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The Use of Figurative Language to Convey Details and Character Feelings in Texts

by
Grace Malangone


Contents of Curriculum Unit 08.02.02:

To Guide Entry


Introduction

I teach fifth grade Language Arts and Social Studies at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School in New Haven, Connecticut. Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School is a unique school. It consists of grades five through eight. The students attend five academic classes and one art class on a daily basis. The school is part of the inner city school system and is also an arts magnet choice school; that is, students from surrounding towns are able to enroll in the New Haven Public School System. The mixture of urban and suburban students allows for a great deal of diversity. The students learn not only what is taught by a teacher but also what the students teach each other about their ethnicity and personal cultural background. Betsy Ross Art Magnet School is a constant learning environment.

Two fifth grade classes will be participating in this unit. Like the other grade level classes in the school, my classes are diverse and culturally rich. Many of the students are children of first or second generation immigrants (like me). The students bring a lot of their rich heritage and life experiences into the classroom. My students fall into three dominant categories: Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. Along with the diversity of the classroom being a wonderful asset it can also have its drawbacks. Most of the students do not share the same quality and quantity of background knowledge, and therefore, eliciting background knowledge sometimes takes many students interacting by sharing their urban and suburban settings with each other to come to the same experience. Often times I hear the students trying to compare his/her experiences to something that may be more familiar to the students listening. The student is trying to convey his or her experience but also trying to have the listening students be able to assimilate it to something in their own lives. As I observe this happening, I often think to myself how wonderful it would be if the students were able to be as clear and descriptive in their writing as they are when they are speaking to each other.

The Language Arts curriculum is quite versatile. It exposes the students to many genres of fiction and nonfiction texts. The Language Arts curriculum also incorporates Social Studies themes into the shared reading texts. Five of the shared reading texts in the language arts curriculum are historical fiction as well as two historical nonfiction texts. Each shared reading planner focuses on the six comprehension strategies (predicting, connecting, wondering, figuring out, picturing, and noticing) along with setting a purpose for reading the intended texts’ daily assigned pages. The students apply these six comprehension strategies to both fiction and nonfiction texts.

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Rationale

In addition to focusing on the six comprehension strategies, the students are briefly introduced to figurative language using texts that utilize one type of figurative language at a time. Thus the students master an author’s use of figurative language in isolation; that is, students are able to identify that a simile is being used to compare two things, but not how it is used to give the reader a better description of what is being compared such as a character description, a character’s feelings, or detail to describe the setting. Therefore, introducing texts like Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White that incorporate more than one type of figurative language at a time would be a better indicator for assessing the student’s ability to identify figurative language and what it is conveying to the reader.

Figurative language is a vehicle that writers use to create a powerful image through description. Often in any type of text read, the author utilizes figurative language to compare and/or contrast to allow the readers to visualize an idea or concept, and to convey character emotions. My students have reached an age where they are reading chapter books that do not have illustrations to convey the author’s images. I watch them read and they seem very engrossed in the text they are reading. When I ask them about the book, they usually tell me the gist of the story and then they repeat a piece from the text that really stuck in their minds, “In the book it says that her brother annoyed her like a bee buzzing in her ear.” The piece they usually repeat consists of some type of figurative language the author used in the text. I feel that teaching the techniques of figurative language will allow my students not only to identify the type of figurative language used in the text but also to understand how it is used and to therefore incorporate the use of figurative language into their own writing. Elementary student writers can depend on figurative language as a writing technique to make their writing more interesting and descriptive for their intended audience (the reader). Often times I utilize lower grade children’s books to demonstrate to my students how easy, fun, and appealing it is not only to listen to an author using figurative language in their writing during a read aloud but also to incorporate it into their own writing style whether it be a writing assignment given by the teacher or their own personal writing. As my students begin to notice figurative language being used in the books they read and the books read in class, the students will utilize these same techniques, which will allow their writing to become more focused, expressive, and alive!

After carefully considering and examining the texts used by the New Haven School District Language Arts Curriculum, I decided that I could incorporate new texts into the existing texts that encompass more use of figurative language as a whole to develop character emotions and convey detail to create visual powerful images in the reader’s mind.

