Writing Partners for Teachers and Administrators

Writing Partners is a service-learning program that pairs SSU classes with 5th grade classes from low-income districts through fun and engaging letter exchanges during a semester-long period. At the end of the semester, the SSU class hosts a Culminating Event; a campus visit by the 5th grade class. By pairing together students through letter-writing, each writer learns how to engage an audience other than a teacher and think more critically about the ways in which they communicate through written language. If you are interested in having your students participate in this transformative program, please follow the six steps outlined below.

6 Steps for Participating in Writing Partners:

  1. Contact the CCE at cce@sonoma.edu to express your interest in participating. The CCE will connect you with an SSU faculty member’s class and schedule a pre-term planning meeting.

    1. Prepare for your Pre-term Meeting by reviewing the Writing Partners Curriculum Resources page.

  2. Attend Pre-term Meeting and Meet Partner Teacher:

    1. Exchange contact information, school calendars, and student rosters with your partner teacher.

    2. Compare calendars and identify areas of overlap. Agree upon dates and methods of exchanging letters, planning for 3-4 letter exchanges. Both you and your partner teacher should be willing to share transportation duties and arrange to swap letters accordingly.

    3. Share pedagogical goals and class themes with each other. 

    4. Decide which class will write initial letters and which teacher will assign partners.

    5. Discuss with your partner teacher what you would like your classes to focus on. Whether you choose to have students discuss ongoing English projects or other class projects, explain readings or lessons to their partners in their own words, or detail issues of revision and style, part of each correspondence should have writing as its focus.

    6. Discuss options for an end-of-semester celebration,  or Culminating Event, that will allow the Writing Partners to meet. While this is not an essential component of the Writing Partners curriculum, we nonetheless want to encourage you to arrange for an opportunity for your writers to meet face-to-face with their very real audience.

  3. Develop Course: Start planning the upcoming semester in order to determine how to integrate the Writing Partners program. 

    1. Gather necessary materials for your class to start the semester prepared. 

    2. Create a detailed syllabus/lesson plan with important dates. 

    3. Exchange syllabi with your partner teacher.

  4. Introduce the Program to Students and Set Expectations:

    1. Introduce students to the project and announce who their writing partners will be. Emphasize their very important role as both authors and readers. If these will be graded assignments, clarify for students what the criteria will be. 

    2. Set the ground rules. For example, students should not share last names, home, email addresses, social media, or attempt to meet each other outside of class. We also discourage the exchange of photographs, as we want this relationship to take place mostly in writing.

    3. Model letter-writing techniques and discuss aspects of a typical letter (salutation, date, body paragraphs, conclusion, name and signature). We also encourage you to discuss visual components and effects of stationary versus lined paper, graphics and drawings versus white space. We have found that as the correspondence progresses, students get even more enthused about illustrating their letters.

  5. Implement the Program

    1. After collecting and reading student letters, make copies to create a record of student correspondences. It is an interesting and worthwhile opportunity to see student interest and writing enthusiasm grow over the course of the correspondence. These files are also helpful as assessment tools. 

    2. Begin letter exchanges on predetermined dates.

    3. Maintain consistent communication with your partner teacher throughout the semester to ensure the program is meeting pedagogical goals for both classrooms and that all students are enjoying the exercise.

  6. Develop the Culminating Event

    1. The CCE can help with booking space, sharing information and ideas, etc. 

    2. It is very important that 5th grade teachers arrange transportation to and from the end-of-the-semester culminating event.

Please visit the Writing Partners Planning & Logistics Outline for more information and a timeline that outlines you and your partner teacher’s responsibilities.

Writing Partners Pedagogy:

Writing Partners gets students writing to audiences other than the teacher, to give them the opportunity, in a classroom setting, and to think about how writing affects others and helps to create and maintain relationships. Both students learn to write to a new audience, adapting their content and tone to their partner’s interests and needs. 

Having students then share their letters (and their partners’ letters) in class heightens class enthusiasm and provides for revision strategies and audience analysis skills to be practiced.

Additional Resources:

Writing Partners FAQ

Writing Partners Curriculum Resources

Writing Partners 6 Step Planning & Logistics Outline

cce@sonoma.edu(link sends e-mail) is always available to support you.