learners need to acquire and keep a good job. There were 8 learners in the class. Seven of the eight were working toward their GED, and all were working toward attaining work skills necessary in the workplace. My students consider the classroom to be their "workplace."

Program:
  Lawrence County Adult Learning Center

Type of Program:
  ABE

Student Population Served:
  Basic skills (grade levels 5-8.9)

 
Encouraging others in class, in the workplace, in the home

To encourage each other and practice writing skills, each learner writes a letter of encouragement to a classmate. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Learners will generate a letter of encouragement for a classmate. Learners will also receive a letter of encouragement from a classmate validating and extending their feelings of self-worth.

Primary Skill:
Convey ideas in writing

Secondary Skills:
Lifelong learning; Develop a sense of caring for others.

Learner Needs & Goals:
Everybody needs encouragement sometimes. Just as important is the need to be able to encourage others. We hit a mid-winter slump where a lot of the learners in the class seemed discouraged about their progress and about other factors in their lives. This lesson was developed in response to this class atmosphere to both improve the outlook of each individual learner and empower learners collectively to improve the atmosphere in the classroom. In the workplace, at home or in school, they will benefit from encouraging others and being able to express themselves in written form.

Learning Activity Description:

  1. Read a story of encouragement to the class. It can be from any of the "Chicken Soup. . ." books or from any other source. It should be short, maybe five minutes, and should feature one person providing encouragement to another including how that encouragement affected the recipient.

  2. Discuss how an act of encouragement makes them feel. This might be a good time to have them share stories of encouragement if they would like. Also discuss why a letter of encouragement might be needed in the workplace. Find definitions of the words "commendation" and "referral" and discuss how these are formal letters of encouragement and achievement used in the workplace. Have the class present examples of qualities and behaviors that might be encouraged.

  3. Write the name of each learner on a small piece of paper. Fold it up and put into any type of container.

  4. Each learner draws a name (of a classmate) from the container.

  5. Tell the learners that the class writing assignment is to write an informal letter of encouragement to the learner whose name was drawn. (Letters may be signed, but it is not necessary.)

  6. Place each letter in an envelope with the name of the person for whom the letter is intended on the outside.

  7. Collect and deliver the letters to be read individually by the learners during or after their break.

Materials and Resources:

  • A story of encouragement from e-mail, newspaper, magazine, library book, or Chicken Soup for Women's Souls (by Jack Canfield, ed., 1996, Health Communications, Inc., 3201 S.W. 15th St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190)
  • Paper and pen
  • One envelope per learner

Assessment:

This is a feel-good, self-image building lesson, and these affective changes are a little hard to detect and measure reliably. The instructor should look for indicators such as smiles, increased cooperation and friendliness among classmates, and general attitude improvement in assessing the effects of this lesson. Those would also be indicators that ideas had been successfully communicated in writing.

Reflection:

Next time, I would have real stationary with matching envelopes to make the letters even more special. Learners really enjoyed the activity. These learners do a lot of group work and are comfortable with each other. Some learners knew very little about others due to their being new in the class, but everyone was able to do this activity. This activity was a response to a story from Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work. Instead of having learners write something in their journals, I decided to have them write letters of encouragement to a classmate. Some learners shared their letter with others. Some verbally expressed thanks. Some wanted to save their letter in a special "Keeping Place." Some wrote a paragraph and some a whole page. All the letters were full of encouragement. The learners were excited about receiving their letters, but also about making someone else feel good.

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