The main text that is going to be used in this unit, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, will be read prior to the beginning of the unit. Charlotte’s Web has recently been voted the favorite children’s book by educators as reported by the monthly student newsletter Time for Kids. This text has been a staple in the classroom since its publication. Along with Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White, the students will also be introduced to various poems and short stories.

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Objective

The Language Arts and writing objectives for this unit are for students to be exposed to texts that incorporate personification, similes, and imagery. The students will maintain a writer’s log to note- take on the figurative language taught in class to be used in the unit goal. The students will also add writing samples in their writer’s log that demonstrate the process of being a specific, descriptive writer using figurative language. The students will have read the texts, learned the writing process, and be familiar with personification, similes, and imagery prior to the start of this unit.

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Goal of the Unit

The goal of this unit is for students to work cooperatively in groups of three to write, illustrate, and construct a children’s book using figurative language to convey character feelings, describe a character’s physical characteristics, create powerful descriptions, and convey theme. The students will utilize the knowledge/tools gained throughout the unit to create a children’s book that encompasses strong descriptions using figurative language.

The students will be guided through this process by the use of a rubric which will also serve as an assessment tool for the teacher. This rubric will serve as an outline/checklist for success for the students to gain mastery on this activity.

It is my hope that my students on the completion of the unit will not only gain the knowledge of identifying an author’s use of figurative language used in texts they read but also utilize, implement, and incorporate figurative language into their immediate and long-term writing skills.

The standards for this unit will coincide with the Connecticut Mastery Test fifth grade strands. The standards for reading comprehension objectives and editing and revising include:

·Forming a general understanding
·Developing an interpretation
·Connecting and responding
·Connecting structure and content
·Composing and revising
·Editing

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Review of the Unit

The first aspect of this unit will consist of a general review of the previously taught concepts, that is, personification, similes, and imagery. The first aspect will focus on the portrayal of animal characters in Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White with realistic human emotions. This aspect of the unit will have students connect to personified animal characters and a realistic human character. The second aspect will focus on making personification literal. The students will be introduced to various forms of personification in various texts and poems. The students will write a letter to themselves from the perspective of a personified animal or object. The third aspect will focus on the use of similes to create comparisons in the reader’s mind through descriptions. The fourth aspect will focus on the use of imagery using a five senses sensory chart graphic organizer. The students will use imagery in their writing to write descriptive paragraphs that create powerful visual images.

The second week of the unit will be dedicated to writing a children’s book. This will begin with a brief introduction to the process that an author uses when writing a book. Students will begin drafting ideas on type of characters used, setting, problem, resolution, and theme. The students will work in groups of three and the students will confer with the group members and decide on what idea will work the best to complete the end goal of the unit. The students will be given a teacher- and- students- created rubric that incorporates all the aspects taught in the previous week. Students will begin writing their first drafts and continue with the writing process to complete published/final versions of the work. Upon the completion of the children’s books the students will donate these books to the school library for the student body to enjoy.

The writing process for the completion of the children’s book will be broken down into sections. The students will self- conference, group- conference, and peer- conference with another group. Although the students wrote the piece together each student will self- conference by rereading what the group has written and reflect on how his/her voice is presented in the writing and how clear the piece is thus far. The students will be given a self-conferencing check list to guide them. Some of the prompting questions will include: What have I said so far? What am I trying to say here? How do I like what I have written so far? What is good here that I can build on? The students in the group will then rejoin his/her group and conference on what each student has concluded in their self-conference of the writing. This will allow the group to listen to each others suggestions and to work cooperatively to build upon what they have already written. The next step in the writing process will be for the group to conference with each other and view the mechanics of the piece. The students will use this conference as a time to correct any misspelling, add or delete punctuation, and correct any sentence errors. The students will also be given a check list to aid them in pin- pointing any part of the writing that needs correcting. The check list will include: Are all the words spelled correctly? Are there any unnecessary sentences? The last step of the writing process will be for the groups to switch writing and peer-conference on each other’s work thus far. The peer- conference will also be a peer conference check list to guide them. The groups will then conference and offer each other suggestions and compliments. Some of the peer-conferencing check list questions will include: What do we like about this piece? What suggestion can this group offer to improve the other group’s writing? My role in this part of the lesson will be to circulate, observe, and provide feedback to the students.

