Here is a plug for one of my favorite writing activities and contests for students.
For Letters About Literature, students are asked to reflect on the value a book has brought to their life – how has it changed their view of themselves or the world . I love the topic. I have had students writing moving letters about everything from To Kill a Mockingbird to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
They are discouraged from summarizing the book and are encourage to write about its impact on them personally. When students read the past winners they quickly conclude that they are asked to do much more than prove they read the book. They must connect and reflect.
Their website has a great explanation of reflective writing:
“Reflective writing is when an individual looks back at a past experience or period of time and thinks about the meaning and significance of that experience or time. Reflection is personal. It is insightful.
Think of a mirror. When you look into a mirror, what do you see? Not just your own image but also the space around you and behind you. That’s kind of what you do when you write a reflective letter to an author. The author’s work – the book – is the mirror. The letter you write should capture the image in the mirror – a little bit about yourself and your world, how you saw yourself reflected in the book.
Here’s the really interesting thing–no two readers quite see the same reflection in an author’s work!
Reflective writing is not a fan letter or a how-to-do process report. Nor is it literary analysis or lit-crit. Rather, reflective writing is personal. It is insightful. It is an expression of ideas, sometimes memories or emotions associated with those ideas. The author’s work is the doorway (or again, perhaps the mirror) that allows the reader to discover these things about himself or herself or the world.”
I love the people who run this contest. They believe in what they do and take great joy in receiving and reading the students’ letter. They seem to place great value on every letter they get. They encourage their contestants and find a number of ways to honor young writers. For example, they have a gallery for the envelope art that is drawn on the entries.
Visit their site at lettersaboutliterature.org. You will find contest rules and lesson plans. They also post past winners and other valuable resources for coaching students through their letters.
This year’s deadline is January 13, 2013.