An Introductory Letter posted to a discussion board or class Weblog serves several purposes for online and mixed mode classes (which sometimes meet in person and sometimes online or participate through other media and means).
- Students describe themselves to their classmates in writing, providing a social context and a record to which students and teacher can refer throughout the term.
- Students reveal some of their prior understanding of the discipline and subject, including earliest experiences with course content and concepts, helping their teachers plan appropriate instruction.
- Students connect their own experience with the subject and discipline, helping them see the relevance of the course to their lives.
- Students provide a writing sample that demonstrates their written expression as well as their ability to follow directions for writing assignments. Awareness of audience, context, and purpose are encouraged by this approach, in which students are not writing for the teacher alone.
- Students gain non-threatening practice with communication technology that will be used throughout the term.
- Students practice using epistolary conventions and composing for the class community.
- Framing discussion board and email messages as letters to their classmates personalizes their technology-mediated interactions,
- Establishing initial online contact with the teacher and classmates encourages academic and social support during the term.
- Students can be encouraged or required to write a brief response to two other students in the class, at least one of whom has not yet received a response, in order to encourage interactivity from the outset.
For a class, expand the expectations appropriate to the context.
- Science: Ask students to write about their previous experience with science classes, reading of science books, experience with science in their homes and work, understanding of particular terms such as "physics" or "microbiology" (or other key course concepts), ways they expect to use science in their lives and careers.
- History: Ask students to write about their understanding of the term "history," about their family or personal or community history, about how their understanding of the past helps them think about the present and the future.
- Math: Ask students to write about their earliest experiences with math, their math anxieties or accomplishments, and ways they use math regularly.
- Faculty Workshop Activity
for educational purposes only
developed and copyright ©1996 by D. Reiss
modified and copyright ©12 March 2005 by D. Reiss