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Introduction to the Lessons

I will begin the lessons in this unit by writing the phrase “figurative language” on the board and asking the students to state what they already know about figurative language. This will facilitate an open forum discussion on the information/material previously taught in class on figurative language before the beginning of this unit. The students will review what they know by participating in the class discussion. During the class discussion, I will create a classroom chart and list the student responses on personification, similes, hyperboles, and imagery and the examples of each of the figurative language given. This unit introduction will serve as a general overview for students and as a review of previously taught figurative language.

The students will be given a journal that will serve as a writer’s log throughout the unit. All the students will keep a writer’s log to note- take, reflect, and practice writing. I feel that keeping a writer’s log will help the students absorb and comprehend the material introduced. The students writer’s log will also serve as a daily assessment tool for me to track and view student progress. Through this writer’s log, I will be better able to provide students with immediate feedback and/or redirect any misunderstanding.

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Connecting to Wilbur and Fern, Part One

This lesson will focus on the portrayal of animal characters with realistic human emotions in the text Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The students will be connecting to personified animals characters and to human character. The overall goal of this lesson is to find out whether it is more difficult, easier, or similar to connect to a personified animal character versus a real human character. This lesson is going to be taught in two parts over a two day period. The students will be comparing their connections at the end of the two- part lesson.

The students will be asked to recall the definition and provide examples of personification. I will explain to the students that the text we will be using in this lesson we have read prior to today. I will also tell the students that the text we will be using in the lesson has personified animal characters as some of the main characters. I will then ask the students if they can guess the text that we will be using in the lesson. Once the students have guessed the text I will pass out one copy of the text Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White per student. Since we have already read the book we will be focusing only on chapters one and four for this lesson. We will begin part one of this lesson with chapter 4 titled Loneliness (pages 25-31). We will read this chapter aloud using intonation to stress character emotions. The students will be asked to list the human emotions Wilbur demonstrates in this chapter using a teacher created graphic organizer.

(Appendix A).

After reading chapter four, we will discuss in an open forum what human emotions Wilbur and the other characters demonstrated in the chapter. The students will share what they wrote down on their graphic organizers during the reading with the class and the class will check over their own work and also judge if their fellow classmates are on target in their responses.

The students will then be asked to connect to Wilbur feeling lonely in chapter four. The students will recall a time in their lives when they felt lonely and how it is similar to Wilbur feeling lonely. I will provide each student with a teacher -created connection frame to organize their connection (Appendix B). The students will describe Wilbur’s experience with feeling lonely, their own experiences with feeling lonely, and how both experiences are similar or different. At the bottom of the handout, the students will list/describe what emotions Wilbur felt and what emotion they felt.

At the end of part one of the lessons, I will ask the students, “Were you able to connect to Wilbur or was it difficult because he is pig?” The students will share their responses and reflect in their writer’s log how they viewed Wilbur once he was given human emotions. The students will answer the question, “Did you, as the reader, still view Wilbur as a pig once he was given human emotions?”

Writer’s Log

Students will write the definition and examples given in class of personification. The students will also reflect on the level of difficulty they had connecting to Wilber the pig and also write how and if their view of Wilbur changed once he was given human emotions.

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Connecting to Wilbur and Fern, Part Two

In the second phase of this two-part lesson, we will focus on connecting to the human character Fern. The students will read chapter one titled, Before Breakfast, in Charlotte’s Web by. E.B. White. I will then ask the students to connect to Fern by asking them, “Have you ever felt very strongly that something was/is unfair?” The students will connect to Fern using the same connection frame that they used to connect to Wilbur. Once the students have completed their connection frames, I will have the students share their connections and the students will listen and judge the validity of the connection. Upon the completion of the lesson, I will ask the students once again to take out their Wilbur connections and place it next to their Fern connection. Next, I will ask the students to reread both of their connections and decide which character it was easier to connect with and why.

