Heretolisten.org is a resource for caring adults—the front-line staff in schools and community based programs—to help teens who are struggling with difficult emotions.
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Dear Teen Writer...
Read and Write About It
Elizabeth Johnson, Education Director, Youth Communication

By writing mock letters, teen readers are able to “talk back” to the teen writer of the story they just read. The prompts below encourage teens to identify and name the writer’s resiliencies, offer caring support, and make personal connections. Within the safety of this activity, teens can practice the kind of positive self-talk and interpersonal communication that can help them to grow. This is an informal writing activity where ideas are emphasized over writing conventions.

Directions:

1. Introduce the activity.

2. Share one of these prompts (written and posted up):

  • Write a letter to the writer that specifically acknowledges his/her resiliencies, which are strengths that help a person persist, heal, and/or grow in the midst of struggle.

  • Write a letter to the writer offering support to help him/her through the struggle written about in the story. This support could be words of encouragement, advice, or resource sharing.

  • Can you make a personal connection to the struggle the writer described in the story? Share this connection and the insights you have.

3. Sharing personal writing should always be a choice. Some ways to share that can feel supportive include:

  • Pair share: Two partners face each other and take turns reading some (or all) of their writing. Beforehand, model for the group what active listening looks and sounds like. (Learn about active listening in “6 Ways to Be a Better Listener.”)

  • Circle share: Sitting in a circle, the opportunity to share passes around the group. Teens can share as much or as little (for example, a favorite line) as they would like and are welcome to pass. Remember to go around the circle twice, as some teens who passed early on may now be ready to share.

Elizabeth Johnson
All Activites for Youth are created by Elizabeth Johnson, Youth Communication's Education Director. She specializes in social and emotional learning and literacy development and offers story-based professional services for educators. For more information, contact Elizabeth at ejohnson@youthcomm.org or 212-279-0708 ext. 103.
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(AFY-06-01-2015)

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