Grade: Middle

#2747. Government Official Letters

Social Studies, level: Middle
Posted Thu Dec 5 20:47:18 PST 2002 by Marty Hoag and J. J. Kael (;
Yahoo Search Engine
Cal State Hayward, Hayward, California, USA
Materials Required: Internet-connected computer, printer, paper
Activity Time: 2 hours
Concepts Taught: Internet Use/Political Issues Research/Persuasive Writing

Lesson Description:
Students use the internet to research a current topic in the news. They then use the information they've found to write and type a persuasive letter to a government official, and either send that letter or e-mail it.

State Standards:
Grade 12, History --
12.2.4 Students evaluate, and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured, in terms of the obligation of civic-mindedness including voting, being informed on civic issues, volunteering and performing public service, and serving in the military or alternative service.

Grade 7, Language Arts, Writing --
1.2 Support all statements and claims with anecdotes, descriptions, facts and statistics, and specific examples.
1.3 Use strategies of notetaking, outlining, and summarizing to impose structure on composition drafts.
1.4 Identify topics; ask and evaluate questions; and develop ideas leading to inquiry, investigation, and research.
1.7 Revise writing to improve organization and word choice after checking the logic of the ideas and the precision of the vocabulary.
Grade 7, Language Arts, Written and Oral
1.4 Demonstrate the mechanics of writing (e.g., quotation marks, commas at end of dependent clauses) and appropriate English usage (e.g.,pronoun reference).
1.6 Use correct capitalization.

NETS Student Standards:
1. Basic operations and concepts -- Students dmonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.
Students are proficient in the use of technology.
3. Technology productivity tools Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.
4. Technology communications tools
Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools
Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed
Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

Special Education Strategies Employed
1. Cooperative Learning -- common goal for individuals and group
2. Individual and group evaluation/grading
3. All resources provided for students
4. Defined group roles -- leader, recorder, timekeeper
5. Positive interdependence -- one must finish for others to do their parts
6. Individual accountability
7. Heterogeneous groups -- varying race and culture represented
8. Teacher observer/facilitator -- intervene only as needed
9. Collaborative skills -- model positive ways of working together
10. Group debriefing -- at end, talk about project results including discussion of group dynamic

Lesson Materials
Internet-connect computer with writing software
Internet search engine, such as Yahoo!
Computer printing paper
List of Political Topics (below)
List Government Officials (below)
Persuasive Letter Outline (below)

Government Officials:
Federal --
President, George W. Bush
Vice President, Dick Cheney
Homeland Security, Tom Ridge
Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell
Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
Attorney General, JohnAshcroft
Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman
Attorney General, Bill Lockyer

State --
Governor, Gray Davis
Lt. Governor, Bruz Bustamente
Secretary of State, Bill Jones
Senator, Barbara Boxer
Senator, Diane Feinstein
Representative, Ellen Corbett

Political Topics:
War with Iraq
Iraq Inspections
Treatment of Terror Suspects
Homeland Security: A New Domestic Intelligence Agency
Palestine vs. Israel Land and Government Strife
French Politics: New Right Wing Party
Ukraine Politics: President, Premier, Cabinet
Turkey: Islamist Leader
North Korea
Representative Nancy Pelosi: New House Democratic Leader
Re-election of Democratic Governor Gray Davis: Money donors and policies

Web Search Tools: search engine

Lesson Objectives:
Students will --
1. Use the internet to research a current topic in the news.
2. Compose a persuasive letter about their topic.
3. Edit their letters.
3. Type and either e-mail or send their letter to a government official.

Lesson Steps:
1. Discuss the importance of citizens being involved in government affairs, of having your voice heard, and the pros and cons of living in a democracy.
2. Show students the persuasive outline (see handout detailing how to write a persuasive essay.
3. Let students research either on the internet or in newspapers for current controversial topics in the news. (See handout for web sites related to current events)
4. Using the outline students used in step 2, have students write a complete persuasive letter about the topic that they've researched. Show them how to use the proper format for writing an official letter.
5. Proofread and edit! Proofread and edit! Proofread and edit!
6. Have students either mail or e-mail their letters to the government official of their choice (see handout for addresses and e-mail addresses of national, state, and local officials). These will change over time; check the government pages of the phone book or go to the e-mail address: to make sure that these are current.
Note (optional): Because kids can be kids, to ensure you know who is sending what, make sure that students send the e-mail from their own open mail account registered in their name. Some officials, like Barbara Boxer, have a database set up, where all pertinent information, including name and address, need to be entered before a message can be sent. Either one of these methods will help to cut the chance that kids will send something inappropriate, because their message can easily be traced back to them. All of the addresses on the attached handout either have a direct e-mail address or connect students to a database.