Writer’s Log

Students will reflect and respond in their writer’s logs if it was easier, more difficult, or similar to connect to a human character versus a personified animal character.

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Teaching Personification through Perspective

This lesson will focus on the students using first person perspective to personify an animal or object of his/her choice and the students will write a letter to themselves from the animal or object of their choice to themselves. I will review first person perspective by reiterating to the students what I had previously taught my students on how to write in first person perspective. I will display the singular and plural first person perspective pronouns on a piece of classroom chart paper (Appendix C). I will also provide the students with a brief description, definition, and example of first person perspective. I will do this by reading aloud the poem Sick by Shell Siverstein, chapter one from A Dog’s Life: An Autobiography of a Stray Dog by Ann M. Martin, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieska. These examples of first person perspectives will refresh and reinforce that in the first person perspective narrative the reader is allowed to relate to the story one dimensionally. The story is presented to the reader from the view point of a character in the story.

In the text The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieska, the author bases the text on the wolf’s perspective on how things occurred in the familiar fairy tale the Three Little Pigs. The wolf tells the reader his side of the story as he sees it. This book serves as a rebuttal to the way he was portrayed in the fairy tale. My students will be able to observe how different this version is as compared to the original fairy tale version.

My purpose for using these three texts is to show my students how first person perspective is used by writers. By listening to the three texts the students will have a clearer idea of what will be expected of them when they are completing a writing activity using first person perspective.

After reviewing first person perspective, I will review and reinforce personification by defining and providing examples of personification. I will use a short story containing dialogue between a little boy and an ant called Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose. This short story not only demonstrates personification by giving the ant character human qualities but also allows the reader to view the story from both the ant and the boy’s perspective. The story demonstrates the perspective of the ant by having the ant explain to the boy why he should not be stepped on by the boy. After reading the story aloud I will have the students get into pairs and have the students each take on the role of the characters in the short story. The pair of students will read the assigned dialogue of their character. The students will recite the story aloud. The reciting of the story aloud will allow the students to practice the use of intonation when reading aloud.

The lesson activity will begin by the teacher sharing an exemplar/model letter. The model letter is a letter to a student from their pencil. This letter will serve as a model for the students. The students will observe the use of first person perspective pronouns. The will have a clearer understanding of how to write the letter to themselves from a personified animal or object. The model letter will demonstrate the perspective of the pencil; for example, the letter will provide examples of the pencil’s likes and dislikes, the pencil’s view on how it is treated, and how it feels overall to be a pencil.

The students will then be asked to brainstorm some common objects and/or household pets that they would like to personify by giving it a perspective. The students are only allowed to choose an animal or object that they have contact with or use of on a daily basis. Once the brainstorming has concluded the students will choose one of the brainstormed items to write their letter. This letter to themselves from the animal or object the student must meet these requirements:

·The letter must have three or more paragraphs
·The letter must be in friendly letter format (Appendix E)
·The personification of the animal or object must be realistic.

When the letters are complete each student will read his/her letter to the class and the listening students will try and figure out what is writing the letter before the closing of the letter.

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Using Similes to Create Comparisons in the Reader’s Mind through Description

Authors often use similes to compare two things to make their writing more detailed and interesting and to help readers make visual images in his or her head while they are reading. A simile is defined as a figure of speech that compares two objects using like or as, for example, she is as red as a rose. The objects being compared are not similar except in one respect. The girl and the rose are unlike except they share a blushing quality. This simile creates a visual image in the reader’s head on how red the girl actually was. The reader will create this visual image based on the reader’s prior knowledge of what shade of red a rose is. The focus of this lesson is to have the students utilize similes in their writing to create comparisons in the reader’s mind through description.

