Lesson 1: Write for Change
The characters in Hoot find themselves in a race against time to save the nesting place of endangered miniature owls. After having students read the book Hoot individually or as a class, use the Write for Change activity along with these lesson ideas to help students learn to assemble their thoughts on key issues, conduct research, and effectively communicate their ideas in a persuasive letter.
Grade Level: 5-8
2-3 days following the reading of the book
- Consider a variety of issues and choose one that is of particular concern to them
- Clearly state their viewpoint on this issue
- Support their viewpoint through rational, logical arguments
Language Arts Standards (4th Ed.)
- Reflects on what has been learned after reading and formulates ideas, opinions, and personal responses to texts
- Uses a variety of strategies to plan research
- Writes persuasive compositions
- Evaluates own and others' writing
- Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
- Flashlight Readers: Hoot Write for Change
- Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
- KWL Chart (PDF)
- Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display activities
- Bookmark Flashlight Readers: Hoot on the computers students will use
- NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print activity screens and make transparency copies to post on an overhead projector
Discuss with students the issue of injustice as experienced in Hoot. What situations were unfair in the novel? How did the characters handle this unfairness? Ask students about instances in their own lives when they have experienced or witnessed injustice. What would they want to see changed in their own lives and communities? In the lives and communities of others? How do they feel about their ability to affect change in these situations? Invite students to brainstorm different issues that concern them. Record their answers.
Discuss with students the different ways letter writing was a part of Hoot, including Roy’s apology letter to Dana, Officer Delinko’s request to Roy’s father to write a praising letter to his boss, and the response letter to Beatrice Leep from Mother Paula’s Pancake House.
- Why did Roy write his letter?
- What did Officer Delinko hope to accomplish with a letter from Roy’s father?
- Did the letter sent to Beatrice have the results Mother Paula’s Pancake House intended? Why or why not?
Explain that while we cannot control what others do, we can control how we respond. We can also work to change the minds of others. An effective way of influencing change is to write a letter that will persuade people in positions of power.
Preview Step 2 of the letter writing activity with your class. Provide time for students to browse through information from the recommended organizations and choose a cause they want to back. Explain that students will be researching this topic independently. Before they start their research, students should present you with a statement sentence that clearly declares their opinion on the topic. Students will then begin searching for facts to support their opinion. They should also identify why other people oppose this stand; students should be able to use facts to refute any arguments against their opinion. They’ll draw on this research to create a letter to a local official or the White House. Review the sample of what a letter from Roy might have looked like.
Students can use the KWL Chart to organize their ideas. Before gathering additional research, have them list three pieces of information in the “What do I know?” column that relate to why they support a certain stand on this issue. To help them gather relevant information during their research, have students fill in the “What do I want to find out?” column with questions related to these three facts. As they gather information that answers these questions, they can list the data in the “What did I learn?” column.
For example, Roy’s chart might have included:
|What do I know?
||What do I want to find out?
||What did I learn?
|Burrowing Owls live on the land where a new pancake house is being built.
||Are there any laws to protect these owls?
||They’re endangered so there are laws.
|The pancake house people don’t seem to be honest about what’s happening.
||Is there information that they’re not telling the public?
||Big construction jobs must create an Environmental Impact Statement. Mother Paula’s statement is missing.
|We don’t seem to need a new pancake house.
||Are there other places like this already in the neighborhood?
||Two other similar restaurants are within a 10-minute drive.
Once students have chosen a topic and finished their research, invite students with similar topics to share in small groups, and then ask volunteers to share with the class. Encourage the class to offer feedback on others’ research.
Take students to the start of the writing activity, and have them complete all three steps, selecting stationery, choosing whom to address their letter to, and filling in the template with facts supported by their research. Review the letter template outline with students clarifying each of the areas for the body of the letter:
- reason 1
- reason 2
- opposing reason
After writing their letters, have students preview them and make any required edits before printing the letters and sending them out.
Assessment & Evaluation
- Review students' KWL charts to assess their ability to prepare research questions
- Assess each student’s letter for:
- Appropriate reasons for supporting a cause
- Use of concrete, accurate facts to support an opinion
- Use of strong, persuasive conclusion
- Use of persuasive language
- Correct grammar and punctuation
- Correct spelling and word usage
- Good self-editing skills displayed by final draft
- Have students use their research of the opposing viewpoint to write a rebuttal letter that might be sent back to them.
- Encourage students to read the newspaper and express their opinion on controversial articles through persuasive letters to the Editor.
- Invite students to write an editorial for submission to their school or local paper.
- Have students craft persuasive speeches, either adapting their letters or starting over with new topics. To help them, take them through this online speechwriting workshop.
- Have students visit the Flashlight Readers Book Bulletin Board to share the topic of their letter with others.