The Healthy Choices Letter Writing Project

NHES 6.4 Describe how personal health goals can vary with changing abilities, priorities, and responsibilities.

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I’ve always been a fan of having students write letters in health class. Written communication—whether it’s a note to a friend expressing concern, an email to an insurance company advocating for your health, or even an angry note to an ex that you never intend to send—is a key part of health literacy and can be wildly beneficial to our health throughout our entire lives.

Traditionally, my 8th grade students end their last class by writing a letter to the future, reminding themselves about all they’ve learned and the promises they’ve made to stay healthy. To ensure that the kids write openly, I never read the letters and just have them sealed and delivered the students' junior year. (Although, I did catch a glimpse of one letter a few years ago that said “I hope you’re taller.”)

I had been looking for a similar wrap-up activity for my 7th graders and thought that after two years in middle school, they might have some advice for their former selves. Then, one student suggested we give the letters to people who would need them the most: the crew of incoming 6th graders.

I contacted the 5th grade counselor, and she said she’d love to use some of the letters as part of a transition program. Since my students know they have an authentic audience, they tackle this assignment with gusto. The freedom to write in kid-friendly language—complete with LOL’s and the occasional emoji—usually compels students to finish the whole letter within one 50-minute lesson.

You can find the student instructions, as well as a rubric, here

Here are some examples of the students’ clever advice to their successors:

Time-management

I remember at the beginning of 6th grade when I got my own laptop. Oh, how magical it was. I spent endless hours surfing YouTube. This not only led to me having to rush my homework, I was also suffering from sleep deprivation. Set a tech curfew. Prioritize your activities. Homework should come before social media. There! I just helped you set some tech guidelines!

Nutrition

I know you get a lot more freedom in the cafeteria, but eat a balanced meal. Seriously. If you only have a donut, you’re not going to have energy later for sports. Sugar crash=missed baskets. Don’t be that guy.

Friend drama

Let’s talk about gossip. If you’re doing it to feel better about yourself, it’s not going to work. I know everyone does it, (and you are going to roll your eyes when you read this) but if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you follow? You live a healthier life when you don’t hurt people.

Not only are my students practicing their advocacy skills with this activity, but they’re also demonstrating all that they’ve learned. It’s a great way to get me thinking about what I need to focus on next year.

For more activities to end the year on a meaningful note, check out Health Ed Activities for the Last Few Days of School.