I will begin the lesson by writing the word boy on the board and asking the students to tell me if the word boy is descriptive, “Does the word tell you anything about the boy? How he looks... etc.” Then I will have the students begin to describe the boy by prompting responses through questioning. For example, how big he is, or what color hair does he have, and so on. As the teacher, I will list the descriptions given by the students under the word boy on the board.

After all the class descriptions have been given, I will instruct the students to work in groups of two and compare the descriptions/characteristics given on the board to other things. The example of this I will offer the students will be a model of a simile; the boy’s eyes were as brown as chocolate. The students will continue to do this until all the descriptions given by the students that are listed on the board have been compared, that is, each description is now in the form of a simile.

Next, each pair of students will be given a sheet of white chart paper. They will list the similes they came up with to describe the boy. Each pair of students will share their similes with the class. At the conclusion of the lesson, the students will reflect in their writer’s logs.

Writer’s Log

Students will define and provide examples for simile. Students will also be asked to reflect on why using similes in writing is important.

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Using Imagery (Incorporating the five senses into writing)

In this lesson the students will be given an index card with a place written on it. The students will have to describe that place using imagery. The students will write descriptive sentences using the five senses to describe to the reader/audience what place they are describing. The students will write the descriptions on a separate piece of paper. The descriptions must be a paragraph containing at least five or more sentences. The students will read these descriptions using imagery to the class, and the listening students will have to figure out what place the student is describing from their descriptive paragraphs. Some examples of places that will be written on the index cards are; a doctor’s office, a carnival, a bakery, the grocery store, mom’s kitchen, grandma’s kitchen.

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The Writing Process

The students will be divided into groups of three and begin writing their children’s book using all the skills taught in this unit collectively. The children’s book will include:

·Similes
·Personification
·Imagery

The children’s book needs to be at least five or more pages with at least one or more paragraphs on each page. The students will also need to provide a brief illustration based on the paragraphs on the page. In their groups the students will be responsible for all the parts of the writing process:

·Self conference
·Group conference
·Peer conference

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Self Conference

Although the students wrote the piece together each student will self- conference by rereading what the group has written and reflect on how his/her voice is presented in the writing and how clear the piece is thus far. The students will be given a self-conferencing check list to guide the students. (Appendix F). Some of the prompting questions will include: What have I said so far? What am I trying to say here? How do I like what I have written so far? What is good here that I can build on? The students in the group will then rejoin his/her group and conference on what each student has concluded in their self-conference of the writing. This will allow the group to listen to each others suggestions and work cooperatively to build upon what they have already written.

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Group Conference

The next step in the writing process will be for the group to conference with each other and view the mechanics of the piece. The students will use this conference as a time to correct any misspelling, add or delete punctuation, and correct any sentence errors. The students will also be given a check list to aid the students in pin pointing any part of the writing that needs correcting (Appendix G). The check list will include: Are all the words spelled correctly? Are there any unnecessary sentences?

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Peer Conference with another group

The last step of the writing process will be for the groups to exchange writing and peer-conference on each other’s work thus far. The peer- conference will also be a peer conference check list to guide them (Appendix H). The groups will then conference and offer each other suggestions and compliments. Some of the peer-conferencing check list questions will include: What do we like about this piece? What suggestion can this group offer to improve the other group’s writing?

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Reading List

Clark, Jacqueline. Still Spinning Charlotte’s Web Celebrates Charlotte’s 50th Anniversary. Instructor 112(1990):48.

· A great article for teachers on Charlotte

Edgecombe, Rodney. Ways of Personifying-Personification in Literature.

http://findarticles.com

· A great article for teachers on adding personification to their writing lessons

Elledge, Scott. E.B.White and Charlotte’s Web. American Educator, v25, Spring 2001.

· A great article discussing E.B. White and his children’s novel Charlotte’s Web

Fletcher, Ralph. A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. Harper Trophy, New York, 1996.

· A great book for teachers and students on how to find the writer in yourself.

Hoose, Phillip and Hannah. Hey, Little Ant. Ten Speed Press, California, 1998.

· A great book for both students and teachers. This is a story about a boy and an ant having a conversation from each of their perspectives.

Lobel, Arnold. Fables. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1980.

· A great book for teacher and students. This book contains twenty original fables containing personified animals as the main characters to teach a moral.

Nickle, John. The Ant Bully. Scholastic Press, New York, 1999.

· A great book for teachers and students. The ants are personified to teach the main character a lesson on bullying.

Martin, Ann. M. A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray Dog. Scholastic Press, New York, 1995.

· An excellent book for students and teachers. Squirrel, a stray puppy, tells her life story, from her nurturing mother and brother to making her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal.

Parish, Peggy. Amelia Bedelia. Harper Trophy, New York, 1963.

· A great book for teachers and students about a literal-minded housekeeper trying to make sense of instructions left by her employer.

Plagemann, Bentz. How to Write A Story. Lothrop, Lee, and Shephard Co., New York, 1971.

· A great book for teachers and students on the steps and intricacies of writing a story.

Reeves, Diane, L. Career Ideas for Kids Who Like Writing. Checkmark Books, New York, 1998.

· A great book for teachers and students on the fields available to students interested in writing as a career.

Schrecengost, Maity. Writing Whizardry. Maupin House, Florida, 2001.

· A great book for teachers containing 60 excellent mini-lessons to teach elaboration and author’s craft (figurative language).

Scieszka, Jon. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Viking Penguin. New York, 1989.

· A great book for students and teachers. The wolf gives his own outlandish version of what really happened when he tangled with the three little pigs.

Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1974.

· A great book of poems for both teachers and students.

Steven, Carla. A Book of Your Own: Keeping a Diary or Journal. Clarion Books, New York, 1993.

· A good book for teachers and students discussing diaries and journals and how to keep one, providing instructions, examples, and excerpts.

Treban, Marvin. It Figures! Clarion Books, New York, 1993.

· A great for book teachers and students. This book introduces and explains common figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperboles with guidelines for their use and illustrative examples.

Trelease, Jim. Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud. Penguin Books, New York, 1992.

· A great book for teachers and students. A collection of fairy tales, folklore, and famous stories from around the world.

White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1980.

· A great book for students to read. It has a strong use of figurative language and strong themes.

Wolf, Allan. Immerse in Verse. Lark Books, New York, 2006.

· A wonderful book for teachers and students containing poem that use figurative language. This book also discusses how to add details and creativity to your writing.

Young, Sue. Writing with Style. Scholastic, New York, 1997.

· A great book for teachers and students on how to make your writing stand out.

Internet Sites for Teachers

http://www.carolhurst.com/.

· This site is includes book reviews, use of children’s books in curriculum, authors and illustrators, and professional topics.

http://www.ala.org/alsc/caldecott.html.

· Caldecott Medal home page

http://www.ala.org/srrt/csking/.

· Coretta Scott King Award homepage

http://www.ala.org/alsc/newbery.html

· Newbery Medal home page

http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/~nodelman/criticism.htm.

· Reading About Children’s Literature: A Bibliography of Criticism

http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/authors.html.

· Author and illustrator sites

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Appendix A

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Appendix B

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Appendix C

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Appendix D

Parts of a Friendly Letter

1.Heading:
The heading includes your address and the date. This is written in the upper right hand corner.
2.Salutations:
The salutations (greeting) usually begins with the word Dear and is followed by the name of the person you are writing to. Place a comma after the name. Write the salutation at the left margin, two lines below the heading.
3.Body:
The body of the letter contains your thoughts. Indent each paragraph and begin writing on the second line after the salutation.
4.Closing:
Write the closing (Sincerely, Yours truly, etc) two lines below the body of the letter. Capitalize only the first word and follow the closing with a comma.
5.Signature:
Put your signature under the closing.

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Appendix E

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Appendix F

Checklist for Success

·Is the first letter of the first word of each sentence capitalized?
·Are the words spelled correctly?
·Do the sentences make sense?
·Is there any part of the paragraph that does not make sense?
·Do the sentences have the proper end punctuation?
· Is the first sentence of each paragraph indented?

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Appendix G

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